We covered Shiprocked, a rock and roll cruise, in 2015. Jenn Tisdale and I spent four days on water risking our bodies against the Noravirus and Limp Bizkit.
We covered the 2016 Republican National Convention. I’ve spent four days near water risking my body against the Noravirus and Third Eye Blind.
I thought it was like SXSW. Replace bands with nerds and it’s the same. Same corporate sponsors (I wrote this paragraph in a lounge paid for by Lyft, Diageo, Microsoft and many, many more companies), same swag (I did not take the free t-shirts, sunglasses, notepads. I did take a mobile charger and a tote bag for my mother-in-law.) and the same herd of media trying to find places to charge their phones and computers.
It’s like SXSW. But it’s most like a cruise. A themed cruise. And like most themed cruises, not everyone on the boat knew about the altered program.
We were on a boat. The boat was supposed to be steered by a moderate Bush. That Bush was not here. A lot of the usual shipmates weren’t there. This is someone else’s ship. Night four concluded with, “Look at me! I’m the captain now!”
In an Amtrak station at 3 a.m., I’m glad I’m off the boat.
You can’t get off a cruise. Other than quarantine or prison, you’re forced to embrace the experience. The outside world feels distant because it is. News doesn’t matter. Family and friends can’t rescue you. The only ones that understand you are the other people in close quarters, people you might never talk to if given another option.
I drank beers at a private party with people that hate Muslims. Then I gave my pass to protestors outside. I don’t know how that ended.
I spoke with Ted Cruz’ campaign manager. He told me about tearing up when Ted talked to his children after not endorsing the Republican nominee for president. I had to remind my brain that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president.
I talked to vendors and drivers about their political affiliation. They all didn’t care about either party. A job is a job.
I took dumb photos of dumb cupcakes.
I saw Eric Andre receive a stern talking to from Secret Service.
I saw Triumph/Robert Smigel on consecutive nights gaining floor access to the Republican National Convention.
I found out members of security are fans of Anderson Cooper.
I tried to find Rick Santorum and found Samantha Bee instead. I geeked out like a fan boy and had to remind myself that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president.
I listened to Chance The Rapper, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar, trying to distance myself from every sign, catchphrase and motto being sold inside and outside the Quicken Loans Arena.
I had great experiences with police forces from around the country. I just typed that and still can’t believe it.
I met a few dozen, highly educated people that loathe Trump but will not vote for Hillary. They’re all voting Trump.
I witnessed a speech some are calling fascist. I heard giggles when he mentioned fixing the TSA.
On the final night of the RNC, Captain Trump doubled down on fear. While there were some glimpses of progress (LGBTQ friends, not repeating the “Lock her up!” chant), the majority of the nearly 80 minute speech wasn’t positive. But I don’t think it matters. You’re either on the boat or you have no desire to go to sea.
You know this guy. And you know political conventions. And you know this guy isn’t usually at political conventions, let alone the focus of one. But it happened. The cruise ship embarked and for four days nearly 15,000 people shared a well managed but uncomfortable space.
I’m not happy to be in a train station in the middle of night but I’m glad I’m re-entering the real world. It’s unlikely that something like this will happen again. And it’s unlikely the last four days of speeches, videos, cheers and boos changed anyone’s mind.
There’s a man in the station muttering to himself. He’s talking about pink triangles and Nazis, wandering in and out of sleep. I don’t think he watched any of the Republican National Convention.