Thursday, May 04, 2006

That's All Folks!

Oh, man, there's a new Whack-job in town. He's relentless. Clarence Stimms started out as a standard inquisitive patron; he said there was currently some scandal with the former governor of Alabama, and he wanted to read about it but the Baltimore Sun had let him down. I found him some articles on LexisNexis and sent him on his way.

He came back. They always come back. He mentioned several political scandals he was interested in: McGreevy in NJ, Ryan in Illinois, Taft in Ohio. I foolishly played along. Soon, I would have no part in a long coversation other than to nod in stupefaction. He told me about being an African-American Reagan Democrat who supported Dan Quayle for President. He told me he was offered a job on Bob Dole's campaign in 1988 by a guy who saved him from choking to death at the Steak and Ale. "I coughed up a chunk of gristle after the heimlich manoeuvre and there was steak sauce on my neck and some dude offered me the position of Chief of Staff and a diesel Mercedes and a salary of $100k. I didn't take it because I had something else to do. But I read 8 papers a day because if that opportunity comes along again I'm not going to turn it down." He explained how Bush I could have been re-elected, how Quayle could have beat Clinton in '96, how Dole, had he simply said he was a Reaganite, would have walked away with the contest that same year.

Clarence is a formidable-looking man, standing straight and strong at about 6 foot five, with a glistening clean-shaved head and angular features. His hands are enormous and his fingers are at least 8 inches long, ending in thick yellow nails with dirt caked beneath them. He was wearing slightly shabby chinos, a clip-on tie, and a stained button-down shirt with a black nylon jacket over top. On the jacket above Clarence's left pectoral was a decal featuring two red horses on a yellow background. "The Blue Grass State: I've Been There!" was the legend. He's got the yellow teeth and yellow eyes and strong odor of a cigar smoker, and sure enough when he was leaning over me at the Desk, treating me to his 55-minute harangue, I saw in his shirt pocket beneath his jacket a wrapped White Owl.

He told me how he eats lunch on Capitol Hill every day to eavesdrop on insider conversations. He told me about being able to judge which Senator will sit in which chair at what time from sitting in the box dozens of times a year. He mimicked Senators Mckulski and Kennedy and Grassley. He was a meteoroligist for the Federal Government. He rides the MTA. He is a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Catholic, and a Baptist. He believes they're all "going in the same direction." He thinks Clinton won because he said he admired Reagan. He loomed over me, hands splayed on the desk, yellow eyes piercing into my soul, square ink-dark face vivid against the white ceiling tiles. "Geoff, there is no way any man can learn morals alone. We must seek out our teacher. We need religion. If we don't seek our teacher, our teacher will find us when we're ready." Sometimes when I'm confronted by crazy people I start to think crazy thoughts myself. I actually wondered if Clarence was sent to me like some modern burning bush to tell me things.

Then it was back to Capital Hill bars and riding the Greyhound and the MARC train and some odd monologue about seats for the handicapped and those who have no religion are the ones who need signs telling them to get up when the handicapped are on the bus or the train. Then he explained how admirable were George W. Bush's management skills, but he'd lost his confidence after 9/11 and was fumbling badly since. I heard Clarence's peculiar take on Iran/Contra and how supporting the Contras was what sealed the fate of the USSR. Clarence summed up Reagan's brilliance: "He broke the law in ways that wasn't breaking the law."

I've encountered many crazies during my days in fast food, book retail, and library service (not to mention my days as an English Prof). Clarence Stimms is perhaps the single greatest looney of them all. He shook my hand, told me he lectured me because I "looked intelligent," and said "I'll be in here a lot. I want to catch up before the next elections because somebody is going to offer me that campaign manager job I turned down years ago." Then he laughed and ran off. Strangely, I can't wait. Tiny Drum tried to cut in but Clarence held him off. Gotta love that.

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