The history of a unique presidential candidate
THE ROBERT BLOG
Midnight July, 4th
Like many times before, I slipped from campaign headquarters in the midst of revelry and walked home. Taking a deep breath, I gazed a moment at the brilliant star lit Montana night sky, thinking about the campaign and why I’m attempting this? I will not win, but winning isn’t the issue. It is about many other ideals. I slipped inside my modest home and fell into an easy sleep.
Mid morning July, 4th
I woke, gathered my backpack and walked to Dick Knightly’s house. A lifetime bachelor, my running mate had a hearty breakfast waiting. As always, there was idea-inspiring conversation, the fodder needed at the onset of this journey. Afterward we drove to Missoula. As I slipped out of the car I knew the home front was in good hands under his and Zambon’s guidance.
About 1:00 PM I hopped an eastbound Montana Rail Link freight, destination Bozeman. I settled in, the heat oppressive. The steady clank of the rail’s had a hypnotizing effect, and I began considering why I am embarking on this odyssey:
A generation ago, John Fitzgerald Kennedy challenged: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do for your country.” Today, July 4, 2008, Kennedy’s challenge resonates, it is the entire basis of this campaign; it is why I am leaving comfort behind. It is my obligation to do for my country.
I pose Kennedy’s challenge to you: what are you doing for you country this independence day? This is what I ask of you; pass on the word of my campaign, my cause, and my journey to your friends. As I ride the bumpy rails please add me to your top friends and if but for a day, place a note about my campaign in your header. I would be forever grateful personally, and would consider the act patriotic.
Evening July 4th
I arrived in Bozeman. Slipping from the freight I trudged across the tracks and headed for Montana Ale House, an old haunt of mine. Tomorrow I will write about the campaign’s first stop.
July 5th, Morning: I stayed a night at an old acquaintance’s apartment; he did not want to be identified. He thought my campaign a waste of time. “You ain’t gonna win, why bother?” I see his point of view, I understand it, but winning isn’t the point. I failed trying to convince him that it’s about exercising my right as an American citizen. I admire and respect Vince Lombardi, but he has it wrong, winning isn’t the only thing; it is about playing the game.
After another great home cooked breakfast I plodded for the rail yard. Last night was a joyous occasion and many old friends patted my back and said they would spread the word. I thanked them and shared many a tall blond and a shot of Stoli.
I hopped another eastbound and settled back, resisting the urge to stop at places like Livingston, Big Timber and Columbus. Not that I didn’t want to stop, but I’m anxious to get to Billings and beyond.
July 5th, Afternoon: An idea just occurred, its genesis finds its roots with Ron Paul’s campaign. It will put a crimp in my budget, but as always, I will adapt and overcome. I intend to Spray Paint every car I ride, Vote Robert for President! 2008.
July 5th Evening: About a half hour after the train came to a rest, I slipped out and made my way to Montana Ave. I had a couple bars on my itinerary, the first of which was the Rainbow, known as the strongest drink in town, not that it mattered, I only was wanting a tall blond. Before long, I slipped into conversation about the political environment and my campaign. After a dozen pats on the back and comment’s like, “Can’t do no worse than what we got there now,” and “Shit, why the hell not,” I slinked from the Rainbow and made my way too Tiny’s Tavern.
Inside Tiny’s it was much the same and after spending two hours stumping. I was talking to a couple who introduced themselves as Patrick and Elisha. When I told them about that afternoon’s idea, they gave me a ride to Walmart and back. I bid them farewell after they refused my offer to buy them a drink and made my way back to the train yard. Being a ‘hot’ yard, I took care returning to a car that was destined for the ‘high line.”
July 6th I woke with a start. For a long moment, I didn’t know my where about. I slept hard, acclimated to the rhythmic metallic beat of wheel on rail. I don’t wear a watch and I had no idea the time. The train hadn’t reached Williston, North Dakota, today’s stop. I knew this because Williston is this car’s destination. I spend the remainder of the ride in contemplation thankful the weather wasn’t oppressively hot.
July 6th Late afternoon. Williston, ND. Pop. 12303. A picturesque town overlooking the Missouri River, the kind of place that if I wasn’t ‘itinerized’ I would spend a week or two. I gave the railroad siding a quick once over before spray painting: “Robert ‘08” on the boxcar that was my taxi.
July 6th Evening: Talked to an interesting older couple, Tom and Grace, they entertained me with stories about nuisance raccoons. Their solution, a badland bait and switch, Grace held the rodent’s attention with the porch light while Tom blasted them with a shotgun. The couple reminded me of Fargo, the movie, not the city. After saying they would consider voting for me, we parted ways and I made my way to Whisper’s for serious campaigning.
Late Night: If I were a younger man, or easily distracted, I could have had wife number nine, ten, and eleven. Nevertheless, I stayed on task and talked politics to last call. After three nights, I have come to a realization: People don’t care what my politics are, they simply want to engage in dialogue and be heard. That a candidate would have a beer with them, well, that’s a vote getter. I have the feeling that if I started soon enough, I would win this election.
I camped at the Cut Bluff overlook. Before turning in, I glimpsed the Missouri, imagining Lewis and Clark’s expedition working against the river’s flow. Looking up at the starry sky, I pondered my next stop.
July 7th Morning: Decided that I was going to hitchhike to Stanley, a small town between Williston and Minot. From there I’d hop a freight and play railroad roulette, going down the tracks bound for the next town the cargo dictated; I played the game plenty in my younger years. I hitched a ride with an old boy with a five-gallon hat and a ten-gallon attitude. The man spewed righteous ignorance, blasting the presumptive democratic nominee for being an al-Qaida spy who’s only intent was to take away our guns so we couldn’t defend our self’s against his turban wearing cousins. I didn’t bother responding, I’d have better luck converting a barn to Judaism. I quietly bid my time to Stanley and thanked him for the ride.
Stanley, North Dakota; home of black gold, the little town with a population of 1200, sits atop of America’s newest and largest oil find. Geologists think the area harbors more than 200 billion barrels of oil, a bunch more than the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. I surely hope the hardy souls of this place cash in huge.
I caught a pop at Northern Lights and chatted for a while with some old timers. We bid each other luck and said that after the campaign I may retire here to cash in on their good fortune. After a few handshakes, I headed for the rail yard.
Evening: I got rolling out of Stanley late in the afternoon. Railway roulette revealed its hand, my destination Grand Forks via Minot. My campaign manager would have balked, but I decided to skirt the small city in lieu of a small town. I chose Devils Lake and enjoyed my solitude and the mild temperature.
The train pulled into Devils Lake a night too late. The town’s three-day celebration ended yesterday. The town’s mood moderately sedate, only lingerers and vacationers were about town. I split my time campaigning between Thirsty’s and Ye Olde Tavern. Iraq was the hot topic tonight. It is hard to look a man, who just lost his brother, in the eyes and be flip. I simply listened and was angered to relearn how overextended our military is fighting two wars. Last call snuck upon those of us at the table. I bid my farewell, and slipped into the rail siding, leaving my mark before retiring.
An approach change was needed today. I decided I was going to avoid riding the rails today. After stopping at a convenience store, grabbing a breakfast of donuts and 7-up I hoofed it to Rt. 2. Reinvigorated, I was primed for more campaigning; a mere two mile east of Devils Lake, a semi picked me up. The driver, whom I’ll call Bruce, was a long haul trucker headed to Miami. As tempting as Florida sounded, I was only riding shotgun to Fargo, about 3 ½ Hours away. Bruce avoided Grand Forks, taking a short cut down 32 and catching US 200 at Finley.
A strong-minded chap, the driver rambled about fuel costs and the hard ships it was causing him while, “them pencil pushing bastards are getting fatter off my wallet. It’s nothing but robbery, the rich are plundering us middle of the road folk. It ain’t nothing but a wealth exchange.”
“You got my vote,” He said as I climbed out of the cab north of Hector International Airport. “If you promise to do something about fuel prices.” Always a quid pro quo, I thought as I watched the semi pull away. I turned and gazed over the prairie, thinking that not too long ago, millions of bison and antelope dominated the landscape; I couldn’t help thinking in an equal amount of time forward, what would be the condition of our society?
