Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

El Jefe

What a crazy week.

A week ago last Saturday, the word got around: the President was coming to town.

For the first time since Martin Van Buren nearly two centuries ago, a sitting President of the United States was going to visit Cooperstown.

The details were hazy about the President’s agenda and itinerary. No one knew much of anything except that he was coming in on Friday, and he would be addressing the issue of tourism at the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That was about all anyone knew. Or at least that’s what they were telling us they knew.

Talk about a a hubbub! All week, the paper ran stories about the President’s visit. The village–and many individuals–threw together welcoming banners. Helicopters buzzed overhead, and local activist groups mobilized and plotted out ways to get their message seen by the President. As I watched the craziness play out, I couldn’t help but thing of that episode of the TV show M*A*S*H from all those years ago, when the 4077th went crazy preparing for a visit from General MacArthur, only to have this happen (apologies, this is the only clip I can find of this classic episode):

The actual visit worked out a little better than that, though it was pretty quick. The President was whisked in and out of town. His speech lasted about fifteen minutes, he took some photos, and within an hour, he was gone. Whether his speech will make a difference, I don’t know.

As for me, I tried to avoid town yesterday, figuring it would be a mess. However, last Sunday at Writers’ Circle, I likely came as close to a President as I will ever be. Our group meets in a local arts center which is located down a little alley behind Main Street. The building fronts on a parking lot. Catty corner across the lot is the Baseball Hall of Fame. About ten minutes after we started writing, a group of men appeared outside the building, 5 or 6 of them, standing in a little circle, talking. This is not unusual; weekend tourists spring up in large numbers around this time of year, and that’s what I took them for at first. Then, I realized they weren’t.

One of them wore a baseball hat, khakis, and a blue polo shirt that looked suspiciously like an official Hall of Fame shirt. One wore a dress shirt and slacks. The others were more casual, polo shirts, shorts. Several had sunglasses. One looked a bit like Dean Norris, who played DEA agent Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad. As I watched the, talk, and point at the Hall of Fame, and look at the back of the hotel directly across the way, I realized: Secret Service, scoping things out, getting the security in place for a Presidential visit that was almost a week away yet. They were out there for about ten minutes, then after a round of play fighting, handshakes, and smiles all around, they were gone. So was whatever I had been writing. Instead, I ended up with a short piece about a president riding in a limousine on a dark road, miffed at being the most powerful man in the world who’s not even allowed to open his car window because of security threats.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

5 Responses

  1. That's really kind of cool – both the Presidential visit, and ID-ing the Secret Service guys. No wonder your idea went missing. I loved M*A*S*H !! There was a TV lineup in the 70s that had M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Bob Newhart Show, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Burnett. What awesome comedy shows those were! 🙂

  2. Yeah. People complain that prominent people aren't approachable. There's a reason.

    When I was a very small child and my family was stationed in South Korea, we had a visit from Ike. All I remember is being nearly trampled by all the adults as they rushed forward.

  3. Back to bulk replies…I don't know why.
    -L.G.–Nice to see you back! It was definitely an out of the ordinary event, and it was fun to write that little piece. Maybe I'll share it here one day.

    -Lexa–I remember that lineup. Not to get all nostalgic, but that was an excellent night of TV. Carol Burnett is still funny to watch.

    -Donna–It's very unfortunate it has to be this way. A visit from Ike–very cool, but too bad that's your lasting memory.

    -Nick–thank you, I am!

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