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This is a special last-minute advice column for anyone who has come to Denver to attend or protest at the Democratic National Convention this week. I’m not going to tell you sights you need to see, the clubs you should avoid, or any of that nonsense. This is a purely practical primer for getting by when you’re a mile high.

Water: Drink lots of it. The day you arrive and the entire time you are here. Seriously. The lower your starting altitude (where you were before coming to Denver), the more important this tip is. It’s so dry here that most of the time you don’t notice that you’re sweating. But you are. Nothing will put you on the sidelines with altitude sickness faster than allowing yourself to get dehydrated. This is particularly important for those who plan on participating in protests and/or getting into confrontations with the local police as a result of said protests, because it’s difficult to evade the police if you are gasping for air, and also because the place where they plan to lock up protesters “temporarily” apparently does not have drinking fountains (or restrooms, or phones to call your attorney).

Sunscreen: SPF 30, at least. The air is considerably thinner here than at sea level, and sunburn can develop very quickly. You may think, “Oh, I’m just walking across the street and back, I don’t need to worry about that.” Worry about it. On sunny days, paler people can literally feel their skin burning when they’re in direct sunlight for more than about twenty seconds.

Moisturizer/hand lotion: Local residents all joke about buying stock in Nivea. The air here will turn your skin to alligator hide faster than you would think possible. Get a small tube of lotion to carry in your purse or pocket. Lip balm is also a good thing.

Vaseline: If you have allergies or were prone to nosebleeds as a kid, consider dipping a Q-tip in Vaseline and swabbing the inside of your nose each morning. Yes, it sounds gross. And it feels a bit gross, too. But between the high pollen count and the dry air, Colorado has the potential to create an unbelievably uncomfortable situation inside your nose, with the possibility of both pain and nosebleeds for some people. It’s icky. Take precautions, then laugh at all the people who are experiencing their first nosebleeds since grade school.

Alcohol: Be forewarned that booze will hit you harder here than at sea level. This is particularly true if you haven’t been drinking enough water. And alcohol will, of course, make altitude sickness worse, because it just further dehydrates you. Drink a big glass (or two) of water before hitting the parties or clubs, and another glass before you pour yourself into bed at the end of the night.

Have fun, kids! And if you happen to see a woman in a snarky t-shirt, Birkenstocks, and cargo shorts (guaranteed to make you look fat no matter how thin your thighs are, but pockets galore for cameras, batteries, recorders, phones, etc.), wandering around the vicinity of the Pepsi Center and lugging a canvas shoulder bag covered with snarky political buttons and overflowing with even more electronic gear…it’s probably not me. Because seriously, I’m sure there will be a lot of protesters, bloggers, and/or tourists rocking this look. It’s Denver, it’s summer, and it’s a huge political circus – what else would you expect?

jane doe

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August 2008
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