Whoo-hoo! Party! In two years or so. The GOP convention will be coming to the Twin Cities in 08 – the ceremonial stuff will take place over at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, which was probably unavoidable but a mistake nevertheless. The Metrodome is less hospitable to things that involve actual human beings, and the Xcel center is newer and cozier, but there’s naught to do in downtown St. Paul for lunch, at least on the level people will expect. People go to conventions to eat and drink and eat some more, then drink. In Houston you were confined to the concrete sepulcher of the Astrodome, which meant box lunches during the day and long dismaying car rides at night for ‘que and nightlift – oh, you found it, but God knows how you got there and God only knew how you’d get back. We ended that convention in a biker bar chosen by Dave B., a place with thousands of bras hanging from the rafters. Afterwards we jammed into Surly’s rented Caddy, trusting he would find pancakes. He did, but he knew the town. I can only imagine what confused New Yorkers will do when they find themselves in downtown St. Paul after hours, looking for hotcakes to soak up the liquor. Mickey’s will have a line out the door for six blocks.

The real party work will take place in Minneapolis. The high priests will stay at the St. Paul Hotel, but the groundlings will lodge in Minneapolis and commute. This means they’ll go back to Minneapolis after the day’s theatrics are done, and pour into the entertainment district looking for meat and merlot. Imagine the looks on the regulars’ faces when they notes that everyone in the bar is middle-aged, dressed in a tie or a nice skirt with sensible shoes, white, myopic, and hammered. I know, I know – St. Paul has many interesting bars and character-drenched booze-nooks, but no one will be thronging downtown St. Paul after the day’s work is done. You’ve seen “28 Days,” where the guy wakes up from a coma and wanders around post-plague London? That’s Tokyo at noon compared to St. Paul on a Wednesday night. 

If all goes well I will be able to have a king-hell concentration of media folk for the ultimate Jasperwood party, and I’d mention that to my wife now but she’d already start planning. Some others are planning as well - which bandana should I wear to hide my identity from the killer-klown thuglican waterboarders? (Link contains naughty languaged, as well as a picture that sums up the auto-damning genre in one neat image. Cinch that face-flag tightly, lad! The RNC face-mapping programs might be on to you! Replace those definate articles with authentic street patois for extra cred! Note: that shirt is not a wife-beater. It's a partner-persuader.)

Peculiar day – rain, sun, wind, rain, sun, hard peevish rain, bright confident sun immediately supplanted by glowering clouds. Couldn’t make up its mind, but no reason it should. It unspooled exactly as expected. I had some extra time this afternoon, and looked through a book about the 1893 World’s Fair. The photos are – well, heartbreaking, that’s the only word; the beauty of those classical temples, arrayed serenely along the placid lagoon, makes you wish you could go there now, without the dress code. Seriously: all the women are wearing those 19th century chin-to-toe sacks. I’m not a fan of modern ultra-casual attire that views a halter-top and flipflops as adequate garb for church or jury duty or a tour of the Senate visitor’s gallery, either. I think the postwar era got it right (when will the concept of “postwar” stop making sense to most people, I wonder? Twenty years from now, you won’t hear it used much)  - for women as well as men. I lament the end of the ubiquitous suit and necessary hat, but I do so remotely; it’s not like I do my part. I wear Chuck Taylors, for God’s sake. But as I’ve noted, I am small, and when I put on grown-up clothes I look like a scale model of an actual adult. But I do wear a tie when I go to the office, and I shine my shoes, and I always feel better for it.

In the old radio Dragnets, Friday’s always rousting some hood or two-time loser in his piss-soaked flophouse, and he tells the guy to get dressed before they go downtown. “That your suit? Put it on.” Even the bum had a collar.

While I’m on the subject – a few weeks ago I was listening to a Dragnet about a murder at a movie studio. A Kleigl light had fallen on a director. It was based on an actual crime, of course; that was the Dragnet hook, along with the versimiltudinousness of the action. It made me wonder, though, which assistant director ever dropped a flood on the first unit director to get his job. But that’s not what stuck out – no, it was an interview with a studio exec, describing the murdered man, a prominent director in the silent days, and was now working the B circuit. (In 1952, after all, movies had only been speaking for a quarter-century.) The exec said the director was known for his affectations, the way he spoke of himself in the third person, wore a cape, et cetera.

How would you describe such a person today? You’d be surprised to know that’s how they described them in 1952. (Link goes to 112KB Mp3) This may be the oldest example of this slang phrase extant. Think of that the next time someone deploys that particular phrase.

Where was I? Right: 1893 Exposition. It was lovely, then it closed, and then it burned. It has a sense of confidence our betters could not muster today; the unicultural implications would paralyze them, and they’d be compelled to unmoor everything from its historical antecedents. But in 1893 the archaic forms were used to make a claim for America – we weren’t here to supplant the past but add to it. Adapt, adopt, improve, profit. The imperial vocabulary looked apt, much more so than the humid crawling designs of that Sullivan fellow. If nothing else, it’s all a chest-thumping hymn to Reason as well as power, and it would have made a Caesar gasp. (And smile, to know his culture’s effect had lasted this long.)

Historians are better served studying the 1893 and 1939 fairs than any presidential convention. Elections are about what just happened; the buildings of the fairs are the collective dreams we will into existence somehow, if I can channel my inner overwriter, and say far more about where we want to go, or where we’re willing to be led.

But if anyone’s going to write the history of the 2008 Minneapolis convention, it’ll be me. In advance. But that’s another story.

See you tomorrow, with a new Diner.


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c. 2005 j. lileks. Email, if you wish, may be sent to "first name at last name dot com."