When I was in High School I bought an old Pontiac from friends of my Dad; I was going to fix it up but it never ran and not having proper tools, I probably did more damage than fixing on it. Later on the school’s carnival committee was looking for an old car to beat on with a sledge hammer and I gladly donated my old Pontiac (they even took it away). I was only out the $25 I paid for it and the carnival raised a lot of money what with all the macho guys who insisted on striking the blow that completely knocked the hood off its hinges.
I stood there with my girlfriend and watched. It was fun.
But that’s not why I bring up the old Pontiac: the people I bought it from were very active in Democratic projects in the eastern county. For a while there they we trying to get my Dad to run for mayor. If truth be told, it was probably a good idea: my Dad was well known, civic minded, and damn smart. So while I was buying the old Pontiac for $25, it was suggested that maybe I should get involved in local politics, especially since there was a local election coming up.
So I did. For a few weeks I walked around strange neighborhoods ringing doorbells and handing out brochures for a candidate I didn’t even know. I remember doors being slammed in my face, dogs barking at me, little kids going to find their mommies, but what struck me as most interesting was how many times I discovered where other kids from my school lived. The night of the election I sat in the auditorium at City Hall and learned who was now on the school board or who on the city council … if I remember correctly, my candidate came up short.
So I learned that there was going to be a special screening of the film, Point of Order!, down at one of the art houses and it was highly recommended I attend. I did and it was fascinating. I was already a Kefauver fan but I discovered a life-long disgust for Roy Cohen. After the film (sponsored by the Democratic Club) everyone milled around in the lobby and I got to meet several of the big names in Democratic politics in the area. I guess I was feeling important.
One outcome of this was a phone call from a Democratic operative who insisted I had to be at the headquarters that afternoon. Two problems: first, the Headquarters was way out on the mesa in a very unfamiliar area, and second, I had to pick up my fancy duds that afternoon for the Senior Prom that evening.
As luck will have it, the Democratic operative had confused me with another person he met that night at the movies so we just chatted awhile. Then my mentor (if you will) loaded me down with electioneering merch and I was on my way home to a white dinner jacket and a magic night of dancing, clutching, and dry capon over rice.
I suppose that was the end of my personal involvement in local politics: I was off to college in Los Angeles and never had the time or the urge to go ringing doorbells with glossy brochures for some candidate I didn’t even know.