1 September 2000

Nader Chooses Bill's Hat as Running Mate: Popularity Surges

Washington D.C. (associated Poets)

I couldn't believe Futrelle had put me up to this! My hands, cold, sweating, opened and closed as I neared the head of the line where Ralph Nader was signing copies of his book at a white table-cloth covered table. The women in line before me - two loyal members of the CCHCC - were whispering about how handsome Nader was. He wore a navy blue suit, a yellow tie, and a floppy, colorless hat pulled down over his ears.

Unable to afford a copy of Nader's hardback, I instead planned to ask Nader to sign my CORPORATE ROCK STILL SUCKS tshirt. Just to stall him and give me a chance to make my plea. I reached the front of the line. When Nader looked up and recognized me his face went slack. I handed him the black tshirt and a bottle of whiteout to write with. As he bent over the table and labored to spell out his name with the tiny brush, I spoke to him.

"Nader, I hissed, "Give me the hat."

"The hat," Nader said, "is my running mate."

"It's Bill's hat," I protested.

"The hat," Nader said, "is mine."


A week later, in Chicago, on a rainy cold Saturday at ten PM, a purple van was parked across from the Harold Washington Public Library.

I shivered against the cold wall of the dumpster and pulled the newspaper tightly around myself. In the van there was a flash as Your Aunt Barbara lit a cigarette - our prearranged signal.

The rainy alley with its walls of brick suddenly went bright from headlights as a limo pulled into the alley.

Now it was time to make our move: Operation Green Hat.

"...Fearing..." my radio crackled inside my coat "...this is McGrath. Operation Green Hat is go, over."

A door in the side of the library opened and Nader stepped out with his entourage, a short African American man in an Armani suit, a Euro-American woman with red curly hair wearing pumps and a white fur coat, three clowns, and Nader himself.

Ice gripped my entrails. In the shadow of the dumpster I stood up, letting the newspapers fall to the ground, and flattened myself into a doorway.

"...Go..." came the signal. I heard the engine rev across the street. I stepped out into the limo's headlights, hoping my fake goatee hadn't been loosened by the rain, and shouted as loud as I could.

"Oh my God! Keith Richards!!!"

Then I took off running, right past Nader and his startled campaign committee. As I slogged past I heard Nader cry "Keith Richards! Shit! I've got to get his autograph."

So. It was working.

As I skidded around the corner I caught a glimpse of Brian Hagy, pressed against the wall poised to lower a large butterfly net. The van squealed into the street and did a U-turn. The door opened and I piled inside, hearing shouts, and then Hagy was right behind me with the net. With a scream of rubber, the van lurched off toward the Dan Ryan.

And that was how we got Bill's hat back, and saved the Nader campaign from certain embarrassment.


Newspoetry at Spineless Books