UNCONVENTIONAL CONVENTION COVERAGE Day 1: Dave discovers dangers of covering Democrats


When Dave Barry booked his summer vacation in New York, little did he know the Democratic National Convention was scheduled for the same time. A lesser man would have pretended not to notice, but Dave, supremely devoted to his craft, insisted on covering the proceedings. Selfless Dave will report on the convention this week while his family is busy tossing down lobster salad at four-star restaurants. New York -- Tonight is the long-awaited "opening night" of the Democratic convention, and this city has reached a fever pitch of excitement, diminished only slightly by the fact that I got pooped on by a donkey.

This really happened. It was a rental donkey named Giorgio, and it was standing on the sidewalk outside a midtown Manhattan hotel as part of a celebration to mark the arrival of the Arkansas delegation. A small crowd of tourists and media people had stopped to watch. (New Yorkers, however, just kept right on dTC walking past, probably operating on the assumption that if they stopped, the donkey would ask them for spare change.)

I was standing what I thought was a safe distance behind Giorgio, minding my own business, when suddenly, without warning, Giorgio had a major eruptive digestive event. Trained journalists later estimated that the Splatter Zone extended more than 7 feet from the point of impact, the result being that my pants looked and smelled like the floor of a petting zoo. Needless to say I felt pretty stupid. There's probably an old expression that goes: "He's so dumb he could get pooped on by a donkey in midtown Manhattan."

I am not seeking your sympathy, but on the same day that Giorgio nailed me, I was almost run over by Catherine Crier's media clot. This occurred inside Madison Square Garden at the unveiling of the huge, swoopy modernistic podium that will provide a spectacular backdrop for the featured convention speakers

while millions and millions of concerned American TV viewers are watching Doogie Howser reruns.

Near the podium was CNN correspondent Catherine Crier, surrounded by the largest clot of electronic support personnel I have ever seen for a single TV journalist: TWO camera people and TWO light people, as well as sound people, people talking into walkie-talkies, etc. It was at least an eight-person clot. You could barely see Catherine in there.

Anyway, I was minding my own business, when suddenly Catherine started walking in my direction, which caused her whole clot to move, poles and wires sticking out all over the place, and if I hadn't leaped aside at the last second, I would have had the back of a large camera embedded in my forehead. Moments later, Catherine stopped briefly to chat with some children, but somehow the clot failed to notice this and kept on moving without her.

"WAIT!" I shouted. "You forgot Catherine!" But the clot just kept on lumbering. I assume it was felled by police with riot guns before it reached the street, where innocent people could have been hurt.

In other major convention developments, Democratic Party Chairman Ron Brown arrived in New York aboard a Victory Train from Washington. The irony here is that Brown had already been in New York, which meant he flew to Washington to catch a train so he could triumphantly arrive, amid much fanfare, exactly where he started out. It could have been called the Metaphor for the Entire Democratic Party Train.

On hand to greet the Metaphor Train was the New York City Housing Authority Brass Quintet (I am not making this up), as well as Mayor David Dinkins, who, according to seasoned political observers, looks exactly like Yoda with a mustache.

Also there were these developments:

*In a scientific poll of eight women in the media center looking at a newspaper photo of Bill Clinton and Al Gore jogging, seven of them -- a commanding 87 percent -- said Gore had better legs. One seasoned observer stated that, thighwise, Clinton appears to have "a major chafing problem."

*Informed sources have confirmed that Gore does have a wife named "Tipper," and she has Family Values. I will have more on this alarming development as soon as the hotel laundry gives me my pants back.

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