Northern Exposures:

Clinton Does the Democratic Primaries

Back to Buchanan. During Q&A, only two people, May Gruber—who does not raise the issue of Pandora Mills but instead suggests that Jesse Helms's interference with the NEA amounts to governmental censorship—and a young woman from Merrimack, who describes Buchanan's position on AIDS as ignorant, challenge the candidate on any of his obvious whoppers. Given the general altitude of Pat's fans, this takes more guts and conviction than the windbag on stage ever possessed in his life. I'd like to think that these two intelligent, humane voices insert just enough dissonance to sully an orgy of ugly feelings, or at least plant a few suspicions that the Wizard of Oz cannot really give the Scarecrow a functioning brain.

On the way out of the theater, an obsessed, elderly, goofily dressed John Bircher strikes up a monologue aimed at the Voice photographer, who happens to be African American. The man carries a bundle of literature charting a vast, ongoing conspiracy by the Trilateral Commission and David Rockefeller: "I've had this crap up to here. This country's gonna go right down the goddam tubes. Someday you're gonna have United Nations troops in here. George Wallace got 10 million votes, he said we're fed up with this crap, what happened? Boom. John Kennedy tried to buck these guys, what happened? Boom. Robert Kennedy, right? Martin Luther King was so exposed he was no longer any use to these people, what happened? Bang!" Like flies to a steaming pile of ordure, the weird creatures of eternal night drew close to the flame that is Pat Buchanan. Meanwhile, some workers roll out the set, a temple0like construction of plastic milk crates, for the Palace Theatre's current production, The Tempest.


FADE TO BROWN

I look down at sweet Theresa's convent, all those nurses, all those nuns...to me you know they look pretty damn free down there- Patti Smith


In a large auditorium with level seats, pale olive walls, dark neo-Georgian olive trim, festooned with many portraits in gilded frames of men who resemble Alastair Cooke, a number of dewlapped, earnest preppies and environmentally conscious residents of Exeter and nearby towns have gathered at Phillips Exeter Academy to experience Jerry Brown.

Our in the hall, volunteers are stacking Jerry's videotape and piles of Jerry's literature. As I write this, I keep hearing Sandra Bernhard's dialogue from The King of Comedy echoing through my head. Jerry.

Jerry Brown has enough sense of humor to joke about the space cadet rap he's getting in the press. Just enough. Perhaps infected by the sober and enlightened atmosphere of this great hall, where countless maiden blowjobs began as humid, hungering glances across rows of brilliantined schoolboy hairdos, Jerry strikes a serious yet scrappily boyish note. He reminds us that he is the only candidate with a classical education, schooled in Greek and Latin. For three years he toiled and thought and really examined himself and who he really was in the silence of a Jesuit seminary. He traveled to Japan and knows the Japanese, knows the culture and what makes it tick. After that, Jerry spent three months in Calcutta, working with Mother Teresa in her Home for the Dying, eager to see what human caring, human compassion, even in the absence of a mutual language, could do amid so much suffering and dying.

And that isn't all. If I were to write down everything Jerry Brown has done, or even just about everything Jerry Brown says he's done, you would still be reading this next Tuesday. Jerry's introduction of renewable energy technologies in California alone would cover many pages, as would his hands-on approach with the state legislature in Sacramento, where he moved in to a small apartment right across from the statehouse instead of taking residence in the ugly expensive mansion built for the Reagans. Did I tell you what Jerry did about the dead-end warfare system in California? How Jerry actually lessened crime? The magnificent windmills and other devices that have made PG&E, thanks to Jerry, the most cost-effective and profitable gas and electric utility in the U.S. of A.? No? Sandra, would you please sing "Come Rain or Come Shine" just one more time?

As I listen to Jerry, something keeps irritating me. At first I believe it is the memory of a large crow I once saw bisected by one of Jerry's power-generating windmills outside San Luis Obispo while driving from L.A. to San Francisco. Then I realized it is a small child in a pink padded windbreaker seated beside me who is playing with a Nintendo Game Boy as Jerry speaks.

Just behind me, several young men who had been discussing, avidly, the various clues on Beatles albums pointing to the death of Paul McCartney (for example, on the Sgt. Pepper lyric sheet, John Lennon's finger seems to rest against the line, "...at five o'clock as the day begins..." –possibly the exact time of Paul's demise) have stopped talking about that and are listening to Jerry with what seems, when I look at them, like respectful skepticism. Good day sunshine.

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