"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Grande Finale...featuring a Broadway legend...and a light show

Tuesday, when I attended the penultimate Party Caucus at the State House, was the prelude to the final session of the House of Representatives, which was yesterday. It was also the preview of how extremely uncomfortable an un-air conditioned room can be on a 95-degree day. Luckily, we were there less than 2 hours...which we knew would not be the case on Wednesday.

In addition to being the last day of this session, yesterday was also Hat Day. Members were encouraged to wear their most "darling or daring" hats. And many of us did!

Here's a silly one.

A glamourous one.

A flamingo.

A lobster.

And mine--the gondolier's hat I purchased in Venice. I pinned a couple of Snowdon roses to my dress (I've got a nifty pin with a water reservoir) and was enveloped with their natural rosy perfume.

My ensemble received many gratifying compliments from both sexes, and not a few reminscences of trips to Venice. I wondered which would wilt first, the roses or me. (The roses did.)

After the usual opening of session activities, we had the introduction of guests. The suprise guest turned out to be Carol Channing. She was in town to perform her one-woman show at the Arts Center. She'd visited the State House the previous day, to meet the Governor, and was invited to return for Hat Day.

My photos are lousy--not only do I sit in the back benches, the lighting was very low to keep the room "cool" (more on that in a minute).

She and the two instigators of Hat Day sang "Hello, Johnny" to the tune of you-know-what. (Our Governor's name is John.)

There was a really excellent photo on the front page of today's paper, but I don't think it'll be released to the web till tomorrow.

When she departed, we got down to business--in extremely uncomfortable conditions. It was 96 degrees outside. Inside, the ceiling fans were going, there were box fans in the window, the blinds were drawn, the lights were low, but the chamber was an oven. The men were allowed to remove coats and ties. (Not all of them did.) The Sergeant-at-Arms and the doorkeepers and the Speaker's staff and the House nurse were constantly passing out bottles of ice-cold water.

Suffering, we affirmed many committee of conference reports, killed a few of them. We passed the first budget bill before our lunch break--$10.3 billion.

Why so much for this small state? Because the previous majority party had a habit of underfunding. And the current majority party, committed to undoing the damage, also insisted upon truth-in-budgeting.

During the break, I went over to the Legislative Office Building (air-conditioning!) to check email. Then attended the Senate President's Ice Cream Social. Two servings of black raspberry later, I rejoined my colleagues in the Oven to vote on the budget "trailer" bill. And the capital budget. And all the other stuff.

The chamber was worse in the afternoon. Nothing anybody could do. The staff passed around ice packs along with the water. My seat, being so far back, is out of range of ceiling fans and window fans. I was constantly fanning myself with the House calendar, as were all the men in my row.

From time to time, during the lengthier debates, I nipped downstairs to the ladies' room and ran cold water over my arms. My white sandals slipped on and off easily, so occasionally I would take a bottle of cold water, place it on the floor, and rest my bare feet on it!

At one point, I heard one of the guys seated behind me ask the Sergeant-at-Arms, "Do you actually know what the temperature is in here?"

"Eight-six degrees," she said apologetically.

I'm guessing the humidity was 100%.

The last bill of the day was the one we've known from Day 1 that we had to pass: the court-mandated definition of educational adequacy. By that time, the staff and nurse were passing out peanuts, pretzels, cheez-its, to keep up our salt levels. I didn't much want anything salty, but I ate a few.

Most of us survived the ordeal. (I did see one person being wheeled off in a wheelchair).

Session ended sometime after 6 p.m., I think. I'd been in that room since 9 a.m. and was very happy to leave it. The Majority Caucus hosted a celebration--lemonade and cake--I consumed a little of both to sustain me on the drive home. A lot of people were heading for the bar across the street.

The Chap had a meeting, so I knew I'd be dining alone. I wasn't exactly hungry but felt thirsty and weak and light-headed and needed to eat real food. So I grabbed a cold cider and started whipping up a quick omelet. At that very moment, the weather turned--a massive wind and thunder and lightning storm hit the Lodge.

And I really mean hit. Lightning was in the yard. Almost in my house--so close I could hear the snap and sizzle before the boom.

My kitchen was the worst place to be. So I turned off the burner, left my eggs uncracked on the counter, and hurried the dogs downstairs to the windowless hallway. There we sat for about 25 minutes. I could barely see the flash of the lightning, but I heard it. And the thunder. And the torrential rain.

Ruth eventually hid under the kneehole of my desk. Jewel fell asleep at my side. Lola lay near me, stocially. And I sat there, getting hungrier by the minute.

The storm moved on, leaving the house unscathed--I didn't even lose power (plenty of other households did, I later learned). Outside, my roses were bowed but not broken. Except for one tree rose on the deck, blown to the ground where its trunk snapped in half. A complete loss, but I've got another just like it. Rain got into the porch, so I had to mop up the floor.

My omelet turned out perfectly.

I may have a few legislative committee tasks during the hiatus, nothing too arduous. I think the next House session is in January. Perhaps, by then, Representatives Hall will have cooled down to a bearable level.

It's only the first day, but already I'm loving my summer/fall break.

Books to write and read, lakes to enjoy, roses to pick, dogs to play with, friends to see, birds to watch, trips to take.

And plenty of legislative-free blogging ahead!

Rose of the Day: A Bonica rose, growing in the State House Rose Garden, created and maintained by the New Hampshire Rose Society.

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