Since I spend half my time daydreaming, I was fascinated to learn that, according to a new study (1956), common daydreams involve sex, love, answering a telemarketer’s phone call by turning on a leafblower, or floating naked down a river of melted chocolate chips with Captain Sully Sullenberger. But the most recurrent daydream is standing or sitting in front of a politician and giving her or him a piece of your mind, like the cerebral cortex or a temporal lobe.
I, too, have daydreamed of meeting up with well-known politicians and giving them what-for. But I’ve actually spent considerable time with each of the following public servants who, if they are or were alive and under Congressional compulsion to testify, would admit they remember my contributions to their careers:
The first President I met was John Kennedy, although when I met John he wasn’t yet President. He was a Massachusetts Senator and my mother was the administrative head of his campaign in Oregon. She opened my eyes to the valuable job of political office workers who, for their hours of exhaustive work, were given a handful of M&Ms— Plain not even Peanuts.
So I began my political career, stuffing envelopes around the clock since someone’s Baby Ben sat in the middle of the circular table of leaflets.
One day I overheard a remark and tried to warn John: Someone had predicted that a politician from Massachusetts who’d run for President was on a long trip, riding in a car and—- It was too terrible to contemplate! It involved a kenneled dog on top of the car.
A couple of years later I travelled back alone to Washington D.C. on my way to a national youth conference. During that trip I met Representative Stanley Tupper, a Republican from Maine who took me to lunch in the Senate Restaurant because, he exclaimed, I needed to order its Famous Senate Navy Bean Soup. Sitting with him among the country’s most powerful tourists, I advised Stan to oppose the Vietnam War and Barry Goldwater’s run for the Presidency. At my age, I was a prodigious reader and astute observer. I knew, for example, the capital of Maine—Augusta National. I also urged Stan to support the Voting Rights Act and co-sponsor a bill for seniors’ health (which, for want of a better term, I called “Medicare”).
A few years later, when I studied American History Cliff Notes, I learned Rep. Tupper had followed my political advice, but hadn’t given me any public credit! No, after all the information and courageous guidance I’d provided, my only reward from him was a copy of The Congressional Cook Book. It contained a recipe for the Famous Senate Navy Bean Soup.
Undeterred by this oversight, I worked one summer on the Hill (Capitol Hill) in the office of Oregon’s Democratic Congresswoman Edith Green. The office staff was manned, or more accurately womanned, by all but one man. Because the staff was preoccupied with administrative duties such as forging Mrs. Green’s signature on their drafted letters to constituents, I was able to ingratiate myself with Edith.
Strictly on my advice, she drafted legislation to equalize pay between men and women, helped pass President Johnson’s anti-poverty legislation, and supported civil rights legislation. Once again, however, I didn’t get credit for these strategies, nor did she follow my counseling that the “Civil Rights Act” sounded much less compelling than the “Trudi York Civil Rights Act of 1964.” But Edith was considering, when I left at the end of summer, my idea for a bill to require that only white males show i.d. before voting in any election.
One day at a staff meeting Edith growled that then-President Lyndon Johnson was a liar and couldn’t be trusted. Afterward I quietly reasoned with her to take time to really get to know him. Maybe, I said, the two of them could go a few times for coffee. I pointed out that although she was a Capricorn (stable, practical hard-working), and he was a Virgo (a tactician, a lover of cleanliness), no doubt they could find common ground on the subject of personal hygiene.
Another day when Edith and I were eating Famous Senate Bean Soup in the Senate Restaurant, I told her about water leaks and heating problems I was experiencing at my apartment. The apartment was located in a new high rise in the southwest section of Washington D.C, a rehabbed area where taxis still refused to drive after 9:00 p.m. I told Edith that Congresswoman Bella Abzug lived in my apartment and, according to my sources, had complained about similar water leaks. Unlike most tenants, Bella had received prompt attention and not because she was a Member of Congress, but because the landlord was unnerved by women who wore hats.
“Oh, I know the place,” Edith said sympathetically after I described the apartment’s plumbing and heating problems.
She rose and stepped out of our booth. “Let me introduce you to Representative Jim Scheuer [rhymes with OY-er] from New York,” she said. “I believe he owns that building. I’m sure he can help you.”
Democrat James Scheuer’s reputation was of a strong liberal whose legislative agenda included Head Start for early education, environmental protection and automotive safety. He also was pro-choice and supported repeal of laws limiting the trade of contraceptives. While I couldn’t take credit for his work—I’d already tried that—- I was happy he’d surely help me with my apartment issues. I watched as Edith led him over to our booth. His face seemed to light up as we shook hands.
“Well, I’ll let you two talk,” she said, and left.
Immediately Scheuer’s smile vanished. A scowl materialized in its place.
“Now,” he said harshly, “what the HELL is this problem with your apartment in my building?”
For ten minutes Scheuer filibustered on the finer qualities of his apartments. I’d forgotten the liberal public servant was a multimillionaire real estate developer and lawyer. Edith had also interrupted his lunch, which probably consisted of Senate Famous Navy Bean Soup and nails. Fortunately my apartment landlord fixed the leaks and heating elements a month later, about the time I started wearing a large-brimmed hat.
In the interest of your short attention span, I won’t go into detail about my dinner with President Bill Clinton where he ignored my advice to try the roast beef. (See “Dinner With Bill,” The Chicago Tribune http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1994-08-07/features/9408070271_1_roast-beef-dinner-seller-list ).
And I’ll only briefly mention my 1987 meeting with Oregon Governor Neil Goldschmidt who reviewed my resume at his State Capitol office and brainstormed with me ideas for jobs. In exchange, I offered the Governor the following suggestions to help diversify Oregon’s depressed economy: (1) Establish a typewriter factory since only India was producing them; (2) Create deep geologic nuclear waste disposals, which could be coupled with urban renewal; and (3) Consistent with Oregon’s environmental practices, build a plant for manufacturing flavored colonics.
But my favorite time with a politician was in a swimming pool in Palm Springs. I was swimming one afternoon at the former International Hotel, fitting my black swimsuit much more effectively than now, and performing an elegant dog paddle across the pool. I looked up and spotted a tall, half-naked man with graying hair and unmistakable lantern jaw. When he spoke to a woman nearby, his gravelly voice sounded as if he was chewing his words.
Before long he flashed me a grin of recognition, dove in the water and swam over to the side of the pool where I was stationed.
“Hello, Trudi,” he said.
For an hour in the pool, Republican Governor Tom McCall and I talked politics. Before his wife Audrey whisked him out of the pool [“Tom, dear, time to go.”], Tom explained he wanted to make a memorable statement about preserving Oregon’s environment.
In just a few minutes I created the catchy slogan he could use! Eagerly, he repeated it several times.
Tom returned to Oregon and soon after made headlines by his humorous but pointed remarks for which he’d always be known:
“We want you to visit our State of Excitement often. Come again and again. But for heaven’s sake, don’t move here to live…”
Gov. Tom McCall
This was MY idea! Once again a politician just had to embellish and tinker with my political genius and take credit for it.
But when I left Tom on that day in Palm Springs, I’d given him the perfect slogan:
“Come to Oregon. Then get out.”
All right, so it needed a little work.