Fargo: I strolled into downtown around 4ish. I plodded down Main Ave before slipping into Rick’s Bar. The local’s were already starting to accumulate and I pulled up a stool and ordered a tall blond. I’m starting to enjoy a person’s reaction when I mention what I’m up to. There is the grin, then the snicker. About half the time, someone will catch people next to him and say something like, “Hey, get a load of this guy, he thinks he’s running for president.” Almost everyone will ask, “Do you think you’ll win?” Then they’ll ask why are you doing it. Most will say it must be nice to have so much time on your hands. So far, I’m batting a thousand in holding people’s attention, if only for a few minutes. No one has dismissed me right out. I know as I get into larger population centers this will change. In Rick’s, my record remained perfect. I’m betting it’ll all change when I get to Minneapolis.
I managed to shake the Rick’s crowd about 10:00 PM and visited the Old Broadway. The reception was cooler than Rick’s, but my record remained. Afterward, as I stepped outside, I decided it was time to sleep in comfort. I backtracked a bit and checked into a Motel 6. After a shower, I slipped into bed. I felt like a king. How would I feel in the Whitehouse?
July 9th: Sleep lingered late and when I woke, I stared at the ceiling for fifteen minutes, paralyzed by anxiety. The fear of the coming weeks pressed my shoulders against the mattress. My problem with comfort is that I become complacent; I could easily sit in this room for days on end watching TV. With a deep breath, I defeated my invisible demons and crawled out of bed. I send my dispatch back to Alberton. Alberton sent a request that the Clark Fork County Chronicle, the newspaper that serves the Alberton area, for an interview. I responded that: “I wouldn’t be interviewed by a newspaper that any self-respecting fish would refuse to be wrapped in,” and stepped through the door and back onto the campaign trail.
Walking down Fargo’s main drag I said hello to numerous people. I wasn’t ready to reveal my agenda, I stopped at a coffee shop, ordered a coffee and a muffin. The world around me buzzed, everyone moving at a rapid clip. Moments later, I paused on the bridge spanning the Red River and spent a minute enjoying frolicking ducks. My purpose restored, I continued onward, stepping out of North Dakota into Minnesota.
Moorhead is a city of 32000, along with Fargo envelopes the Red River in the midst of the Red River Valley, an area that is some of the flattest and possesses some of the richest soil in the world.
In Johnson Park, I struck up a conversation with a political science professor from Concordia College. “Why should anyone take you seriously?” he asked. I paused a long moment, wondering why I should take this campaign seriously? “The Bill of Rights,” I answered. “It’s about personal liberty and responsibility, and in exercising the Bill of Rights, why shouldn’t you take me seriously? Why would you take what political machines say over an ordinary voice? Why are we complicit in allowing two parties to speak for us all?” He chuckled before falling into deeper conversation.
We parted with a handshake and though I didn’t garner his vote, I did earn a spot on his syllabus next semester. If he follows through, the chance meeting did guarantee my campaign’s goal in Minnesota.
I slipped into O’Leary’s Pub when they opened and had a burger and tall blond. I chatted with the short blond barmaid who admitted not liking her job and seemed amused but half-interested in my campaign. She said she never met a presidential candidate and no matter what I believed she’d vote for me, “just because.” It’s not the kind of vote I seek, but, a vote is a vote. I bid her farewell, left her a small tip and stepped outside. Close to I-94, I chose to thumb it again. Tonight, I’ll catch a freight to Minneapolis.
I hitched a ride to Furgus Falls, a town of 13,000 along the Otter Tail River. The nameless driver dropped me off at Larry’s Bar. I slipped into the nearly empty bar and began what would be a daylong stump. As the regular crowd shuffled in, the circle about me grew. The local’s were enamored with the idea of shooting shit with a presidential candidate. I didn’t pay for a drink all night, and plenty tall blonds were downed.
The world runs on connections and at Larry’s I make an Important one, Chuck, an engineer for BNSF essentially gave me a free pass to St. Paul, with a phone call, I got a spot on an engine this evening. The freight was scheduled to roll into town about 1:00 AM
Late Night: With Chuck’s help I got on a BNSF engine. The engineer who’ll I’ll call Pete, a hard core Wyoming Republican who believes that anyone who votes for a third party is throwing away their vote, enjoyed shooting holes in my idealism; I didn’t mind, and truth be told I was having a hard time focusing on politics while riding in an engine. I felt like a kid. The conversation eventually turned to good bars and drinking tales; as the train pulled into a St. Paul yard, he gave me an update on hot yards. He gave me his cell number, which I passed on to Alberton, and said to contact him if I needed another ride. I bid another new friend goodnight and headed into a city I used to call home.
Wee Hours: I meandered through St. Paul till I came to 7th St and one of my favorite old haunts – Mickey’s Diner, a relic from the 30’s the diner is an old dining car known for great food and waitresses that are more intent on getting you food than being chatty. There is a bit of me that misses city curtness, rural people can be a tad bit sensitive. City Curtness is like an obnoxious uncle, he’s great to visit but not to live with. Even though there were booths open I sat at the counter, the old rule still was in place, minimum of two per booth.
I grabbed a counter seat and ordered up a mulligan stew. I recognized the cook and him I, he worked there when I was a regular. What was intended to be a quiet hour or two in silence turned into an all night stump session sponsored by the staff of Mickey’s.
Dawn was cracking and the morning crowd started rolling in when I wished the night crew farewell and made my why through the twin cities.
Morning: I had a full itinerary and I started the twin cities bar hopping campaign early. I had many faces to visit and convince that I was for real. The problem of not having a media campaign is that I’m worried I’ll have no staying power; that a few days I’m out of town everyone will fall back into the Obama/McCain Media Tsunami. I have to believe the personal contact will carry the day and that alone will achieve the campaign’s goal.
Cuzzy’s was high on my list, I used to know it as Scuzzy’s and I had an interest in seeing if my dollar bill still hung on the wall. I intend to update it with one that says Robert 08, from a cardboard box to the white house! Others on the docket are the Muddy Pig, Chatterbox, Adrian’s, Brits, O’Gara’s, Bulldog in Lyndall, Nye’s and the Pig’s eye.
I have a lot on my plate and intend at least one blond at every stop. It will be a busy day and hopefully Minnesota will turn out in droves for me on November 4th. I’ll be sure to fill in any interesting details as soon as possible.
Late Night: Ron, an old friend from sixties caught me at Pig’s Eye. He insisted that I crash at his place, that I was in no condition to catch a freight, he’s right. I’ll write more in the morning.
July 11th ,
I woke to the endless drone of Ron’s pendulum clock. Laying on my side, I watched the minute hand parade around the clock face before stumbling to my feet. Yesterday was quite the day, fun was had and people seemed to take me seriously, and contrary to my thoughts, I’m still batting a thousand. That will falter shortly, probably in Eau Claire, who knows, the bars that I’m campaigning in is a bit like preaching to the choir. I could ramble over yesterday’s success and fill pages, but that’s not for this forum. Suffice to say, I think Minnesota will deliver beyond Alberton’s expectations.
Wisconsin, a key battle ground for the last few presidential elections, will this mean that it’ll be harder to pry the disenfranchised vote? I’ll worry about that when I get there. After a shower and breakfast that I whipped up for Ron and I, my friend took me to the Pig’s Eye, itself a stone’s throw from the rail yard. With a handshake and a hug, we bid each other farewell; I doubt if I will ever see my friend again.
An hour later, I was on a freight headed east. Eau Claire was but a couple hours ride. I settled back and as I nodded off, the one cloud of yesterday’s sunny day nagged at me. At the Chatterbox, in a long conversation with a thirty something professional woman, she commented. “I understand your motives, but, why are you wasting your time? No one cares, really, politics are full of prejudice, I’m a Democrat ‘cause my daddy’s a Democrat. It’s too emotional a business. Call a spade a spade and say that you’re having a hoot hollering time barhopping across the country.”
