Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Another Dick in Broken Springs

This is a blast from the past, from a time long, long ago… well okay, a year ago last October… when a certain political someone made a campaign stop in Broken Springs.

Sometime on Thursday, the 28th, I learned that Broken Springs, MI, Pickle Town itself was to be graced by a visit by none other than our nation's Republican V.P, Dick Cheney on Friday morning at approximately 9 AM. Not only that but a friend of mine, Sheriff Paul Bunian‘s brother, was to actually help serve the Cheneys at a restaurant called Floppers just out of town.

The Sheriff's brother asked me what I wanted him to ask Dick the next morning. I said he needn't ask him a thing... just spitting in his eggs would be good enough for me. Or perhaps he could accidentally spill his coffee down his lap so it looked like he wet himself. Either is fine, I said. I'm not picky. Well, it's no secret that I oppose Dick Cheney in nearly every way possible, and I saw the Friday morning visit much differently than most of my fellow Pickle Bourghers. I intended to protest his visit with every fiber of my being. There was only one problem. Nothing was organized in the way of an official protest. Even the Southern Democrats out of Puchanan wanted to 'leave this one alone' for who knows what reason, other than the small fact that Democrats have no balls.

So Friday morning rolls around, and I awake at 6:30, fresh off an unusual entire night's sleep. I take my ritualistic shower, stumble around the house like a zombie until I wake up, let the dogs out, feed the fish, check CNN to see if the world's still here. Then I pondered going back to bed, but at the last minute decided against it.

It's not often that the Veep of America visits obscure Broken Springs, after all. In fact, the last big name politician to visit was President Carter looking for a good place to start another peanut farm. If I had gone back to bed and slept through Dick‘s visit, I would've hated myself for the missed opportunity. I knew nothing big would go down - after all, nothing big ever does in Pickle Town - but something told me - dammit, you didn't wake up early for nothing, you whiny little ball-less liberal.

So a little after eight in the morning, I headed out to Dick’s campaign location by foot. I decided to walk only because I didn't want to fight the traffic, and also because I figured the John Kerry sticker on the bumper of my Mazda would target me as a possible terrorist. My strategy was to attend as an ordinary American, curious about all the hoopla. I was undercover, in a ‘plain sight‘ sort of way. I would not protest unless I saw others protesting. Floppers Family Restaurant wasn't all that far a walk, but I did underestimate the distance by a bit. I started off at a brisk pace, moving quickly on the cold wet morning so I didn't miss all the excitement. But as I traveled through town, I spotted one of BS's finest cutting through the back alley behind our most troublesome bar. I figured he'd spotted me headed to the far end of town and would pull out behind me on Carpenter street, only he didn't. So I continued down the hill and towards the bridge, trying not to draw attention to myself in any way. Once on the bridge, the squad car reappears, drives by me slowly, and then turns into Clover Campground just ahead past the bridge. Inside the park, he pulled onto a dirt road leading down to the river, in clear sight of me on the bridge. Then he sat there pointed at me, waiting. I started to get slightly paranoid. But this morning, I was bound and determined that no matter how much the cops seemed to be watching me (and they were watching me) I would make it to my potential protest. Once I crossed the bridge, the cop drove back up that dirt road slowly, keeping in line with me, and I figured by the time I made it to the driveway of Clover Campground, he'd be there to greet me with a nice shiny gun sparkling out of his holster, encouraging me to return home before any trouble was caused. Either that or he might've tried to arrest me for intent to protest, which isn't a crime, but they could call it - intent to incite rioting or whatever bs they could come up with in their tiny little bald heads. My paranoia increases and I almost turned back. Almost. Especially when I saw Broken Springs’s GREEN squad car drive down into the park and start chatting up the other squad car. Everyone knows that Jimmy Kingston himself drives that green car, and Kingston himself once read me my rights over satire.

But like Bush in Iraq, I 'stayed the course' and kept briskly walking to my destination, too scared to see if they were following me, too bull headed to care. I galloped across the drive of Cloverleaf Campground and didn't look back for a long while. When I did, the fuzz was all gone and I breathed a fresh sigh of relief.

Approaching Floppers just a short time later, I saw a crowd of people gathered, carrying dark blue signs that, once I got close enough, I recognized as signs of the devil. There didn't seem to be any protestors, only supporters, waving those signs as if the Cheney bus wouldn't know where to stop without their guidance. A cop was leading a sniffing dog from car to car parked on the side of the road, then from mailbox to mailbox. Upon seeing this, I was happy I didn't drive, because I'm nearly certain that dog would've gotten a whiff of a smelly sock in my glove box or some old pizza in my truck and I'd probably still be in jail instead of here writing this all out.

