Posted by: twistsoffeet | April 6, 2010

I Never Ran for Political Office, However…


My belief on running for political office is that it should only be done with the intention of making that job unnecessary.

Much easier said than done.

Personally, I have never run for political office, partly because I am so very totally unqualified and partly because I do not like mud slinging.

Look– I have enough skeletons in my closet that it would be very easy to bypass the mudslinging and go directly to just dropping full dump trucks of mud on me. Mud that would cause embarrassment and pain for those I love. I was at one time fairly involved in the Colorado Libertarian party, thus my belief that the only politician I trust is the one who wants to make his job unnecessary. However this is not my story.

In December of 2001, I was staying with my friends, Se and Cita, in their home in a province on northern Luzon, Philippines.  I was invited to go with them and their family to the provincial capital for a Christmas party. It sounded like fun to me.

Upon arriving at the site for the party, the local basketball arena– actually quite large, covered, and open-sided. We parked the jeepney and walked a couple of blocks to the arena.  It was quite loud, lots of music and people everywhere, all ready for the soiree of the year.

My friends had me walk in ahead of them.  This should have been my first hint that something was up.

As I’ve stated previously, this was quite the party: very crowded with hundreds of people and very noisy. Thankfully, no karaoke.  I walked into the basketball arena and suddenly there was silence.  Everybody stopped moving and looked at me. Suddenly over the loudspeaker I heard, “And now entering, Mr. Barry Brown.”

Now first of all, I always change names to protect the innocent and secondly they so horribly butchered my name that I do not believe my spelling skills are up to the task of putting it on this blog.

In the states, maybe one in a hundred persons pronounces my name even remotely close to correctly, but it was even worse in the Philippines. What followed next made me want to laugh and/or run and hide. The announcer next said, “…the Mayor of Minnesota!”

Now, keep in mind that the governor of Minnesota  at the time was the former wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura.

OK, let’s get it over with. We all look alike. By “We,” I mean those of us that have shaved our heads. I have been mistaken  for Jesse Ventura, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Telly Savalas (disgusting), but not yet Michael Jordan for probably obvious reasons (he is much taller than me).

I was, at the time, in pretty good shape.  I benched over four hundred pounds and was pretty solid, but come on people!  I did not look like a professional or former professional athlete. My friend looked at me feigning surprise but said, “Nothing we can do about it, so just run with it.”

Okay.

At this party, the entire gymnasium floor was set up with tables encircling it. Each table represented a local barangay, and each barangay had all the women prepare the local dish that was their specialty. From simple sticky rice cakes to fish or goat or chicken delicacies.  The idea was to go around the entire circle and fill your plate with food from each different barangay. I was asked to lead off, so I went to the first table and took a small amount.

When traveling, my philosophy is if it is offered you must accept it, so I was planning on taking a very small amount from each table. Unfortunately, one of the barangay’s specialties was octopus. I asked for a small piece, but they said no, that I must take the whole octopus. This was not a huge creature, but it was large enough to be a meal for two by itself.

Now, not wanting to offend, I said ok, and the woman put this beast on my plate.  All of the citizens of this barangay smile and watched me make my way the rest of the way around the circle. I could feel their stares drilling into the back of my skull.

When I had finished the circle, I was escorted to a place of honor at the head table.  The others at this table were the mayors from this city, as well as another large city in the province, the local priest, and an Assembly of God minister, as well as the daughter of a former infamous President– herself a politician of some stature.

All of the politicians were accompanied by sizable numbers of heavily armed body guards.  All of this was somewhat unnerving– as if anything did happen, this humble visitor, amongst all of these wonderful people, was going to be right in the middle of the storm.

I was still feeling the stares of the octopus barangay.

Very slowly and deliberately, my meal began.  First I went for rice cakes and goat or chicken, trying to avoid the octopus.  I am not squeamish… but this uncleaned, steamed, whole octopus was just larger than I wanted to eat. But I couldn’t let the people of the octopus barangay down. I finally cut off a piece and ate it, it was actually quite good. Suddenly, every member of this barangay stood up and started clapping and cheering.

All eyes were upon me.

Then, I was not just the Mayor of Minnesota, but also a respected guest.

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