With a sigh, I nodded off. If I slept through Eau Claire, so be it. I woke as I felt the train slow. As it came to a stop I opened the door and jumped off. I was in Eau Claire.
I had a bar in mind and I had to ask directions. When the counter jockey at a C-store pointed me in the right direction, I thanked thanks and said, “Vote for me, Robert for President, Vote Dirty Bum!” I quite enjoyed her look and wondered if she’d google me when she got home. I guess in Eau Claire they’re not used to raggedy looking gentleman running for president.
Bill’s Last Chance Bar, while not in appearance had the feel of campaign headquarters, one of those neighborhood bars which everyone knows everybody. There is a secret stepping into any bar anywhere, be it a cowboy bar in the sticks or an inner city bar, be yourself, be open for conversation and don’t act like your shit doesn’t stink. When I stepped inside there was only Sam, the owner, who greeted me like he knew me forever, not if I just stepped through the door for the first time. Everything I remembered hearing about the bar rang true and the town I wasn’t looking forward to visiting turned into a very pleasant stay, especially after the afternoon crowd shuffled in and I managed to catch a ride to Madison. Even though Madison wasn’t on Alberton’s itinerary, Madison offered a good campaign opportunity and it was a short jaunt to Milwaukee. Never mind that I enjoyed stirring Alberton’s pot.
My ride to Madison was with Dick, a man whose appearance and attitude belonged more in the fifties than the oughts, but, it was an enjoyable and challenging conversation. Our politics were water and oil but that added to the charm of the ride and my amusement, especially when the mention of gay or abortion rights turned his face the color of a fire truck and spittle to hit the windshield. Madison came way to fast.
Madison: Dick dropped me off at one of his favorite watering holes, Echo Tap and Grill. I walked inside and felt at home. The interior is paneled with more than a mile of boxcar timber. The bartender also added that it’s a reminder of the neighborhood’s tie to the railroad. The politicking started quickly and I got the typical response. A couple of get of load of this guy, etc, but all of them were kind, or amused, enough to hear my spiel. When closing time approached, a local –who I’ll call Red – lived a few doors from the bar asked if I had a place to stay, when I said I didn’t, he offered his couch. When I thanked him, he said someday, he could tell his grandkids a presidential candidate slept on his couch.
I woke early, wrote a short thank you to Red, and slipped from his home. Stepping into the fresh morning, I paused, took a deep breath and looked about. I realized I was close to the state capitol and started in its direction. A unique campaign opportunity, I thought. The dome of the capital is over 20 stories tall and I learned that it is only 3 feet shorter than the nation’s capitol. I strolled up the steps, pausing at the top and turning, looking down at the waking city. “Good Morning,” I said to a suit coming up the steps. I extended my hand and said, “Hello, I’m Robert and I’m running for president.” The man grunted inaudibly and moved past. I turned watched him pass. Strike one, I thought. I’m no longer batting one thousand. “Hello, I’m Robert and I’m running for president,” I said repeatedly. The professional politicians and bureaucrats all ignored me, the expression on their faces showing collective revulsion.
“Move it along,” a uniformed police officer instructed. When I asked him why, he said, “Come on pal, no one wants trouble today.”
“I’m not bothering anyone,” I said. “I’m campaigning for office.”
“No panhandling on government property.”
“The only thing I’m begging for is votes.”
“Let me guess, you’re running for president.”
I considered my options. Did I really want to be arrested and fight that fight? I would bring publicity to the campaign. It was something to think over. “If McCain or Obama were here, you’d be kissing their asses. But because I’m an independent, you hustling me off like a vagrant. The cop smirked. “You are a vagrant!”
I considered asking his name and badge number, but what’s the use, I would fight this fight another time. I shook my head, turned and walked down the stairs.
Outraged at the overt classism, I headed for the railroad tracks. I’ll let Alberton stir the pot on this one.
Milwaukee: I arrived in Milwaukee on a Wisconsin and Southern Freight. I managed to temper my outrage a bit and decided that I would treat myself to a tour of Miller Brewing Company. I made it to the brewery for the last tour of the day. It was a treat to visit the birthplace of so many tall blonds. I took advantage of the three beers limit before slipping out and onto the campaign trail, reinvigorated, armed with this morning’s outrage as fodder.
I started my evening in Champions Pub, a favorite local watering hole. It is Milwaukee’s version of Campaign HQs and I wasn’t disappointed in my hopes for the usual friendly crowd. The reception in Champions was much warmer than the capitol steps. When the conversation turned to the treatment of Veterans, I pointed out that the Bush Administration’s policy was immoral if not criminal. I stated that in 1998, the Clinton Administration implemented an initiative that all veterans would have access to health care. The idea being that if one served their country, their country was indebted to take care of them; a veteran would not have to prove their condition was service related. In 2003, in a budget-cutting maneuver, the Bush Administration repealed the law; ironic, considering the date. If elected, I will make sure that every veteran and their family will be cared for. How a nation cares for those who fight its battles not a reflection of its fiber?
Earlier in the evening, two sisters, Shelly and Vicki told me of a good neighborhood bar named Ollie’s, and that if I was interested, they would drive me. After holding court I caught one of the sisters and said lets visit Ollie’s. I had made my mark and it would be advantageous to slip out.
Ollie’s was truly a small, neighborhood bar, with the cheap prices that everyone enjoys. My stay was much lower key, which was alright with me. I was tired and had to find a place to stay.
The bartender told me of a cheap motel not too far away. Around 1:00 AM I quietly slipped out and cast my shadow under the halogen street lights.
I awoke in some godforsaken downtown Milwaukee motel. The morning is always the most difficult for me, and today I struggled. I was exhausted, nine days of constant movement, not knowing where I would spend the next night. I checked my wallet and noted that Alberton needed to wire me some campaign funds. I needed to reach Chicago today, when I did, I would look up some old numbers and maybe take a day to recoup. I was not the young man I sometimes thought I was, the rigors were grinding.
Number six, Barbra Ann, lived in Chicago and she always held an open door policy. We were a good couple, expect she wanted me to conform. In relationships, and life is a tangled web of relationships, one has to accept the other as they are. I walked away from her marital demands. Other than that, like the rest of my ex-wives, I love her.
Late Morning: I stayed in my room, watching the Sunday morning talk shows. I usually watch TV at campaign HQ and I never watch on Sunday morning, NPR occupies that place; Leeann Hanson is part of my family. What occurred to me was that there are two comingled cults of personality: The political establishment and the media establishment that covers them. A symbiotic relationship akin of bullshit and seed that assures tomorrow’s political blossom. It was a deal with the devil, but it is a necessary one. I again contacted Alberton and passed the word that I want media attention.
Afternoon: I decided that today would be my day off. I would spend the day locked in my room, eat pizza, drink 7-up and watch TV.
Night: I woke from a very long nap and felt reinvigorated. I notified Alberton that I was on the move and would take an overnight freight to Chicago.
I hopped a southbound freight just after 3:00 AM. It was a pleasant night in Milwaukee and I didn’t feel like riding a boxcar. I climbed upon a slow moving flatbed packed with covered lumber. I reached the top and sat comfortably, the wind blowing my beard, my hair under my hat. ((You can see a picture of Robert with this hat on campaign headquarters’ myspace page in the wedding album) Edited by Campaign Director) I wrote a hand written sign on a large piece of cardboard that read: Robert for President ’08. Please drop me a line via myspace if you happened to see me. I stood and waved the sign at every railroad crossing, garnering some stares and even a honked horn. I decided on warmer days, especially as I work through the south, I would employ this technique.
Chicago: First destination, Hyde Park; I wanted to pay Barbra Ann a visit. I slinked through the blocks of the neighborhood, itself a small city. I stumbled across Jimmy’s, at least that’s what I used to know it as, it’s now Woodlawn Tap. I ordered a tall blond and a Reuben.
If it ain’t Robert, an old voice graveled as its owner’s pipes were polished with course sandpaper. I spun on my barstool and smiled. “Hey, hey…” I’ll spare the reader the details of the conversation with Blockhead Joe, an old drinking buddy of mine from my Chicago land days.
