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Live from the DNC  «
Pre-Con Prep
Live From the Democratic National Convention
Thursday, 29 July 2004
Day Four - The Big Day
Topic: Live from the DNC
Today's the day when Sen. John Kerry will formally accept the nomination as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States of America. The Fleet should be packed to the rafters tonight.

As full as it was on Monday for the Clintons, Dean, Gore and company, and on Tuesday for Teresa Heinz Kerry, last night was completely sardine city for attendees there to hear Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Sen. John Edwards, the Democrat's choice for VP on this year's ticket. By 6 pm, nearly every seat, all the way up to the top row was filled, or saved. By 7:45 pm, the concourses were filled with people milling about, trying to figure out where to go - many making calls on their cells, trying to find friends and seats. Many resorted to huddling in the hallways around the many flat screen TV monitors positioned around the Fleet.

Even with the SRO situations, people by the hundreds were still filing into the convention hall at 8:30 pm - many being VIPs with reserved seating. No use showing up for all the early speeches when you've got a luxury suite waiting for you. Besides, most of the protesters, other than the anti-abortion guy with the way too loud bullhorn, were already gone for the night, making passage into the Fleet a tad easier.

With the festivities reaching a peak tonight, I'm betting the Fleet will fill up earlier than yesterday. The question: Fight the crowds or go watch the event from the DemsDate.com party? The women promoting that event were walking around in short skirts, wearing tight, tied-off T-shirts reading, "Smart. Sexy. & Liberal." Hmmmm, decisions, decisions.

Now, then. Onto today's mail bag. A reader from Waltham asks, "How are people at the convention about cell phone use?" Well, EVERYONE is on their cell at all times, either calling, texting, or pretending to call so they can take pictures unobtrusively. *cough* Most people are pretty courteous and friendly about things. Again, it's not like being in the Fleet Center for a Bruins vs. Flyers game.

One of the faithful readers from Cali asked about the average age of the delegates. I think you're right, it may be close to 50 from what I've seen. But, those are just the 4,300 people down on the floor. When you look at all the attendees, which includes supporters, guests, media, etc. the average age drops quickly. Given the Dean factor, there may be more people under the age of 24 at this convention than at any previous one.

From Newton Corner comes this question, "Are there a lot of Love Connections happening at the Convention?" Hmmm, good question. Personally, no; however, I've been to enough conventions in my life to know what happens when people have hotel rooms, expense reports, and booze (though none in the Fleet :( - I mean, people even hook up at comic book conventions.....so, it's a safe bet it's happening here, too.

That's all the time for this morning's mail bag and sum up. Off to cover the last day. If you have any tips, questions, etc. for today, call or text me at 617-823-4242.

Posted by Jamie at 9:54 AM EDT
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Where Is Everybody?
Topic: Live from the DNC
Yes, where is everybody? Where are all the tourists, so promised by Boston's mayor and the DNC when promoting Boston as the place to hold the Convention? That's what Tammy Biasin, director of vendor sales for Old Town Trolley, wants to know.

Biasin says that business for her company is down 80% this week compared to last week. Her customers, the concierge at hotels around Boston, say that no one's buying Trolley tickets this week, or making restaurant reservations, or asking them for much of anything outside of passes to the Convention and to send packages. One quipped, "We're not 'concierge' this week, we're 'shipping and receiving,' just 'shipping and receiving.'"

Like Old Town Trolley, many other businesses in the Back Bay and Faneuil Hall area are also experiencing a drastic downturn in sales this week. The Museum of Fine Arts gift stores at Copley Place and Quincy Market are both "Quiet," according to employees. "It's worse than expected. We didn't know quite what to expect, but we didn't anticipate it being this slow. We're not as busy as even the quietest day in the summer," said one counter clerk.

At the Godiva Chocolate shop in Quincy Market, when asked how business was, one worker laughed, and said, "What business? There barely is any. Look who's in here, three employees behind the counter, an off duty employee who came in to say 'hi,' and you, a reporter. The only people coming in are from other stores asking if things are bad here, too, and reporters asking how business is. It's completely dead. Everyone left town. No one's here. We put on extra staff and it's wasted."

A few doors east, at a local jewelery and art store, the mood is similar, but looking up. "Monday was terrible. Terrible, terrible. Tuesday was up a bit, and today (Wednesday) is a really good day. Well, compared to Monday and Tuesday," said the saleswoman working the floor. "We're angry at the media and the mayor for over-hyping how bad [traveling into the city] was going to be," she continued. "Look at how empty Faneuil Hall is," she said while gesturing to the open courtyard outside her door.

In the North End, a short walk from the Fleet Center, and home to hundreds of Italian restaurants, the expected flow of conventioneers never materialized. With the loss of the regular traffic, and no bump from the visitors to the city, many eateries are closing their doors for the week, waiting for things to return to normal post-DNC.

