"Creative Loafing," I said.
The pleasant young volunteer was just doing her job -- keeping riff-raff like me out of Presidential hopeful John Edwards' 50th birthday celebration -- and I suppose my mumbling (and thrift-store wardrobe) wasn't helping matters. She wrote down my name, and then right behind it: "CREATIVE LOAFFING."Screw it. I was in the doors of The Flying Saucer, the rather unlikely venue for Edwards' celebration, and had time to rest for a second and look around. "Don't Drink Pee," said one of the T-shirts for sale behind a glass case. Another was emblazoned with the legend "You're Killing My Buzz." For a second I thought this was a Kennedy campaign stop. Come to think of it, that's probably not that far off. John F. Kennedy, as we all know, was Catholic. In the group waiting for Edwards' arrival was a priest sitting at the bar. Young Edwards supporters waited for Edwards as if he were Justin Timberlake, and I saw some young female admirers visibly swoon when Edwards walked in. Normally, power (or the promise of it) makes a rather ordinary -- or downright ugly -- man more attractive to women. When that powerful man also happens to look pretty good, you have the potential for chaos.
A CNN crew was on hand for the event, so I waited for them to move instead of looking around every five seconds for ol' JFK III. Erskine Bowles showed up and began hugging everybody in sight. Still no Edwards. Finally, through the kitchen, strolled Edwards, smile already plastered on his mug. After glad-handing his way to the stage, Edwards was introduced and then gave a rousing speech to the folks who had shelled out at least $50 apiece for the chance to lay eyes on Edwards' sunny mug. By the time Edwards bashed John Ashcroft, I thought some of those in attendance might start doffing their shirts. Once finished, Edwards was presented with a birthday cake, smiled, and was whisked into an idling SUV. I was as pumped as everyone else, but tried to keep my wits about me, being part of the press and all. Of course, nobody got the chance to ask him any questions, mind you, least of all the press. And why not? It's his party, and he can jet if he wants to.
After the Edwards appearance, I hopped in the car for the short ride over to Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre to check out the Snoop Dogg/Red Hot Chili Peppers show. Well, short in number of miles. Traffic was at a standstill. So much so that a fellow in the car in front of me got out of his car, walked about 10 feet onto the shoulder, and began to take a whiz. In broad daylight. After what seemed like ages, the man zipped up and walked back to his car, grabbing two fresh cans of Budweiser out of the cooler in his trunk. I finally arrived at Verizon just as Snoop was finishing his show, and out of habit, walked to the right to go to my seats (which, as it later turned out, were at the far left of the stage). Right around the same time, a young man was getting shocked to death and another injured a few hundred yards away when they stepped on an electrified staircase (by press time, no one has explained how the staircase had become electrified). Like most concertgoers, I knew nothing about it at the time, thanks to the heavy rain that had folks either running for cover or checking out all the wet T-shirts on display. As oblivious as everyone else, The Chili Peppers put on an energetic, exultant show, perhaps inspired by the thousands of kids prancing around in the rain and sliding about like it was Woodstock. Too bad it ended more like Rosskilde or Cincinnati.