“You haven’t heard ‘bout Barbra Ann?” Blockhead Joe asked later. He went on to tell me see passed about a year ago after a battle with breast cancer. My heart stopped and a sick feeling knotted my gut. I excused myself and visited the restroom. I may have eight ex-wives, but I haven’t a harsh word for any of them. I never gave thought that any of them have aged, let alone pass. Suddenly, I was glad for the campaign and I didn’t feel the burden I did yesterday. When I emerged I deputized Blockhead Joe as my Chicago Campaign manager and we spent the day going from one old haunt to another, introducing myself and lying out my platform. It was a long day but I was inspired; I was at my best, as I often was with Barbra Ann.
Late Night: We closed the Clark Bar in Lincoln Park. I shook a lot of hands and received numerous pats on the back, but I don’t see any handshake or back pat as a vote. Most will vaguely remember the conversation, but hopefully it falls under another Sporty-ism… Have a night you’ll never remember with people you’ll never forget. I hope everyone will remember my cause. I’m at Blockhead Joe’s, I’m glad he found me, he helped soften the blow. I have a newfound vigor, and I have determined to press onward from Chicago. I have told Joe that I will stop back to campaign further. Blockhead gave me the look that says, I’ll see you when you get here, but I’m not holding my breath. Chicago is indeed a land with many votes, but I need to press onward, my goal the entire lower forty-eight before fall.
I sat in Blockhead’s cluttered kitchen contemplating my next step. Should I head to Indianapolis, deeper into Illinois and St. Louis, or up into Michigan? I studied the map and reasoned that Michigan was the best choice. Blockhead insisted that I wait for him to wake before hitting the trail. History has said when Blockhead ties one on like yesterday he would be down till early evening. I sighed and sipped the last of my coffee before depositing the cup in the sink and slipping from my friend’s apartment. Maybe I’ll stop back, I told myself as I made my way down the low rise’s steps and out onto the street.
Looping my thumbs under my backpack’s shoulder straps, I headed for the rail yards.
Afternoon: Kalamazoo: On the wrong side of the tracks from Western Michigan U. sits Jack’s Bar and Grill; that’s where I sat this afternoon talking politics to a 40ish red head. She seemed interested in what I was up to, admitting that some of my platform planks were nonsense: “their value is in their satire.” She excused herself for a moment. As she did, I returned to nursing my tall blond. Leather wearing Redheads and blonds are always a distracting combination.
“Here’s the deal,” she said upon return. “I’m riding my Harley to Vermont, you can ride with me if I can intern for you.” Earlier, she introduced herself as Glenda from Grand Rapids.
“I’ll help you campaign as long as you ride with me,” she answered my question about what she’d meant by interning. There was no mention of blue dresses or cigars, but it lingered in the bar like the proverbial elephant.
A live and let live gentleman such as myself would never refuse such help. As I finished my beer, I realized I hadn’t spoken to a soul other than Glenda and the frumpy barmaid. When I said as much Glenda retorted, “I took matters into my own hands, I wrote Robert for president on the bathroom wall.” Mission accomplished, we stepped from the dark bar into the sun-drenched afternoon.
I climbed onto the bike behind Glenda and pulled my hat low on my forehead and over my ears. Her bike roared and we took off down Michigan Ave. We headed east on I-94, Glenda pushing the bike, leaving semi’s, buses and cars in the rearview. We exited the freeway and crossed the Michigan Countryside till we came to a stop at the Office Bar in Athens.
“Kinda thought Athens was a good stop for a presidential candidate, beings it’s the birthplace of democracy and all.”
“I’ll have a Bud and the presidential candidate will have a tall blond,” Glenda announced to the sleepy happy-hour crowd. A few brows raised and scornful glimpses cast in our direction.
“Looks like no presidential candidate I ever seen,” said a blue collar guy wearing a NRA cap.
“I’m not like any you’ve ever met.” It wasn’t my style to burst into a bar and make bold pronouncements, there’s a quality of superiority that I don’t subscribe. I immediately diffused any potential nonsense. “When was the last time a presidential candidate bought you a beer?” Four happy hour beers was a cheap price for converts. I spent two hour stumping with my newfound friends.
I’ve learned not to question the abilities of an drinking rider. Maybe it is a dangerous assumption, but as a general rule, bike riders are more careful than others, possibly it’s not having metal surrounding you and being immediately vulnerable. Whatever the reality, Glenda rode well and pulled off a side road somewhere near Sturgis. “Figured I ain’t gonna be in the real Sturgis this year, so this has got to do.”
I offered Glenda to pitch her tent but she refused. I lay back on a nearby picnic table and gazed upward and the darkening sky. I felt like I was giving Michigan short thrift. I thought of slipping off after she dozed off and working deeper into the state. At an impasse, I closed my eyes.
I awoke atop the picnic table, the morning was humid, the heat not yet building but strongly hinting at its arrival. I knew I had at least one vote from Michigan, maybe five. I smiled at the irony, the democrats discounted Michigan in their primaries, and now the Dirty Bum Party is leaving as the state as fast as it entered. I may have to work my way back. When my roadie woke, she suggested we take a hopscotch tour of the Michigan-Indiana-Ohio border.
After breaking down camp, we stopped at the local greasy spoon for breakfast. Before coffee was served, she immediately gave into her female instincts and asked about my past. Over breakfast she asked questions and I skillfully avoided direct answers.
“The only things you need to know are this: I’m thirty-two times two plus a few. I have eight ex-wives and I’m running for president.” The answer was akin to name, rank, and serial number.
Afternoon: We dipped into Indiana and visited Angola, making a stop at Whacky Jacks, we were the only ones there other than the bartender and she didn’t seem the least bit interested in life let alone politics, so with sharpies in hand, we bestowed the restrooms with Elect Robert President! Vote Dirty Bum! We rode around the traffic circle in center of town and headed east into Ohio.
Pioneer was the first of many villages we visited. I shook a hand or two, hopped on the back of Glenda’s bike and moved on. After Pioneer we jumped back into Michigan and visited Munson, Morenci and Weston before dropping back into Ohio and stopping at Assumption. We made the mistake of assuming there was a bar in Assumption. We headed south on 64 for an appropriately named town, Whitehouse. We rolled noisily down Providence St and stopped at Legends Café. After a quick bite and a tall blond and a conversation with a local farmer who complained about fuel costs making the cost of doing business prohibitive, we hopped on the Harley and drove along the Maumee River.
Evening: The first thing one notices approaching Bowling Green is the four giant wind turbines. The town has made a financial commitment to go green. The four turbines generate enough energy to power to supply three thousand of it residents with electricity. Wind and solar energy need to be implemented into our nation energy plan and my administration will encourage municipalities to follow Bowling Green’s lead.
We stopped at a little hole-in-the-wall called Trotters. The local’s were friendly and receptive to my campaign. I signed a few autographs and listened to their recommendation for the brown jug steak. They claimed it was the best steak anywhere. It didn’t disappoint. It was in league of The Lumber Jack, a backwoods bar in Montana. We closed Trotters and ended up at a local motel.
Lying on my bed, I thought about the twist the campaign took today. The flexibility offered by Glenda’s bike was great. She was also an inspiration; she added a new dimension to the campaign.
July 17th Morning: We decided that we’re not going to travel on any Interstates. “It’s a waste of time. You can’t campaign on a freeway,” Glenda said. She also grilled me about my strategy of attacking Ohio. I shrugged, “I don’t want to spend too much time in one place and I want to get the word out. Other than that, I haven’t given it too much thought.” As she continued planning, I contemplated the complications.
