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Up Close and Impersonal with NewtPosted Friday, January 27, 2012, at 9:43 AM
Newt Gingrich and his wife Calista appeared before a crowd of about 300 at the parking lot in front of Hobby Lobby in Ft. Myers, Florida on Tuesday. Despite my dislike of politics, I spent 4 hours facing the sun, waiting with as pushy a group of people as I have ever seen...just to get this picture!
It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it!!
Yessir, folks, here I am, pounding the beat down in Ft. Myers, Florida, when who should show up a few short blocks away, but one of the candidates for president of the United States! What's a good, loyal reporter to do?
Mitt was in Lehigh Acres, and Santorum was in Punta Gorda, but Gingrich was in the parking lot of one of my favorite stores, right here in Ft. Myers!
I do not like politics, but this thing was really thrown in my lap! What would the boss say if I didn't even TRY to get a photo?
On the surface, the odds looked good. It was a gorgeous 85-degree day with a few clouds, which turned out to be a good thing, since the organizers set up the stage so that the crowd would be looking right into a setting sun.
Gingrich was supposed to be on location at 4 p.m. My buddy and I arrived at 2 p.m, placed our lawn chairs in a good location, and waited.
At 3 p.m., a few more people filtered in and the organizers began soliciting volunteers to put up signs in the polling places on Jan. 31st. Since we were all tourists, this plan was unsuccessful.
At 3: 15 p.m., the sound checks were begun..."One, two, one two, one two, one two!"
At 3:30, the police showed up and stood by. The sound men started playing "Only in America," which blasted from the speakers for the next three hours.
At 4 p.m.. the crowd was set, and the organizers strung up their puny rope barrier, which was promptly breached by two blondes in short shorts and a very old woman in red, white and blue sneakers. To show her devotion, the older woman took out her little stuffed elephant wearing a sequined cowboy hat (obviously an old campaigner) and set him on the arm of her lawn chair.
At 4:30, an organizer in a long-sleeved white shirt took the microphone and asked the crowd on each side of the stage to please move and leave room for Newt's bus. A small handful of people moved, but the majority looked as if they didn't understand English.
At 5:00, a local official, who had once worked with Gingrich, got up to tell us what a good man he as. The crowd shouted, "Where's Newt? Where's Newt?"
At 5:30, the crowd, many of whom had forgotten lawn chairs, pushed each other closer to the rope. Another plea was made to leave room for the bus. The crowd rose to their feet, as rumors circulated that Newt's bus could be seen. Behind the stage, protesters with signs reading,"More people on food stamps due to the Bush recession" were told to leave the area and get with the crowd. The blondes cheered and waved their Newt signs.
About 5:45, the police had to part the crowd to rescue an elderly woman who had fainted.
As the sun began to set at six o'clock, the campaign bus pulled up, and the dignitaries disembarked, amid a throng of screaming fans jumping and down and holding cameras.
What could I do? I had no choice but to leap over a row of chairs, scuffle with the line of blondes, and hoist my camera up in the air. I clicked wildly--until, finally, there he was in front of me--Newt Gingrich, in the flesh, looking as calm as possible, under the circumstances.
Did he talk? Well, yes, he did. I believe he spoke to us for ten whole minutes! Ten minutes and one good, clear close-up photo, and I consider it well worth four hours of my vacation time. What else did I have to do, anyway? So I got to work on my tan in the Hobby Lobby parking lot, instead of Barefoot Beach. I can live with that.
Oh--What did Newt say? Sorry--this is a blog: I don't talk about politics on my blog. You'll just have to wait for a news story. I plan to write one for next week's North Stoddard Countian, and I don't believe I'll mention the blondes.
From the golden shores of Florida. where the manatees, dolphins and politicians play, this is your rural Stoddard county reporter, eating all the shrimp and crab cakes she can stuff in her mouth before she has to be dragged back home, kicking and screaming!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.