Saturday the first of September arrived as an extraordinarily fine late summer’s morning. The squeaky clean, blissfully blue skies extolled nature’s purity and charm.
I would no more miss a Pinedorado parade — the quintessential cultural exposition in the small-town America genre — than I would fail to brush my teeth in the morning.
After a spinach and mushroom omelet at Creekside Gardens, I made a pilgrimage to the eastern edge of the business district in the East Village to check out the floats, marching bands and other parade entries lining up.
There, walking alone past Las Cambritas, was a former California lieutenant governor who is running for U.S. Congress and whose name I momentarily misplaced. But I called out, “Aren’t you …?” and yes he was, Able Maldonado, ready willing and able to pivot and arrive directly in front of me with hand outstretched as office-seekers are robotically known to do.
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Looking informal yet well-groomed in his starched white shirt, the candidate smiled and moved to a position maybe 2 feet away from my face.
Maldonado no doubt figured I was just another citizen, and I was. Let’s see where this politician stands, I thought to myself. He spoke in an unyielding voice, seriously louder than it needed to be because he was so close I could discern what he ate for breakfast. Maybe he approaches males this way — surely he doesn’t stand this close to female voters.
With a steely, laser-focused gaze locked into my eyes—never for a brief moment did he allow his stare to deviate from its target— Maldonado stated that civility must be re-established in the corridors of power in Washington, D.C.
I agreed, but reminded the senator that the U.S. Congress currently has an approval rating of 9 percent. Why would anyone want to join an organization that 91 percent of the American public views as a wasteful, haggling group of contrarians grabbing money from special interest scoundrels with divisive agendas?
“That’s why I’m running — to change that,” he said, touching his right index finger to my chest. Wow, a politician seeking my vote actually touches my chest?
“Where do you stand on same-sex marriage, senator?” I inquired (he’s also served as a state senator). Maldonado said he was the only Republican in the California State Senate who voted for Harvey Milk Day.
He mentioned what a great and courageous man Milk was prior to being shot to death by Dan White on that bleak day in 1978. I let him go on about Milk before attempting to break in — something that, trust me, is not an easy task, albeit he routinely interrupted me.
“But senator, you didn’t answer the question about same-sex marriage,” I responded, backing away from him a full step. He stepped forward to regain his close proximity to my face, and inside I chuckled because I have shed 35 pounds over the past three months and, sans that obtuse potbelly, he could get that much closer to me, the ubiquitous male Cambria voter.
“I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman,” he said, prior to launching into a story about a relative whose son married his male partner. I reminded him that the President of the United States supports same-sex marriage and he quipped, “It took him long enough.”
We chatted about citizens’ rights to decide whom they would prefer to marry, and he closed his portion of that topic saying,
“I’m getting there” — which was exactly what Obama kept saying when pressed on same sex marriage in his first three years in the White House, a fact that earlier had irked Maldonado.
Maldonado found compatibility with my viewpoint by stressing that he does not support dumping Medicare or privatizing Social Security — positions his party’s ticket (Romney
and Ryan) has extolled — and with that, we shook hands and he hoofed it towards the convertible he would ride in the parade.
As I settled into my camp chair on the curb in front of the medical building, the opinionated passions of an overly eager, pushy politician quickly gave way to the cacophony of marching bands and sirens. As the parade passed by, children charmed us with singing and women walked their dogs with elegance in this grand, albeit proletarian, procession.
The dog days of summer — bringing us Pinedorado and the parade — are here and gone in what seems a heartbeat. But Mark Twain’s cryptic quotes — that bring us down to earth — are here forever. To wit, “There is no distinctly native American criminal class — except Congress.”
Freelance journalist and Cambria resident John FitzRandolph’s monthly column is special to The Cambrian. Email him at john firstname.lastname@example.org.