CLEVELAND, OH — I still can’t believe they gave me a credential to cover, uhhh, observe the Republican National Convention. Sure I have been able to attend and document serious news-related events throughout my career in journalism. One summer in DC I had authorization to chronicle Capitol Hill. There was a random Supreme Court Case I sat in on. The Ohio General Assembly is where I made my home for two years while a student at Ohio State University.
But this was Donald Trump, and the future of the free world was at stake, with some of the most influential power brokers in the world right in our back yard, rubbing elbows with Superpimp and the Creepy Mall Guy. Once again, Cleveland was the center of the universe — on display for the world to see.
And they gave me a credential. What on Earth were they thinking??
Let’s start out with the unauthorized Donald Trump merchandise store. One thing we know about Cleveland is that our town loves a good tee shirt. Or just any tee shirt. Or just any article of clothing that vaguely expresses some semblance of civic pride. Apparently the Trump store called and they weren’t out of anything, as there were pithy Trump-isms emblazoned on what seemed like thousands of shirts, pins, hats. I felt like I was making America Great Again one (s)medium at a time. How about this doozy, the perfect storm of Cleveland-related T-shirt, Republican Convention, The Donald, and a Cavs championship phrase that apparently wasn’t trademarked.
After roughly 30 minutes of the clothing store (about an hour less of my normal fitting experience inside a Nordstrom Rack), I was headed to East Fourth and Euclid to dip into a watering hole to see if I would find any celebrities, politicians, 9/11 Truthers, or a beer. I found a beer. Maybe a few. And this television normally reserved for a Cleveland sporting event, but instead presenting Brit Hume with a new summer look that Cleveland knows all too well.
Then it was off to the most congested area of downtown: East Fourth. Editorial note: The wackos were out in full force. Everything from singing street vendor to a poor man’s Cirque du Soleil performance. All right there on the city’s most famous entertainment thoroughfare. If you were worried about your protection in any way, this guy below and you covered.
Still on East Fourth, I noticed that one of the anchors of the entertainment district, Michael Symon’s famous Lola was closed for the night, presumably for an RNC-related party. Only one thing, he kinda, sorta doesn’t want that “creep” Donald Trump, ya know, the presumptive nominee at his chef’s table, or any table for that matter.
Then it was time to make my way over to the Q, but first, there was some silver-haired fox in a gigantic suit that started to cause a gathering. I did what any self-respecting “journalist” would do, pretended to know who he was before waving the white flag and asking a surrogate. Naturally, I was scoffed at in the same manner I make underhanded remarks at certain media professionals covering sporting events that I’ve judged to have no business being there. After that I was told it was one of Trump’s trusty advisers Roger Stone.
Now it was getting serious. A metal detector-guided entrance full of Secret Service. I knew I had no business being there, they knew I had no business being there, but why not let the charade continue. Surprisingly, this went much better than my usual TSA checkpoint wandings at the airport. But this time I was smart enough not to go all Ben Stiller in Meet the Parents.
After all of that I safely made it into the Q and immediately made a snarky comment about Chris Christie, who will be one of the featured speakers on Night 2 of the convention. It was either a bridge comment or a Brady Hoke reference. On this night, I made the decision to take the ribbing from Republicans rather than Michigan fans — I just wasn’t in the mood.
One of the big no-nos in responsible journalism-gathering is autographs and selfies from newsmakers. That went right out the window when I saw Don King, who apparently carries a certain affinity towards the United States of America (who knew?). At first his staffers — yes the 84-year old had multiple — were apprehensive about somebody sabotaging his iron tight itinerary. I completely ignored him and said that Akron’s own Showtime Shawn Porter had just told me what an influence King was on his career. A shameless ploy that in reality, wasn’t even in my top five lies of the night. Whatever…It got me this awkwardly uncomfortable photo.
I then weaseled my way into one of the TV broadcast locations just to get a sense of what was actually happening on the floor. It was pretty cool to see our basketball and hockey arena transformed into a pep rally full of media personnel from all over the world. Here’s a glimpse of what it looked like from up above.
And finally, it was one last attempt to get a little closer as the opening night of the convention was ready to make a star out of an international supermodel. Or at least Melania Trump’s first real introduction to political enthusiasts. Trump came out to a song made famous in northeast Ohio a month earlier by the Cavaliers, “We are the Champions.” It apparently wasn’t the last time on the opening night of the party that something might have been borrowed.