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The Adventures of Steve


Saturday, December 27, 2003

Since my arrival in the city of Rancho Cordova on Sunday, I've been spending plenty of time with my parents. We've played games, watched videos, gone shopping and done sight-seeing. For someone who's used to spending a lot of time by myself, it's a little surprising to have people doting on me so much, but here's one definition of luxury and it's been a great vacation.

"I've got to get moving on my Dean plans," a voice keeps saying inside my head, but I've been ignoring it, feeling that everything will work out somehow. I've decided to spend a couple of hours tomorrow on the Web, while they're at church and not fretting about whether I'm bored or not.

Yesterday they drove me to the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, about two-thirds the way to San Francisco from here. The place was jammed with tourists from all over: South Africa, Korea, India, Southern California, you name it.

Jelly Belly is a "gourmet jelly bean." They make billions of them here in scores of different flavors. When you first walk in the factory, there're big mosaic portraits composed entirely of these jellybeans of three of the last four presidents. The biggest belongs to Ronald Reagan, to whom they owe everything, as apparently he was a big fan and made "Jelly Belly" a Republican household term.

My parents made a beeline for the bulk Jelly Belly dispensers and promptly filled up a half-dozen sacks with around seven pounds of various jelly beans. Then we went to the cafe, entirely staffed by black folks, and I ordered a small pizza that came in the shape of a squashed Jelly Belly.

After waiting in line for a half-hour, my dad and I took the factory tour. We had to wear little paper hats while we were in the factory. They weren't actually in operations that day, so they had TVs above the floor showing what they would be doing if they were there. The highlight was seeing Mr. Jelly Belly himself riding Packaging Robot #4. He introduced us to the robots and then had them do synchronized robot arm moving to "Sugar Sugar." Clearly some IT person had a little extra time to burn.

Today my Dad and I went out for haircuts. I was thinking about leaving my hair long for Iowa, but something happened yesterday that changed my mind. While walking to Raley's yesterday, I passed a guy out washing one of his trucks. Classic rock was blaring from another, so I knew I was approaching Middle America, not one of the liberal elite I'm so used to. So I made eye contact and nodded unsmilingly, in the way I've seen men do, but he looked at me like I was some kind of longhaired liberal freak from Oregon.

So if I want to connect with undecided Iowa voters, I'm going to need to look a little more normal. So this morning I shaved off my goatee and then Dad took me to his favorite barber, about twenty minutes away in Orangevale. I told the guy that I wanted it short, and that he could clipper the sides. He asked me if I wanted a half-inch or three-quarters. I selected three-quarters, which he used the first time.

Once he was finished, he went over the sides and back two more times. Well, I now have a haircut you might find on a Marine left unattended for a week. I guess it'll grow back. I also think the Nascar dads will give me a little more respect now. Now that I think about it, though, maybe I should also lose the blue leopard spot fleece pants too.


All of the Adventures of Steve

   Episode 1: In which Steve leaves Eugene and arrives in Rancho Cordova.
   Episode 2: In which Steve visits the Jelly Belly factory and gets a haircut.
   Episode 3: In which Steve gets a cold, a big box, and a seat on a train.
   Episode 4: In which Steve receives shiny new toys and loyal old friends.
   Episode 5: In which Steve departs for Iowa and rants a bit about why.
   Episode 6: In which Steve takes a trip to Des Moines.
   Episode 7: In which Steve gets really involved.
   Episode 8: In which Steve starts hobnobbing but is haunted by Arne Baker.
   Episode 9: In which Steve becomes a groupie and is informed that we all have love in our hearts.
   Episode 10: In which Steve becomes a media whore.
   Episode 11: In which Steve takes on Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and Michigan.
   Episode 12: In which Steve is pitted against Fort Dodge, Iowa and seven vans of unruly Texans.
   Episode 13: In which Steve learns that all his hard work wasn't enough to put the candidate back together again.
   Episode 14: In which Steve does nothing.
   Episode 15: In which Steve reaches a decision and attempts to get virtually hired.
   Episode 16: In which we thank the good doctor for all he did.
   Episode 17: In which Steve suits up for a new life in the Cap City!
   Episode 18: In which Steve starts to realize he’s not in Eugene anymore.
   Episode 19: In which Steve switches from job seeking to home seeking.
   Episode 20: In which Steve starts to learn some things via the error side of trial and error.
   Episode 21: In which Steve experiences his first blizzard.
   Episode 22: In which Steve contemplates his next move.
   Episode 23: In which Steve prepares to switch gears... again.
   Episode 24: In which Steve spends a week in a hotel with four thousand teenagers and then gives his 30-day notice.
   Episode 25: In which Steve reminisces about his 10 weeks in Columbus while waiting in the wings.
   Episode 26: In which the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
   Episode 27: In which Steve changes everything.
   Episode 28: In which Steve finds Brood X, gets a teeny crush on a fellow trainee and learns where he's going, approximately.
   Episode 29: In which Steve starts to see how politics really works.
   Episode 30: In which Steve writes a letter to Kelly, executive director of the group that fired me.
   Episode 31: In which Steve spends a tentative week commuting to work in Maine.
   Episode 32: In which Steve learns he's just one piece on the board.
   Episode 33: In which Steve settles in for three months of intense campaigning.
   Episode 34: In which Steve is deep into the final countdown.
   Episode 35: In which Maine wins, the nation loses and Steve heads home.
   Episode 36: In which Steve doesn’t do much more than comb the classifieds and update his Web site.
   Episode 37: In which Steve slips into a normal life.

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