October 7, 2021
Back in the 90s, I spent some time truckin’ around the country reporting on presidential politics for the Voice of America, trying to make sense of our quadrennial circus for a radio, TV, and eventually online audience all over the world. The gig could be fun but was far from cushy and was often demanding (try explaining the Electoral College to people overseas who don’t learn about it in school like we do).
Along with a few extra pounds and the ability to function on zero sleep, I picked up a ton of memorabilia: buttons, press badges, coffee mugs, and t-shirts. The shirts acquired holes, shrank, and languished in a drawer – until my wonderful wife turned them into the best birthday present I’ve received in all my years.*
She scanned the graphics from half a dozen of these relics and combined them into the extremely cool new garment I’m wearing above. It’s a visual diary of the times, spanning Republican and Democratic campaigns, nominating conventions, and debates. Most of the shirts were made by the parties, though the one with the Bill Clinton caricacture was done by an NBC crew under the title “Camp Pain,” which was a running joke among the press for several election cycles.
Those days were so hectic that the who, what, when, where, and why are mostly a blur. However, this gift brings back memories, especially of all the great VOA journalists who helped me along the way, even the editor who kept me up half the night rewriting a debate story that didn’t meet our standards. He’s gone now, but is probably looking down and hoping I’ll get this one right. (I’m working on it, Jack.)
Between the pandemic and the reminder that I’m getting older, I’d been feeling a bit blue about my birthday. No more. Next time I’ll tell you about the workday on the campaign trail that began in a mob of screaming kids and ended 23 hours later amid the fragrance of a paper mill. Take care and be safe.
*A classified number. Let’s just say I’m too old for Paul to serenade me with, “When I’m Sixty-Four.”