We secured a cardboard sign on the Harley’s sissy bar that read, “Robert 08,” (Drop us a line if you’ve seen Robert on the road. Tell us where and when, Added by Campaign Staff) before hitting the road. After a brief stop at an Eremont C-store, where, after introducing myself, I garnered an annoyed expression and a curt, “that’s nice.” We pushed for Sandusky. We pulled into town and stopped at Camp Street Bar. We introduced ourselves to an elderly customer who introduced himself as Stu. Despite a hearing aid in each ear, he couldn’t hear every other word. He announced to us three times that he drove a city bus for thirty years and that he remembered me as a quiet kid who used to ride his route to school. The bartender was about as receptive and we skipped out and trolled the streets till we came to Vicki’s, where we ponied up to the bar in the midst of the lunch crowd. Despite being somewhat busy the bartender listened to my spiel. Biscuit, the bartender spread the word of a presidential candidate’s presence and a couple curious souls ventured my way.
The one topic I despise arose: abortion. I kept it simple; despite anyone’s religious or moral beliefs it is up to the individual. The government has no right to interfere in the bedroom and the results of such action. Luckily, the curious souls agreed and the conversation didn’t digress into useless debate.
Afternoon: After Vicki’s we departed Sandusky and after a quick pit stop in Brunswick we made another campaign stop in Warren, a small city fifteen miles from Pennsylvania. Warren is the home of Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighter fame. It also home to a laundry list of current and past NFL stars. Glenda drove up and down the streets before parking in front of Guido’s Wonder Bar and Grill.
Evening: After a few hours of stumping in Guido’s we got on the road. I was anxious to move on; I shook enough hands in Ohio and wanted to get into Pennsylvania, even though I was planning on cutting through its Northwest corner and taking on New York State. At dusk we crossed into Pennsylvania and shortly after pulled into Pymatuning State Park and set up camp. I built a campfire and switched my attention from the campaign to Glenda, and why she wants to help Don Quixote tilt windmills? She grinned, firelight dancing upon her pale skin.
Morning: I woke with clarity, the plan for the next couple of days splayed before me. I needed a day out of bars. I told Glenda that we should abandon our idea of avoiding interstate travel. Nearby I-79 was the quickest route to Erie. After a quick breakfast in Hartstown and a pleasant chat about my campaign with our waitress we made haste for the city of one hundred thousand on the banks of Lake Erie. I tightened my grip about Glenda as she accelerated through traffic; the girl had the speed gene, she thrived on it. We arrived in Erie shortly before noon. Glenda parked in front of Erie County Courthouse and as I moved towards the steps. Taking a page from Jimmy Carter, I would introduce myself as follows: “Hello, my name is Robert and I’m running for president.”
Like Madison, Wisconsin, most responded to me with a sense of suspicion tinged with revulsion.
“Maybe it’s the hat,” Glenda said about my brown wool cap with SEX stitched in red across the brow. I took it off and stowed it in my pocket, the static causing my gray hair to stand.
Glenda’s advice didn’t help my reception. Is it a coincidence that centers of government are where I receive the sharpest rejection? Like Madison, a police officer approached me and told me to move along. Knowing the futility of argument, I complied after extending my hand and introducing myself. “I don’t care if you’re Barack Obama, you can’t stay here, no scram.”
I recited my URL to him before turning and walking away.
“Where to next?”
“The Boston Store.”
Afternoon: Outside the iconic landmark, Glenda and I introduced ourselves to harried shoppers. Only one person gave us any interest. He said he would check out the website and agreed that the major candidates left him listless.
“I need a beer,” Glenda said. I shrugged and walked two blocks to Sherlocks. I stuck to my guns and ordered a 7-up. Inside the bar a friendly bartender introduced us to a couple of locals and we entered into conversation. Lenny, the scoreboard operator at Jerry Ulm stadium, the home of the double A baseball team, said he would throw a surprise entry on the scoreboard during the seventh inning stretch of tonight’s Seawolve’s game.
Evening: I haven’t attended a baseball game in years. The park was nearly sold out and we took our seats and enjoyed the warm evening. True to his word, Lenny scoreboard read: Elect Robert President! Vote Dirty Bum! Help Robert from a cardboard box to the Whitehouse!
On queue, I stood, and shook the hands of those around me, thanking them for their support. I worked up the steps shaking the hands of my fellow fans. Surely, the fans thought it was another publicity stunt of a the publicity stunt laden league.
“I need a shower,” I told Glenda as we left the stadium.
We rode eastbound on I-90 into New York, finally stopping at a cheap motel in Dunkirk. We flipped a coin and I got first dibs at a shower. After I finished, I sat at the desk and wrote a letter thanking Glenda for her help and friendship; that is wasn’t anything personal but it was time for me to move along. As she showered, I slipped out of the room and walked along Dunkirk’s streets to the rail yard.
July 19th Wee Hours: I hopped a freight head northeast towards Buffalo. I felt an emptiness ditching my newfound friend, but it was necessary, I needed to sharpen my campaign’s focus. Especially coming into the Northeast, flexibility of movement was paramount. I folded my arms over my chest, feeling horrible for my desertion. Sleep came slowly, but it came, my mind finding solace in the rhythmic clack of metal upon metal.
Late Morning: I woke in a still boxcar. I slipped from the car and worked into the streets of Buffalo. I needed another dry day and took upon another strategy for my stay in Buffalo, it was not personal, but it offered visibility. I Stopped at a downtown office supply store, bought poster board and markers and made a sign reading: “ ELECT ROBERT PRESIDENT! VOTE DIRTY BUM!” As my adopted hometown celebrated its heritage today with its annual Railroad Day’s celebration, I stood at the corner of Elm and Broadway in Buffalo waving my sign at the passing traffic.
Afternoon: Every time I heard a motorcycle, I wondered if Glenda would drive by, or if she would even look for me. I doubted it; she was well on her way to Vermont. As my stomach rumbled, I slipped into a nearby luncheonette and had a quick bite before returning to the intersection and waving my sign to the passing traffic.
Evening: As dusk approached, I headed back to the tracks and again hopped the next eastbound freight. A new urgency was consuming me; I couldn’t linger in towns, I had to keep moving. If I was lucky I could hit Rochester before midnight. There I could hit a bar or two, spread my word and move onward to Syracuse.
I slept on the freight, albeit lightly, stirring to every whine and screech of the train.
I made Rochester a little after Eleven PM and slipped into the first bar I came to: Smokin Joe’s. The place was crowded and I managed to wiggle into the last stool. I ordered a tall blond and enjoyed its taste before stumping.
I closed the Smokin Joe’s, entertaining a drunk crowd with my brazenness, hopefully come tomorrow they’ll remember the conversation and consider sending a message with their vote. I made my way back to the tracks and hopped into another boxcar. Satisfied that the car would be heading east, I drifted to sleep.
Late Morning/Early Afternoon: When I woke, the train was moving. I had no idea the time let alone if I missed Syracuse, Utica, or even Albany. I tried to gauge the time by the light and temperature in the car. The heat in the car wasn’t oppressive, the light diffused, the sky was overcast. I didn’t care if I missed the above mentioned stops, my mind was consumed with the responsibility of dealing with the national debt. What would I do, if I was thrust into the position of dealing with such a perplexing problem? Ultimately the Strategy was simple, it was the tactics that were complex, or as pundits like to say: “The Devil is in the details.” How could government spending be reigned in? The wars are bleeding our economy, foreign speculation is creating falsely inflated prices. I had no clue how to attack the problems other than applying basics. I promise, dear reader and hopefully supporter, that if elected, I will be the dumbest person in the room. For I will cast the direction of the country, it will be up the sharper minds to create the tactics to implement my strategy.
I didn’t mind sitting alone in the car, I needed the alone time, such time is cathartic. Today may be a good day to simply climb upon a flatcar and wave my sign at every crossing.
Sometime later in the day, the train slowed and I noticed we were entering a city. I would disembark and slip into whatever city and try to pry my way into someone’s political consciousness.
The city was Utica. I did feel a bit disappointed I missed Syracuse, simply because it was a college town and I could have had an interested debate and even converted an idealistic mind. I slipped into B M Roadhouse on Oriskany Street and enjoyed a relatively quiet evening. I got some stumping done, but slipped into a more casual mindset. It has been a week since I took a day off from the trail and holed up in the fleabag motel in Milwaukee. Tonight was a half-day off. I simply enjoyed the Roadhouse for what it is. I’ll campaign tomorrow.
