The Eternal Mayor - Part I

The Eternal Mayor

By James M. O'Meara, © 2006


A while back I took my first trip to Denver, Colorado. The trip west included a two-hour layover at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. I greet muddling around airports with the same enthusiasm I reserve for root canals. After awhile all airport terminals look alike. There comes a point, rather quickly, where strolling through them loses all appeal.

On this layover, I committed the cardinal sin of forgetting to bring a book. I prefer reading during layovers to bumbling around a concourse or fattening up on fast food. I’ve made a dent in a good many books between flights. I’ve enjoyed both fine and trashy fiction and also meatier stuff, such as history or some light science. It passes the time painlessly and makes unforeseen delays tolerable. If a flight is late, I just read another chapter. Without a book on this trip, I was forced to pass the time wandering the busy concourse. I toyed with the idea of buying a book in one of the many little shops, but a quick glance told me there was nothing worth investing in, and books are investments I don’t make lightly.

After nearly half an hour, thirst and a little hunger drove me into a small sports bar and eatery. It was painted in ghastly stripes of orange, navy blue and white. I have nothing against the colors, nor do I harbor any ill will toward the Chicago Bears who no doubt were the inspiration behind the theme. It was the odd zigzag patterns which gave me a headache. There was a free table or two, and a few open seats at the bar. The bar would put the mind-numbing color scheme largely at my back, so I pulled up there and ordered a beer and a sandwich. The beer was served up immediately, and I was taking a nice long sip when I felt a tug at my elbow.

I turned to see an ancient gentleman standing next to me.

“Is this seat taken, sonny?” His voice was raspy and dry, like sandpaper running over petrified cactus.

With this greeting, I felt nothing if not at least a bit younger than my forty-some years. I motioned for him to join me. It is safe to say he was on the downhill side of ninety at the very least, and might well have been past the hallowed century mark. His silver wire-rim glasses were balanced precariously on a very large nose, which jutted impressively off his wrinkled face like a twin-peaked volcano rising over an alien landscape. His clothes were very old and dulled somewhat by age, but immaculately pressed. He wore gray pants with a faded white dress shirt and black bow tie. On his head was a vintage Danbury Bentley black hat with a sun-faded black grosgrain ribbon. His overcoat was tan and sage tweed with a double row of battered leather buttons, three flap pockets (one each on the middle and lower right, and one other on the lower left) and one breast pocket from which a sharply pressed handkerchief protruded.

He hopped up onto the stool with a vigor that took me by surprise and ordered a draft. We exchanged in some small talk on a variety of topics, and eventually hit upon politics. We were generally in agreement as to the uselessness of most elected officials, with a few notable exceptions here and there. At one point I made the observation that the idea of term limits should be applied across the board for any elected official, to assure the public that any damage being wrought during the office-holder’s tenure was not perpetual.

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