Wednesday, January 3, 2007


"Our" president came home last night. I happened to be eastbound on the highway to a contractor's office, when traffic began slowing and moving to the shoulder. A helicopter wheeled overhead, and a mob of police cars from every agency whizzed by on the westbound side. One after another, lights silently flashing, state and local cops, county deputies, federal police, secret service. I realized it was President Ford's final motorcade, and joined the cars on the shoulder. He had just arrived at the airport that bears his name, and was on his way for the last day of viewing before the funeral. He will be buried in a beautiful garden beside his museum downtown. Gerald Ford is known as 'Jerry' around here, a pretend familiarity perpetuated by all the locals who would like to have been his friends. He was a local and U of M football star, represented Grand Rapids for some 25 years in congress, and had finished his time in the White House before I reached voting age. He lived in California after the Presidency, where he could golf year 'round. Whenever he returned to West Michigan, it was a rare and major event. Universal adoration is one of my goals. World domination? Not so much. Great fame? Could do without it. I know it's a tad ridiculous to hope for, because I am certain that someday, somewhere, I may ruffle somebody's feathers. I might even piss you right off. Jerry came as close to that goal as anyone I've ever seen, regardless of politics. I have not heard a single retrospective that fails to mention his good character, likability, and genuine care for people. The contractor I met groused about how liberal he had become, thought California had affected his thinking. Compared to West Michigan's conservative sensibilities, everybody is a flaming liberal. I just hope that I can demonstrate the kind of care that makes people want to be my friend, like Jerry did.

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