(note: all of these go out in The Daily Rumpus email, but not all of them are posted on The Rumpus)
I’m on a train again, rambling north into New England, contemplating the east coast, the football playoffs (I have $20 on Minnesota). Last night I thought, while watching a reading, He has an energetic wife, so he has to find his own energy.
And the night before, when The Rumpus had our one year anniversary party (written up here), and Justin Taylor read a short, tight story from his new collection, I remembered writing stories, and thought it would be nice to write a story again.
But somewhere in there I heard about the founding of Politico, like a fragment of static, a piece of information flying down Fifth Avenue among the overpriced clothing shops, the same in every city, the J. Crew, the Banana Republic. I guess I was reading a magazine and walking at the same time. I was sick, so sick I had to be put on anti-biotics. I woke up and it was like someone was pressing as hard as they could on my forehead and I thought the bone would split to relieve the tension. It was happening every morning but by early afternoon I would feel better. I wasn’t yet at the part of the magazine that explained the ants, what the Steamside colony did to the Trailhead colony (Good God what a beautiful story!). But there it was, a brief history of Politico.com, which now gets 3 million unique users a month. Politico was started by John Harris and Jim VandeHei, political reporters at the Washington Post. They had originally tried to sell the Post on the wisdom of starting an online political site but the Post turned them down. It was like Xerox whose engineers created the graphics interface but they didn’t think it was worth anything so they gave it to Apple.
I had been on the campaign bus with VandeHei in 2004. I liked him quite a bit. And I had a memory of him in shorts and a t-shirt exercising in the hotel gym which was just a nautilus machine and a treadmill and I thought, “Organized.” He was older than me, I think, and he was healthy, and he had his life together. I’m pretty sure I spoke to him about his wife and a child at some point. I was strung out, poor, directionless, and having a lot of fun. I was popping various amounts of Adderall, traveling on a $50,000 book advance, standing on the floor of the Fleet Center, 20 feet away (maybe more, maybe less) when Obama delivered his convention speech. That election was a better time than most of us remember, until it became a glass rod that swung into our chest and shattered. 17,000 copies of that book (maybe more, maybe less) are in a warehouse somewhere. In the end nobody wanted to read a funny book about John Kerry winning the Democratic nomination after he lost the race that really mattered. Nobody wanted to hear his name again.
Politics is like writing that way. You start out with beliefs. You lead Vietnam Veterans Against The War. It’s risky, but true. Then you make small compromises. You don’t even notice you’re making them. It’s rarely a big decision, just a little thing that starts you down the hill as if reaching for a strawberry before tumbling into a valley.
I’m not sure of the point I’m making, or if I’m making one, except on balance it’s better to be like VandeHei. Stay up and have a beer, talk to the other reporters, figure out what’s going on. Be a nice guy. Wake up in the morning, pull on your white t-shirt and blue shorts, go downstairs and run a mile or two, Nothing crazy, just remember to take a break and fill your lungs and move your legs a little bit. Make time for family. Have family. Stuff like that.