Macy’s Department Store, Bellingham Washington:
Excuse me? Young man? Could you help me? I need a black suit. Size 38.
What is the occasion, sir?
I’m going to the White House.
Did you say the White House, Sir?
Yes, the Correspondent’s Christmas Party. My son invited me. I have a message for the President.
“We’ll have to tailor these pants, Sir.
I must be shrinking.
Excuse me, Sir? Did you say sinking?
I’m sorry, I have Parkinson’s Disease. Sometimes it’s hard to understand me. I said shrinking.
Oh, yes. I’m sorry Sir. My grandfather has Parkinson’s too. He used to be a farmer.
I used to be an artist. I’d like that Garcia tie. And a coral, silk . . . short-sleeved dress shirt.
9:00 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, Northwest Terminal Sea-Tac Airport, 3,478 miles to go:
Himself, his hand-carved maple cane with the cherry wood handle, his very own Parkinson’s disease and his message.
4:00 P.M. Eastern Standard Time, Washington D.C.
Belt looped in black suit pants–6 minutes.
Eight small buttons on coral silk shirt–4 minutes per button.
Garcia tie knotted–12 minutes.
Walk through the door–2 minutes. Message in pocket.
5:30 P.M. Official limousine arrives.
Bulletproof windows, snow on the road, slippery. Could be late,
Can’t be late. Don’t look outside. Don’t talk to the driver. Just focus on the message.
6:00 P.M. arrival at the White House
Under the portico, red carpet, Secret Service, CIA buffed in black leather.
The West Wing: Awesome power. Concentrate on the door, the door. Christmas lights, music,
Surveillance, clearance, speed.
Name, Sir? Social Security number, Sir? Guest of? You are a guest of whom?
Sir? All right. Cleared! Right through that door. Follow that escort.
Another door. He freezes in the doorway, stutters forward, almost falling.
Sir? Line up here and keep moving. You’ll have 10 seconds. Shake the President’s hand. Have your picture taken. It’s important to keep moving.
Ten, nine, eight, seven. Half a handshake away. Inside his black suit, cell phone rings.
Too many deep pockets.
Fumbling, stumbling, feet stuttering, arms flailing. Cane flies, message aloft.
Secret Service advances.
Bush’s hand appears, official camera flashes.
Sir! Keep moving . . . Sir? He freezes but his carefully written 5-second message keeps moving. Stuck to the ribbed heel of the
Secret Service agent.
Please Mr. President, reconsider your policy on stem cell research.