30 September 2006

Myopes at Bouncercon

"Myope" must be a real word, but I don't have my OED with me so I can't look it up. It was used the other night at dinner by Catherine Manning, better known to her reading public as Elizabeth Ironside, to describe herself; her vision, actually. While we may have had to fight a revolution against them, and their lawyers do look ridiculous in those filthy wigs and robes, and I must admit to cringing when confronted with all the lord and lady stuff, and the Windsors? well, enough said. The English did, after all, invent English, something for which I am deeply indebted to them. And a word as fine as "myope"? Sometimes you just have to give it to them.

Lady Catherine - I'm poking a little fun at her here because although she is apparently entitled to the honorific, it might embarrass her were I to use it - and her husband Sir David, the U.K. ambassador to the U.S. (who I think would have laughed me away from the dinner table had I called him by his title) were at Bouchercon in Madison, Wisconsin to help promote her books. The titles, previously out of print in the U.S. are being reissued by Felony & Mayhem Press, which is owned by my pal Maggie Topkis - also one of the owners of Partners & Crime bookstore in New York City.

This is all by way of saying that I had a grand time at a very small dinner party - five of us in total - with the Ambassador and his Lady - Catherine and David - who seem to embody just what you would want from diplomats. They were friendly, warm, easy going, smart, funny, well read, well travelled and well informed. The sort of folk anyone in their right mind would want to be friends with. I was very impressed when David told us about how he had gone to Dodge City, Kansas not long after being sent to Washington D.C. to become what is almost certainly Great Britain's most important ambassador. He wanted to get a sense of America away from the big, sophisticated cities. He picked Dodge because he had watched Gunsmoke many years ago and it was around the agricultural center of the country. He spent three days there, talking to everybody he could about whatever he could. He returned surprised, a bit horrified by some of what he came across and heartened by some other of what he encountered.

Perhaps it's the difference between the foreign (diplomatic) service and politicians, but somehow it gave me a vague sense of optimism that there might yet be hope for the world.

Bouchercon, the annual mystery writers and readers convention, struck me as a bit of a mess initially. No one seemed to have the slightest idea of what, where or when things were happening. There was a terrible, near-financially ruinous screwup with Maggie's new book by "Elizabeth Ironside". I was grumpy about the panel I was scheduled to be on. Overall, the early stages put me in a grumpy mood.

But then things turned around. They sorted themselves out. In large part due to the tireless efforts of Jodi and Kate - two of the organizers. Events happened as they were supposed to. People milled about and chatted each other up. Contacts were made. Books were sold and signed. People had fun in the bars. (We're writers, we drink, or we're sober drunks. It seems to be an occupational hazard.) I was almost constantly busy, on my feet a good 14 to 16 hours or more a day and found the whole thing enjoyable and useful.

It helped that this was my third one. The first one I almost swore I'd never come back. I didn't know anybody. I didn't have a book out yet. I moped in corners. This time I can't even keep track of all the people I know from previous years. It's like trying to walk down the street in Chicago with my sister Nancy - the world's most gregarious and friendly human being - it takes forever to make a block because she has to stop and chat with nearly everyone we come across.

Anyhow, it was great, just what I wanted from a conference. And on Sunday I got in the car and headed south, then west for home.

Before all that, Chicago, Barbara's Books in Oak Park was the last gasp of the Disoriented Express. It was a disappointingly small crowd, but a nice enough one as they always seem to be. I have yet to have a heckler. I'm looking forward to one eventually though. The bookstore people and the attendees seemed to enjoy the show. We had six total, not counting the bookstore employees, but counting my sister. I'd estimate them at a reasonable 1,005 lbs. That brings the tour total to a close at:

More than four tons of people, 8,915 lbs of readers (excluding bookshop employees) viewed the DisOriented Express!

From Chicago we took the back route up to Madison, along small, beautiful Wisconsin country roads, pausing to take photos along the way. What we were photographing was Colin's Dilys award: with a fish shaped mailbox, a red, white and blue cow for Bush - Cheney 2004, a refrigerator compartment of cheese, the Welcome to Madison sign and other things. Fun was had. We showed the entire slide show of our silly Dilys photos to a group of people who'd come to hear Colin at a luncheon and we had them rolling in the aisles. (The Dilys is awarded by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association to the author of the book they most enjoyed selling during the year.) Here's some pictures we took all along the way:

Driving across country, I was once again happy to be reminded of what a remarkably diverse and beautiful country this is. There are few places on the planet that offer as many different types of terrain, flora and fauna and in the Fall the color palette is just about overwhelming. That and despite all the carryings on about how America is becoming such an intolerant, fundamentalist Christian place, I encountered a whole lot less evidence of that (although I did come across some) than I did of the basic friendly, tolerant, good nature of most of my fellow Americans. I think if everyone in the country could drive across it once every ten years or so, and talk to a lot of the sort of folk that they don't usually talk with at home, there might be a lot fewer misunderstandings and fear of each other.

