Highway 30 heading to Newton, Iowa, 2:07 p.m. CT. "They like their drink early here in Iowa," I thought as I watched the white Ford behind me on Highway 30 swerve from lane to lane. Another reason to keep liking the people of Iowa, I thought. Still, he probably shouldn't be driving so fast. The car was getting bigger in my rearview mirror as it pinged from side to side. Maybe he was having a coronary event. I eased into the right lane, which had a shoulder I could use if it came to that. The driver zipped past and didn't even look up. He was too busy text messaging on his cell phone. (permalink)
Somewhere in Ames, Iowa, 11:30 a.m. CT. "I'm headed on Lincoln Way, and I'm looking for the Fisher Theater," I said to a very helpful-sounding woman at Iowa State University. I was late and lost as I drove into Ames trying to catch up with Bill Clinton. She asked me to name the buildings I was passing and the streets to help her guide me. I named them. It didn't work. I kept naming places faster, my voice getting more urgent as my car zoomed in what I was certain was the wrong direction. I kept naming the cleaners and tire shops and video places and it still wasn't working. "I know Ames," she said. "I've lived here since '62."
"Really," I said pulling over. "Tell me about that? What brought you out here? Was it the weather? And what made you stay? Do you have family near? It's nice to have family close this time of year. Have you put up your tree yet?"
I didn't say or do any of this, but I don't think that would have fazed her. She was picking up none of the urgency cues in my voice. This unhurried, considered, and pleasant aspect is what makes Iowans wonderful, though at the time it took me a few beats to remember that.
Finally, we came to an agreement that I was headed east and should have been headed west. I swerved into a parking lot, skidded in the snow, started in the right direction, and made it to the theater and raced up the stairs.
Clinton was an hour late. I was 55 minutes early. (permalink)
Dec. 9, 2007
Des Moines, Iowa, hotel room, 11:30 p.m. CT. I didn't find any Teddy White in my bedside table, but I did find the GOP primary. Next to the ruby-red Bible placed there by the Gideons I find the Book of Mormon (presumably placed there by the Marriotts). Mitt Romney argued in his speech last week that Mormonism is merely another form of Christianity. The first page of the Book of Mormon explains why this is a problem for Mike Huckabee and some evangelicals who believe that the Bible is the only word of God. "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth," says prophet Joseph Smith, "and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (permalink)
Des Moines Marriott hotel bar, 10 p.m. CT. I am in Des Moines but in the bubble. On the flight out here nearly everyone on the plane seemed to be reading poll numbers or political magazines. As I eat my burger, I can hear the woman at the next table talking about the White House Correspondents Dinner. Cameramen at another table tell stories about padding their expense reports. The woman in the corner praying into her BlackBerry works for one of the networks, I think. On my way back to my room, I run into Joe Klein coming in off the road. I'm going to go up and check if they've put a volume of Teddy White in the bedside table. (permalink)