'Would you care to...?'GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last night, while wearing a borrowed blue and white print dress with a wide belt, heels, red lipstick, a pin with Los Olivos, California under my name in bold lettering, and armed with an important piece of paper, I came face to face some of the most powerful Republicans in the United States to level a critical question at each them.
I wasn't there to grill anyone about the Republican-led US House approval of budget bill last week that would defund the Affordable Care Act, or the slight awkwardness of Michigan Gov.
Rick Synder giving the thumbs up to a bill that would expand health care eligibility to 470,000 Michigan residents through this same law.
I wasn't interested in what US Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky intended when he said earlier that day that they needed a Republican party that looked like the rest of America (''with tattoos, without tattoos. People with ties, without ties.'') or ask Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal to elaborate on ''the rebellion brewing in these here states''.
My role at the end of day one of the Michigan Republican Leadership Convention weekend - kind of a Game of Thrones, in suits - was to smile, pour water into a glass, nod to comments on the September humidity and unexpected rainfall that night and then ask: ''Would you care to see our wine list this evening?''
And then hold out the list as jackets unbuttoned and sweaty hands reached out to grasp it like a life line.
The obvious good news is that I found a job. But as you might have guessed, it's not in a newsroom and it's temporary.
But kind of gloriously temporary, I like to think, as I put my hair up each evening and apply lip liner then gaze at this person in the mirror. Sort of stage role, that I take bow after playing each evening.
Thanks to a blanket of applications sent out into the hospitality world I am not in Los Olivos, California this week, hanging out in big chairs in coffeehouses with my laptop, scouring the classified ads in the Valley News, squinting because I'm only wearing one contact so I can stretch my supplies, hair dishevelled, basically looking like a female answer to The Dude.
Instead, I am now panty-hosed up and gliding around the dining room of a hotel on an island in northern Michigan, looking lovely, wishing people a wonderful evening, lighting candles, and bestowing tables on guests, based on their level of political importance (both island and national politics) which I am to know by their face or surname when they approach the hostess stand that I lord over with two other hostesses.
We know that when a certain politician comes to dine with us, he is to be seated at table 12 and security detail at table 20, with wine glasses discreetly removed, so they can survey who enters and leaves the dining room.
We stand there smiling and attentive, hands behind our backs, as Joe the piano man plays tunes like Young at Heart and On the Street Where you Live on a polished baby grand by the bar.
We do not raise our voices and we do not point. When asked for directions we curve our hands, palm up, towards the toilets, the hotel bar, or the gardens that look out to Lake Huron and Round Island Lighthouse.
And probably the most important logistical detail about this place is that when I went outside last night to check if the taxi for a former deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush and Fox News regular had arrived, it wasn't the sound of a car pulling up to a kerb I was listening for, but hooves and carriage wheels.
There are no cars on Mackinac Island.
It is horses and push bikes only here.
Which is why I was flying down a hill on a blue bike with one gear and a basket the night before, following Terry, one of the restaurant servers, on her 10-speed, to find some place that would still sell island employees spicy Buffalo chicken wings at 2am.
It was still warm out and Terry was wearing platform shoes and a white blouse that billowed out behind her, that I used as a visual marker, as we raced through the darkness of the trees after work, and onto the narrow streets lined with Victorian houses and bars with people spilling out onto the streets.
It felt like we are sneaking out with our bikes on a school night.
Above us is a fort that was established during the American Revolution, with lights that blaze into the night and cannon fire every evening. There are layers and layers of communities and histories and cultures on this island.
Around us are closed up fudge stores and tourist shops that sell t-shirts with statements like ''Ohio Sucks!'' - and ''Look like a Barbie, Smoke like a Harley''.
After two stops, we find a bartender who says she can rustle up some food for us.
We are starving. I do a little dance in one place, out of joy. Does anything taste better than Buffalo wings and pale ale at 2am?
Look, my co-worker tells the bartender - she's dancing.
I take a seat at the bar and the guy next to me, a dead ringer for rapper Eminem, turns around on his barstool asks us if we are having a good night. We are, I say, which is obvious.
Do you work here? He asks. We do, we say, as the Buffalo wings with celery and ranch dressing appear in front of us.
We fall onto it like hungry wolves. I love mid-western food. Tomorrow, I will be back here eating the deep fried pickles.
He is here for work, but just for the weekend, he says, taking a sip of beer. I stop, mid-Buffalo wing bite.
I'm not exaggerating about the Eminem look.
There is a Detroit Tigers ball cap that he has turned jauntily sideways, a matching jacket that looks like it was purchased yesterday and shiny silver shoes.
I suspect that if he unzipped the jacket a gold chain with a giant letter would be revealed.
And this is a grown man. I chew and deliberate.
I think of all the unsuccessful eavesdropping I had done that evening; stopping at one point to collect a napkin and being enormously confused if an argument over the bill related to a gratuity charge for parties of ten or more, or Medicaid.
The point is, after a night of swaning around a room of policy makers in uncomfortable shoes, trying to blend in to the floral wallpaper with a silver water jug, I had nothing.
So I ask the ridiculous, but burning question: "You wouldn't possibly be here for the Republican convention, would you?''
A toothy smile is his answer. There is no rule how campaign managers for Republican congressmen have to dress after hours apparently. Or perhaps, like me, he is just enjoying the role-playing.
And who am I, in heels and mascara tonight, to judge, I think, my palm up, hand curving towards a celery stick, eager for some dirt on a policy maker who has become a notoriously bad tipper in the restaurant over the weekend.
All the world is a stage, right?
- © Fairfax NZ News