| John Kerry |
IMAGE: STEPHEN VOSS
With only the sign-waving members of groups like Veterans for Kerry, Boilermakers for Kerry and Hamsters for Kerry in front of him, the Schnoz was so close to the stage that he could have landed a loogie right in the esteemed senator's gray mane had he not been so parched.
From this vantage point, the Nose got to witness some of the most bizarre things he's ever seen. First, he spied a woman on stage who was translating Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" into sign language. Then there was Jon Bon Jovi himself tossing bottles of water to another woman who passed out behind the stage because of the heat (or maybe Teresa Heinz Kerry's speech just put her to sleep).
And who could forget the unlikely sight of Gov. Ted Kulongoski chatting up Leonardo DiCaprio on stage. (What could they possibly have been discussing? "Leo, I just wanted you to know that your role as Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask was truly an inspiration when I was running for governor." "Thanks, Ted. And may I say that I loved your efforts to adjust the actuary tables used to compute state employee retirement benefits.")
The festivities started off with a whimper, as Gov. Ted and Oregon's Democrats in Congress tried to play pep squad. The Nose had to cringe as they trooped onto the stage one by one to try and convince the crowd that they were more exciting than they actually are. With the exception of Earl Blumenauer (who's a natural), their voices cracked through the microphone with an unsettling shrillness.
The Nose couldn't help but feel that no one on stage--aside from Jon Bon--had ever looked out on a crowd of 50,000 before. Even Leo seemed daunted by the 100,000 eyeballs locked on him as he read his campaign-issue speech, complete with copious plugs ("When I visited www.JohnKerry.com, I saw...," etc.).
Intended or not, the spotty warm-up act served as a metaphorical highlighter pen for what, in the Nose's mind, was the most striking aspect of the rally: John Kerry is almost supernaturally fit for the role of President.
From the moment his navy-blue campaign bus arrived, Kerry, who's been blasted for being self-absorbed, was perfectly self-possessed--as if this were no less natural to him than blinking. With the crowd in a screaming frenzy, Kerry's calmly assured demeanor met its high expectations.
Kerry didn't falter once, undistracted by the sharpshooters on the building tops, the white-tuxedoed waiters in the press tent, the MTV News correspondents in their key-lime shirts, the hundreds of volunteers passing out water bottles, the national press pool rushing in with laptops and cell phones, or the fifty thousand people who waited for hours under the white sun to hear a stock speech.
This is the flip side of the "arrogance" rap against Kerry. The Nose's response: Who cares? No one said the meek shall inherit the Lincoln Bedroom.
With the hopes of millions on his back, after a 3,500-mile campaign tour, this exhausted 60-year-old man could--by sheer presence alone--make people believe he could put their country back on track.