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FEAR & LOATHING ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL: I Took LSD And Went To See Romney In Yardley

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apparently our old intern got into the bottle of Hunter S. Thompson we keep in the medicine cabinet and somehow got the cap off. Just to be clear, the management here at Phawker strongly believes taking LSD and going to a Mitt Romney rally is incredibly irresponsible. He should have gone to an Animal Collective show. But what’s done is done.

BY JAMIE DAVIS I could feel the beginnings of a strong dose of acid begin working its incandescent tendrils up my spine. Reality shattered into a billion shards and then re-composed itself into a recognizable pattern.  I felt reborn, standing in the middle of a crowd of more than a few hundred, waiting to get into Mitt Romney’s second to last rally before the election on Tuesday.  I took a moment to try tuning out the individual supporters around me, and try to hear the actual quality of the noise that 30,000 Republicans make while penned into an enclosure.

“I can hear them baahing,”  I said straight facedly to Morgan.

She acted like I didn’t say anything and stared off to the side, at the seagulls who were circling above the bleachers, far away, past an hour-and-a-half wait in line and a metal detector.  To my mind they had come like vultures — hovering over a lost ram in the desert, waiting for it to fall dead or be killed — an omen that Romney’s campaign was dead, and that this is where his carcass would fall.  Later, about half an hour before getting through security, I learned that there was funnel cake being sold inside and that I should “Be not afraid” as a result.  I looked at the blue young man who told me this, unsure of which position his mouth was in, and thanked him.  I decided it would be better not to tell him about the bats.

Acid in a place like this is a very risky move, especially for someone who has no real reason to be there in the first place, who believes the only reason to vote for Romney would be to get the end of the world over and done with already.  However, so far I smell no danger here.  I’m wearing maroon corduroy pants, Morgan has green pants and classic Reeboks, and Sasha’s hat has giant puffy balls on the end of his tassles.  We decided to come after I found out the Marshall Tucker Band we’re going to be here, and that they were bringing their flutist.  I roused Morgan from our bed by singing a few lines of “Can’t You See”  and plied Sasha with text messages.  Soon we were moving down 276 at quite a clip, LSD tabs were being applied, and strange vapors released.

Some in attendance openly questioned our intentions. A fiftysomething lady standing behind us speaks to another lady next to her.

“Why are they here?”

“Well. they’re young people. They want to see the next president! They’re not foolish, they know that this is history!”

Is that why I’m here?  I begin to wonder, myself.  Why am I here?  These people are gonna eat me!

The seagulls continue to swoop and weave in a perfect, serene matter, and I’m back up in the sky with them for a second.  It dawns on me, at this altitude, that this is not some queasy collection of rednecks, as university students would want you to believe.  It was, simply, a family-friendly event.  Mothers and fathers who still revere Reagan, taking their kids out for a show.  It could have just as easily been the midnight release for the new Star Wars. Everyone remained cheery, despite waiting for an interminable time in the cold, even after the event began.  From outside the main enclosure it was almost impossible to hear anything.  There was a van to our right that had been spouting rhetoric from a megaphone, which was not turned off when the onstage speakers began, and the interference was ghastly.
The national anthem begins to be sung.  I can hear the melody, crisp and high, I know that it is being sung, but I have no idea where the singer is, lyrically or melodically.  People are muttering, wondering aloud whether or not it really is the anthem or not.  She breaks through with a piercing “.. The bombs BUUUUUURSTING IN AIIIIIR” and suddenly the man in front of me has his hand on his heart, and is somberly staring at the horizon.  The muttering has ceased, and now people begin singing, softly, under their breath, so that no-one knows they don’t know what they’re doing.  Hundreds of voices singing the national anthem in this low whispered style is a strange noise to be in the middle of.  This goes on for 30 seconds before people begin to feel foolish and cease.

The rally is taking place on a farm just off I-95, near Levittown. To my surprise I had been to the town of Yardley once before.  Morgan and I had been driving up to Vermont to clean out our old apartment, when I had decided we needed to get some wine and more potato salad.  Coming from the west end of Township Line Road, it begins with a traditional Pennyslvania Dutch farm and general store combo.  This leads directly into an enormous corporate mall.  Hundreds of companies must have their offices in this town.  It goes on for about a mile, until you get to the chinese restaurant.  After that its all housing developments until you hit the train tracks.  Then you’re at 202, and just after that is the strip mall.  I felt like I had driven into some twisted version of the American Dream, some kind of planned community.  Daddy goes to work, Mommy stays here with baby, we buy our food and liqour down there and on special occasions we go to Gold Fountain Chinese!  Of course I thought to myself as I realized where I was.  These people aren’t just voting for him… they are him.

