Sunday, August 31, 2008

Photo Opp


I've been working hard to promote the new book, WHILE IN DARKNESS THERE IS LIGHT, which deals with Howard Dean's brother Charlie, killed in Laos in 1974. I figured Howard was in Vermont recovering from the convention over the long weekend and on Saturday morning emailed him to see if I could meet him in town for a photo, which I might use to generate some attention from glossies. He said sure, meet him at the nearby park at 10 a.m.

Saturday night H and I had friends over and stayed up late, and Sunday morning I got a cuppa coffee, crawled back into bed with the remote, and got engrossed in the 1967 movie, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK, with a very young Robert Redford and Jane Fonda when she was cute and before she became completely obnoxious. I was entertained by the dialogue and the scene changes and, since I teach creative writing with some really fine playwrites, thought how the movie must have made a great stageplay.

At 9:30, when the credits rolled and my coffee cup was empty, I got up and strolled to the loft to check my email. There was a message from Howard saying to meet him at his house at 10 a.m. I was still in my sleep shirt, hair askew, teeth unbrushed, not a whiff of makeup, and it's a 45 minute drive to town. I dashed an email saying I'd be 15 minutes late, did what little I could in sixty seconds or so, grabbed my keys and flipped myself out the door. Then I realized I didn't have the camera. Where was it? Yelled for H, who directed me to the table next to his chair, snatched the camera, sped out the door again.

I used to jog past Howard's place when he was governor, so no problems finding it. It's the house in the nicely groomed middle-class neighborhood near the lake (you can't see the lake from his house) and the bashed up yellow mailbox. I pulled up under the basketball net and went into the garage, where there are no cars but stuff piled around the walls. The door to the family room was ajar, and I yelled "Hello?" Howard came out wearing a polo shirt and running pants, torn sneakers splattered with paint, one with a brown lace and one with an orange lace, his reading glasses hung over the front opening of the shirt.

He saw I was alone and said, "Who's going to take the picture?" "I thought someone from your family would be here," I said. It was Sunday, and his doctor wife was working. This is a family who takes their professions seriously. I said I'd seen a neighbor gardening down the road and maybe we could recruit her.

So we hoofed down the street, both of us looking pretty groggy, I have to say. Howard walked with a little limp, which I mentioned, and which he brushed off. "It's nothing," he said. I suspected it was something, but he didn't want to talk about it so I didn't press.

The neighbor introduced herself as Sue. She was a middle-aged woman in a sort of baseball hat, thin and healthy looking, whose husband runs an international school in Ethiopia, and they were about to head out for four months to live in Addis Ababa, the spelling of which I may have butchered. She fiddled with H's camera and managed to take a couple shots of Howard and me standing in the middle of the middle-class street, after which she gave us a tour of her yard, which was much spiffier than Howard's. It was evident that she'd invested much more time and effort in hers than he had in his. But he's got far less time and far more important matters to tend to. And I doubt he hosts many dinner parties or has many magazines knocking his door for photo opps. So I forgive him his lack of botanical aesthetic.

Anyway, we stood with neighbor Sue and chatted about the best material for driveways and drainage ditch depths and ice buildup in the gutters in winter and the quality of public schools in the area, and then Howard and I made our way back to his driveway and my car. The evidence is posted here. I wish I'd had time to do my hair. And maybe give myself a facial. And ironed my shirt. And lost five pounds. But, hey, it's the truth.

1 comment:

Writing Consultants Network said...

Hi Ellie,
Don't be so hard on yourself--you look better unkempt than most people do after serious make-overs. Not only does the picture of the two of you look great, it comes off looking very natural and true--the way Vermonters should present themselves to the world-at-large.

Best of luck with the new book. I wish you much success and look forward to seeing you soon at the upcoming Burlington Book Fest. (I will be volunteering at the League of VT Writers' booth, Sunday from 11am-1pm, so stop by.)
--Linda Cruise, Richmond, VT