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Monday June 16, 2003, 10:44

Hillary Clinton's book reading and signing at the Chappaqua Public Library was much like any other reading and signing. It just had more volunteers on hand. And more Secret Service. For me to try to delve into the political significance of this particular event, either in relation to any other event of hers, or in the greater scope of her greater political vision for the future would be for me to step outside of my area of expertise, outside my area of interest and outside of my ability to say anything interesting at all. Opting instead for a subject on which I have far more experience, I will instead talk about the insane people who were in attendance at this event on this past Saturday.

When attending political functions, it is always important to know somebody, or at the very least, to know know somebody who knows somebody, for they both get you better seats than the schlubs who have to wait on line in order to have a chance at catching the sweat flying from the brow of whichever speaker it is who is presiding over said political function. In the case of Senator Clinton's appearance at her adopted local library, I was able to arrive long after the doors opened and still slide into the front row of the auditorium along with the local town politicos and library board members (which is to say that I knew somebody). This particular positioning is quite interesting for three reasons:

1- It offers the best view. While this may not be categorically true (for some auditoriums have such high stages that a front row seat will offer nothing more than an excellent view of the front of an oversized lectern), it is still better than taking your chances out amongst the great unwashed in the "cheap seats."

2- In the event of a book signing, you will most certainly be called in with the first group of people to get said book signed and thus will not be forced to wait and watch as row after row stands and files neatly towards the stage to have the title page scrawled upon with a black Uni-ball.

3- You get to spend time with the crazy people who have been waiting in line all night for an opportunity to get the seats behind the seats you were able to procure simple by knowing the right people. These people will inevitably be die-hard fans of whomever it is who is presiding over the event and will inevitably have fun and interesting things to say to entertain you while you are waiting for the festivities to get underway.

This particular event seemed to invite two types of screwballs. The first was the diehard fan. He sported an under-bite and the posture of someone who probably spends entirely too much time surfing the web for porn. He wore a t-shirt with a photograph of Hillary Clinton printed onto the front with the words "Hillary Rodham Clinton - Michigan" underneath and wore three buttons pinned across his chest. From right to left they read "Hillary Rodham Clinton - Support Group - Fan Club," simply "Hillary Rodham Clinton" and finally "New Yorkers for Hillary." His shoes and corduroy pants were matching shades of beige and he clutched what I could only assume was a large gold crucifix hanging around his neck throughout the speech (though it could very well have just been Hillary's face on the end of that gold chain. After all, that very afternoon, on my way to Westchester, I saw a man on the train wearing an enormous pendant featuring the head of Christ) as he giggled and swooned over the Senator. When she took the stage, he clapped and pointed at his shirt. Clapped and pointed. Clapped and pointed. I am sure the Secret Service1. was keeping its collective eye on him.

For the second group of crazies, I offer the following anecdote. When the volunteers came around the first two rows to collect the books for the signing (to make the process move faster), it became clear that the books that were turned in were not necessarily going to be the books that were returned as we got up on stage to collect them. Said one gentleman behind me, "I don't want anyone touching my books! I don't even let my wife touch my books. I don't even let my wife touch my newspaper! I don't want somebody else's book. What if someone spit in it?!" Yes. What would happen if someone spit in their book before getting it signed by Hillary Clinton. What if indeed?

His sentiments were strongly echoed by a woman sitting a few seats down from him (presumably not his wife) who refused to relinquish control of her own books (limited to two per person) for signing. "I want to give them to her myself. Why can't I give them to her when I go up to see her? I don't want someone else's book. The front pages of some of the books are wrinkled!" The fuss was, of course, over the "Special Edition" book plates that the local bookseller was providing with the (marked up) copies of "Living History" that were purchased in town. Each copy came with a little adhesive-backed piece of paper noting the name of the book, the name of the bookstore and a unique hand-written number. I am pretty sure that was the number of the book sold at that particular bookstore, but that would just be silly, wouldn't it? When presented with the argument that these "Special Edition" stickers were really just a marketing tool used by the local bookshop (which got a significant shout out when Hillary first took the stage) to sell more books, the woman turned to her neighbor (who suggested that she could also put stickers inside the inside cover of her book -- perhaps some hearts and rainbows would look nice) and informed her that it was simply "the difference between being a second class citizen and a first class citizen." When trying to offer up the suggestion that this was the most ridiculous thing ever, her friend was met with an icy glance, and finger in her face and a terse "sssssssssht," at which point Ms. Clinton took the stage.

I really don't remember much of the rest of the event at all.

1. Quick difference between the Secret Service and the local Hillary Clinton volunteers: Secret Service agents take their jobs very seriously. Their eyes are either trained on the former First Lady, as was the case with the two agents on the stage, or are constantly scanning the crowd, as was the case with the agent I saw in the audience. Compare this behavior to the volunteer who, dressed in a similarly smartly cut dark suit and standing on the side of the auditorium, also took his job very seriously and spent the better part of the reading staring down the shirt of the female volunteer standing next to, and one step down from, him. Verrry serious work this political volunteering.

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