Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inspiration Comes From Living II: Outsider Looking In

Lions and Elephants and Jacka--Donkeys, oh my!

Yesterday evening a friend asked if I wanted to attend a party. The Admiral was running for Rochester City Council, again. Votes would be in around nine. And the campaign people, and supporters were huddled away ... no, not in Rochester, but in a close friend's beautiful condo in Brighton.

I'm not political, don't follow politics. I vote on school budgets, and for presidents. I'm Conservative. But this blog, it's not really about politics. Sides. It's not about Democrats and Republicans. It's about Observing and Reporting, as if I were a security guard.

I'd never been to one of these...parties. Seen them in movies. Most memorable was Primary Colors, where John Travolta portrayed Governor Jack Stanton -- who bore a considerable resemblance to the legendary Bill Clinton. So, going in, I had some idea what to expect.

I thought.

Walking up to the condo, I was introduced to a handful of people who stood outside on the stoop. It's a condo. Wouldn't call it a stoop. I am, though. It works. My friend told people who I was and that I was a professional writer. Not to be confused with just any old writer. But a professional. Hard not to stand a little straighter after an intro like that.

"Are you with the D&C?" I was asked.

Shook my head. Felt my shoulders lower some.

"What paper?" Someone else asked.

"I, um, write thrillers. Fiction."

The glow and gleam in their eyes glazed over to dull, lifeless marbles. Deflated, I shrugged. "But, I was brought here tonight to blog about the experience." Clearly unimpressed with the credentials of a fiction writer, I made a last ditch effort to maintain some of that "professional writer" status. "But I'm here to blog about the experience!" The second time I said it was as impressive as the first, apparently.

One lady clutched her wine glass with two hands, and smiled. "Oh, how nice."

Felt like I'd just handed her a torn page from a coloring book, and she now felt obligated to stick it on her 'fridge with a watermelon magnet.

I pressed on. Ignoring myself. Blog? Did I really tell these people I was going to blog about the experience? The word alone sounds so, so, so uncouth. Go ahead. Say it out loud. Blog...It's like an onomatopoeia for puking. Great.

Inside the condo, thankfully, I was shown around. Faced more introductions, but missed names, while I concentrated more on not using the word blog, possibly ever again. At first I'd wished I'd brought a pen and pad to capture everything fresh, as it happened. Good thing I hadn't. I would have had to explain what I was doing over and over, no doubt. Of course, knowing me, I'd of stayed away from telling people I was blogging, and would have simply lied. Made up some paper I was covering the story for. Like Fletch. Would have been easier. And funnier.

"Who are you?"

"I.M. Fletch Fletcher. Never Irwin. I write a column under Jane Doe. Maybe you've heard of it?"

"Who are you, again?"

"Dr. Rosenpenis."


"Dr. Rosenrosen."

"Dr. who?"

"Dr. Rosen. Where's the records room?"

Ah, but I digress . . .

Okay. So, then I met The Admiral. I put it in italics for effect. Want you to feel the intimidation I felt. I'm only 5'8". The Admiral, was a towering 4'something", but power didn't come from her stature. No. I learned that right away as I shook her hand and wished her luck. The power shot from her eyes. She wore glasses low on her nose, I assumed, on purpose. This allowed her to look up over the frames and at you. Into you. Through you.

In the living room and dining area were two groups of people. Each group hoovered over a person whose sole job was to man a laptop. The city website provided up-to-the-second results from polling booths. The laptop operator thumbed the Refresh Page button with casual vigor, like that kid at the skating rinks who never skated, but dropped an endless supply of quarters into a Galaga arcade game and thumbed through level after level, and, of course, slapped in initials for all the high scores at the end of each game.

Turns out, the guy in the dining area was the Admiral's son, Mitch Rowe. He had more responsibility than I'd first realized. He was the Admiral's campaign manager. And an apparent Blazing Saddles fanatic. I caught at least two regurgitation's of movie lines (his thumb never stopped hitting Refresh, as he offered them up, either. Talk about multi-tasking). The lady in the living room was the Admiral's daughter, Vickey Wehbring. Poised. Elegantly dressed. But very, very serious about hitting the Refresh button ahead of her brother, and shouting updates from room to room. That split second lead, I could tell, gave her an edge she was not easily willing to relinquish.

