I arrived in the parking lot of the strip mall in northern Manchester where the Bill Richardson office is located yesterday afternoon just before 3:45 under a sweltering sun as far as late September is concerned and spent a few minutes applying deodorant, cologne, aftershave, and toothpaste and gathering all my debate supplies while R. Kelly blared out of my stereo. Laptop, moleskine notebook, two pens, pack of gum, sunglasses, Times crossword puzzle, and a flask of Jim Beam. I was ready to go.
Moments later I was joined in the lot by my traveling companion for the way up, we then headed over to the bench next to La Carreta and talked running and Holyoke and college majors while we waited for the Tufts for Richardson charter bus to take us to the promised land, Hanover, NH. Within ten minutes the bus had arrived. It was, literally, a school bus. Yellow exterior, brown interior, profane statements carved into the pleather seatbacks, the works.
The students on board, 38 of them mostly clad in Tufts t-shirts, were pretty happy to be there. I did a quick introduction and snapped a picture, eliciting a few cheers, a few shy ducks beneath the seats and a few devil horns in the back of the bus. Six or seven of them asked if the picture would show up on facebook. Of course it would. Good times.
After the Richardson staffers ran into the office to grab a few supplies, we embarked on our trip up to Hanover. On the interstate the staffers went over the itinerary with the journalists and discussed amongst themselves the best strategies for psyching up the crowd. I was never really paying much attention, though. I went straight for the crossword puzzle as soon as we hit the Hooksett tolls.
It was an easy crossword, most likely a Monday, and I was finished by Warner. I paused once to ask the college students if they knew the common ending to a standard enzyme, but they only informed me that I was on the wrong bus if I was looking for science majors. Sad, but true.
The completed crossword was actually a blessing in disguise. As we slowly approached Hanover, the fall foliage showed itself more and more clearly, and when we hit the pass near the Sunapee Lakes region it was looking beautifully and depressingly like full blown fall. Holy shit, here we are. Prime campaign time. My first live debate. Summer keeps flying farther and farther back in the rearview. So did the rest of I-89. While the Tufts students practiced their cheers for the upcoming free speech pen, I started out the window looking to see who had put up the most yard signs, and who had at least put them in the best places.
Bill Richardson, he's so fine!
He'll be President in '09!
He'll be President in '09!
College cheerleading, you gotta love it. And with that we had arrived in Hanover. The Jumbos and I went our separate ways, they to their rendezvous point and me to the free media dinner. To be quite frank, the occasional free dinner is the reason why I blog. That, and the glory.
...to be continued