While the DNC and mayor's office played up the number of people traveling to the city for the convention, they didn't necessarily explain to local businesses how those visitors would be spending their time - or dollars. Local retailers expected foot traffic to flow in and out of the Fleet Center through the neighboring areas, including Quincy Market and the North End. Instead, what's happening is that once delegates, media and other guests make their way through the airport-like security checkpoints to get into the Fleet Center, they aren't going back out until the proceedings are done, sometime after 11 pm.

Even with the slim pickings for food at the Fleet - McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, and the various concession stands in the concourse (most of which run out of hamburgers and grilled chicken sandwiches early, leaving just fries, pizza and chicken fingers as options) - attendees are staying put, not wanting to lose their seats, and not wanting to make their way back through security.

One delegate from Texas said that while she loves Boston, being on the east coast, and in the eastern time zone, makes things more difficult. "When we were in Los Angeles for the 2000 convention, we were out of the hall at 8 pm (PDT), then off to the restaurants. With the need for prime time TV coverage, you can't do that here. You have to be on the air late enough to be seen by people on the west coast, too."

The mayor's office has clearly heard the message, because they made this announcement yesterday: "As a show of thanks to Boston residents and the thousands of DNC volunteers who welcomed the world to Boston this week, Mayor Thomas M. Menino today announced free metered parking and a number of exciting shopping and entertainment opportunities throughout the city this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday."

Whether that will make up for the lost business of the past week remains to be seen.

So, how are Boston retailers and vendors handling the downturn in business? Over a working lunch, juggling calls between bites, the effervescent Biasin says, "I've been able to catch up on work - all the things I haven't had time to do. This has been the busiest summer since pre-9/11. Sales have been surpassing pre-9/11 sales, so we've been busy up until this week." She added, "I love the high energy of the convention; unfortunately, people are not taking Trolley Tours. But, with the national exposure that Boston is getting, people from around the country and the world can see what a great city it is. How nice the people are, how open the city is. And they can see the rich history that Boston has to offer. Hopefully, people will come back to see all of that in the future."

One other plus, "Driving and parking have been a breeze! I wish it was this easy all the time." But with the regular sales, no doubt.

Posted by Jamie at 9:17 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 July 2004 9:21 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 28 July 2004
Mid afternoon update
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Live from the DNC
My super hot & cool pal, Miss Tammy B, scored me some internet time at the Copley Plaza Hotel so I could file a report with a real computer, not just my celly. Thanks to the folks here, Pascal & Ann for being so accommodating.

More on the retail situation. Of all the shops I walked into, I was the only non-employee. Most of the stores in the mall were completely empty - and this at lunch time on a Wednesday.

A high end retail fashion store in Copley Place says that this week is not what they expected. It's much slower than last week. One of the women there had delayed her vacation in order to help out - only to find it's dead in the mall.

At one of the gourmet chocolate shops, the two employees said that it's "Much worse than expected. Very quiet." They're "usually slammed on rainy days - but today, nothing." There's no one left in the businesses around the mall to come in, they say. Everyone's gone.

At Watch World, the salesman said that things are "slow," and that people "are staying away from the mall." It was busy last week, but this week, nothing.

As for the restaurants in the Copley Square area, business is way down. They were expecting a big influx of customers from the delegations and other conventioneers in town, but it's been very disappointing. At one major seafood restaurant, where reservations are normally a must, you can walk in at any time of the day or night & get seated instantly. On Tuesday night, they only sold 15 dinners - that's not even an hour's worth of orders on a regular night.

At the Park Plaza Hotel, things are hoppin'! Frank Gallagher and Nilma Cannard, concierges at the Park Plaza, say the hotel is sold out until Friday - when over 2,000 guests will be checking out. When asked about the impact of the convention on thier jobs, Frank replied, "Boston Park Plaza, it's employees treat all guests and visitors as VIP's to our city. It's an honor to welcome the huge amount of delgates and DNC guests to this birthplace of freedom. They've posed some pleasant challenges and we're rewarded in assisting them. We'd be happy to host another convention in the future."

When asked about the differences of this group of guests, Nilma said that on a normal night, 50% of the reguests to her desk would be for dinner reservations, but now, that's only 5% - most every request is now for "Credentials, credentials, credentials. Everyone wants to get into the convention." They're also handling an increased number of requests for shipping & receiving of packages. She added, that the delegates, "are a nice group of people - patient and understanding. Often they stand in line for 20 minutes to get help. And, the line never ends."

Down the way a bit, one unnamed concierge had a different take - "They don't tip, they don't say thank you, they all think they're very important."

More later. I've had lunch & Tammy bought me a latte, sweetie that she is. Off to the con. I'll post more pics from the Copley stores in a few.

Posted by Jamie at 3:31 PM EDT
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New photos posted
Topic: Live from the DNC
New photo gallery containing pics taken on Tuesday is now live. Again, I'm outta time for putting in captions. I'll try to catch up tonight. Didn't I say that yesterday?

