The Secret Service man introduced himself as Don-- I knew this was not his real name (surely--a secret?) and invited himself in to have a look around. Jen had spent the entire week in a cleaning frenzy, shampooing the carpets and swiffering the walls, and it was beautiful. We were living on the set of a sitcom. Eventually Don/not Don handed me a schedule. "Do I need to eat this when I'm done reading it?" I asked. He slapped me on the back. The Service guys showed up around noon, and set into drinking shots from a bottle of Scotch. When the motorcade arrived, all flashing lights and blaring police escort, they snapped to attention. I saw the limousine door open and out tumbled Barry O, as I've come to call him-- "el hombre del barrio." He was still glancing over a clipboard which he handed off to a prematurely balding aide and strolled up the drive. He's a very tall and lanky guy, a basketball player. "You'll never make it in this business if you're not tall," he confided to me after a few bottles of wine. "Short, stubby city bosses? Thing of the past. TV shrinks you down, man. Damn TV-- there are people in this country that sit glued to it, GLUED TO IT I AM TELLING YOU"--he spit in my face a little--"GET OFF YOUR ASS!"
I was finding I liked this guy, whatever his connections to global imperialism and warmongering. "What about all this, you know, brutality?" I asked him. "Do we really belong on the other side of the planet?"
He grew serious and sighed. "Somebody's got to run the world, baby. If we don't do it, someone else gonna. Life's a bitch, you know?" We pondered the essential truth of this observation. "You got any… " he lowered his eyes and glanced side to side… "any weed, brother?" I peered at his arching eyebrows. He peered back, which is how we found ourselves an hour later on a street corner in Albany. It's amazing how little he resembles himself with a hat on-- and the "diesel" we scored was excellent.
"You would not believe it, Joel, I am telling you--you would not believe it."
"But do you actually really ever get to decide anything? You just take marching orders from sinister unseen forces, right?"
"Not unseen. There's limits."
"But so essentially, you're a totally hypocritical fraud, right?"
"I have a JOB, Nixon--not sure why I just called you Nixon-- I do what I can DO. What's possible--which is not 'everything.'"
"But-- the backseat. That's what I worry about. Who gets the backseat?"
"You're lucky to be on the bus. That's really how I feel about it. Mud huts. That's where I come from."
"You are the Roger Mudd of mud huts!" I screamed. For the rest of the night, the Service guys kept saying "roger" back and forth in their walkie-talkies. By the time we had to bid our goodbyes, we were hugging like old chums. Man I am going to have a hangover tomorrow.
Born in California, Joel enjoyed a somewhat conventional suburban upbringing, but after a fitful and inconclusive college career, he was diagnosed with wanderlust. Several adventures followed. These days he does audio and video production in the Albany, New York area. His website is www.joelpatterson.us.