Saturday, January 28, 2006

On our Howard Dean reunion

Unlike the blogger at Ohio 2nd, who wrote before the event "It will be nice to finally meet the person that inspired me to get back into politics.", this was not my first time meeting Howard Dean. I met him briefly at the first DemocracyFest in July 2004 and saw him again when he came to speak in Columbus in September of 2004. If you read my post the morning of Janurary 18, you saw that I was something *other* than cool, calm, and collected as I prepared to leave the house.

But right now, as I prepare to leave the house, I am shifting back and forth between exhaustion (I've been working a lot of hours lately), a sense of unreality, and semi-panic that I might forget something I really mean to bring--like the voice recorder or the camera. And all the while in the background there is another mental program running at a subconscious level. My brain is saying its own improvised rosary and it goes something like "Hail Mary, full of grace, pray for me that I don't swallow my own tongue if I get the opportunity to say a few words to Howard today..."

So, here's the scoop. The first time I met met Howard Dean in person, I gave him a bumper sticker that I had designed. It read "I am Howard Dean's Special Interest...and John Kerry's Probation Officer. (During Dean's campaign, "I am Howard Dean's special interest" had been one of the grassroots' slogans, and the second part referred to the fact that many of us really didn't consider ourselves Kerry *supporters*, but we were determined to stay on his case and make sure he kept his promise to fight for us.)

The bumper sticker went over really well. Howard Dean laughed out loud when he saw it--one of those laughs where he throws his head back. In fact, that turned out to be the moment that a local newspaper reporter snapped a picture of him, and I got to see that reaction shot in the paper the next morning.

When I saw Howard Dean again that September, he was doing a book signing. I had not yet bought a copy of "You Have the Power". I hadn't known about the book signing ahead of time, but didn't want to miss the opportunity to have that minute to talk to Howard while he was signing it. Mandy, one of our local DFA members was kind enough to lend me the $20 to cover the cost of the tiny hardcover book. When he signed the book, I had messed up what I was trying to say, switching some names around, and was a little embarrassed about that. But as I walked away from the table, I was disappointed to see that he had only signed his name, but there was no "To Renee". Dilemma--I was already feeling pretty darn awkward about this particular encounter, but, dammit, it isn't every day that I shell out $20 for such a tiny book. Finally, I made up my mind that I could joke about that as something we have in common--Howard Dean is, of course, known for his frugality. So the plan in my mind was to walk back to Howard, smile, and say that I don't normally pay this much for a book, "Because I'm frugal, like you", so could you please add "To Renee" to this.

But that's not now it came out when I said it. What came out was, "because I'm cheap, like you." So now you understand why I was worried about saying something foolish.

I managed to embarrass myself with Mary Jo Kilroy instead of Howard, introducing her as Mary Jo Pryce to the other bloggers. Pryce is her opponent, and I wanted to say who she was running against. As I started the sentence, the name was not coming to me, but it popped into my brain and rolled right off my tongue right after I said the words "This is Mary Jo--" Sigh.

Things went better when we got to see Howard Dean. When he walked up to the bloggers' table, I gave him a hug, which he graciously accepted, even if he seemed a bit surprised. He said something along the lines of "this is like a reunion here!" One of the few parts of the day I didn't record, and neither Demetrius nor myself can remember quite what he said.

But then I pulled out the copy of the Blue State Brothers picture that I'd brought to give him.

We didn't have a chance to have a poster made or anything, so we just printed it out at home, and I found a plastic sleeve to put it in so it wouldn't get smeared or crumpled up. I said, "I thought we needed to have something more up to date to replace Soylent Dean."

He looked at it and *laughed*. "This is great! (to Demetrius) How did you do this?"

Since the picture is of both Howard and Jim, I said, " you'll have to share this with your brother", and Howard responded with "I'm going to give this to my *Mom*!" He handed the picture to his aide, admonishing, "Don't you dare lose this!"

So it was very cool to see him show that kind of genuine appreciation and enjoyment, and I'm really glad Demetrius was able to make it and actually see that reaction.

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