A quiet Sunday in Wasau, Wisconsin. I suspect there are many quiet Sundays here. Still, I managed to have a heated conversation in the hotel lobby about, of all things, an appearance I made on CNN more than 18 months ago.’
Since George was sleeping, I wandered the grounds of the Plaza Hotel, slipping off for caffeine at a local coffee shop. When I came back to the hotel, a friendly-faced Wisconsinite approached me in the lobby.
“Don’t I know you?” he said, smile on his face.
“I don’t think so. I’m just in town for a few days.”
“Nope. I never forget a face. I’ve seen you before.”
Constant reader, forgive me for this interruption in the conversation, but I’ve been arrested exactly three times in my life. Once in Durham, NH, when I was 15, and twice when I was 17, once in Indianapolis and once in Waukesha, WI. It crossed my mind that my conversational partner COULD have been the arresting officer in October, 1976, but no matter how little I think I’ve changed, no one could possibly recognize me after more than 40 years. Still . . .
“I don’t think so. I’m here to learn about ginseng with a friend of mine.”
“We’ve got a lot of that here. What kind of work do you do?”
I explained about working with homeless veterans at Liberty House in Manchester.
“That’s it! I saw you on fake news!”
“CNN or one of the other fake news stations. You insulted the president.”
“Ohhhhh,” I murmured. “You mean turning down a donation? We eventually got that, although not directly from Mr. Trump. From a friend of his, Stewie Rah-Rah, the King of All Fun.
Again, pardon the interruption, but readers are directed to the Liberty House website or, better, to Google “Keith Howard Donald Trump” for a rollicking read through yesteryear.
“Also,” I continued, “he wasn’t president then. He was a candidate.”
“Still, you shouldn’t have insulted him like that.”
I explained I couldn’t appear on-stage with ANY candidate on ANY stage, not just Donald Trump on a New Hampshire Primary stage because Liberty House is a non-profit. (In this age of twisted lexicography, the word “explain” in the previous sentence means: “said in a calm but pleading tone into the face of a man who is simply waiting for your lips to stop moving”)
“Still, you shouldn’t insult the president on fake news. It’s not very American. Look what he’s done for the country already.”
Here, I had a choice. I could go into a caffeine-fueled rant about the importance of dialog not diatribe. I could talk about the president’s recent sit-down with Vladimir Putin, where President Putin denied nefariosity in our most recent election. I could even have claimed truthfully that I’m a registered Republican. I could have done any of those things but it’s a quiet Sunday in Wasau, Wisconsin, and I wanted to keep it that way.
“Am I even better-looking in person than I was on TV?” I asked.
He laughed appreciatively and we parted as friends.
Final note to my political friends, who have known me as a moderate-liberal all these many years. In January 2016 I changed my party affiliation to Republican so I could vote for John Kasich. Although this was a tactical decision because one of the other Republican candidates scared the bejeezus out of me, it was not JUST a tactical vote. I think Kasich is a good and honorable man, and I could have voted for him last November. I maintained that party affiliation because a friend of mine, Rich Ashooh, was running later in the year in the primaries against a corrupt-is-too-strong-a-word-but-anything-weaker would-be-too-weak incumbent. Rich is an even better and more honorable man, and I would have campaigned hard for him in the general election, had he won the primary. He didn’t, so I didn’t.