John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 2004 September 1 
    The Republican National Convention is running in New York during 
2004 August 30 thru September 2. As part of the convention, like at all 
such convention, there are many side sessions and parties to celebrate 
a this or that politician.
    On Tuesday 31 August 2004 there was a special side party, a 
reception, for Tom DeLay, Congressman from Texas and House Majority 
Leader. The meeting was sponsored by several aerospace companies for 
DelAy's general support of the American space program. It was called 
'Space Jam 2004' 
    I was honored to attend as a delegate of the New York regional 
astronomy community and newish leader of the NYC Chapter of national 
Space Society. Several other NYSkiers were also personally invited, 
along with several hundred others from across the country.
Mustering up
    This party ws in a loft near Hudson Yards, site of the proposed 
new Olympic and football stadium. With all the street closings and 
transit reroutings due to the main convention in Madison Square 
Garden, I just walked to the place from my office. Thankfully the 
weather dried out and cooled off, allowing me to maintain a brisk gait 
without over heating. 
    A couple other chapter members were already waiting outside at a 
little past 17h EDST. Because this was a invite-only affair, we had to 
wait for chapter president Candace Pankanin to arrive with the 
official tickets and list of guests. 
    She ambled along at about 17:25 to get our papers in order. By
then others of our delegation and many other guests were milling 
around by the loft entrance. After getting our names matched against a 
master list at the entry, we were issued a wristband, then directed to 
the top floor. 
Around the Garden
    I note a couple features of the Convention's effect on traffic in 
the area. There are many blocks closed to road traffic and others with 
restricted traffic. Parade barriers and police patrols are placed at 
the corners to fend off vehicles. 
    Foot traffic is equally convoluted. The barriers for walkers are 
shifted from time to time. Knowing where they were one day, wasn't 
much help to me on the 31st. I had to detour for one extra street, 
when yesterday that street was unimpeded. 
    At some corners police asked people where they were going. They 
did this not for suspicion of the people's intents, but to warn of 
restrictions or closings at the far end of the block. A person 
entering to continue thru to the following block may be walking into a 
dead end.  
    On some blocks the foot traffic seemed about as dense as normal. 
This was an illusion. Thee were actually far fewer people in the 
neighborhood of Madison Square Garden. Myriads took holiday from the 
City to escape the disruptions of the Convention. The sidewalks were 
crowded because these fewer people were constricted into far fewer 
open sidewalks. 
    Other than a somewhat crooked path from my office to the loft, I 
suffered no major hassles from the Convention. 
Party time
    On stepping off of the elevator, the wristbands were checked and 
nametags handed out. The actual space was an open floor with picture 
windows all around. The Sun was dazzling in the late afternoon blue 
sky. Altho only a few dozen guests were on hand when we got to the 
party, the room quickly filled up with more elevator loads within 
about a half hour.
    There were a few testimonial speeches by DeLay, retired astronaut 
David Low, a couple other politicians, and, near the end, NASA 
Administrator Sean O'Keefe. Later in the session there was a doorprize 
    Apart from these, we schnoozed and noshed and bantered about 
space. Food and drink were ample. Lots of hors d'oeuvres, canape's, 
cheese and crackers, fruit, cookies. Lots of beer, soda, and wine. 
    The room had a few space decorations, a panel about ISS, some 
astronaut dummies. And two astronauts! One was a actor in a Texas 
sized suit; he looked out thru holes in the chest. He walked around, 
greeted the guests, and got pictures taken with him. 
    The other was a REAL astronaut, David Low, a three-time Space 
Shuttle mission specialist in the 1980s and 1990s. He wore a 
regulation size space suit, assembled with a helper. Of course, this 
was an empty suit, just the shell with no internal guts. Otherwise it 
would be too heavy to walk around in. 
    David Low is sometimes confused with George Low, his father. The 
elder Low was a ground controller for the Apollo project. The full 
name of the chap we rapped with is George David Low, so he generally 
goes by his middle name. 
What a view!
    The loft consisted of one large room and a roof garden. From both 
there were spectacular views of the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan. 
