Sunday, October 08, 2006

Brrrr. I can't really feel the keys as I'm typing this. That's how cold it was at the Taste of Bethesda today. The turnout was surprisingly good, given the morning monsoons that preceded it. I got one of the last rooftop spaces in the Woodmont garage and started making the rounds in my VOTE DYER shirt. Along with my umbrella, I carried some literature and a sign I made with magic markers in a plastic bag. Where I thought they'd be safe from the rain. Unfortunately, I left my jacket at home and didn't realize how cold it would be until I was walking over from Woodmont. After 12:00, I headed over to Union Jack's for Mike's event, but I think I missed it. I also missed Kendel Ehrlich, but where was Bob Ehrlich? It's only the biggest event in Bethesda, and Martin O'Malley was there, so it wasn't a good idea not to visit.

Fortunately, we had future U.S. President, and current U.S. Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. But before he arrived, I headed over to Chevy Chase Cars for the Come Back to Bethesda car show. And to take advantage of the heated showroom. They had some of the greatest cars of all time there. (Skip ahead to the next paragraph if you find cars boring). Including a 2002 Camaro SS, which was the best Camaro since the 80s. It was red with the white stripes and "nostrils" on the hood, Corvette engine, and with the convertible top. Directly in front of it was a classic Camaro SS, also a red convertible. The great-grandfather and
great grandson, so to speak, which made for a clever display. Other standouts were the underrated 70s Caprice, a Buick Grand National, and a Fiero GT. The Pontiac Fiero was the exotic sports car with the engine behind the driver and a rather infamous habit of spontaneously bursting into flames in the 1980s. So what car did I vote for as best in show?

Sorry, but I have a soft spot for Monte Carlos. This one was a circa 1976 model in pea green. With whitewall tires, and white vinyl roof. The picture was sharper on my phone. But what a great car, a true classic. I have to say that the most exciting car on the premises wasn't an entry in the show but a brand new, black Corvette. This has to be the ultimate car you can buy besides the Dodge Viper. But far more luxurious, sophisticated, and civilized than the Viper. It has four, count them, four tailpipes and is a veritable artwork of automotive sculpture. But, as Ronald Reagan would say, "OK, back to work!"

I headed back over to the Taste of Bethesda and suddenly found that my fingers had black ink on them. And it was raining again. So I managed to get a lot of the ink off with a hand wipe, and looking like a fingerprinted escapee, I opened my umbrella. Angela was on her way back to the car show, where she was volunteering, and she said that Michael Steele would be there at 1:45.
Realizing that my inky bag would get on everything, and that my fliers were a lost cause in the rain, I decided to make the long, cold walk back to the garage to drop them off. Then my umbrella blew inside-out. At the garage by this time, people are circling, uttering that classic parking mantra, "Are you leaving?" Then I went back over to wait for Michael Steele.

Back at Chevy Chase Cars, Katie Parsley of the Steele campaign and State Senate candidate Dave Stegmaier were out front. I went back in to warm up and when I came back out, there was a crowd forming. With a Steele sticker on my shirt, I crossed the street with the group and the Steele campaign bus appeared southbound on Wisconsin Avenue. The crowd began chanting, and soon enough, Michael Steele himself emerged from the bus, wearing a Weather Channel-style jacket with a Steele logo instead. He greeted everyone, and we began to walk towards the Taste of Bethesda. Pointing to the words on my shirt, he said, "Vote Dyer... I love it!!," and clapped me on the back.

I was already as big of a supporter of Michael Steele as is humanly possible, but it was exciting to see the enthusiasm of people as he made his way around the event. I've never witnessed a Republican with this level of popularity in our Democratic state of Maryland. People of all ages and races were stepping forward to express their support and ask him to sign autographs and pose for pictures. Everyone wants to know where the puppy from the ads is, and a lot of people with O'Malley and other Democratic stickers were Steele supporters as well. Steele Democrats, as they say. Speaking of Democrats, we encountered Ben Cardin, O'Malley, and Chris Van Hollen who all greeted Lt. Gov. Steele cordially.

The walk went for quite a while, and I even forgot I was freezing. We stopped in an art studio, where the Haitian owner praised Lt. Gov. Steele and said "we all support you. You have all of our votes! We need to have black people in positions of power in this country." There was another woman selling a Haitian cookbook; I think it was actually a book signing going on. It was interesting to stop in there, with my background in Latin American and Carribean history. Many events in the history of Haiti are quite violent and sad, but the culture and literature are fascinating.

Eventually we were back at the bus again, and after a group photo, it was off to Annapolis for Mr. Steele. The bus made a U-turn and started north, chased by a secret-service type of SUV, black with flashing lights and siren. It left the bystander with the sense that a true celebrity had just left downtown Bethesda. And perhaps foreshadowed the future, in which I believe Michael Steele will be elected President. But first there's a Senate race to be won November 7, and my feeling is that Ben Cardin will be soundly defeated.

It's great to have a candidate like Michael Steele who you can be genuinely pumped up about supporting. For me, the number of candidates like that in my lifetime can be counted on one hand. And it's great to attend an event like this in Bethesda, the Athens of the modern world. We've entered the final month of the campaign, and this is what it's all about.

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