After a lifetime of waiting we get through to the main event.  The bleachers are full.  The Marshall Tucker Band is just finishing “Can’t You See?”  which is half the reason I wanted to come here anyway.  And the hotdogs cost $2.50.  We only have five dollars between the three of us.  It’s price gouging, stupid.  We eat the warmed dogs and generic Acme roll, and find a place in the crowd.  Some song probably called “It’s America,” is playing over the loudspeakers.  A man in front of us sucks down hardboiled eggs.  There is a stage directly in front, bleachers on either side, an enormous screen a hundred feet up in the air next to the stage, and four or five very tall cranes, holding enormous American flags from their cables.

Three politicians, senators or sometheing, no one seems to know, come out and begin to lead the crowd in a chant:

“LET’S GET THIS GUY OUT!”  “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!” “TWO MORE DAYS!”

They try to whip the crowd up, at least, that may have been their goal.  It’s obvious at this point that people are far more interested in chanting slogans than listening to anyone who isn’t Romney. It is very chilly. After about a minute they abruptly stop.

“Something has gone wrong up here in the front, can security please help this woman?” somebody says over the PA.

Apparently someone in the front has passed out on Vicodin, and has to be removed.  However, this takes a few minutes, as the woman is quite large, and as a result the three senators can do nothing, apparently, besides stare out at the crowd.  This satisfies no-one, and we in the back grow weary.  When the situation resolves they begin speaking again, but the thread is lost.  The gray-haired Gingrich-looking one stumbles over the first few syllables of “Pennsylvania.”  But he sticks with it, and somehow, pulls it off.  By the end of his rambling, largely incoherent speech, he has a huge smile on his face, very pleased by the size of the crowd, and its relentless enthusiasm in the face of incompetence.

After he leaves, “It’s America” plays again.  And again.  And again. It would seem that this is literally the only song they are allowed to play. People dance to keep warm, but only through their knees so they can act like they aren’t dancing.  Elderly husbands hold their wives for warmth.  Those sitting on the crane next to us are told to stop touching the controls, dammit, or they’ll just have to get off.  “It’s America” continues its assault on my nervous system.  Finally, cutting awkwardly through the middle of the song’s chorus, the Rocky Theme begins to play.  God has arrived.

Mitt’s bus comes cruising in, all painted shiny and looking good.  He climbs out to wild applause.  The big man himself!  Our savior!  “USA! USA!”  The chant is deafening.  He calms them with a series of waves and grunts, and finally introduces his wife.  She speaks, is politely heard, and the main event begins.

As Romney begins to speak, I feel an unexpected sense of anti-climax, and an eerie sense of deja-vu. I have seen this speech before.  I have seen it a thousand times.  Every time he opens his mouth, it is to give this exact same speech. The usual buzzwords.  The plaintive looks at the camera. The firm, crisp tone of the statesman and the clean cut gray hair.  The quick easy smile and the short dignified laugh.  He is here, he is risen.  He is one of us.
We skip out after ten minutes to beat traffic.  Ten minutes later fireworks go off far down the road behind our car, and I am glad to see them.  The thing is done now, the climax has happened.  I imagine an orgy of flag waving and slogan chanting, small children getting the same feeling they do when church is let out.

I return home to find a newly–gone-viral video of Mitt Romney explaining Mormonism to a radio presenter in tense terms.  I am impressed by the genuineness of his response, and the conviction of his beliefs.

“I think I know more about my own religion than you, alright?  I was a bishop after all.  Now would you let me finish?  It does not say the Jesus’s second coming will occur in Missouri.  It says, on Judgment Day, when the enemies of Israel invade to try to… Kill all the Jews, I guess…. Jesus will come down to Jerusalem and split the Mount of Olives in half, and that from then on the world be ruled from two places of power — Jerusalem, and Missouri.”

Exactly.

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