Scenes from the Campaign Trail

It is a simple equation. Never mind the detractors, this is the way to go. The way to obsolescence. The way to celebration. A simple way. The right way.

Portland, OR
When we remember our debt to the trailblazers, the pioneers, those in the vanguard, when and if we remember them we remember this: their commitment, their stolid virtue. Easy. It isn't in the standard homily, the stump-speech, the rhetoric and jargon and manipulative pabulum that oozes and spurts from the Demagogue's mouth. No. You know and I know that it is much much different. And, it's better. And that's the truth.

Des Moines, IA
We know the truth when we sniff it out. Or, conversely, when it sniffs us out. Sure, we hide away, platonically, and then, well, then our old roommate calls and the old times are back, just like that. Redolence. Proust-like. It has become a cliché, the shifting mud in the fields bringing up the bones in spring. We are not the first to notice the re-emergence, nor are we the first to be ashamed. The old times are sweet and sad, we cry into our Whitbread Ale, and we are ashamed. Doubly. Both for the remembered days that bring the shame and for the shame itself, the feeling of the shame. Quo vadis? And how soon will you return? My heart, my heart. I was sitting in a park, I was watching the snow geese migrate. And I left it there. I wandered away, unthinking. I just wandered away and I left it there. My heart, my heart.

Arlington, VA
Tangentially, we were speaking about Medicare. We were speaking about the elderly and infirm. Valetudinarians have rights and are often represented by quite voracious organizations. Have you heard about these organizations? Have you seen these? Vicious. Doberman organizations. We are not talking lawyers here. We are talking Huns. OK? So the old do set an agenda, a strong and narrow agenda. And we all listen. I am listening. What do I hear?

Albany, NY
When I was young, all the women seemed much much taller than they do today. Perspectival. That's the term. Certainly, I claim no special insight here, regarding the height of women. But nonetheless, I stand by my childhood days, peopled with towering women. I have a great respect for women. Of all sizes.

If you step out to the podium, the heat is heat, not just light. It is one thing to be sitting on the dais. Pleasurable, some have called it. You are there, a dignitary obviously (why else would you be there?) among dignitaries. It is one thing to be on the nostrum. What? Rostrum. You are there and looking out at the crowd. And here it is, the difference: you can be peripheral on the side. But once you step up, then the pressure builds. That is where I am tonight, and I am happy to be there. Here. I am happy.

Kansas City, MO
Hello St. Louis! I am proud to be your man. I am proud to be as a man who is running for your votes, asking for your votes. I am remembering now the last time I had the pleasure to address you all. It was not too long ago. Only two days ago. And I see a lot of the same faces and, of course, many new ones. And it is good! Very good! A sea of faces! You are far from the ocean here but you have your own horizon and I look out to that horizon and I see it is limitless, and I see you are too, your hopes, and I embrace that limitlessness, I long to take it with me where I go. Tomorrow and on and on until Election Day!

Birmingham, AL
All my life I have supported equal rights. I was married once to a gay man and that was a long time before Hawaii or Vermont. It was beautiful and we persevered through many a dark night but then I realized that I had another calling. A vocation, if you will. And I went back to my wife and kids and I said "I know that America needs me" and they hugged me close and we had a block party and invited everyone, people of all ethnicities and they embraced me, calling me home, calling me home to America.

Winnipeg, Canada
God bless you Manitoba! We are making history here today! It is wildly heterodox and unusual for an American presidential candidate to campaign in Canada, but I am here today to build a bridge to Canada, to build a North American bridge of cooperation. I want a greater partnership between our two countries and I pledge to open up a dialog that will make us all proud. So I ask you all, all of you here, to stand with me! Let us tear down that wall between us! Stand with me, Manitoba! Let's make history! Ich bin ein Canuck!

Three weeks ago I promised to fight until the end for my vision of America. I promised to fight and fight and fight. I did. Hard. And it made a difference. I saw that difference in the face of the children I've met all across this great land of a country. This nation of children's faces, very much like those of my own children, though they are now grown and gone. My children loved me but they have left me and their mothers, to pursue their own lives. And this is how it should be. I will always remember them. Stories and naps and sprinklers in the front yard in the summer, long summer days. I am wistful. They've told me to avoid "wistful" but that would not be genuine of me and I believe in being genuine if nothing else. In this case, in the case of my children who rarely call or visit, being genuine means being wistful. And so I am. But America is more than its faces, its youthful faces. It is also the withered faces, the crumpled and creased faces of the aged, those wise rheumy glaucoma-ed eyes. I see so much wisdom there. So much to share. I grow hopeful for America. I made a difference, though I will no longer fight. I'm sorry. I know, it is a surprise. I know, I know. I wish I could say more. I wish I could do more, but I cannot fight for you. Not anymore. I am breaking my promise with you, my sweet sweet America, my lovely America, my full-bodied America, because they've broken me. I can't say who, on advice of counsel, but they have. And so another reformer, another visionary, rents another room in the dustbin. I will miss you. And you too, Canada. I'll miss you both.

About the author:

Darren Higgins graduated from Cornell U in 1996 and lives in Seattle, Washington. His work has been published in The Stranger and The American Journal of Print - work forthcoming in Exquisite Corpse, Spring '02. Darren is the winner of the 2001 Richard Hugo House writing competition.