Love takes a holiday

It’s difficult to imagine how many marriages have been defeatedat the Holiday Inn. Appropriate, then, that the Defense of MarriageCoalition should chose the hotel to celebrate the passage ofMeasure 36; a celebration that begins with a cheer and devolvesinto rhythmic football chants.

The crowd, clad primarily in beige and khaki, has an average agesomewhere below 25. Young men and women mill among the buffettables stocked with meat and soda, eyeing one another voraciouslywith the confidence of a moral majority in rutting season. Theirparents look on, dreaming of a future free of the complications ofhomosexuality. Complications, for this is apparent in theeffeminate jubilance of a few of the young men. In answer to myquestion about what it means to “not be redefined,” one beefysupporter replies, “Um… I don’t think I can answer that. I’m notthat smart.” Who am I to disagree?

Nine p.m. at the Sandy Hut and the Voting Vixens are drinking.Not surprising, considering that they had decided to beginregistering Portland’s bar flies after the last election. Here isthe hard edge of democratic politics, the piercings, the tattoos,the hip, the dangerous and the plain drunk.

Bush and Cheney are hung from the ceiling in effigy as Oregon iscalled for Kerry. Nerves run high, all eyes glued to the televisionscreens that float in the cigarette haze, all hands wrapped firmlyaround cocktails and beer.

At 9:15 p.m., somewhere in a ballroom on Southeast Alder, theTom Potter party has shot its collective wad. The ethnically andeconomically diverse crowd of stragglers dance awkwardly to a coverband. A large bar in the back of the room is primarily deserted.The news crews seem bored, there being nothing new to report fromthis location. One can barely recognize the strains of “Lowrider”pumping through the speakers as the band changes tunes. Finally,Potter has managed to give the people a war we can all standagainst.

The concession speech is well underway at 9:40 at the No on 36″party.” There are wet eyes everywhere. It’s clear that these arethe victims of a bullying coalition who had nothing to lose. Manyhere have had their private commitment put to a popular vote.Despite the flare and beauty of these brave folks, there is nomasking the sorrow. The only hope is that their presidentialcandidate might win and that litigation might prevail overprejudice.

Upstairs, in the massive main hall of the Convention Center, itis not clear if Kerry will win. A characteristically diverse crowdof Democrats sit on the floor, oriented towards the large screens.Close to 11 p.m. and everything points to Ohio. Pretzels litter theground like a form of cast-off voodoo. People in costumes roam thefloor looking lost. The bartenders report a run on white wine andgin and tonics.

At 11:25, across the river in the bowels of the Marriott, theRepublicans celebrate in a safe circle of massive security. Camerasare not allowed, presumably to avoid embarrassing images of drunkenBush supporters. One of whom, leaning against the wall in her blackdress, moans “I’m so wasted, I can’t even believe it.”

Inside the ballroom, two screens blare Fox News coverage whilemen in expensive black suits wander around with broad smiles. Thewomen here have been buffed, polished, bejeweled, frosted andtrussed up. They are so gorgeous that it’s almost troubling. At 12a.m. they shut down the bar, stocked with several varieties ofwhiskey, and people slowly move towards their vehicles. A line oflimos waits at the entrance. Walking into the night, I hear afemale voice chant softly “Four more beers! Four more beers!”