My friend Tom, whom I'll call "Buzz" to protect his identity, is living a Washington, D.C., nightmare.
His neighbor is running for president!
"Buzz" recently moved here from Florida, fancifully thinking he might be able to tell the bumpkins back home that now and again he ran into a famous politician--like folks who move to L.A. think they might run into Maude at an all-night dog track.
But never in his wildest dreams did Buzz imagine he would live so close to a presidential candidate that he could drop his empties in the guy's recycling bin (as Buzz has been doing late at night, and I guess that's over, huh?).
Buzz moved onto the same block as a dapper senator from Utah, whom I'll call "Orrin Hatch" to protect his identity. The other day Hatch declared his intention to run for the Republican nomination for president. Perhaps you saw the saturation coverage of Hatch's announcement-- on Page B46, near a story about mad-cow disease in Bolivia and an ad for air duct cleaning.
Hatch has no chance whatsoever, of course; my dog has a better chance of getting the nomination. George W. "Last Call" Bush has it sewn up already. George W. blew into town the other night and collected $2 million just for shaking some hands at a reception! George W. is so hot, he gets $5,000 for simply placing a phone call to a contributor. Hatch couldn't get $5,000 if he offered to stick his head into a juicer. The latest Gallup poll had George W. running 15 points ahead of Al Gore, and eight points ahead of God. Hatch didn't even register on the poll. Most respondents thought "Orrin Hatch" was "a tushie trapdoor on a pair of pajamas."
Still, the man is running for president. Do you have any idea what it means to live on the same block as a presidential candidate? (Of course you don't. The most intriguing person on your block is the guy on the corner who can open a beer can with his nose.)
Buzz doesn't know it yet, but he is about to go public.
Every day Buzz will be awakened by the sounds of the mobilizing media--all the national correspondents with their severe expressions, like they've just got a whiff of "The Norm Show"--eager to get a glimpse of Hatch performing a common, ordinary task in a presidential manner, like mowing his lawn in a business suit! Every night Buzz will be serenaded by media locusts doing their 11 o'clock stand-ups.
For fear of encountering rabid cable hosts, like Chris Matthews and Ann Coulter, Buzz will have to keep his blinds drawn all the time. He'll live his whole life in darkness. It will be like being Hugh Hefner, minus the babes--so all you really get is a big dope in a bathrobe.
And now that he's become elevated to the stature of Candidate Neighbor, he'll find himself on the media hit list. Sam Donaldson and Andrea Mitchell will pester Buzz for bad stuff about Hatch.
"Access Hollywood" will pester Buzz for bad stuff about Sam Donaldson and Andrea Mitchell.
Secret Service agents will ask Buzz's neighbors for bad stuff about Buzz!
Having the Secret Service on your block is a mixed blessing. They were on my block once protecting an ambassador-designate. I was grateful for the feeling of safety the agents provided, but I often wondered: Since the job of the Secret Service is to protect him, not me, would they stop a burglary at my house? Or would they watch the burglars trundle out with all my possessions and say to themselves, "Excellent! With their hands full, they can't do any harm to the ambassador"?
On the other hand, potential thieves probably couldn't get past the mulch pile in Buzz's driveway. It's bigger than the garage. It looks like that thing Richard Dreyfuss sculpted out of mashed potatoes in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
With this enormous mulch pile in Buzz's driveway, the only thing missing is a 1973 Vega up on blocks in the front yard, or a broken-down washing machine next to the steps. Wait until the camera pans down Orrin Hatch's street, and America gets a load of Buzz's house on CNN. Bernie Shaw's first question to Hatch will be, "Wow! Who owns that house, Snuffy Smith?"
Buzz got the mulch when a landscaping company left a folder on Buzz's doorstep offering to deliver it "free." Most folks with an IQ higher than their golf handicap know there's no such thing as free mulch, but Buzz signed on--expecting, oh, 10 or 20 pounds neatly wrapped in a bag. A week later Buzz arrived home to find that someone had relocated maybe 2,000 pounds of loose mulch on his driveway. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon didn't need this much mulch. Kids can practice snowboarding for the X Games on this mountain.
And this isn't your Home Depot-type mulch. It has wood chips, sure, but it also has all kinds of schmutz--rotting leaves, dead birds and more stems and seeds than the entire Berkeley student body accumulated from 1965 to 1979.
So basically, Buzz's life is ruined. He could labor for the rest of his life and not put a dent in that pile. Plus, however long Hatch stays in the race is another day Buzz's house is the laughingstock of America.
Now Buzz is thinking maybe there's a way he can do something neighborly that will solve both their problems.
There's talk that since George W. is pounding the pavement, charging $1,000 a plate all over the country, that his campaign slogan will be "No Such Thing as a Free Lunch!" Hatch needs to distinguish himself from George W., and Buzz needs to get rid of all this steaming mulch. Here's a campaign theme Buzz designed to bail himself out and make Orrin not so Borrin:
"There Is Such a Thing as Free Mulch! Come and Get It!"