Want to go to a Kerry party? Here's how to find them: http://johnkerry.com/parties Ah, if only it was always so easy to find a party.

There's a party for Johnny's Girls at the Rack at 6 pm tonight: https://volunteer.johnkerry.com/event/view/?id=8997

And a Young Professionals for Kerry party as the West Street Grille @ 8 pm: https://volunteer.johnkerry.com/event/view/?id=10264

Hmmmm, maybe I should wear pants today...

Posted by Jamie at 11:20 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 27 July 2004
Apparently I'm the hottest thing
Topic: Live from the DNC
Apparently I'm the hottest thing here. Well not ME but bloggers. Everywhere I go I hear about us. MSNBC was just doing a spot on it, too. So if you want 2 interview a real live mo-blogger call or text me, 617-823-4242.

remote Posted by Jamie at 6:36 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 July 2004 12:47 AM EDT
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Shoes representing Iraqi civilians
Topic: Live from the DNC

Part of the Wide Open exhibit at Copley Square mall, in front of Trinity Church.

remote Posted by Jamie at 2:17 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 July 2004 12:50 AM EDT
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New photos & today's plan
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Live from the DNC

Photo gallery from Monday is now live. I'll do the captions later. Off to get today's press pass (seems like I should be saying "pledge pin") then over to the Boston Commons to cover the Bl(a)ck Tea event/demonstration. (I guess on a keyboard, (a) is supposed to be the circle A for anarchy. Seems like there should already be a key for that for normal computer use...)

Howard Dean & Michael Moore are speaking at 2 pm at the Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge, I'll try to get there, too. Robert Reich is up at 3 pm.

After that, it's down to the convention. Today's speakers include Sen. Tom Daschle, Howard Dean, Sen. Richard Durbin, Rep. Dick Gephardt, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and Sen. Ted Kennedy. Quite the Senatorial line-up in the hizz houze today.

If you hear of anything cool going on, drop me a line or text me: 617-823-4242. Party invites always welcome.


Posted by Jamie at 11:23 AM EDT
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Monday at the DNC Wrap-Up
Topic: Live from the DNC

Good opening day at the DNC today. Met a few folks, got the lay of the land in and around the Fleet Center, and got to see and hear the heavy guns that the Dems rolled out for opening night: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

Gore was quite funny and self-deprecating. ("I lay awake counting and recounting sheep." "I still believe that this is a country where any boy or girl can grow up to believe they can win the popular vote.") I'm sure he's wishing he'd come across that way four years ago. Carter really impressed me. His voice sounded a bit weak, but then he is nearly 81 years old; however, he really hammered on the current administration. It was a bit surprising, given his very diplomatic way of approaching situations, but he is clearly upset about the way this administration has been running things. He hit all the key points from Bush's military service to the current foreign policy to the environment to the misinformation on Iraq, etc. Clinton was, as he always is, a master public speaker. No surprises there.

A few random thoughts before I hit the hay and go do this all again tomorrow:

1) No extra photo gallery tonight. Sorry. Computer issues at home tonight. I'll double up tomorrow.

2) Listening to speakers for nearly seven straight hours, you become aware of the repetition - but I guess that's to catch anyone who's just tuning in casually.

3) While it wasn't surprising to see I-93 & the Bunker Hill Bridge devoid of cars, given the security measures, it was odd to see spurts of non-official traffic there from time to time. I thought it was all sealed off.

4) Around 5:30, the Fleet turned into a feeding frenzy, as there was a lull in the speakers. All the concession stands were jammed. But, unlike a normal visit to the Fleet for a Bruins game...there was NO beer. Hence, the empty men's rooms. Weird seeing that. I've never not stood in line for 10 min. before when going to the john.

5) Speaking of dinner, most of the food stands were out of most everything - everyone in my line ended up with chicken fingers and fries....

6) Half way thru the convention today, they switched the press access so that us bloggers couldn't get in to the hall on the lower level. I ended up getting chased out a couple times. Light green vs. dark green passes. Picky picky.

7) Most of the music played between speakers, or during TV commercial breaks was Motown. It got the delegates dancing in their seats.

8) As the evening progressed, the Fleet filled to the rafters. People were sitting out in the concourse watching the speakers on TV because they couldn't see from inside the hall.

9) Celeb sightings: Tom Brokow, Wolf Blitzer and Sen. Diane Feinstein.

If you're looking for something to do away from the DNC convention on Tuesday the 27th, you can check out screening of Outfoxed in Cambridge.

Also on Tuesday the 27th, at the DNC, Ron Reagan, Jr. will be speaking to the convention about stem cell research. In conjunction with the, CBS News is running a number of pieces on stem cell research and some work being done in China on ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) by Dr. Hongyun Huang.

And, lastly, if you know of any good parties going on, INVITE ME!!!


See you tomorrow. Bed time now.


Posted by Jamie at 1:36 AM EDT
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