Does that sound Pollyanna-ish? Did Pollyanna ever drive 926 miles - North Platte, Nebraska to Mesquite, Nevada - in one day?

25 September 2006

The World's Largest Prarie Dog

wasn't all that impressive. It was made of chipped concrete and looked like an ill-informed attempt at an art deco prarie dog. The real prarie dogs, that kept popping out of their holes all around us, were much better looking although not nearly so cooperative for photographs. The highlights of Prarie Dog Town, somewhere near Hays, Kansas, were the snakepit - 55 to 60 rattlers that the guy who ran the place startled into rattling for us - and the postcard selection, which was the usual middle of nowhere traditional fare: jackalopes, cowboys herding cattle while riding enormous rabbits, oversized trout and corn and a very fine selection of monstrous prarie dogs. Once I get to my own computer and a scanner, I can post some of the photographic evidence.

The drive, as it always is across the Great Plains, was all about weather. Most people hate driving across the middle of the country because they seem to think it's featureless. I guess they're looking for mountains, or big lakes, or forests or cities or something - so of course they're disappointed. What they fail to take account of is that the weather is the primary geographic feature of the Great Plains. The roiling clouds, the puffy big clouds, the huge expanse of blue sky, lightning, thunder, rain, hail - all of it is every bit as much a part of the terrain as any mountain or river or lake ever is. I love driving through eastern Colorado, Kansas and Missouri. To me it seems as if I'm driving through a landscape that is in constant turmoil, that is undergoing far more change far more rapidly than almost any other I can think of.

We stopped for the night in Salina where I took Colin to the Vientiane Market - a small but surprisingly well stocked Lao-Thai market just about where you'd least expect one. The woman who ran it was Lao - not Hmong - which was unexpected as most of the people from Laos who have come to the U.S. are Hmong - they often fought with the U.S. side during the war, so they got out quick when the other side won. She said that they got customers from all over the area - pretty much any Asian family that needs groceries in Kansas or Western Missouri shows up there from time to time. Other than that, there wasn't much going on in Salina.

Heading east, we stopped in Abilene for breakfast. It was at the northern end of the Chisholm cattle drive trail and I figured it would be a well preserved wild west town. It isn't, not much at least. It's sort of a well preserved 1910 to 1935 town with a whole lot of Dwight David Eisenhower stuff there, since he was from there. Colin attempted to eat a healthy breakfast at the diner we found there - HAH! I know better and opted for eggs and biscuits with gravy. They did, oddly enough, have a bottle of Thai Sriracha hot sauce. They must have got it from the market in Salina. It doesn't really go well with eggs and hash browns, but I felt obligated to drench everything with it on general principle. We also dropped by the most modern, impressive, and largest if you don't count the grain silos, building in town: the Greyhound Hall of Fame. It wasn't open yet so we didn't go in.

We stopped in Mission, Kansas to visit I Love A Mystery bookstore. It has recently moved into new digs and is one of the biggest, most comfortable, really pleasant specialty bookshops either of us have ever been in. They were very pleased to see us - especially Colin as he is one of their current big sellers and their reading groups have been consuming his books. But, they remembered my books from last year and might now order some more. We spent a while in there chatting with Karen, the owner and the other people who work there. I highly recommend it if you are near Kansas City.

Afterwards we dropped by Rainy Day Books, the major independent general interest bookshop in town. It's also a grand place to meet and chat with people and get information on all sorts of things. I gossiped plenty about the book business with one of the managers. It's a nasty business, what more can one sayA?

