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Election '08: Antonio Makes It to Denver With K-9 Unit

The Las Vegas – Denver leg of my flight wasn’t so eventful. The guy across the aisle sneezed and coughed on me for an hour and a half . . . oh, and two ladies sat in my row. One was a Denver native who told me most businesses have told workers not to bother coming to work on Thursday, the day of Obama’s acceptance speech, and the other a lady who looked a lot like the previously mentioned dude (see Visions of Obamaland), only she had bigger hands and bigger boobs. Weird. She told me she was studying to be a forensic psychologist, had a crazy weekend in Vegas, and promptly fell asleep.

I arrived at baggage claim in an eerily calm Denver International Airport (were folks avoiding Denver just like many Republican senators are avoiding Minneapolis?), grabbed my bag, and noticed a familiar looking little guy in a black suit, white shirt, no tie, who I couldn’t quite place at first lurking by a baggage carousel near mine. For some reason, this guy had two K-9 officers and their large German Shepard large dogs with him. Who? I know I know this guy? Hmmm. Despite obviously being Latino, he has the salon-tanned veneer of a TV star. Maybe he’s on one of those Telenovelas.

Then it struck me -– it’s our mayor, the honorable Antonio Villaraigosa. I went over and stood around until one of the guards interrupted the flow of conversation among the three and nodded at me.

I stepped up and extended my hand to the mayor.

“Joe Donnelly from the LA Weekly,” I said, and started to go into how we met when he came into the Weekly while running for mayor, but I didn’t get very far before he interrupted.

“Oh, yes, yes. Joe Donnelly,” Villaraigosa said taking my hand, while grabbing my shoulder with his other hand. His greeting technique was masterful – friendly, strong and controlling. “Yes, I read your stuff all the time.” His face lit up and light glistened off his man tan.

I asked him if he’d just arrived, or was picking up someone. I don’t know why I asked that, but it seemed that the only explanation for him waiting around baggage claim at a public airport would be that he was waiting for someone. I mean, this the fucking mayor of the most powerful city in the most powerful state in the most powerful country… etc. Does he really have to wait for his bags? Apparently.

“No, I just arrived,” he said, smiling. Then as if he could notice the brain fog lingering over my head, he said, “I’m waiting for my son. I pack lightly, but he has big bags?” He gave me a sort of friendly, you-know-how-it-is look and gesture, and I did my best to communicate back that I did indeed.

I shook his hand again and wished him a good convention, gestures he happily returned, and on my way out to grab a cab I thought about how small he is – small, strong, warm and slightly pugnacious. And I realized who he reminded me of when I saw him at the baggage carousel: a Mexican American Jimmy Cagney.

Don’t sweat it, Mr. Mayor, where I come from, that’s a compliment.