I slipped out of the roadhouse into a warm night and decided I would sleep under the stars. I found a secluded corner of Proctor Park and retired.
Robert’s absence Explained! Robert fell out of touch with campaign Headquarters on Monday, July 21st. For two days the candidate remained incommunicado in which time campaign HQ was extremely concerned about the candidate’s welfare. He contacted us on Wednesday saying he was mugged in Proctor Park in Utica, New York. He is okay with the exception of a black eye and that his blackberry and money stolen.
The campaign was temporarily suspended until this morning, Saturday, July 26th when arrangements were made to procure Robert funds and a new blackberry.
Despite the unfortunate events, the candidate continued onward campaigning in Schenectady, NY, Springfield, MA, White River Junction, VT and Franklin, NH. When he receives the blackberry he will be sending us updates from this past week and we will post them as they’re received.
July 21st: Morning: I woke, struggling to recall what city I slept. It took a moment before realizing it was Utica. The small city was coming alive, the sun was rising and a humid mist hugged the city. As I crawled from my sleeping bag I was kicked across my chin. I fell to the ground; A kid in a muscle shirt and a bandana stood over me. Using words unaccepted in political circles, he demanded my backpack and the contents of my pockets. I complied. He disappeared into the misty park.
I sat a long moment, piecing together what happened before climbing to my feet. It has been twenty-odd years since I was in this situation: Penniless, no resources, thousands of miles from home. Yes, I use to be homeless, but my skills are rusty. It’s one thing having money in your pocket why traveling across country, it’s another to be penniless.
Weighing my options, I decided to get out of Utica and see what fortune would bring over the horizon. I walked eastward on the tracks as two westbound freights passed. I hoofed it to West Schuyler. In the hamlet I entered an unnamed lunch counter and asked them if I could work off a meal. The sixtyish waitress eyed me with scorn before saying that the Lady’s room door was sticking. I knew the drill and set off to eye the problem. I garnered the tools I needed and fixed the problem. When I returned the tools, she took my order. She took scant interest in my campaign and I thanked her after I finished eating and returned to the road.
Across the river a freight rumbled eastbound. Frustrated, I trudged onward knowing I needed to contact Alberton but didn’t have the means. I caught a freight in Llion and rode a flatbed to Schenectady. I hoped off the freight and wandered the streets in search of Bethesda house, a homeless shelter where I could stay and get back in gear.
I got a bed and inquired about temporary jobs. Referred to Manpower, I walked across town to Erie Blvd and their office. There was nothing available to the morning. I signed on for a construction laborer job. If I worked for a day, I would score eighty bucks. That would be more than enough for me to contact Alberton and get the campaign rolling.
I stumbled back to Bethesda house, picked up a tattered copy of Catch 22 and fell into the book. Around Four PM, feeling a bit reinvigorated, I stood on the corner of Erie and Union Street waving my Robert for President sign.
Morning: I made it to Manpower early and met with a grizzled contractor who introduced himself as Big Steve. He was in the middle of a demolition phase of a remodeling project in Glenville, north of Schenectady. Big Steve explained he was a retired contractor and took on such jobs to keep busy. On the way to the job I told him about my campaign, the more details I revealed the more entrenched the smile on his jolly face. I couldn’t tell if he thought if I was sincere or spinning a whimsical tale.
We got to the job and we worked our asses off until 2:00 PM when he declared the day over.
“Can I weasel another day from you?” Big Steve asked.
I contemplated a long moment.
“I understand you have a campaign and all, but a good hand is hard to find.”
I agreed to give him another day if he bought me a beer. He took me to his favorite watering hole. We spent a good chunk of the evening in Jimmy Dee’s Tavern. I am sure the local’s weren’t used to sharing a cold one with a hammer swinging presidential candidate and Big Steve and I stayed later than anticipated. I knew the shelter doors were locked. When I told Big Steve this he said: “Fuck it, I got a couch.”
Bitter as I was merely forty hours ago, I laid upon Big Steve’s couch with my faith restored. I was ready to move onward with the campaign.
July 23rd I knew I had to contact Alberton and explain my situation, but I have a hang up on doing it on someone else’s nickel. So it would have to wait until Big Steve and I finished work this afternoon.
“I would like to see McCain or Obama swinging a hammer.” So started Big Steve’s daylong rant on politics and what is wrong with our country, its system and its people. I’ve learned that in talking politics, that unless asked a direction question, one must act like a mall Santa Clause with a demanding child on his lap: make no promises. Otherwise, dealing with a demanding, expectation-ridden voter is much like a spoiled child in the days leading to Christmas, there will be a lot of screaming and bellyaching.
During lunch break, Big Steve linked my situation to the homeless issue and asked what would I do about it? I thought about my platform a long moment and how it compared to my recent experience: No one should starve; no one should be in need of medical care. We need to look back in our history and revisit the CCC. Everyone will be taken care of if they pitch in. (Please refer to the Dirty Bum political platform, Edited by Campaign HQ) One can argue that the resources are presently adequate, I found work, I dug my way out of a short-term crisis; but, I was lucky, you were in need of a laborer, what if we were in a deeper recession or a depression? What is there was no work to be found? The safety net has to be stronger.
After work, Big Steve paid me cash and took me to a nearby C-store where I bought a phone card and contacted Alberton. After a lengthy explanation and some hand-holding, I worked out an itinerary with the campaign manager. He instructed me to contact him later tonight so he could procure another blackberry and some cash. I am a bit of a fuddy-duddy and refuse to carry plastic – either in the form of credit or debit cards. This drives Alberton crazy and aggravates their planning and I constantly hear how it complicates matters. Later that night, from the phone in Jimmy Dee’s, I agreed to be in Franklin, NH on Saturday. There, a UPS shipment would be delivered and the campaign would be on track.
I spent a last night with Big Steve and his cronies. With all the backslapping and jovialities, I am sure the campaign reached its New York goal.
Around Midnight, with a round short of $200 in my pocket, I slipped out of Jimmy Dees and found railroad tracks nearly a block away. Before anyone noticed my absence, I was headed eastward, one railroad tie at a time.
I caught an Eastbound in the wee hours. It was hot and humid and I rode on a flatcar. I didn’t want to get to comfortable because we were nearing Albany and I wanted to hitch a ride to Springfield, MA. My mood was content after recouping some money and contacting Alberton. Truth be told, I enjoyed not having the blackberry, it was a bit of a ball and chain. My only worry was remembering my thoughts. I wouldn’t be getting it till Saturday and I have a few days thoughts and experiences to remember.
Albany: I leapt off the freight and started walking across the trestle over the Hudson. I spent a few moments in the waning moonlight watching the river flow. I started towards the bank and my heart raced as a shadow approached. I exhaled when I realized the shadow was another transient. We swapped a story and some info, wished each other well and got on our ways. With my new info, I would be ditching my next ride in Westfield. I hiked another mile and a half before catching a freight. I settled in for the ride and took a nap.
Late Afternoon: Westfield, MA, The Whip City – nicknamed for the buggy whip industry that once was based in town. I crossed the Elm Street Bridge and ended up at City Hotel. I slipped inside and sat a few minutes nursing a tall blonde before introducing myself to the scattered patrons. Their response was cool and I must admit my approach was half-hearted. I finished my beer and slipped out and meandered up Elm to Show. Inside, I had a good conversation with the bartender, who was a student at Westfield State College. Two beers later and unconvinced I made inroads, I decided to work northward, I was feeling pressured by the itinerary, knowing I had to be in New Hampshire on Saturday. I knew I would be coming back to Massachusetts and figured I’d give the state my all during my return visit. I again crossed the “great river bridge” over the Westfield river and found the tracks. I hiked the tracks until a northbound CSX freight approached. I hopped the freight, pushed the unremarkable stop out of my head and fell asleep.
Late Night: I woke to the squeal of the train’s brakes. I peered out of the car and noticed the train approaching a town. I gathered my gear and leapt out. The flashing red light of the last car winked good-bye as the lights of a Vermont town glimmered in the night sky.