Then it was off to the Negro Baseball Leagues Museum and Hall of Fame, which is conveniently located in the same building as the National Jazz Museum. I wish I'd had the time to go to both, as from what Colin tells me the jazz museum was excellent. But, I had my priorities, and communing with the spirits of Satchell Paige, Josh Gibson, Oscar Charleston, Buck Leonard and Cool Papa Bell, has long been high on the list. It's a very well done museum, an in depth look at black baseball from a social, cultural and historic perspective. I sat for a while in front of a film loop of the amazing feats of Willie Mays and reminisced with a guy who was maybe ten years older than me, about the times we'd seen Mays play - when I was a kid and he was a teenager.

I'd been looking forward to Stroud's Fried Chicken ("We Choke Our Own Chickens") for lunch, but they've closed down their funky old, roadhouse location and reopened in some distant neighborhood in what used to be a mansion. I was fearful of disappointment, so instead we walked down the block from the museum to the Peachtree soul food restaurant, where I had fried chicken that was nearly as good as Stroud's, along with utterly perfect collards and a dish of okra stewed with tomatoes. So lunch was not at all a disappointment.

Finally it was off to St. Louis where we were greeted by a blinding display of lightning that went off with near strobelight frequency as we drove into town. The rain, luckily was elsewhere. We arrived at Helen Simpson's big, beautiful rambling house near the big, beautiful rambling park in the center of the city. Visiting authors could hardly hope for nicer accomodations - our own guest rooms, comfortable beds, beer and wine in the refrigerator, a Cardinals game on TV and best of all Helen who is funny, smart, charming, welcoming and one of the best people anywhere to talk baseball, mystery books and politics with.

So a good time was had by all, although the turnout at the store was somewhat disappointing: as for strangers, there were three of them - two of them brought their kids so I don't know if I should count them or not; Susan McBride, a good friend, and a good local St. Louis writer, came along with her newish sweetie Ed - they've just bought a house together and seem near disgustingly happy. In any event, we had a nice time, although no one was going to have to call out the riot squad to beat back our legions of crazed fans. It was a mostly skinny crowd too, so it didn't do a whole lot for our pound counting, still, if I count the kids I can pretty safely estimate about 1,015 lbs. Bringing our event total thus far to: 7,910 lbs, just a runway model shy of four tons!

Helen was disappointed as we left after the event and headed north. We were determined to take the remnants of Highway 66 all the way from St. Louis to Chicago. Getting out of town on it proved a problem due to bridge construction, so we had to take the freeway far enough into Illinois to hook up with it later. The old highway is surprisingly well marked, with signs pointing the way to different segments from different decades. Unfortunately a lot of it is frontage road along Interstate 55, so it wasn't exactly as quaint and scenic as we had hoped. Although it did have moments when it veered into small farm towns along the way.

As we approached Springfield we started looking for a motel, hoping for an old-fashioned roadside courtyard place. But none were to be found. We drove into Springfield and still couldn't find any. We finally had to stop and ask at a cocktail lounge where they kept the motels. They were south of town on I-55 and that's where we ended up for the night, drinking too much and shooting bad pool (well, me, Colin was reasonably good) for a long while in a nearby collegiate sports bar that we'd walked to. College kids, even white ones, sure do listen to a lot of hip hop these days. I can't say that I've developed much of a taste for it myself.

We'd had a tough time getting our hotel rooms. They might have been the last two in the area, as the home of Abe Lincoln was hosting the annual Route 66 Car Show and the whole county was loud and proud with highly polished jalopies and classics. I guess no one ever simply trundled down 66 in a regular old car or a beater. The mystique has far outstripped the reality of the thing. I do wonder though, why there doesn't seem to be a highway that actually ran all the way from the East Coast to the West Coast that has the same sort of cache? Maybe it's the song. I was trying to think of all the people I could who have covered it over the years and it's just too many.

Yesterday, Sunday, we continued our slow crawl up toward Chicago, through endless fields of dry brown looking corn and soybeans, past tiny little towns with little to recommend them - although we did come across a giant man holding a giant hot dog not too far past Normal, Illinois. What could be more normal than that? Unfortunately Normal seems a little shy about its name, we were hoping for a lot of pictures of things like the Normal Bakery and the Normal Gun Shop, but most business don't seem to be using it in their name.

We also stopped at the St. Anne Pumpkin Festival, but it seemed as though we missed the parade, which is apparently the highlight. By the time we got there the whole town was reverberating to the torrent of decibels emerging from the town dump where they seemed to be holding a tractor pull or some sort of automotive event. We needed to continue on to Chicago so we didn't stick around to watch.

