By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I first heard the name Kucinich — not to be confused with koo-cinich!, the onomatopoeic precursor to gesundheit, which we’ve heard all our lives — in February 2003, while attending a peace vigil at the town center in Sierra Madre with my pregnant wife. It was around 8 o’clock at night, and there were perhaps 50 people in attendance, all standing around with drippy white candles, everybody genuinely terrified of what the next few years might bring as a result of the Bush administration’s über-fascination with 21st-century beatific pyrotechnics. There was very little talking, everybody concentrating on his or her own private version of doomsday, with the exception of six or seven Gap hippies, all teenagers, who were set off slightly from the rest of us, each of them drawing on a cigarette that he or she lit with his or her own candle. Occasionally, another teenager would ride by on a skateboard or lean out of a passing car’s window to heckle somebody in the smoking circle and receive a “Fuck you, Wallaceton!” or a “Suck it, McGinley!” as a result.
The powerlessness of our nonviolent protest to prevent the war we were only days away from seeing launched on the world soon became unbearable, so I leaned toward my wife and suggested that we walk the few blocks back to our apartment, where we could set our lit candles into holders next to our bed. She agreed, and, passing close enough to the Gap hippies to catch a scrap of their conversation, I distinctly heard one of them say, “Chemtrails are real, man,” referring to the conspiracy theory that suggested the government was dumping unknown substances on the population from high-flying aircraft for undisclosed purposes.
“Congressman Kucinich is the only guy in Washington who said he’d look into it,” said somebody else.
“That guy’s got balls,” said another.
“We can’t bring that on the plane, it’s too much,” says Kucinich four and a half years later, at Burbank Airport. He’s looking down at two grocery bags overflowing with cellophane-wrapped vegan baked goods, as heavy as dung bricks. They were presented to Elizabeth Kucinich, the congressman’s wife, by campaign groupies wishing to acknowledge her food politics with a birthday gift she might actually be able to enjoy — which she might have, had she been bovine and free for the next 72 hours to chew.
“Well, what can we do with them?” asks Mrs. Kucinich, her British accent as kind to the ear as a tinkling bell. “We can’t just throw them away.” She looks at me and sighs, smiling.
“People sure are, well,” I begin, not knowing how to react to such excessive and misguided affection.
“Nice,” says Mrs. Kucinich. “They’re very nice, aren’t they?”
“Marcus,” says the congressman abruptly, “can you put these back in the trunk? We’ve got to get moving.”
“What do you want me to do with them after that?” Marcus wanted to know.
“I don’t know,” says Kucinich. “Can you ship them to us?” You could almost hear the dumpster two blocks away licking its chops.
“Can I walk along with you?” I ask the candidate, picking at the scab of our now obvious mutual disappointment in each other.
“Stay close,” he says to me, like a platoon leader just before entering the jungle in South Vietnam. Walking too quickly for me to ever get beside him, I watch in amazement as he zigzags around in the strange pantomime of a confused tourist, sloughing off every question attempt with a “Hang on a second,” his eyes bouncing back and forth between the airport signs like pinballs in a flashing machine.
As I amble along behind him, I begin to feel like the 13th-century Sufi philosopher Nasreddin, who was found one day searching intensely for something in the street in front of his house. When asked by a neighbor what he was looking for, Nasreddin answered that it was a key that he needed to unlock all the secrets of the universe. The neighbor asked Nasreddin what he was doing, exactly, when he lost the key. “I was rummaging around in my basement,” said Nasreddin. When asked why he was looking in the street for something that was probably lost in the basement, Nasreddin replied, “Because the light is better here.”
It’s at this point that I start to realize that an interview with Dennis Kucinich for the purpose of understanding his politics might be as foolhardy as attempting a deep understanding of a Shakespeare sonnet by interrogating each individual letter of the alphabet. Or asking a meteorologist to give meaning to a sunset. Sometimes the truth is on the periphery of reality, reflected more in what it inspires in other things than in what it states definitively in itself.
No longer interested in hearing him deflect, I quicken my gait and trot up to him to tell him that I’m leaving, just as he is cornered by walls and made to stop. “You stand in line to get the boarding passes,” he tells his wife, “and I’ll wait here with the luggage.” Turning to me, he says, “Okay, you’ve got a few minutes.”