A Hard Day’s Fortnight

Booker's speech (I know it well)
Two weeks can seem like a lifetime, until they fly by like billboards on a highway.

You’re at Newark Airport and then, suddenly, you’re flying and driving and driving and flying through Omaha, Sergeant Bluff, Carroll, Nevada (the city), Minden, Des Moines, Sioux City, Atlanta, Salt Lake City, Reno, Los Angeles, Houston, Spartanburg, Union (not the one in Jersey), Manning, Columbia, and Charleston.

I can understand why someone would wanna be president, I’m just not sure why someone would wanna actually run for president. It is grueling and repetitive; flying sucks, and hotels can vary dramatically in quality. It isn’t always easy to get a good meal, let along quality coffee, and if you’re trying to get some regular exercise in, forget that. In a couple of hotels there were “fitness centers” but try hitting the treadmill when schools in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics volleyball championships are staying there, too. A man has to keep his dignity.

But for anyone in the journalism game, it’s a trip you don’t pass up. In many ways it was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done. Meeting total strangers (from strange lands) and talking to them about their politics and their thoughts about where we are as a nation, and who might be able to change things for the better. Explaining who the hell Cory Booker is. (Maybe one in 10 had heard of him.) And convincing people that no one from Jersey ever says “Joisey.”

Watching a campaign in its infancy, struggling to gain its footing, hearing a dramatic, expertly delivered stump speech so many times that you almost have it memorized yourself. Running into the candidate at airports and sometimes three rows ahead of you on the same plane. Kibitzing and then, two hours later, elbowing your way into the gaggle and grilling him on charter schools and lead in the water back home, political strategy, and his low standing in the polls. I don’t know if Booker is going to be able to come out on top in a field of 20. Nobody I know expects him to. But he is indefatigable. And will not only pose for selfies for an hour but now sends personal messages to your boyfriend who couldn’t make the event. (Of course, the campaign tracks all that stuff, but, for the faithful, it’s a pretty cool thing.)

There are months and months to go before the Iowa caucuses, but, you watch, it’s gonna fly by, and before you know it, Election Day will be upon us. So, as I sit here on my final night, in this moderately priced hotel room near the airport, I’m gonna sip this complimentary coffee and fondly recall the billboards passing on the road I’ve just traveled.

The quaint Sioux City Public Museum; that dusty highway detour we had to take because the main road to Minden was flooded out; the breathtaking sight of the Sierra Nevada; the thin, cool air of the state park in Washoe Valley (population 3,019, elevation 8,900 feet) and cool, clean waters at the edge of Lake Tahoe; the fiery sunset over Virginia Lake, in Reno; Easter Sunday on the Venice Beach boardwalk; a surprisingly hip night of rock ‘n’ roll and southern hospitality from the Indian waitress (Ameena) with a southern twang; and the old black couple who took genuine interest in our work and expressed gratitude about what we do. I wore my press pass every day, and I never felt prouder than I did at that moment.

Things really do pass by fast when you’re speeding down the highway. It’s good to keep your eyes open and looking out the window. — David Cruz