It was 8:34 and I was early, but I didn't necessarily want to hang around with a bunch of cavemen, so when the county cop asked me in that typical midwestern drawl, 'where ya headed?' I said only, "Through," and pointed up ahead like it was the wild west or something and I had business in the next town over. The county guy seemed a little puzzled and I half expected him to question me further - 'where to exactly, ma'm?' And if so I had a couple half truths lined up in my head. My boyfriend lives on a side street from the main drag. Also, much further up the road is a cemetery I've often visited. I could've said I was going to either place. But nothing further was inquired, as the county cop just told me to walk on the other side of the road and continue 'through.' So I did, making sure to glance over the crowd for possible undercover democrats. A democrat undercover would not be holding a BUSH CHENEY sign, or getting out of a gas guzzling SUV with bumper stickers about prayer in school. I looked for anyone resembling a hippie. Anyone wearing sandels or tie dyes, braids or beads. Nada. I looked for what I consider to be smart looking women, most likely not traveling with a pack of bratty kids. Zip. Senior citizens with airhorns and peace signs taped to their walkers? Zero. The only protestor I saw was this dark haired young boy wearing dark thick rimmed specs and a biker's jacket, silently holding a sign that read: I don't want my friends to die for your war, which I thought was very brave of him.

I continued on, figuring the county guys were making sure I made it to 'through' wherever the hell 'through' was. I walked another half mile up the road and decided to buy a pop at the Strange Line gas station. It was the perfect excuse to turn around, having figured out where 'through' was after all. And so I headed back, on the side of the street where the crowd had gathered to see our infamous president... er, I mean vice prez. It was ten to nine when I was passing back 'through' and a different county cop stopped me, asked me that succinct yet familiar question - where ya headed? 'Through' I said, but added, 'Back to town.' Only he said I had to wait, as the road was blocked off and I had to wait with the others. But he assured me it'd only be about a 30 minute wait.

Secretly I was elated. Of course that was exactly what I wanted to do... wait with the others, observe and study the weird species of human being I’m surrounded by in Broken County, AKA the Republican Voter. Also I was dead tired. I figure I’d walked probably 2 miles by then. I stood next to the sign boy and gave him hints that I was one of his kind through small talk. But I carried on the impression - by telling anyone who'd listen - I just wanted to pass through but they (AKA the Fascists) wouldn't let me, so I don't really want to be here. Plus, it had started to rain harder and I was getting to look like a drowned rat.

Nothing much happens. Dick shows up, in a motorcade of two dozen cop cars and four buses either with no windows or tinted windows. The first two buses say Bush Cheney on the side, the next two are just regular looking buses. I guess they do the mystery act for security reasons. “Wow, cool, there he is,” everyone was saying. “Big hairy deal,” is what I was saying.

So sometime in between all of this, a group of young boys showed up, all chatty like young boys are. There were some young girls too, but they didn't seem nearly as rebellious. I figured they might've been from Anthony’s University but couldn't be sure. They stand around and talk for a bit, and then the boys take out this cloth they had rolled up. Unveiled it read “Quagmire Accomplished,” a mock of George's Mission Accomplished sign on the boat deck when he wore that too tight flight suit last May. So inside I'm going YAY, finally some protestors, finally some action. And of course it causes a stir among the Bush pod people, who all try to hide the huge sign (at least 15 feet long, 4 feet high) with their tiny little 18x12 Bush Cheney signs. Several small arguments break out. Nothing major, unfortunately. No punches thrown. But I mosey on nearby and notice the dark skinned boy holding one end of the sign being interrogated by a Bushie. She was asking him where he was from, assuming by the color of his skin he was, at worst, a terrorist and at best, an illegal immigrant. He said, "I was born here." He started to get a little unnerved by all the questions and his buddy said something to him about needing to go back to school. So I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Do you need someone to hold your sign?"

So there I was holding one end of this huge sign, and the other end was held by this women so far away I couldn't barely see what she was wearing. I began to talk to the other people around me, who'd come with the small group. There was a lovely man by the name of Flore with a British accent, actually from London who reminded me of Tony Blair, only smart. He was holding two signs with all his might... one a Kerry Edwards sign and the other a copy of a sign he said was erected in London, which he was sure to give me a better look at. Tony Blair's head was photo-shopped on the head of a poodle and he was being led around by a leash held by the cowboy Bush. The sign read: Drop Bush, Not Bombs.

