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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fringeville #133 July 12 2015

...Mr. NoAss is dreaming chicken-wing-dreams. I just want my fricking belly rubbed.

It was, as my wife posted on her Facebook page, just another Saturday night at our place. Saturdays are a challenge for me. I work all night at the hospital, then shoot down the hill to the shoe store to do the bookkeeping. On a weekday, I'd try to get to bed around 2PM and sleep till dinner time, eat, and schlepp off to work again at the hospital.

But not on Saturdays, gang. I stay up and try to get something done. I go till I just can't go any more. Usually that's sometime around 8 or 9 in the evening.

Yesterday, I mowed most of the jungle I call a lawn after I got home from the shoe store. I showered, took a one-hour power nap, and then went to Chili's for dinner with my wife and daughter. I came home with a full belly and sat down on the couch. That's the last thing I remember until after midnight, when I left the couch and crawled into bed. My family took the shot above. Notice the useless mass of dog flesh using me as a pillow. Of course, by that point I was pretty useless myself.

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Yes, I hammered Jeb Bush for saying folks should work more hours. Yes, I knew instinctively what he was actually talking about: a pathetic work force participation rate. It just frustrates me that we might be looking at a Bush-Clinton race where one candidate needs someone to filter or explain everything he says and the other can't seem to recall she was subpoenaed. Really, America. Can't we do better?

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While I'm on the subject of politics, I've decided this is my last term as a Republican committee member. I've been doing it a long time. It has been, by and large, a tremendous experience. But is time to move on. When the Primary election comes next year, I won't be on the ballot for Committee. If written in, I will not accept. I'm turning a page. Was it worthwhile? Yes, absolutely.  To me it validates the belief that you can do, or at least attempt to do, anything you wish in America. I had no political chops when I started. At the very first event I attended locally, I ended up at a table sitting six feet from Bob Freaking Dole. And for once in my life I was speechless. He probably thought I was choking on a chicken wing because I sat there wide-eyed, mouth open, and unable to speak.

Bob Dole

The only other times I was truly tongue-tied occurred at the same event, a county Lincoln Day fundraiser. First, I ran into state Senator Lisa Baker in the lobby. She is a remarkable woman, and has more smarts than Buffalo has chicken wings. I stuck out my hand, and my brain intended to say: "Senator Baker, I am so happy to meet you."

What emerged from my mouth was: "Lisa!" And I stood there with that same face I showed Bob Dole. Over the years, I've had the chance to talk with her on a number of occasions. She is always gracious, and we've had conversations about politics and tapping trees for syrup.

State Senator Lisa Baker speaking at a GOP picnic on Urbanski Farms

At the same Lincoln Day event, Renita Fennick introduced me to former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. I have always liked Ridge. And I was totally tongue tied at first. He had ample opportunity to walk away, but he stuck with me until I regained my footing. Truly a classy guy. And we had something in common. We are both hearing impaired. I remember we talked about my cochlear implant (I think I had just one at the time). We probably talked for five minutes. I wish I could get a mulligan on that conversation, because I really enjoyed meeting him.

Former Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge

All the above came because I wrote myself in as a Committee Member. One vote. Cast by me. And so many wonderful things came out of that single vote written in my horrible penmanship on the old style 'pull the lever and FEEL your votes happening' voting machines.

Over the years, I also had the chance to meet a lot of other local and national candidates, as well as elected leaders. I remember fondly the very first event I put together as Treasurer of the 6th District Republican Committee. Lou Barletta was contemplating a run for Congress, and I invited him to speak at our Christmas Party. I've done many other events, but that first one was special to me. I've seen Lou many, many times over the years and that Christmas party always comes to mind.

My brother Bill, a New Hampshire radical, often asks me how "my buddy Lou Barletta" is doing. Here's the funny thing: As I've said, I've seen Lou many times over the years. Now here's a blow by blow of virtually every conversation we've ever had:

"...hi, Lou, thanks for coming."
"Thanks for inviting me."


"Nice talk, James" (Once at an event the year I ran for State Representative)
"Great speech, Lou." (Every time I hear him)

These conversations happen over a very quick handshake. We never have the time to shoot the breeze because I'm usually doing fifty things at once to move an event along, and Lou is working the room.

Probably the two most memorable experiences of my years in politics were, first, my campaign for State Representative in 2010. I had zero money. But my hearing had just been restored, and I did my campaign on the soles of my feet. I knocked on thousands of doors on the weekends and after work during the week. I can count on one hand the number of times I had a door slammed in my face. The whole campaign was almost a religious experience. I mean here I was, a schmuck from Plains, walking into the heart of a very heavily Democratic district and talking to total strangers. Some called my campaign a suicide mission, because Eddie Day Pashinski was seen as unbeatable. But I just concentrated on the next door. I got pounded at the polls, but received nearly 29% of the vote. Not bad for an unknown schmuck.

The other remarkable journey was working with Laureen Cummings when she ran for the 17th Congressional District. We criss-crossed all the counties of the district on a shoe-string budget. More often than not, we were in Bess, my campaign office on wheels. We had, and still have, great political chemistry. It was an uphill battle every step of the way. We were outnumbered and out-funded. But every place she went, she earned votes. On Election day in 2012, we stopped at a poll in Northampton county where hundreds were lined up to vote. She worked the entire line. She won that polling place easily. It was something remarkable to watch.

I guess what I'm trying to do, very poorly because I'm probably just rambling, is highlight the fact that all of these things happened in my life because I made a single decision. I wanted to make some small difference. I hope I did. I think I did. But I'm older now. I've had so many other things thrown at me the past several years. It's been tough at times. But I persevere because that's who I am. I've also seen my family grow as grandchildren have been born, and my nieces and nephews have formed families of their own. There's less road ahead than the road behind. It's time to invent myself again.

Have a great week.

P.S. I might run for Congress just to annoy people. Which photo should be the face of my campaign if I do?

...the only genuinely enthused candidate?


...the door-to-door candidate (seen with the one and only Bess)?

...the post-election counting candidate?
Yeah, maybe I should run just to tick everyone off. And, of course, to eat all the wings at any campaign events. A bucket of wings on every table. There's a motto for you.
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