Essays: On The Road (And A Little Off)


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Bradenton, FL, October 23 or so 2002
If I had thought Dade City was awash in politics,
it is nothing compared to this part of Florida.
Bradenton, located on Florida's West Coast just below
Tampa and St. Petersburg, and just above Sarasota, is a
hotbed of dissent and divisiveness and is a virtual
political battleground.

For here, in Gulfcoast Florida, is located the home base
of Katherine Harris. Here's a little familiarizing
background on her:
In 2000, Harris was Florida's Secretary of State, one of
whose chief duties is overseeing the electoral process in
the State.
She was also co-chair of the State Republican Party's
Committee to Elect the President. The candidate, you
will recall, was one George W. Bush, the brother of the
Governor of the State, Jeb Bush. Or as he is currently
known to the Republicans here, "Jeb!" Ol Jeb himself may
now be occupying the Governor's Mansion illegally, as his
daughter was recently caught with a crack rock in her
shoe, and there is a law on the Florida books that
convicted druggies and their families may not occupy
governmental housing. It's juicy.

I'll try to keep my eye on the ball here. Harris is in
charge of elections. Harris is also co-chair of the
Committee to Elect Dubya. So that when there is a crucial
vote here in Florida, one that the networks have already
handed to Al Gore, in the one state which will determine
who the next President of the Untied States will be, it is
Katherine Harris's duty to administer the re-counts. So
of course she recuses herself, right? Wrong. Guess who
came out on top, thanks to her efforts. Right.

Now Bradenton constitutes a piece of the Florida pie for
which Harris is now running for Untied States Senate. She
wants to be Senator Katherine Harris. All hail. There
are numerous bumper stickers all over Bradenton saying
"Anyone but Katherine." I have the feeling, though I hope
I'm wrong, that they will not do much good.

I have contracted to appear twice at the Fogartyville
Cafe, and once at Manatee Community College. I have also
agreed to appear at the peace rally on Saturday, to be
held downtown at the County Courthouse. The Fogartyville
gigs were sparsely though enthusiastically attended, the
kids at the college couldn't have cared less, and no
violence ensued at the rally. Damn.

My friend Arlene Sweeting, one, anyway, of the owners of
the Fogartyville Cafe, is a former science teacher,
current small business person, and general all-round Babe
now running for the House of Representatives in Florida
from District 68, which is Bradenton . She is a member of
the Sierra Club, and a staunch education advocate. I
invoke the resemblance to Katherine Hepburn because it is
only by reaching back so far that I can find another woman
who embodies such a combination of physical beauty and
toughness of mind.
Her Republican opponent is a guy named Caravallo (I
think), whose main qualification for the job is that he
was on the recount commission. Runs a pic of himself
shaking hands with Dubya after the recount. He is
eminently qualified to be a Republican candidate. That
is, he has all his working life worn one hat: that of a
pro-development corporate lawyer. He could give a shit
about the environment. Or science. Or small business.

I had a gig in Tampa a couple of days after the
too-peaceful Bradenton Peace Rally. I stayed with my
friend and presenter Gloria Holloway. While there I read
the Sunday paper, which had an article about Jeb! Bush, in
which he talked about how tough he had it when he first
came to Florida. He was working on his father's
Presidential campaign at the time. Jeb! was so
down-and-out, he says, that once, when he was really
strapped, he had to use one credit card to pay off
another. Well, I'm sure we can all sympathize. I know I
can. Right.
I had thought the article was a put-on, and kept
re-reading it to see if Jeb! was aware of the distance
between himself and his subjects and was maybe saying it
tongue-in-cheek, as Kennedy had been when he said that his
father would not pay for a landslide in West Virginia, but
no luck. Jeb! is as much of a clueless buffoon as his
brother. He actually meant for the statement to indicate
how in touch he is with the economic woes the little guy

I point the Volvo toward the Fort Lauderdale Blues Festival.