"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

Sunday, January 06, 2008

What's Going On

Behold a rare piece of NH landscape unadorned by campaign signs.

For as long as I remember, whenever someone has handed me a campaign pin, or a bumper sticker, I've accepted with a smile and warm thanks--and placed it in my pocket or my purse. Never to be worn.

"My body is not a billboard," I'm fond of saying. "Neither is my car."

Yesterday, probably for the first and only time in my life, I stuck a campaign pin onto my sweater before heading out into the world. I wore it during my mandolin lesson in Concord. I wore it at the department store and in the restaurant in Manchester.

We spent this weekend out and about. I saw countless candidate signs rising up from filthy, rapidly melting snowbanks. I've been hunting for a spot where I could shot a blog pic of the full array, Republican and Democrat. I wanted a single photo in which all or most of our distinguished visitors, the Presidential wannabes, were represented. Unfortunately, whenever I spotted this phenomenon, it was typically in the median of a highly-trafficked two- or four-lane highway with a speed limit of 45 mph or higher. Or a four-way intersection. Neither are the best vantages for attempting dashboard photography, much less jumping out to take a quick shot.

One must fight the urge to derive metaphors or prognostications from the drooping or fallen signs of certain candidates. Or to assume that the number of signs for an individual corresponds to their chances of winning. There's often an inverse relationship to the number of signs on view and the candidate's place in the latest polls.

We can set clocks by the release of poll results. Ten minutes before the 6:00 newscast seems to be the favoured time.

Phone calls to the Lodge come early and often--pollsters, mostly. We've started picking up and answering, as a public service. If we vent our intentions, then the odds of people being startled by Tuesday's results might be lessened. We're also receiving calls from friends and family around the country, across the political spectrum, asking us to handicap the race. "How's it going there? What's NH going to do?"

If anyone doubted that politics--and politicians--are close to the people round here, in or out of Primary Season, here are a few illustrations.

On Friday I was fueling my car, hands thrust into my coat pocket, humming a tune. A man who had already finished filling the tank of his pickup--on the other side of the island from me--walked over. Before he opened his mouth, I surmised that he'd spotted my State Rep licence plate.

He had a question about a specific bill. "Is there a place where someone can find out when there's a hearing on a bill?"

I asked if he had internet access and told him about our state government website with all the bills listed, their sponsors and status and committee recommendation, plus the legislative calendar with info on when it comes before the House and Senate."

"That's great, thanks."

"Which bill are you interested in?" I asked. He told me the subject matter--it's a high-profile one. "Oh, that was retained from last seesion and the committee reported out a couple of months ago. It's on the House Calendar for January 16th, when we'll vote on it."

"Oh, okay." He thanked me again.

He turned to go. There was a long line of cars behind him, coveting his place at the pump. I didn't want to extend the delay, but I had to ask....

"What do you think about that bill?" I called after him.

He'd already opened the door of his truck and had a foot on the running board. He turned around, walked back towards me--walked right up to me till we were face to face. I almost regretted asking.

"If I had my way," he said firmly, "I run them (the operators of a particular enterprise facing new and onerous regulations) right out of the state!"

He was so vehement I hardly knew what to say at first. Then I said, "You're not alone in your opinion. Thanks for sharing it."

Being accosted by a stranger at the petrol pump has happened before. And probably will again.

Today I lunched with two girlfriends downtown. On the way I stopped at a supermarket to purchase groceries--not for my household. Soon as I walked into the restaurant, I came face-to-face with a fellow legislatrix. Two of us under the same roof. Possibly more, for all I know.

After lunch--the conversation was mostly devoted to the Primary and the candidates--I drove a few blocks to the field office of the candidate I'm supporting. I took the groceries inside. The place was packed with volunteers of both genders, many generations, and various ethnicities, all manning the phones.

A supervisor came forward. I introduced myself, asked for a person I knew, who at that moment was actually out "in the field."

I presented my shopping bags, bursting with bags of ginger snaps, tubes of Pringles. "Some snack food to keep you folks going." Then I handed over the box of clemintines. "And some healthy stuff, too."

His delight with the citrus indicated that their break room was filled with junk. I probably should brought nothing but clementines! A trunkload of 'em.

After my errand of mercy, I made my way to Main Street. I'm not positive, but I saw a gentleman in a black winter overcoat in front of a convenience store, chatting up a handful of passers-by. He had on glasses, or sunglasses. It might have been Duncan Hunter. Or even Bill Clinton, who's said to be roaming the state. But no doubt the ex-Prez would've drawn more than half-a-dozen people--his Secret Service must be at least that many. Anyway, it was a Someone. I'll have to study a line-up of faces to work out which one.

On the way home, I stopped by a suburban mall for a quick purchase--and immediately encountered yet another legislator.

I don't consider myself a politician. Really, I don't. I can't, the notion is ludicrous, I start to giggle if someone even suggests such a thing. But I do get a kick out of big-P Politics. And right now, it surrounds me and envelopes me and involves me. In general, it's highly entertaining. Occasionally it's frustrating. And right now, it's truly exciting and exhilarating. (Never more so when it's known to be an intense and short-lived period of thrills. And when pundits bandy about words like "history-making" and "unprecedented".)

And while I never fail to take my own responsibilities seriously, as a representative and as a voter, there's no denying that these days, it's a whole helluva a lot of fun!

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