Midtown was blocked by nearby towers, including an immense one with a 
forest of satellite dishes on top. 
    Some delegates heard about Fay Wray and the Olympic stadium. I 
showed them the Gorilla Perch, then glistening in the lowering Sun, 
and the railyards where the stadium may sit.
    From the garden, many guests were freaked out by the two humongous 
tanks on stilts. What the eff are they?!?! I explained about our city 
water system and the crucial role of the tanks. 
    Many were awed at the density and congestion of the City, even 
those who came from large towns in Texas like Houston and Dallas. 
While these towns have tall towers, they are spaced far apart with 
boro-size caryards between them. Here, on Manhattan, the buildings 
press together! I showed them on tower with a bare wall, pointing out 
that this is deliberate because eventually an other tower will nestle 
up against it. 
    The Sun to me was an real annoyance, there being no curtains, 
shades, blinds on the windows. Near the end of the merriment, the Sun 
got low into thicker haze and softened his beams. 
Prizes and perks 
    About midway thru the meeting doorprizes were picked, based on a 
serial number on the wristband. The prizes were pretty substantial, 
being donated by the sponsoring corporations. Fellow NYSkier and 
chapter project director Myrna Coffino won a tabletop model of the 
Space Shuttle with autographs on it from several astronauts. No, I 
missed getting any prize. 
    No one went home empty handed. All got a goodie bag of space 
stuff. This included a leather=like portfolio, space pens, sun visor, 
posters, DVD album.
Rubbing elbows 
    By far the greater crowd was the regular convention delegation 
from Texas. The men wore Texas cowboy hats. When I first saw them on 
the street, before going inside, the hats looked a bit silly. But!, 
within minutes they all were rather neat and cool. I guess they were 
part of their convention getup because they were almost all of one 
style. The women in the contingent wore mostly flowered dresses in an 
assortment of colors. 
    An other large group came from Philadelphia, with a more 'urban' 
attire. Some of these folk were part of space advocancies there. 
    Everyone I spoke with was fixated on getting human space flights 
moving again or, more grandly, beginning the human explorations of the 
Moon or Mars. No one really promoted ongoing automatic or robot 
missions, such as Cassini, Genesis, or MESSENGER. And, of course, the 
Texas folk pushed for keeping their state's space economy alive. 
    I apparently was the only 'astronomer' on the block! The delegates 
were surprised and pleased that a real astronomer was on hand; they 
asked me a lot of astronomy questions. The inquiries ranged as widely 
as those at the typical public astro session. Yes, I handed out both 
NYSkies and NSS NYC chapter litterature.
NYC chapter
    The New York City chapter is among the more active ones of 
National Space Society under its president Candace Pankanin. The other 
delegates were wowed by the chapter's expanded activities. These 
include regular monthly meetings, participation in Earth Day and 
perhaps American Urban Star Fest, meeting summaries by Eugene and 
Frances Cervone, my SpaceWalk column, presence at Hayden Planetarium 
space events, occasional joint meetings with the local astronomy club, 
renewed liaison with the United Nations, letter-writing to Congress to 
promote the space program. 
    National president George Whitesides and past president Bryan 
Chase were at the affair, heading the NSS contingent from Washington. 
They and Candace chatted on assorted organization matters repeatedly 
during the party. They engaged me and other chapter members in light 
talk to better appreciate the caliber of people Ms Pankanin is 
attracting to her chapter. 
    Candace suffered a personal tragedy in the death of her brother in 
late August; It wasn't until Sunday the 29th that she recovered enough 
to look after the chapter's role in this Delay reception. 
Partied out
    The Sun was nearing the western horizon. slowing dimming out in 
the haze. The delegates were draining off in small groups. Loft crew 
started knocking down the props and cleaning up the food and drink 
tables. The last of us finally called it a night. I saw a stack of 
posters among other party trash. One of the crew handling them let me 
take one as a souvenir. 
    The Cervone's and I took a taxi from the loft to a nearby subway, 
from where we rode home to Brooklyn.