Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Hi Chunky:

I was in Portland for two days on an assignment. That's why I wasn't around. Portland has some interesting cab drivers. One was from Tibet. He was a total chain smoker with a crazy great high-mountain Asian sort of face. He told me I should go to India.

Two were Ukrainian.

Portland wore me out. Last night I saw "Spirited Away," and I have to say it's my favorite children's entertainment since the Harry Potter books. It's sort of a cross between Harry Potter and "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," but Japanese. In my hotel room I got to watch TV, which I don't normally do, and all I wanted was to watch the Disney channel. I was feeling so violated by Grownup Reality, I couldn't even watch the last game of the World Series. (Yay Angels!)

Disney had a really cool movie about three kids (a smart, brave brunette boy, his less-brave red-headed friend, and their precocious deadpan girl buddy. ok. they don't get points for originality). The kids discover a mummy and have to help him return to eternity. In the process they also must fight off adults, who are all either idiots or evil, except for the supergeek who runs the occult bookstore and is almost acceptable. (I love all storytelling in which grownups are completely marginalized.) It was a cross between ET and Harry Potter and I loved it. There was a little neighborhood kid who's clearly insane and YELLS everything he says, and spouts accidental wisdom like the town fool/Cassandra in "Troilus and Cressida." He carries a security blanket but yells, "IT'S NOT A BLANKET IT'S A RAG I CARRY IT AROUND TO WIPE UP STUFF IN CASE I SPILL ANYTHING." I can so relate to that.

The Portland trip deserves more attention than I will give it at the moment, but let's just say that Oregon is OK with me. Know why? Well, downtown Portland has these very tiny one-way streets and old, old streetfront shops and bars, and reminded me of St. Paul crossed with downtown Lisbon, because it also has streetcar tracks and hills. It felt loved. They also have the country's largest bookstore.

Outside the movie theater, an old lady in a tiara had petitions to "Kick Enron's Lying Cheating Ass of of Oregon!" How awesome is that, I ask you.

Earlier, I was walking to the movie theater in the chilly dark, crossing a park of golden-leaved trees, and I saw a group of people huddled in a circle with candles stuck in paper cups (they make a pretty light). I asked someone sitting down if it was a memorial, and for whom. He said, Senator Wellstone.

Aw. Oregon's all right.

The people were maybe 40 percent transplanted Minnesotans. It seemed everyone had a "Paul Story" to share: One woman had taken his intro class on grassroots movements at Carleton in 1980. She said he had this manic energy, and said stuff like, "I don't want you to take my word for everything, I want you to think for yourselves!"

Another person said a friend's family had travelled from their rural area to St. Paul for the State Fair, and the mother tried to find Paul for two days at the DFL booth. Finally she caught him, and said, "I've been looking for you for two days!" And he said, "That's because every time I saw you, I went the other way!"

I told my story about meeting him at the San Francisco airport. It was exactly one year ago, on Oct. 27. The airports were crazy at that time with 9/11 madness. He was walking around with a woman aide, it appeared, and I followed him like a creepy stalker back and forth along these confusing ropes and whatnot near the baggage claim. Finally, he stood still, and I approached him as quietly as possible. He was such a sexy and open man, but he didn't make you feel small, the way that some men try to do. He made you feel like a real person, too.

I told him he was my hero, and the greatest politician of my lifetime. I could say that honestly, and without deliberation, because I had already been thinking about it. I have seen some good and great leaders in my lifetime, and people who changed the world. But nobody ever ever ever had the total package---until Wellstone. He had it all and then some, and he was the first politician I ever trusted--and probably the last, too.

He shook his head, "Oh no, I don't deserve that!"

You can take it, I said.

You're a hero, he said.

Oh, whatev! (I am so fucking sure!)

You are my hero forever and ever, amen.

Your life exploded all of a sudden, and I think it sent out fiery sparks in all directions. You may have started small fires in hearts all over the country. Your energy does not dissipate into empty air. We absorb it too, you know.

I want to see how you live on through other people. I want to know what happens when a great man dies. I want to witness the physics of love.



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