Thank you, David Kiley. If you hadn't been invited to the Republican cognac-and-cigar party last night, I never would've gotten in the door.
(And thank you, chipper door lady. I never thought I'd be able to sneak past you. But when I said "Kiley," you helpfully offered: "David?" I smoked a cigar in your honor.)
Inside, delegates, politicos, and their wives drank beer (the favorite: Corona), cocktails, and gallons of expensive cognac and single-malt scotch. Wine was anathema.
Pretty young women in black party dresses circulated with boxes of cigars (from Rocky Patel—which, according to a young cigar-smoker in the obligatory red tie, gets some of its tobacco from Cuba). Veal meatballs, sliced filet mignon, and shrimp glistened in the dim light.
The bar, Solera, was four stories of short haircuts, smugness, and misinformation: about the protests that day ("their stated objective was to kill a cop"), about the significance of the Palin-baby story ("only liberal bloggers are writing about it"), about their own attractiveness ("last night, every 18–25 year-old-girl in Minneapolis was here; it was one step short of a rave").
Weirdly, there were Republican Stranger fans in the house—Shane Osborn, state treasurer of Nebraska and his wife Teri, who lived for awhile on Bainbridge Island, got all effusive and happy about it: "I Saw U!" Teri squealed. "I just love good satire," Shane added. "You have to be able to have a sense of humor about things."
Osborn (a former Navy pilot, briefly imprisoned in China after his plane had a mid-air collision with a Chinese plane) was the gentlest soul at the party. "You really ought to visit Omaha sometime," he said. "I think you'll be pleasantly surprised."
Less gentle: One slightly slurry delegate from Alabama who, during a conversation with me about the South, said, "It's like I always tell my daughters: if you see a nigger driving a limo, he isn't necessarily a drug dealer—he might be a chauffeur! And that's progress." (He then launched into a paean for his black taekwondo instructor. "He's my master," the delegate grinned. "Isn't that funny?")
Ryan, Bryan, and Tony, three ebullient young gentlemen at a back table on the cigar-smoking deck, complained about Kofi Annan ("he flies in the UN flag above the US flag") and Al Franken. The triumvirate work for Norm Coleman, who is running against Franken for Senate. "Franken seems like an asshole," one of them said.
I asked whether Palin was going to become the Tom Eagleton of the 2008 race. They blinked.
"You know, Eagleton," I said. "The guy who didn't tell McGovern about his shock therapy." They blinked some more.
"I'll have another cocktail and then maybe two beers and then let's roll," a man at a nearby table said to his friend. "Hey, you seen Crawford?"
"I think he's in the bathroom," the friend said. "Probably hugging the toilet."