You expect to see fear-based rhetoric with the best of them -- you count on hearing the murmurs of confiscation and tyranny, of the misguided concept that the only way to keep a government at bay is the 9mm wedged into your wife's bra. (As Glenn Beck alluded to over the weekend, the only thing -- the only thing! -- keeping your wife or sister from rape is a gun. The only thing.) You expect to be filled with the sort of nationalism that would make Hirohito proud. You expect to question the future of this nation and your place in it.
But there are, fortunately, some things that escape expectation. There are aspects and people and moments that make you realize there's still a bit of variation among those who attend and in the ends they all carry with them. A list can't capture anywhere near the bizarreness of it all, but, well, we'll give it a shot:
5. In order to warm up the crowd before Glenn Beck's "Stand and Fight Rally" -- the one in which he insisted the only thing preventing mass rape was a Glock -- the NRA elected to have a seven-piece band from Dallas perform. Six guitars and a drummer. The setup, following the hour of Springsteen and Petty and Mellencamp we'd heard over the radio system, was as Americana as you could find.
And then the band began playing. "Now, I hate to use the word 'opera' at an event like this, but I want you guys to know that this is actually from a pretty badass opera -- bad guys, love triangles, all the stuff you guys love on the TV," says one of the many guitarists. A member of the 15,000-strong audience hollers in response. The vocalist laughed: "All right, an opera fan! And now, Carmen!"
And so began a classic rock version of the iconic opera's score. The crowd shuffled in their seats, trying to figure out where the American music had gone. And they kept shuffling, as the band proceeded to find time to play some Bach, some Mozart, some Beethoven. The closest we got was Dvorak, with a rendition of certain music he'd composed in America. Other than that, though: nothin'. Nothing but classic(al) rock the entire time through. Not sure whose idea it was, but here's assuming the musical set will be a bit different in Indianapolis next year. 4. Along the back of the convention floor stood a handful of vehicles that captured a few aspects of the entire weekend. There was Tony Stewart's NASCAR rig in all its sponsored glory. There were a couple trucks large enough to make you question the, ah, manhood of the owners. And then, with a crowd of cameras around it, there was this:
Not sure how much I can say. Where once was a sunroof, now stands a machine gun. Where once was a Volkswagen Bus, now stands an assault vehicle. Oscar Mayer's Wienermobile doesn't stand a chance.
3. I missed all the hooded protesters that apparently clogged the entrance floor-space on Saturday, but I did have a chance to speak with some of those posted outside for the entirety of the weekend. Naturally, their pictorials involved Obama in a Hitler 'stache -- because, duh -- but that wasn't the lone message some protesters were trying to push.
"We're out here trying to remind people that Glass-Steagall is our best way to divest commercial and investment banking!" said Kesha Rogers, a picture of Mein Obama peeking out just above her shoulder. "And it's more than that -- this government is so, so big. So much of it is defense. If we can just cut some of that defense and put it back into NASA, imagine the kind of science we can create!"
Rogers, in case you forgot, is a LaRouchie who won the Democratic nomination for Congress in the utterly Republican 22nd District and ran on a platform of impeaching Obama.
I asked her which kind of science she had in mind, exactly, and she pointed to the NAWAPA, a system of aqueducts and canals that would carry 20 percent of the Canadian Rocky watershed to the continental United States. The conversation swiftly turned jargon-y -- things like "six million jobs!" and "Bobby Kennedy's idea" and "but environmentalists are the ones who hate this" -- and I couldn't shake the image of Obama's upper lip the entire time.
If Rogers were able to split her entirely salient views on banking from the Obama-as-Hitler references, she might gather a few more individuals to her cause. Until then, best of luck.
2. Of course this exists:
1. I met a man named Buck. Buck lives just outside San Antonio. Buck likes to use blow-darts and spears to hunt animals that are larger than he is. Buck will soon have a show on Animal Planet, and it will be called Lone Star Legend. Buck wanted to show me a photo of a crocodile eating a dog, and he did, and we laughed at the fact that the dog still had a collar on. Buck then turned and looked me in the eye, and said that we should go hunting. Buck gave me his phone number.
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Buck then posed for this photo: