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  WHOSE STREETS? UH, LIKE, OUR STREETS!  
   
   
  With the Republican National Convention trundling its way into New York City, I'm feeling like protesting. I've got that fire in my belly. And it's a good thing, too, because Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants  
  us to protest. The money gained from a discount program dubbed Peaceful Political Activists, should help pick up some of the lost revenue from the RNC -- City Officials claim that the convention might not bring in the $265 million they predicted. Apparently there aren't enough visiting Republicans interested in taking in a performance of "Movin' Out" after dining at Nobu. Combine that with flocks of New Yorkers who have adjusted their vacation schedules to take them away from the city during the convention in order to avoid the transit confusion, increased security, and terror threats, it's really no wonder the city is trying

       
 

to raise revenue by any means.

For us poor bastards preparing to schlep to work during those days, the inconvenience of the RNC is enough reason to protest. To that end, if The Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom happened to get into a big fight above Madison Square Garden at any moment, during prime time, between August 30th and September 2nd, and just happened to open up a portal that sucked everyone at the Republican National Convention into the Negative Zone and also just happened to be stuck there long enough for Bush to miss the deadline to accept the nomination, well, I wouldn't mind. Since that isn't likely, and I'm not Nicholson Baker, I can only fill my intense distaste with flights of comic book fantasy.

You do have to hand it to Mayor Bloomberg for thinking out of the proverbial box, albeit with good nature of an out-of-touch parent. The Peaceful Political Activists visitors program offers a variety of discounts for restaurants, hotels, plays and shopping to keep the protestors distracted from the convention, or at the very least provide them with such a delightful holiday in the Big Apple that they'll come back to protest again. Sure, it doesn't match the discount program visiting Republicans will be receiving on blue label liquor, cigars and free cleanup for all of the hookers they choke to death, but, you know, it's decent.

Anyway, the Peaceful Political Activists visitors program is an unbelievable symbol of, if not optimism, pragmatism from Mayor Bloomberg, which is quite unlike anything we've seen a city do in preparation for a major protest. He's not only acknowledging the presence of protestors, but also trying to encourage more of them to come, if just because the Republicans are cheapskates. When the RNC comes to town, it's going to be a shitstorm. So what better idea than to invite more visitors to come and use New York City as the backdrop for their partisan hootin' and hollerin', especially if they'd love to save 15 percent off lunch or dinner at Mars 2112.

So in the spirit of making everyone feel welcome, let's take a look at exactly what's up for discount through the Peaceful Political Activists visitors program, and see what kind of fun package we can put together the visiting dissident.

After you've tossed down your bindle and had a Pete Seeger sing-a-long over at your buddy Travis' pad -- because let's face it, you're not going to be booking a room at the Avalon, you're crashing on some stoner's futon -- head on over to the Visitor's Center at 820 Seventh Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets to pick up your official Peaceful Political Activists Savings Card. Okay, and then-and this is totally key-you have to take advantage of the 10 percent discount at Bike the Big Apple. You might want to stay away from the area around 31st to 33rd Streets because I've heard it's going to be a bit crazy over there. So peddle somewhere else, but that's key: You have to do the bike tour.

Okay, so then you have to sign up for Walkin' Broadway. It's an audio tour that takes you through the rich history of Broadway between 42nd and 52nd Street. That's basically all the ground the tour covers, but it's an audio tour, so you'll get to hear some great stories about who was doing what and what was doing whom. You might think that simply because it's a 10-block audio tour along one of the busiest streets in Manhattan that it might suck, but, uh, you'd be totally wrong.

Don't blow your wad on the package tours though. Seriously, don't. You'll need to save yourself for some great museum and restaurant opportunities, like the American Folk Art Museum. Folk art is awesome, but yeah, you're right, maybe a little boring. The Bronx Zoo is also really cool, but the Museum of Sex has a great exhibit on the Chinese's obsession with the lotus. But between us, the Museum of Sex isn't all that it's cracked up to be. It's on Fifth Avenue and 27th Street, so you can hit it up on your way to the Pokemon Center your one-stop shop for all of your Pokemon needs. A lot of kids might tell you that Pokemon is totally lame now, and Yu-Gi-Oh! is where it's at. Well, those kids are assholes. Not me, man; I'm letting that 10 percent discount ride on a Pikachu plush toy. I'd pick up the Pokemon Colosseum game for my GameCube, but the discount doesn't apply for software or hardware.

What this all boils down to is that the Peaceful Activists Discount Card might not be the most useful thing one could give to visiting protestors, but offering them discounts on gas masks, bandages, video cameras, noisemakers like a drum on which to bang, light durable clothing, bottles of water and some maps is rather pessimistic. Bleak, even. It's a new century, and this isn't the '68 Democratic National Convention.

The ultimate goal of the Peaceful Political Activists program, it seems, is to request visiting protestors to not be punks about this whole thing. Sure, the RNC is deeply offensive, but there are millions of us who live here and are going to still be living here when it's over. Let's make it as painless as possible. But if you need me I'll be chowin' down on the World Yacht Dining Cruise. $20 per couple!

 

Frank Smith, like the rest of The Black Table, will be in New York all convention week. Oh joy.