Turns out this group of people was from North Bend, which is across the state line, in the very red state of Indiana (which always votes Republican and would do so even if Adolph Hitler had the nomination). The lady holding the other end of the sign was Flore's wife, also with an adorable British accent. There was also a man with them who seemed to pronounce everything with a Z, originally from Norway. Well, needless to say, I just fell in love with these people right away. I kept on saying, 'I love your accent' which is probably a very Yankee thing to say, isn't it? But I couldn't help it. You'd think I'd never met a British person before. But I have watched quite a bit of BBC. The protest people were so grateful that I'd helped them out, but disappointed that they were the only protestors. They figured that since BS is technically a college town, it'd be more liberal. Ha! I had to straighten them out there. People whose beliefs and practices include vegetarianism partly inspired by a belief that meat makes you horny are by no means liberal.

Once Cheney had his three pounds of bacon and double scoop of scrambled eggs (only kidding, he only ordered water) his bus hooked a right and he made his way through the grand metropolis that is Broken Springs, MI. If he blinked, he might've missed it.

I wonder now if they served him genuine tap water, straight from the flows of the filthy St. Joe River? There isn’t a Broken Springer alive who hasn’t at least once taken a whiz in that water. So if the Veep drank some tap water, there’s a chance that he’s taken a little of each of us back to Washington with him whether he knows it or not. I’ll drink to that.

When everything that was to happen happened, I said goodbye to all my accented friends and started towards home. While walking back I had the privilege of seeing two military men dressed in full camouflage pop out of the woods. It was like walking down a street in Vietnam. I heard someone say there were about 20 of them total, hiding in plain sight but no one knew they were there. On my way back to town, my mother drove by in her van and beeped the horn at me. She rescued me from the rain and gave me a lift into town, wanting to know all about everything. And I wanted to tell her so we decided to go to breakfast at the other breakfast place in town, Dickie‘s. I seriously had to pee too, and had walked up quite an appetite. So we sit, and she starts explaining how she was trying to get through to join me but they had the road blocked off and wouldn‘t let her in. Isn‘t that funny, I told her. They wouldn‘t let me out. I started telling her all about everything and just then, you'll never guess who walks through the door.

No, not Cheney. Someone far far worse.

Police Chief James 'Jimmy' Kingston. He approaches me and in almost a confrontational way asks, "So how far didja get? Did you see him?" like he was God or something. Cheney, I mean, not Kingston. I said no, that I only saw the buses, and Jimmy made a comment about seeing me 'huffin' down there, across the bridge. And I thought of saying, 'You could've given me a ride, ya prick,' but think better of it, as my mom's sitting there and all.

Kingston had sat down, and three other Broken Springs officers join him. And my mom keeps on spouting anti-Bush rhetoric quite loud enough for all of them to hear. I keep trying to hush her down, worried that her mouth will land us both in the clink. Having any political opinions left of Pat Buchanan was dangerous in Broken Springs that day, or come to think of it, any day. I tell her everything, watching my words carefully because the cops were sitting just ten feet away. It was just a few minutes past eleven when she jokingly made the comment, "Boy, today would've been a good day to rob a bank," because all our boys in blue were busy protecting a Dick. I don't think the cops heard, but I hush her up anyway and not more than ten minutes later, a call comes over their police radios announcing a robbery in progress at Three Fifths Bank, just a block away. The cops jump from their chairs and out the door, abandoning toast, waffles, and coffee. My mom exclaims, all excited, 'Didja hear that? The bank's being robbed!' I hadn't heard the words on the radios so I figured she was just foolin', but sure enough, the bank was really being robbed as Cheney was making his way out of Broken Springs. Then my mom says about the cops, "Hey, they didn't leave a tip!" Nor did they pay for their breakfasts before they left. Talk about highway robbery!

So... they didn't catch the bank robber until several months later in Wisconsin. We were all over the news for a few days. You gotta love a town that writes the satire itself, eh? I could’ve never came up with an idea as clever as “Bank gets nicked when V.P. visits.” You should’ve heard people talking about it around town. I heard the term Keystone Kop mentioned more than I care to count.

Rumor was that Bush was also thinking of paying Broken Springs a visit. But lucky for us (and our IRAs) he decided against it.

In retrospect, I’m grateful the Veep didn’t do any hunting while he was here. I would've hated to see him crowd in on Daniel Shame’s territory.

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