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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

In Loving Memory…

Today the world said goodbye to former Ross Perot running mate Admiral James Stockdale. My life intersected with the Admiral's on one occasion, in the fall of 1992. The presidential campaign was in full swing, and Stockdale was visiting supporters at Perot's campaign headquarters on Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa. Mescalito was a big Perot fan, and cajoled both myself and Black Domina into going down to the rally and hoisting some signs.

Admittedly, I was a Bush supporter. I'm not proud. I'm just stating fact. I think by the end I had pulled my allegiance to Perot, if only because he seemed so crazy ("The Republican's threatened to sabotage my daughters wedding!" You know, in retrospect, maybe not that nuts), but who knows? That was my dark period. Still, the idea of meeting a Vice Presidential candidate, especially one who came across as Dave Thomas' wacko cousin, was appealing.
I showed up with my compatriots, and was thrust onto the front lines of electioneering in America: Basically, we were handed signs and told to go yell and scream at passing cars. After a few minutes of this, the more rambunctious among us (namely Mescalito and Domina) decided that is would be more fun to drive by the office and make a ruckus, rather then stand still and attempt to illicit a response.

What a moment. Domina's late-model yellow Buick Skyhawk (Skylark?) raced by the office, signs out the window, horn ablazing! The supporters around me, unaware that the overly supportive car had just left the Perot headquarters parking lot 3 minutes earlier, perked up at this positive sign. Here was a vehicle that understood. This driver was down with the cause! And then, as the Skylark passed, the engine exploded. The sound of an oversized tin can being passed through the chomping metal teeth of a wood chipper. One campaigner turned to another and actually said "I hope he's alright. He's a booster!"

Post pep rally, we hustled inside to await Stockdale's arrival. After some time, the Admiral burst through the door surrounded by handlers and aids. I know he said some words, although I have no idea what they were, and then greeted the supporters. As he began to shake hands, I got face to face with him, shook his hand, and gave him a dollar which I asked him to sign. He obliged, and I kept the dollar for years, until I finally decided to spend it for the hell of it. Why hang on to things, you know?

The next day I awoke for school as usual. Upon sitting down in the kitchen I was stunned to find that the moment of the Admiral signing my dollar had been photographed and ended up on the cover of the Tampa Tribune! There I was. There he was. There was the dollar! There was Domina and Mescalito's hair in the foreground. Hilarious! I am sure my mother still has it. What a proud day.

I understand Stockdale also did some great things involving POWs in Vietnam, etc. That's all fine and dandy. To me, however, he will forever be the guy who appeared next to me on the cover of the Tampa Tribune holding a buck I gave him.

Oh, and as the guy who turned off his hearing aid during the debate. I loved that!