Driving into Chicago from the south - we took old Highway 1 which turns into Halsted and runs north all the way through the city - Colin was astounded and shocked, and I was somewhat surprised, by the lack of racial mix along the way. For something around 75 blocks we didn't see one person who wasn't black. Not even in other cars. Colin had heard about the defacto segregation that still exists in American cities, but wasn't prepared for how overwhelmingly obvious it can be. I was a bit surprised since Watts and Compton, the black parts of Los Angeles, are also home these days to a lot of Latinos, some Asians and some working class whites as well.

We talked for a little about why that might be - beats me in this day and age - and why the U.S. is so willing to spend billions and billions of dollars and thousands of lives trying to solve both real and imaginary problems overseas when there are still such massive inequities here at home. I figure it's because it's easier psychologically when you can fight an external enemy. Here in the U.S. we are our own enemy and few people, or countries, are much good at constructively fighting themselves.

20 September 2006

Tons of Readers

Denver, CO

I hadn’t really forgot what book tours are like, but I guess I’d forgot enough to embark on this one with the usual stupid optimism.

It helps to think about the "crowds" differently. Colin and I have talked about buying a scale and weighing everyone who comes to our events. The number of pounds would certainly be a lot more impressive than the number of people.

In Tucson, at Clues Unlimited, we had six, five of them friends of mine or friends of their’s. Somehow people you know and who know people you know, just don’t seem to count as much as total strangers when it comes to book events. Still, add all six up and that was probably in the vicinity of 845 lbs. Not a bad start. (It’s good that we’re in the U.S. rather than Asia where people tend to be a lot lighter.)

After the event Colin went back to the hotel and I went out to drinks and dinner with some of the friends who were there and some friends who weren’t there but showed up later. We went to the Congress Hotel in downtown Tucson, a fun venue with several bars, good outdoor places to sit, mediocre trendy food and okay cocktails. It was a mostly nice time, although the two couples I was with both have young children and so, at least 75% of the conversation was about children; a subject that is of little or no interest to me. I sucked back some whisky and returned to the hotel where the internet didn’t work very well, despite the hotel’s assurances.

It is nearly impossible to pass a motel these days that doesn't advertise high-speed internet. I had pretty good luck with it last year. This year it's proving to be a problem. I'm writing this in a motel lobby - as the internet in the room doesn't work - and evesdropping on the desk clerk's conversation with a friend about how she can't live on a thousand bucks a month and certainly can't afford to go to college on that. Makes me feel pretty good about even the underpaid writing biz.

In Phoenix, at the Poisoned Pen (Scottsdale really), we had ten, count them, ten actual strangers. That is a very good turnout on a Saturday afternoon. Although I would have thought Colin would have roped in more – his books sell very well and are very well reviewed. It’s a great store though, and the staff there really liked our “soundtrack album” and played it often - much to the chagrin of one or two patrons who mistook it for "noise." So, let’s see, ten people, averaging about 165 lbs per person; that’s 1,650 lbs.

That evening we went to a baseball game. Colin is something of a total sports fan. Throw a ball into the middle of a bunch of people and have them do something with it leading to one group winning, and you can get his attention. He likes baseball, something which pleases me no end. We had fantastic seats thanks to the Diamondbacks; right behind the third base dugout in the second row. Shame it wasn’t much of a game. There was plenty of sloppy play, not much of elegance to be seen on the field, and we ended up leaving after twelve innings when it seemed as though neither team was capable of winning. (Eventually, I heard, the Diamondbacks won in the bottom of the 16th on a sacrifice fly.)

Then it was off to Sedona and The Well Red Coyote; a charming little bookshop, near as I can tell the only one in town that doesn't specialize in new age books. It's run by Kris Neri - a fine and fun writer on her own - and her husband Joe, who used to play in a blues band in L.A. We had two people for that event. One for each of us. And they weren't fat. The woman might have weighed in somewhere around 125 or so; the man at, perhaps, 170. So I'll be optimistic and give them each two and a half more pounds bringing their total to 300.

After the event we drove from Sedona to Bluff, Utah; probably the only town in the whole state without a Mormon majority. Some 300 people live there, six of them making their living as writers. It's very near Monument Valley and on the edge of the Navajo reservation. There are rock paintings on the cliffs by the river, plenty of hidden away cliff dwellings, rock so red it could parade on May Day; and we stayed with Win and Meredith Blevins, two old and close pals of mine and excellent writers. (I've known Meredith since 8th grade; and Win since she took up with him a number of years ago.) We drank, we ate, we walked around, we watched baseball (Win is a St. Louis Cardinals fanatic) and had a good, relaxing time.