I followed the winking taillight into White River Junction.
A historic railroad town which is part of Hartford, lies at the junction of the White and Connecticut Rivers. The village was closing for the night as I strolled in. I knew based on appearance I would have trouble gaining acceptance; but I enjoy a challenge. I wandered through town and came across a windrow between cornfields. I bedded down and enjoyed being under the stars on a cool summer night.
July 25th Friday morning, I crossed the White river and followed the track till I came to a place called Cactus Jacks. Even though the establishment wasn’t open there was a buzz in the parking lot. A twenty-something woman was unleashing an emotional diatribe. Tears and running mascara accented her venomous words. A slight breeze tussled her hair as her words assailed a twentyish male and a middle-aged couple. I slipped by and tried the door, surprised to find it open. I sat at the end of the dark bar and slipped into eavesdropping mode.
Ten minutes later, a car started and drove away. The couple and male came inside. Surprised to see me they asked how I got inside. I told them that the door was open. They eyed me with suspicion before serving me a tall blonde and getting back to discussing their crisis.
I pieced together the drama. The younger male and female were supposed to be married today and the minister canceled on them this morning citing a personal emergency. Left high and dry they had no other choice but to cancel. I sat quite for a few moments and as the young man, whose name was Mike, picked up the phone, I spoke up and said I was an ordained minister with Universal Ministries.
He looked at me in disbelieve for a long moment before setting the phone down and approaching me. After producing a card from my wallet and a short conversation, he asked if I would do the ceremony. I said I would.
Mike called Leslie and passed the word. The older couple, Mike’s parents mentioned about me shaving and taking a shower. I told them I would gladly take a shower but they could find another minister if they wanted clean cut. After a moment’s discussion, they reluctantly agreed.
I got to scribbling a ceremony, recalling from memory the ones I used to write, which were very liberally borrowed from other ceremonies in circulation. (Campaign HQ will post the ceremony in its entirety when it becomes available)
Afternoon: Libby and Doug, Mike’s parents and the proprietors of the bar, drove me to their home and allowed me to shower. Although not thrilled with me officiating, they understood it was better than the alternative. When they asked me what brought me to town I told them that you can’t make this up, that fact is indeed stranger than fiction: that I was in White River Junction as a presidential campaign stop.
They looked at me as if I stepped off a spaceship. One didn’t have to look too hard to see they were die in the wool republicans. To them, I was another crackpot drifter.
Libby and Doug drove me to a boat launch off Wilder Dam Rd. It was a pleasant setting overlooking the Connecticut River. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to a mild case of butterflies, for although I did my campaign manager’s ceremony this past December, it has been some time since I did a large affair such as this wedding.
Although I tripped over a word or two, the ceremony went fairly as planned, considering the circumstances. I considered slipping away in the confusion immediately after the ceremony, but decided against it, this was too good a campaign opportunity. I needed to get my face out there, not drift away from the publicity.
Evening: I joined the festivities at the family bar and made the best of the circumstances, even though the older crowd treated me with the aloof amusement of elitists. I did score big points with the younger crowd. The merriment and booze flowed freely way into the night and I partook joyously, until the realization dawned that I needed to be Franklin NH tomorrow morning. The jolt sobered me and I tried recalling who tonight was from Manchester. I stumbled through the reception till I found Allie, the college aged girl who said she was from Manchester and said she was leaving in the morning.
She said she would gladly give me a ride to Franklin on the condition I would buy her a latte in the morning. I couldn’t argue with those terms.
Morning: I bought Allie breakfast to soak up her latte. We weren’t in a rush, Franklin was an hour or so ride away. She told me she was a sophomore majoring in psychology at University of New Hampshire at Manchester. As she drove, she extolled the excitement of Obama’s campaign. “We can trust government again,” she said. I smiled, remembering Camelot, when JFK represented the possibility of a new generation. There was a similar energy in ’92 when Clinton represented that possibility for Baby Boomers and Gen Xer’s. “I know you’re a candidate and all, but, really, Robert, you’re not going to win. So I’m not wasting my vote on you.”
Her honesty hurt, but it exemplified why I was campaigning. She was involved in the process. She took her rights seriously and viewed me as a characachure of a candidate. I rationalized that her idealism hadn’t been exercised and disappointed. I smiled with the realization that her excitement had me reexamining my motives.
She refused gas money as she dropped me off in Franklin. She wished me well and I watched her drive off. I checked the address, walked up the steps, and knocked on the front door. The home belonged to a family member of a high-ranking campaign official.
Afternoon: I spent late morning and the afternoon sharing conversation around my host’s kitchen table. The delivery came and a family member helped me with the blackberry. Once it was set up, I spent an hour catching up on the blog before thanking my hosts. The family member insisted on taking me to Kates Bar and Grille and introducing me to some locals. After sharing a few blondes with the Saturday afternoon crowd the family member insisted on driving me to Concord. I politely refused. We compromised and I accepted a ride to neighboring Northfield where I picked up the tracks and headed south towards Concord. I hoofed it to Canterbury where I pulled up, found a reclusive corner of Canterbury Woods Country Club, and worked more on catching up on the blog. I heard the rumble of an approaching southbound and moved towards the track, hitching a ride to Manchester.
Evening: I entered New Hampshire’s largest city motivated and hit bar after bar downtown. I engaged in numerous dialogues and scored points on numerous issues. I only can hope that people would remember the conversations on November 4th. As closing time approached, I returned to the tracks and hitched a ride south to Nashua.
July 27th Nashua: I pondered cutting Maine from the itinerary, but, I decided against the idea. The thought was a product of fatigue and I told myself once I caught a northbound.
I hoofed my way along the tracks for thirty or so minutes before hopping a freight. I settled in and took a long nap.
Late Morning: I woke as the train came to a stop. I leap from the boxcar and found myself in Augusta, Maine’s capitol. I was surprised how small a town the capitol is, it reminded a bit of Helena in size. Walking through Augusta’s streets, I decided that today would be a down day. I stopped by the Super 8 and reserved a room, I spoiled myself with a king size bed and retired for a long afternoon nap.
Afternoon: I woke, caught up on two days worth of blogs and caught a quick meal at Arby’s. Afterwards, I campaigned on the corner of Western and State for forty-five minutes, I waved my sign at traffic before closing shop and wandering to Capitol Park. Strolling through the park, I decided I would give campaigning on the capitol’s steps a go. Tomorrow was Monday and foot traffic would afford me visibility. I contemplated my strategy when the police confronted me.
Even though there were people in the park, I kept to myself. It was Sunday, and people in a park probably wouldn’t be thrilled to be approached by a political candidate.
I retired back to my motel room and watched HBO.
By 8:00 AM I was on the capitol steps greeting the stuffed shirts arriving for work. Slightly less stuffy than the folks in Madison, the Augustinian’s actually took time to comment on their annoyance that a ‘street’ person had the gall to campaign for our nation’s top office. “You’re a disgrace; You’re pathetic; Get out of my way,” summarized the typical responses. Only one shirt took time to speak with me. He asked if I was on ballot in any state. I told him I wasn’t, that I was a write in candidate. At this point a capitol police officer approached me and asked me to leave the premises. I refused, citing I was in conversation and that I was a citizen of the United States standing on public land.
“Spare me the legalities, bub. Get your ass out of here, you’re harassing important people.”
I told the officer that the only way I am leaving is with his assistance. At this point the person I was talking with slipped away. The cop again warned me to leave or he would arrest me. I baited him by telling him that my name is Robert and I’m running for president.
As he started speaking, I turned and introduced myself to a pair climbing the capitol steps and asked them for their vote.
At this point the officer handcuffed me and read me my Miranda rights.
Afternoon: I was arraigned for vagrancy, soliciting without a permit and harassment. I appeared before a judge and pled innocent to all charges. I was released on my own recognizance and ordered to pay a two thousand dollar bond; my preliminary hearing slated for July 31st at 9:00 AM.
I thanked the judge for her time and asked her to consider voting for me. I knew it was pointless to argue the merits of my case.
