0

Party at the G-8 IMC - Ed Brock

The wind across the tarmac picked up gusty strength as Air Force One sailed in from the east.

It was the leader of the Free World, borne to us in that blue and white ark the pulled up in front of the scaffold full of media people and VIPs as neat as a sports car. His arrival had also been heralded by the warming up of the engines on Marine One, the helicopter that would bear the Mighty Dubyah and his fair lass to yonder isle.

Thus concluded our first day at the G8 Summit in Savannah. And to think, it almost didn't happen.

By the time this column goes to print I will be in the midst of my final day at the summit, perhaps trampled and crushed beneath the feet of rioting protestors or merely trying to track down our photographer Zach who is also the driver on this venture.

Either way, there will be more to this story next week, if the first day is an accurate auger.

It began with mild anxiety brought about by the heavy presence of armed men. And armed women, too, of course, don't take me for a sexist.

They began appearing as we entered the city, starting with a small company of soldiers going about some business in one of Savannah's many squares. Then there was a cordon of police officers outside the credentialing office where we only hoped to find the passes I had struggled so hard to procure at the last minute.

The anxiety rose almost to panic when we were first met with "Credentials? What credentials?" But something about the calm, reassuring way in which everybody handled us kept the fear from taking hold, and after a short delay we were handed the holograph-laden, high security, more-precious-than-gold credentials.

But, we were told, it was too late to sign up to see the President's arrival. Oh well.

We proceeded to the International Media Center anyway, to establish our agenda for the next day and because we'd heard there was quite a party going on there. Free food, free booze and free entertainment.

Now that's class!

It's also a brilliant piece of media management. You keep those press hounds well fed and plied with liquor and they're less inclined to go out looking for trouble. Besides, trouble was being kept on the other side of town, in Forsyth Park where those "darn dirty hippies" were encamped. That was the other party that would be going on for the whole week, a party of protest against The Man and all his Minions.

We made our way to River Street and hopped aboard the Juliette Gordon Low, a trim little vessel named after the founder of the Girl Scouts. Her motors revved like a chorus of car horns as she carried us across the Savannah River through a fleet of Coast Guard gunboats.

After landing on the other side and clearing security, we entered the Babylon of our profession, hungry and ready to cruise right to the mini Waffle House and Krispy Kreme shops set up inside along with a highly recommended buffet line. But we detoured first down a hallway to find somebody to ask about seeing the other world leaders arrive on Tuesday.

As we wandered down the hall, very obviously in search of something, a voice drifted up and spun us around with the message "Are you looking to go see Air Force One land?"

Behind the voice trailed a little man struggling to carry a pair of boxes, in which were the passes we had been told were no longer available.

That was our first lesson in the most basic rule of the summit. Nobody knows anything, so take nothing for granted. In minutes we had the treasured passes and were on a bus to see the President, me wearing a ragged pair of shorts, my "Alabama" Crimson Tide T-shirt and sandals and Zach with a half dead battery in his camera.

Remember, we had only come to scout the scene. We didn't expect to be on that bus.

But we went and saw and conquered the uncertainties of the situation. It was a good sign, and as I set here writing this well past midnight and knowing I have to wake early to go hear Condi Rice give her morning briefing, I feel certain that we're off to a good start.

Of course, that's usually when everything goes straight to Hades. I'll let you know next week.

Ed Brock covers public safety, courts and municipalities for the News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753 or at ebrock@news-daily.com.