Then yesterday we drove north. We stopped for breakfast in Cortez, Colorado. I recommended huevos rancheros to Colin - he's a vegetarian - and for the first time in my experience they came with meat. America outside the big cities is not an easy place for non-omnivores.

We continued on to Durango, Colorado which is a splendid town. If I were looking for a mountain community to live in, it would definitely be in the running. Part of what makes it good is Maria's books, which is an excellent bookshop where you wouldn't expect one.

But then we turned north on Highway 550, rising into passes above ten thousand feet, surrounded by snow covered craggy peaks and bright yellow aspen trees accenting the green trees. It was one of the more beautiful drives I've ever been on. We took nine and a half hours to drive what would normally be a five or so hour drive. All the stopping was well worth it. We ended up in Gunnison, Colorado for the night where I had an excellent, very reasonably priced steak - it is the middle of cattle country - and Colin had nothing other than a bite of my baked potato and a beer. Afterwards we went to the rather rundown Alamo Bar, where we were greeted warmly by locals, one of them, Claire, an englishwoman who had settled in Gunnison a few years ago and was delighted to be encountering Colin, an englishman. Her boyfriend didn't seem overly pleased, but he warmed up when we posed him with a pool cue for a picture at the pool table.

Something, however, didn't agree with Colin and he spent the morning in the very same medical clinic where a woman died a couple of days ago from eating spinach. Vegetables kill, apparently. He had food poisoning of his own, although not fatal, but very uncomfortable. He managed to sleep somewhat on the drive today to Denver, and he rallied to do a good job at tonight's event at Murder By the Book in Denver.

It was an excellent event: nine strangers and Heidi Mack - my truly splendid webmistress. The store presented us with a cake decorated with our book covers. The baker had done a great job with the dragon on Living Room of the Dead. The people there were interested, friendly, interesting and bought a bunch of books. I think they bought a dozen or more of Living Room - which is pretty unusual for a book that is a year old. So, let's see though, it was a pretty wide range of sizes, maybe averaging out around 150. 1500 more lbs of people.

Where do we stand so far:

The Mystery Bookstore - Los Angeles - 20 people, a very rough estimate of perhaps 2,600 lbs.

Clues Unlimited - Tucson - 845 lbs.
Poisoned Pen - Scottsdale - 1,650.
The Well Red Coyote - Sedona - 300
Murder By the Book - Denver - 1,500

Total approximate pounds of people so far = 6,895

More than three tons of fans! Now that's impressive.

16 September 2006

DisOriented Express on the Road

The naked bookseller has been one of the highlights so far.

We left L.A. a little after eight this morning and encountered no traffic to speak of. I wasn't even sideswiped by a truck this time like I was in my first attempt to leave town on the last book tour. The radar detector did the job and we made very good time to Quartzite, Arizona where we stopped for lunch.

Colin, being English and a fishetarian, ordered the daily special at the small diner in the very small desert community - fish and chips. It didn't, apparently live up to its counterparts in the UK, although he implied that he's had similar served in his native land. He was, as is the usual case with foreigners in America, flummoxed by the enormous portion that was put before him. Quite sensibly he didn't eat it all. I ate all of my club sandwich, but it was smaller and not fried.

Then we went to visit the naked bookseller. I first heard of him on Lee Goldberg's blog and had been awaiting my next opportunity to pass through Quartzite to visit his store. There isn't a whole lot to say beyond this picture of Colin and Paul Winer the naked bookseller:

Next time you're passing through Quartzite, I suggest a visit. The store has an eclectic and interesting mix of books as well.

We did finally make it to Tucson. I always forget what a long drive it is. Our event at Clues Unlimited was fun. We enjoyed putting it on, Chris Acevedo the bookstore owner enjoyed it, and the crowd (okay, six people - what do we authors have to do to get more people to book events? Maybe if we were naked? Nah!), anyhow, the crowd enjoyed it too and they also enjoyed scarfing up all the Asian snacks that we'd brought along - as well as drinking up some Beer Lao - quite possibly the best beer in Asia.

Earlier in the week we kicked off the DisOriented Express with an event at The Mystery Bookstore in Los Angeles - sort of my headquarters mystery bookstore. We had about 20 people who also seemed to enjoy our extravaganza. It was our first show and we had a few minor kinks that we worked out. Good to do that at home before hitting the road.