I contacted Alberton, informed them of my arrest, and asked their advice. After hanging up I slipped into the Bridge Street Tavern and enjoyed a tall blond before entertaining the sparse crowd with my campaign and its events. As the happy hour crowd shuffled in I received numerous opinions on the situation.
Afternoon turned to evening and the bar was abuzz with novelty of my political drama. I received many pats on the back wishing me luck and telling me to give them hell.
Night: The bar closed early and I stepped into the summer night. Exhaling, I walked down the street, pondering my next move.
The Dilemma: Should I delay my campaign, wait in Augusta and face the judge two days hence, or should I skip town and not look back. If I did this, I would have a bench warrant, and I would have to march the straight and narrow till I got back to Alberton. My first inclination was to skip town and move forward with the campaign. But there was a moral consequence that went along with the legal: How could I disregard the law, which in our nation is bigger than any man; the law prevents the very office I was pursuing from being the office of a tyrant. I could argue that the law that I disagree only by exercising its validity.
I made my decision. Sipping my coffee, I looked over my map. Twenty minutes later I was thumbing my way out of Augusta, heading further east. Two hours later, I was picked up by a trucker en route to Belfast. I didn’t tell him of my plight nor my campaign. Conversation was sparse outside of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity on the truck’s radio. In Belfast, I offered to buy the driver a beer. He refused, I thanked him and stepped into the tiny city once burned by the British in 1779, and held by them for five days during the War of 1812. I strolled down Main Street and stopped into Rollie’s. I pulled up a bar stool and ordered a blond and slipped into campaign mode. The crowd was sparse but I found one customer who complained that fuel costs are having a devastating effect on the summer tourist season. Many local businesses depend on the season to carry them through the year. I didn’t make any promises, but I did state that our nation’s focus not only needs to shift to alternative fuels, but, my administration would investigate any improprieties oil companies, speculators and government officials may have in the latest price spike. I pledged that I would do everything in the office’s power to return prices to a fair level.
I shared two more blondes with the gentleman before asking about the railroad tracks in town. He informed me Belfast was at the end of a spur and that it leads to Burnham Junction where the main line runs north and south. Before leaving, I ask my newfound friend to spread the word of my campaign. I took the chance to visit Belfast City Park and peer out into Belfast Bay. This would be the furthest east my campaign would travel.
Late Afternoon: I hiked the tracks through the Maine countryside, contemplating my next couple of days, before a freight lumbered northwest. Just outside Waldo I hopped a flatcar and rode flashing my sign at every crossing.
Alberton was split on my situation. My campaign manager, wanted me to take a plea, pay the fine and get out of dodge. “Stay focused on the campaign. Stay focused on your issues.” Dick Knightly, wanted me to fight, in his mind it was a free speech issue and the fight could bring publicity. As always, Alberton always deferred to my decision, but rarely was it split. I understood both camps point of view.
Evening: I jumped off the flatcar outside of Pittsfield and strolled into the sleepy little town. I slipped into Town Tavern and within an hour was holding court on international politics. Without getting into a dissertation here, I mentioned that we lost our focus with our invasion of Iraq. Our action in Afghanistan is legitimate and we should commit ourselves with defeating the Taliban and Al Quada. After the bar closed I walked through the quaint town, crossed the tracks, explored Mason Park before settling in Village cemetery for a peaceful night’s rest.
I woke from a chilly night. It must have been a sight seeing me sit up in my mummy bag between two rows of headstones. I stuffed my bag and slipped into the Green Apple Café for breakfast. I ate a quite meal and downed numerous cups of coffee. Afterwards, I strolled down Main Street before catching the tracks and heading south. I stepped off the tracks for a northbound about a half mile of Pittsfield. My intention was to get back to Augusta, get a room and await tomorrow. The extent of today’s campaign would be riding a flatcar and waving my sign at stopped traffic.
An hour later, I hopped a southbound and got comfortable on a flatcar. The temperature was pleasant and the sun was shining. I had fun jumping up and waving my sign at each crossing. As we approached Augusta, I leapt from the train and returned to the Super 8, got a room, showered and hunkered in for the evening. I needed to make a decision about tomorrows strategy.
Morning: I woke undecided. I wanted to fight the constitutionality of Augusta’s laws under which I was arrested. I also didn’t want to be held up in a fight that would detract time and effort from the campaign. I sighed as I stepped from my room and began my jaunt to the courthouse. I had a quick breakfast before climbing the same steps which I was arrested. After querying the information booth, I found the courtroom and met with the Assistant District Attorney.
The ADA, a pleasant young lady named Jennifer, a year or two from law school asked if I was representing myself. I told her I was. I exhaled as I looked up and down the corridor. “What can we plea the charges to so I can walk and get out of town? I have a campaign I need to attend to and I don’t want to get bogged down in a fight.”
“The people will accept a guilty plea on the vagrancy charge and will drop the others. I’m sure the judge will be satisfied with the conditions.”
“Pay the fine, plus court fees and be on your way. Tell the judge your last view of Augusta will be in your rearview mirror.”
“What kind of fine am I looking at?”
“A few hundred bucks plus court fees.”
That awoken the fighter within. I almost told her to forget the plea and I would take my chances. I hesitated, suppressing my ego. I was frustrated with myself. I really need to fight this in court but without legal help, I would be throwing myself at the mercy of a hungry wolf pack. Common sense defeated valor and I nodded. “I can live with that.”
In the five or so minutes before appearing before the judge, Jennifer asked how the campaign was going. She seemed interested in my explanation of events.
We appeared before the judge and Jennifer told the Honorable Kenneth Fields that the people and the defendant have come to a plea agreement that is acceptable to both parties. Jennifer then described the terms.
Very well, the judge said before turning to me and saying, “Mr. X, are you in agreement with these terms?”
I hesitated a moment, again contemplating fighting the good fight. “Yes, your honor, I am.”
“In consideration of the plea agreement I find you guilty on the summary account of vagrancy. In understanding that you are campaigning for the land’s highest office and you are funding this campaign with your own money and without a penny of taxpayer’s money, I will waive any fine under the plea agreement on the condition that your campaign agrees not to solicit support on governmental property.”
“Yes sir,” I said.
“Do the people contest?” “No,” answered the ADA.
Outside the courtroom, Jennifer shook my hand and wished me luck.
I did as I promised Jennifer; I left Augusta and didn’t look back. I found the tracks and did my tie walk until the rumble of a Southbound announced the approach of my ride. I hopped on a flatcar, leaned back on my pack and enjoyed the warm, sunny ride. I contemplated stopping in Portland, but I already spent too many days in Maine and I was confident that my campaign would reach its goal in the state. As the train crossed into New Hampshire, I reflected on my short stay there and concluded that the campaign was in good position to reach its goal in the granite state. Onward to Boston, I thought, as I took the advantage of the energy of the unburdened and waved my sign at every crossing.
Evening: Medford, MA. The city named after the meadow by the ford, the small city on the northern fringe of Boston is noted for being the home of the holiday songs Jingle Bells and Over the River and Through the Woods. I was surprised to learn that Medford, while not dry, had prohibitive liquor laws in which a full liquor license couldn’t be attained unless there was ninety-nine seats in an establishment. Such an establishment wasn’t condusive to my campaign and I chose to hoof it to Charlestown. I stopped at a historic place that I’ve heard about and wanted to visit, although it seemed a higher standard than I prefer I visited The Warren Tavern, the self-proclaimed most historic watering hole in America. George Washington and Paul Reverve often stopped here and the 1st president’s funeral speech was given in the Tavern. My historic campaign could be another asterisk on its walls. I was disappointed to learn they didn’t serve tall blondes so I settled for a brunette and sipped a Miller Lite in the hallowed halls. I struck up a pleasant conversation with a freelance writer who was visiting Boston. The conversation was all over the board and he mentioned he would be interested in doing a piece on my campaign. The clocked ticked and before we knew it the bar closed on us and Jerald asked if I had a place to stay. When I responded I didn’t, he said there were two beds in his Hotel room and that the last time he looked, he only needed one to sleep.