I was up on Friday by about 8 o’clock as I wanted to see my hosts off. They are traveling for a week or so – first New York for a visit, then London, Mike’s home town. Their car, Uber or whatever, would come soon.
I washed and dressed and went out to clear my own car of ice, while Mike kindly made me a cup of cappuccino. He clearly is a relaxed traveler, no frenzied packing or searching for a lost phone charger or going through a checklist of passport, tickets etc. as I tend to do. And he and Kim are obviously relaxed in another way: they are leaving me in their house for another four days while they are gone. I know that I’m not going to walk off with anything, but how can they know me well enough after three or four days to agree? Not everything in the house can be bolted down. I haven’t been upstairs, where they live, and have no intention of going there, but downstairs there are various things one could take – kitchen machines, books (who steals books? actually that would be my one temptation) and a very large tv screen that I suppose actually is bolted to the wall.
Mike shows me how to work some things, where to throw out the garbage – if I remember I can put it out Sunday night – how to work the tv and so forth. They are a nice young couple and I am impressed by how light their footprint is, not just in the sense of ‘carbon’ — they do not own a car — but another cultural connection: they do not really have a tv. There is that big screen in the living room, but it does not receive broadcast channels and they don’t have cable. They use only Netflix. (I don’t exactly understand the workings of Netflix which are doubtless very simple, but I’m ashamed to tell Mike that as he works in the tech industry. So does Kim; she said they are both marketers of some sort, for… processes?)
The house itself is old and lovely. Kim told me it had been renovated before they bought it a couple of years ago. Some of the floors are a bit sloped here and there, but the wood sparkles, and it has old-fashioned high radiators (I’ve found I can put a clean pair of socks on the one in my room and get them nice and toasty before putting them on for the day’s work). The bones are good, as they say, and Kim and Mike have furnished it beautifully and simply. I tell Mike I’m especially enamored of two photos in my bathroom here. They are close-ups of hummingbirds. The bird in each photo is perfectly framed in mid-flight, against an emerald green background; one picture has a pink-purple flower, out of focus, in the background. Always willing to compliment nice people when I can, I ask him if he took the photos himself, but no, he does not recall from whom they got them; “Kim would know.” (How many times have I said exactly that – ‘Pam would know’ – when people ask about objects in our own house? I don’t mean to stereotype gender roles, right here in the middle of a stupefyingly ‘woke’ Democratic primary, but there it is.)
I see them off at the door. As they leave I can’t resist saying “have a good trip, kids” and Kim laughs. I’m still trying to get used to there being fully functional, working adults young enough to be my children.
Afterwards I walk down to the Red Arrow and order an omelet. Naturally, as I’m sitting at the counter waiting for that, I’m asked by someone standing behind me if perhaps would I mind talking with them for a minute? Two someones: a young man with a microphone and a young woman with a smile. I do much better this time. I hear myself saying insightful things, wisely evaluating different candidates, accurately recounting points made by certain ones (Buttigieg, Klobuchar from yesterday) that exemplify or differ from my own views. See? Just give me a day or two to get acclimated and I can spout the same BS as Chris or Rachel or, God forbid, Sean.
It helps that my interviewer’s interest is in foreign relations, not something hard like health insurance, or some topic on which I’m hopelessly reactionary (many). On foreign policy I can criticize Trump from the right – for abandoning the Kurds for example – and not have to pretend I am a reasonable moderate. Of course I don’t know my inquisitor’s agenda, if she has one. When we finish I ask her name and she’s happy to give me her card: Caroline Gray. My daughter is Caroline, I say, and Ms. Gray says something about all the best people. She is a research associate at the Eurasia Group Foundation (never heard of them but they’re in New York City) and she also does a podcast for the EGF called ‘None of The Above.’ That’s a most appealing title, far as I’m concerned, but sheds no light on their position – nor does the podcast’s stated aim of “seeking new answers to America’s foreign policy questions.” If you’re interested, look them up and let me know.
I should mention that there’s a space for online comments to this blog, somewhere below the post. And if you want to email directly, I am Arthur Washington (you’re supposed to know that already) and my email is email@example.com.
My food comes and after a while I’m chatting with the guy at the next stool; Andreas is from Germany, here along with his cousin, and their friend Magnus who is, if memory serves, from Norway. They were in Iowa last week, and drove here (!) – real travelers. As we’re finishing we all meet two young women hovering behind us (as is the custom at the Red Arrow for those waiting for seats). These two pals, up together from DC, are Giovanna who is from Italy, and Celia, who is French. We’ve got a regular EU going here. Celia gives me her card (I gallantly give her my blog card, as if I were a real person). Celia Belin is a Visiting Fellow at Brookings, at their Center on the United States and Europe.
I would have lingered with Giovanna and Celia for some time – the hiring Fellows at Brookings are clearly on top of their game – but duty called. The walk back up Lowell was in steady rain and I was a cold drowned rat on my return to the house, and on top of that felt generally afflicted: shivers, headache, lethargy. I had hoped to write some posts, but Pam would tell me to take a nap, so I did.
I was up in time to dress for the Bernie Sanders Debate Watching Party. It was at an indoor sports complex just across the river – ten minutes’ drive – that brought back fond memories of taking James to winter baseball practices. The AstroTurf floor was cleared and filled with rows of folding chairs, a big screen in front, and some refreshments available in back: pizza, Cokes, hot dogs, all the food being a fundraiser for a Little League team. I bought a Coke (my go-to remedy for a headache, which persisted a bit) for a dollar and gave them an extra dollar for their trip. At the word ‘party’ I’d been hoping for a bar – even of course a cash bar – but no such luck. A Coke would do.
Before the debate came on, we all were treated (no sarcasm – he was terrific) to a warm-up harangue from none other than Michael Moore, who is a big Bernie supporter.
Moore is a hunched, slouching, bear. He appeared to have slept in his clothes and Detroit Tigers cap, and is about as far from my politics as, well, Bernie himself, but he is witty, well-read and laugh-out-loud funny. Having seen him, I might even sometime watch one of his film polemics now.
Also before the debate came on, I was interviewed. (Yes this really happens that often in New Hampshire during Primary Week; you almost literally trip over reporters at these events.) This person was Sarah Larsen (Larson?), who writes for The New Yorker, including its online edition. I was awed. She laughed. I told her I would try to speak in complete sentences.
I hope they were good ones. I don’t remember what I said, or even what topics we discussed; surely something about Sanders and the other candidates. The New Yorker! I had arrived!! My headache was gone. I was pleased as punch (homage to Hubert Humphrey whom some of you will remember). And, to my shame, I’m not even a subscriber. Perhaps my words, whatever they were, will live on in some dusty (digital) archive at The New Yorker’s offices. Or maybe they’ll fire Sarah next week for not getting better material. I hope not.
I will not recap the debate. You either saw it, missed it, or avoided it. I will tell you that, feeling revived and cognizant as always of my obligations to history and my vast readership (have I cracked a dozen yet? don’t know) I went home and stayed up doing the posts of Thursday’s events. You can’t let the past days get ahead of you. We actual journalists know that.