Thankfully, Abby, my friend--although still introducing me as a writer (which at some point, the professional aspect was dropped from her vocabulary)--refrained from mentioning I'm Republican, but, however, insisted on calling me a newbie.

The Admiral promised she'd be gentle with me because of this newbie status. And for a brief moment, I felt calm and at ease. (No military pun intended ... or was it).

Unfortunately, the race was not that intense. Carolee Conklin (a.k.a. The Admiral), was in second from the moment we walked in. With a nice, cushy lead, to boot. (To boot? Who says that? Aside from me. Just now.)

However, this lead allowed for a good-natured, light and free atmosphere. Jokes flew. I caught a few. Can't repeat them. Not without blushing, or washing my mouth out with soap. (Or, since I'm typing, without washing my hands. But that's not a bad thing, hand-washing. Not with swine flu running amok, now is it?)

Turns out, aside from his elected position as City Clerk, Dan Karin moonlights as a stand-up comedian. You can catch him on weekends at Daisy Dukes in Webster. He wears a disguise and uses a different name. Protect the innocent and all that. From me, he gets props.

When the General of the Army from the board game Stratego walked in, I had to do a double take. I didn't realize the board game was based on actual characters. Turns out I was wrong. It wasn't the General of the Army, but Chief of Staff for Council--Bill Sullivan. Whew. I was somewhat relieved. If the actual General of the Army was really out on the streets, that meant so were the no-rank spies. And that would just be creepy!

In the kitchen, I met Dan Greene. He was running for Sheriff, something or other. Luckily, he didn't come alone. He had a bodyguard. Tough looking guy, dressed in black. I felt safe, despite being Republican in a condo surrounded by Democrats. They were also with a woman. Don't know who she was. No introductions were made. I did tell her, however, that the finger foods she'd been munching on, were made by me. She lit up. Told me they were wonderful. Of course, feeling guilty for having lied, I explained that I did not make them, and that in fact, I could not cook at all. She told me she absolutely believed I had made the food, and that I had a career in politics. It's something to think about.

No real surprise, Carolee Conklin won. Again.

A real reporter called, already asking for a real interview. Which made me feel like a real fraud.

Regardless, a convoy was assembled outside. Matthew's on East Avenue was the party-to-be destination.

It is both important and relevant at this point in the story to point out that Abby recently (like last week) underwent major back surgery. She wore a steel-plated brace, like a chastity belt that didn't quite cover what needed covering. Made me think of that scene in Space Balls. But that's neither here nor there.

Why is this important? Because I went from...professional Blogger, er, um, writer, to personal body guard. Had no idea all the Democrats in the city, all 55 of them, were going to be at this downtown bar. (Was that a dig I just made? Um-yepper. It was. Sorry. Couldn't resist). The hugs, and handshakes, the hoots and hollering every time someone new walked in the door made anyone, everyone feel special. Even me. And you can't beat being made to feel special. Can you? Maybe. I'll think about it.

I did my best to stand behind Abby as politicians and friends banged their way through the crowd to race toward the back room at Marshall's where news stations (more professional journalists) had photo journalists covering the results-in, and interviewed the candidates. I may have stumbled in the line of fire on accident, or purpose a few times. Would have mouthed the words "Hi, Mom" but that would have been plain silly. And this was a serious occasion. Silly would have been uncalled for.

Regardless of my attempts to have my friend's back--literally--it was Mitch, Abby's brother who got past my defensive position. I saw him get down in a three-point stand. See, Mitch played football. Once a football player, always one, I suppose. Someone said, "On two." I heard, "Hut, Hut." And Mitch sprang up. Arms shot out. Wrapped his sister tight. Maybe he was celebrating their mother's victory. I'm not sure. I thought I saw Mayor Duffy drop back and throw something across the length of the bar. It was late. I might just have been seeing things. Who knows for sure? Not this blogger.

All in all, a good experience. I ended the night hitting the drive-thru at Taco Bell. Add a little indigestion in for good measure.

And, oh, by the way? I charged it all to Mr. Underhill's credit card ...

Thomas Phillips
Author of the suspense novel, The Molech Prophecy


Joanne Brokaw said...

PHIL! Awesome, awesome, awesome recap!!

Thomas Phillips said...

Why, thank you, Joanne. I had a good time :-)