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The most I’ll ever pay for Charles Shaw

[The other day, I got this email explaining that Kevin Powell from the first season of MTV's the Real World would be in town to raise money for his congressional campaign next year. I could give a rat's ass who runs for Congress here in St. Louis, let alone out in New York, but I figured it would be a good opportunity to try my hand at some Hunter S. Thompson-style campaign journalism. Below is my typically half-assed attempt.]

There must be more bums per capita in the U City Loop than there is anywhere else in the whole country. When I used to live down there, I used to get lunch at the Lee’s and the Taco Bell down on Skinker, and I used to get hit up like it was going out of style.

Before I actually lived down there, it was nothing for me to break a bum off with a dollar so he could go get himself a drink. That way, I could avoid listening to that whole spiel about how he works for a magazine run by the homeless. Plus, Lord knows I know how it is to need a drink and not have a whole lot of money. But once I started living down there, of course I had to dead that shit. I was going down there way too often, to cop a taco or whatever, to be making a donation each time. Those bums were just gonna have to go back to breaking into people’s cars for change, or learn some sort of useful skill.

Hence I wasn’t all that surprised when this bum hit me up on the way into this fundraiser for Kevin Powell, the guy from the first season of MTV’s The Real World, who’s running for Congress out in New York. This was one of those religious/cell phone bums. First he asked me to use my cell phone to call somebody, then he asked me whether or not I had ever read the Bible and whether or not I believe in God. To which I responded, “No,” and “No, I don’t.”

Then I went inside. There was this girl working the door, and she was like, “There’s the table, if you want to make a donation.” I didn’t, so I walked right past it, to the bar and the bar and the hors d’oeuvres. I hit up the crackers and salami, and the gouda and some other cheeses. Then I hit up the bar, which was serving sparkling water or your choice of either red or white whine. It was Charles Shaw aka Two Buck Chuck, but whatever. I happen to like Two Buck Chuck. Nullus. It doesn’t even give me a hangover – probably because it’s not real wine. And I would have felt worse about not paying if it was anything that was actually worth a shit.

But as soon as I hit up the bar, this other chick came up to me and explained that if I wasn’t sure what I wanted to donate, I should still fill out a donors form. So I was like whatever. It wasn’t so much a matter of me being unsure of what I wanted to donate, but I figured I already ate and drank. The least I could do was fill out a form. So I filled out a form, but still didn’t actually donate anything. Then I hovered around the food and drink for a few more minutes, until the man of the evening arrived. Nullus?

And then there he was. Kevin Powell is a bit doughier in the face than he was back when was on the Real World, but otherwise he looks mad young for a guy who’s in his 40s. Nullus. He was holding court with some older white chicks who looked like the kind of older white chicks who donate money to all sorts of shit, in order to feel important. So I went over and listened in for a bit. They were talking about the ’08 presidential election. He didn’t seem to have a horse in the race, so to speak, but he seemed adamant that a Democrat get in the White House.

It was at this point that a third chick came up to me looking for some money. She was nice and light-skinted, and had on a stripper-ish skirt and heels. The part of me that’s spent a lot of time over on the East Side suddenly felt compelled to reach into my pocket and pull out a wad. I peeled off a twenty and was like, “Fine, damnit.” I explained to the girl, and whoever else was in earshot (the Chuck was starting to set in), that I was down there as a journalist, and I didn’t think journalists had to bust out a twenty every a politician was in the room. But clearly I was mistaken!

I explained to Kevin that I was a hip-hop writer working “primarily” on the Internets. He claimed he had seen my byline before once or twice, which I took as typical writer-to-writer BS, since I don’t have a “byline” so to speak. But then he started talking about how a lot of the shit you see on the Internets is pretty random, and would never fly in a real magazine with fact-checkers and advertisers to kow tow to and what have you. Which I took to mean that maybe was familiar with my work, and that was his nice, politician way of saying, “I think you bloggers are full of shit.”

After about an hour of him standing around and bullshitting with people, we all shifted into another room for a sort of stump speech. It was extra vague, in the way these things always are. In general, Kevin Powell is for things are good and against things that are bad. He’s like Barack Obama, and he even has similar ears. He made it a point to emphasize that he was raised by a single mother and that he grew up in poverty, and in general he made Jersey City, New Jersey sound like Appalachia. None of this shit was particularly relevant to me personally, but I’m assuming the part of New York in which he’s running for Congress must be a really shitty area.

Being a liberal political event, of course the room was filled with aggrieved minority types with their own sets of pet issues. As soon as the floor was opened to Q&A, this girl with a short, guy-ish haircut and a stern visage (feel free to draw your own conclusions) shot her hand up and asked him about some story he wrote about how we need to stop beating up women. He took this as a cue to launch into a lengthy, obviously well-rehearsed spiel about how men are evil and how we need to start acting more like women.

I thought it was especially amusing that he felt it necessary to mention that he himself was known to lay hands on a broad between the years of 1987 and 1991, with extra emphasis on the fact that this all took place in that time frame. But I guess he felt that was part of “owning” his mistakes. Lord knows I’m not about to give a speech about some of the shit I’ve done over the past five years. I guess that makes him a better man than I am, even though I’ve yet to beat up any women.

There were a few other writers in the room, and even though none of them will ever be as prominent as I was three years ago, I did feel kinda self-conscious about the fact that they all had notebooks with them, and I didn’t think to bring so much as a pen. I’ll know next time, if only so that I appear serious about what it is that I do. I ran into this kid named Caveh (sp?), who was carrying what’s known as a moleskin notebook. The shit was mad slick-looking, and apparently it’ll only run you about $5, so I’ll probably pick one of those up pretty soon.

This kid also managed to snag a couple of bottles of the Charles Shaw, and he let me have one on the way out. So that was cool. Between that, and the amount of wine and cheese I scarfed down during the meet and greet session, I figured I was really only out about $ 15. Maybe as little as $12. And I figured that of all the candidates you could donate $12 to, Kevin Powell wasn’t half that bad. I don’t have any allusions about him changing the world, but, at the very least, it might be cool to have someone from the hip-hop community, let alone, MTV’s The Real World, in Congress.

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