Soaking In Howard Dean
I got up late today. It was not long before I headed towards Times Square, center of the known universe, but good thing I checked my email beforehand. Robert was to miss our get-together. I hope it was not the reality show style of my blog that scared him away! Robert, some other time.
Going On The Offensive For Ferrer
"It's 6:30am and I just arrived back to the hotel. Really long story, just another one of my misadventures -- but let's just say, somehow I ended up in Connecticut. I'll see if I can meet you earlier than one, but that'll be tough given the bizarre circumstances I just ended up in. This story is so ridiculous they could make a sitcom out of it. Anyhow, I'll give you a call as soon as I wake up."
So I show up at Times Square. After a little while I leave a voice mail for Robert and then decide to walk over to the Union Square Park where Dean was to show up with Ferrer. That is a walk from the 42nd Street down to the 14th Street. But then after the Cindy Sheehan event on the 110th Street I walked all the way down to the southern tip of Manhattan. Got to soak in the city.
I was hardly ever more than a foot or two away from Howard Dean the entire time at today's event. I must have come across like a handler. I acted like it too a few times, like there was this woman with her young daughter, and of course she was just passing by, unaware of the Dean event, and she goes, oh my, that is Howard Dean, and I said "Governor," and he immediately responded and went over to meet them. I did not realize he was aware of my presence. My first word to him I ever spoke on my own. So this is how history gets made, eh! More than once we were both laughing hard at some of the same jokes, and they were not even jokes, just remarks by people coming over to shake his hand, or his own comments. He is a regular guy. He laughs easily. That is his appeal. He almost comes across as a college buddy. The guy who gave Generation Dean its name might be a member!
There was this time towards this end, after Ferrer had already left, and the crowd was gone, and Dean was just going to walk over to wherever he was going next, and I felt like bringing up Dean 2008. I wanted to bring up Reagan and 1976, Bill Clinton and 1990. But then Dean can't really talk about it until 2007. And if he has to be convinced to run, he should not run. But if you ask me, he is surely running. It is so obvious he is.
And there was this cross-cultural awkwardness, this silent moment, when I was standing right next to him, to his left, and there were only a few people around, no media, people passing by not bothering to look at him or recognizing him, a total regular guy out on a stroll, and he gave up.
"See you later," he said to me in a sweet, calm voice. The first three words from Dean to me.
In the American culture, the emphasis is on talking, silence has to be constantly broken. Whereas in the culture where I grew up, sometimes family members get together, and just sit around, minutes pass by, noone is talking, and everyone is feeling just fine. Silence does not bother. Silence is also a bonding experience.
But then he said he will be in town several more times for Ferrer. I am showing up each time. I am going to ease into striking conversations. I am going to talk Dean 2008. After all, I am already working on it. Ferrer 2005 to me is but a prelude to Dean 2008. On its own, I would have had to struggle to get excited about it. And it is to do with my not having a thing for local politics. I have to look at the big picture to get myself excited.
Ferrer just came across as so thankful to Dean. He was effusive about it too. Dean is like a movie star. As he walked through the farmers' market, so many young people came over to him, and it was so obvious they were all Deaniacs, like in this movie where you have to have a gift to recognize all these creatures from a different planet who look just like humans otherwise, but they recognize each other.
I showed up half an hour early today as well. There was some kind of an exhibit on the Polish movement for democracy from the late 1980s, and that so totally spoke to me on the work I am doing on Nepal.
I helped myself to a slice of pizza while I waited.
And a street play about Guantanamo and more, a small group that basically wanted an end to the Bush regime, and they wanted it now. At the time I did not realize the group was also going to come after us in a loud way. They saw a good size crowd and got all worked up.
"You see that? That is Howard Dean, the number one anti-war presidential candidate from 2004. We are on the same side. Now cool it," I said.
"But this has to end, now! What are you doing about it?"
"First you have to take over power, before you can exercise it better."
"But what are you doing now? People are dying."
"Great work. Keep it up. I am with you."
The Dean-Ferrer entourage had fired up all cylinders for the small street play group. They felt their moment had arrived, and they were going to make the most of it. They started shouting.
Maybe the words did not come out exactly that way, but that was the thrust of it. Someone on the Ferrer campaign I had met because I arrived early for the event was watching all this. He looked at me, impressed. This guy can talk, he thought.
Before Dean arrived I got to meet a few people. One was this guy whose mother had been elected judge in some capacity somewhere. He showed me this medal the Italian government had awarded her, she had been made some kind of a Don. I told him, Arnold got himself elected Governor of California, and they named a mountain after him in Austria.
And then Ferrer showed up. Looks like he is already getting security details. I think he arrived in a NYPD vehicle.
And then Dean showed up. He came by the way of a sidewalk. No flashing lights, no nothing.
There was some interaction with the media. There were a bunch of questions for Ferrer. Then, predictably, they descended on Dean. They wanted to talk about Iraq, and a bunch of national issues. Dean kept bringing the attention back on the race at hand.
"I am here to do all I can for Ferrer."
"Who says Democrats are not behind Ferrer? I chair the Democratic Party, and I am solidly behind Ferrer."
The stroll through the farmers' market was just amazing. Both of them got to meet "real" people. People who were not there to meet Dean or Ferrer, but just happened to be there. And there were all these Deaniacs, equally surprised to be face to face with Dean. You could just tell they were Deaniacs. Dean would not miss a beat.
"So are you voting for Ferrer?"
"I can't. I am from Minnesota."
Somebody else was from Ohio, and so on. But those were exceptions.
A young girl asked Ferrer a school lunch question, and Ferrer gave a specific answer. That was the policy highlight of the day. She was from the Bronx.
And the two of them did the subway thing all over again. We smoked out a few more animals all over again.
Dean Was In Town Yesterday
There were children onlookers. They must have sensed the hubbub of it all.
And there was this elderly lady, unaware of the Dean event.
"Howard Dean, my favorite human being!" she said, and she did not even make an attempt to reach out for his hand. Actually she made an attemt to get out of the way of the Dean entourage.
He reached out to her, after spotting her. I don't think he heard what she said.
I think by now I am past getting star struck by Dean. I think I am about to ease into conversations. Got to talk to the regular guy. Bond. I mean, I am totally already working on Dean 2008. Why not bounce around a few ideas with him? And just talk. I mean, Dean knows Heather and Tracey, maybe he should get to know me as well. I don't know anyone who is thinking Dean 2008 like I am thinking Dean 2008. The idea is custom made for me.
Good thing Ferrer is running for Mayor. I get to see more of Howard Dean.
"Democrats from East Coast to West Coast have been supporting my campaign," Ferrer said at one point. He was thankful for the focus Dean's appearances can bring.
And now there are two photos of me with Dean. My attitude has been like, see these photos of Dean, I took them all, I was there with him, you don't need a photo of me with him. But then opportunity presented itself. It was this lull towards the end. And Dean asked the few of us if we wanted to get photos taken. I was second in line.
And I took one for Bill - Wilbur Weder - that I promised to email to him. I am about to. I will just send the permalink of this blog entry.
I come back to my place.
"You smell something?" my Estonian roomie asks me.
I think he is talking about the bathroom.
"No. Not really," I say to reassure him.
"It is Estonian food. National food."
"Can I try some?"
"Maybe later. An hour later."
I am all about free food.