Tomorrow - later today I guess - it's on to Scottsdale to Poisoned Pen, then a baseball game at night. Sunday to Sedona - The Well Red Coyote - where we will present a workshop on researching exotic locales. Basically - go there, have fun, be observant. Well, there is more to it than that, sort of.

Eventually we will make it to Madison, Wisconsin for Bouchercon, where among other events, Colin will be presented with his Dilys Award - for having written the favorite book to sell of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association last year. He doesn't know it - and unless he reads this I probably won't tell him - but I was handed the award in a box and asked to deliver it to Bouchercon. It's currently sitting on the floor of the backseat of my car, right behind where he has been sitting.

I'm tired and tired of fixing my typos - even in blogging, neatness counts - so I'm afraid I will have to shut down for now and come up with pithy statements and fascinating observations some other time.

07 September 2006

The Ugly Stupid Season Kicks Off

Here we go again, it's 62 days of idiocy until the mid-term elections, then it will be at least another 62 of recriminations and chest thumping afterwards. The Republicans are getting nervous and that's going to make things even worse than usual. You don't corner a rattlesnake and expect it not to strike.

It burns my ass to say this - because I tend to agree more often with Democrats than Republicans - especially these days - but Republicans are better at playing politics than Democrats. That's because they're more ruthless, better organized and more unified.

The big push started yesterday. They are going to force a congressional vote on establishing legal military tribunals of the sort that President Bush already had shot down by the Supreme Court. Nevermind that the proposed tribunals stomp all over many of the very same rights that we're supposedly protecting from the bad guys. Nevermind that even a lot of Republican congressmen and senators get queasy feelings in their guts when they think about giving the President what he wants.

It's an election year. If dumbing down the debate over how to deal with terrorism to the President's level of, "you're either with us or you're against us," and hammering away at the Constitution helps the Republicans to keep control of Congress, well, that's all that really counts. Isn't it? Republicans stick together better than Democrats do when it comes to the really important things; like getting re-elected.

Keep in mind that this is a mid-term election; one in which voter turnout is traditionally very low. The party that wins this election is going to be the party that gets the most bodies to the polls. There's been an awful lot of speculation that GW Bush won Ohio - and thus the 2004 Presidential Election - because Republicans cheated. I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know that the Ohio vote would not have been close enough to steal if it hadn't have been for the Republicans mobilizing voters to come out in droves to ban gay marriage.

The Republican Party has perfected the art of confusing the important issues in elections with hot button, emotional issues that rally their natural supporters. People flock to the polls to vote against gay marriage or medical marijuana (or civil rights ballot measures in the South in the 1960s and '70s; which is when and how the South started voting Republican). Since those people are in the voting booth anyway, they might as well punch another couple of holes for Republican candidates.

The problem is, how do the Democrats combat that? Fear, negativity and simplicity almost always have greater emotional resonance than anything positive or complicated or intellectual.

Unfortunately politics in the U.S. isn't so much a battleground of ideas as it is of personalities. The Republicans have succeeded in recent years because they've managed to scare people shitless; over taxes, over terrorists, over drug-crazed homosexuals coming for their kids. They've managed to pass themselves off as the nation's protectors from these terrible scourges.

The only way to fight that is with reassuring charisma. FDR talked Americans into believing that the only thing they had "to fear, was fear itself." JFK oozed charm and smarts and strength (which was a pretty neat trick for a guy with all his medical problems.) Jimmy Carter was comfortingly honest and fatherly and his timing was good; any Democrat could have defeated Gerald Ford, the guy who was appointed by and then pardoned Nixon. Bill Clinton wanted to hug everybody, and there was something about him that made people want to hug him back. LBJ was the exception. He rode in on the coattails of the even-more-popular-after-his-assassination Kennedy and he also played the fear card nearly as well as the Republicans do today. He cast his opponent, Goldwater, as the crazy guy who was going to blow us all up.

I don't know what's going to happen in this mid-term election campaign other than that it will be gruesome and stupid and brutal and by the end of it anyone with a lick of sense will be even more fed up with politics in this country than they are already. Two years from now though, it's going to be even uglier. And the Democrats either need a candidate with charisma, a lot of it; or they need to find a way to scare the pants off voters about four more years of a Republican president.