"One of the secrets of a successful campaign is to know where the hell you’re going,” says the candidate, fumbling with a folded piece of paper on which one of his workers has written cryptic directions to a meeting of the board of realtors. He’s squinting at the exits on Interstate 8. At least an hour late, he’s been wandering around Mission Valley from one office building to another, misdirected by efficient, smiling, killer receptionists who do not recognize him.
Arriving at the huge Masonic Temple on Camino Del Rio South (where the board is not meeting), he bumps his dented Chevrolet into the back of a Mercedes sport coupe. “This must be the place: looks like a realtor’s car.” After twenty frustrating minutes wandering around the Temple, he does not seem particularly perturbed. “Another theory of this campaign is that somebody is supposed to be with me at all times so I get where I'm supposed to be going. I call this guy my bodyguard. He’s with me at all times, except in tense situations.” He looks at his watch. “I’d be a hell of a mayor, wouldn’t I?”
Simon Casady is the former publisher of Phoenix’s two daily newspapers, the Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette, and the El Cajon Valley News (now the Daily Californian), which Casady says was “virtually the only San Diego paper in the Fifties that didn’t catch fire if it mentioned a Democrat.” He is a frequent defender of Fidel Castro; and, through his publishing power in Texas and Arizona, helped launch the political careers of Barry Goldwater, Lyndon Johnson, and Senator Lloyd Bentsen.
Casady is also the star of a foot-thick FBI file (filled mostly with editorials he wrote), and the man who split the California Democratic Party in 1966 over the Vietnam war. “Cyanide Si,”as his enemies used to call him, is now running for mayor of San Diego.
No one, including many of his supporters, expects him to win. And yet, Los Angeles Times (San Diego edition) reporter Nancy Skelton has posited that “if Casady keeps picking at the city’s scabs with some of the effectiveness he already has shown, Wilson could wind up a wounded winner, less than the invincible leader that he could paint himself in the 1978 gubernatorial campaign.”
Of course, any success in a campaign as strange in its inception and execution as Casady’s is impressive. For instance, during the early days of the campaign, in June, one of the controversies among Casady advisers was whether the KGB Chicken should become a major issue. Jack Canaan, whose well-known advertising and PR firm has locally handled Democratic presidential candidates since Truman, insisted that any decent mayor of San Diego would come to the rescue of Ted Giannoulas, whose feathers had been plucked by radio station KGB.
(To be fair, Wilson’s camp considered Giannoulas important enough to include him on a list of supporters that was published in the San Diego Union). Casady wisely resisted Canaan’s chicken fixation, but was immediately mobbed by advocates of sundry other causes. “Basically, there are two kinds of candidates,” says one Casady advisor, in on the early meetings. “First, there is the winner — for example, Wilson. People who are interested in power for power’s sake are drawn to a winner. Then there is the candidate like Casady — a long shot. People use this kind of candidate to forward their own causes.”
The nucleus of Casady’s early advisors included Democratic activists Lucy Goldman and Mel Shapiro, Arlene Carston — who heads Republicans for Casady — seniors’ activist Joe Stern, former city manager Kimball Moore, and Jack Canaan. “Casady had to weigh a huge assortment of issues that these people brought him," says an early advisor, “condominium conversion, rent control, the city manager form of government, downtown redevelopment, bus service, the Chollas landfill, pueblo lands. . . . He seemed pretty confused at first, but I think he eventually sorted things out. I used to think Casady was a fiery radical, but during the early days of the campaign, at least, he served as a moderating force."
Moderate or not, Casady, who is seventy-one years old, is an intriguing candidate. Despite his youthful vigor, he is almost an anachronism. Sitting in a tiny waiting room outside the inner sanctum of the board of realtors (which he has finally found, after touring much of Mission Valley), Casady looks out of place. He is twice the age of most of the city council candidates crowded into the room. The “look-me-over" session has the air of an employment agency. Typical of the younger candidates, Joe Diaz is wearing a blue pinstriped suit; his Kennedy-esque hair is neatly combed. Nervous, he looks as though he’s trying not to sweat. Casady gazes around with a quizzical smile. He is wearing weird-looking shoes with corrugated soles, rumpled slacks, and a white shirt. “From the looks of those fellas in the meeting, I guess I should have worn a tie," he ruminates. “Had to choose between looking like a mayor and being comfortable, and I chose the wrong road.”
Casady insists that, despite his joking, he is seriously in the race because "there is a lot of concealed resentment out there toward Pete, and someone needs to take him on." He rejects the idea that he is simply a sacrificial standard bearer for a variety of causes. “It’s a moral victory — they said — as they carted his coffin to the boneyard." He grins. “One of the five other guys running against Pete is handing out flyers that say ‘Christ Is Alive.’ Now there's a burning issue.”
Behind closed doors with the board of realtors, Casady can be heard running up what he calls red flags: for example, rent control and a condo conversion ordinance When he comes out, he looks sheepish. "Well, they didn’t exactly carry me out on their shoulders, did they?" Walking to his car, he muses, “You know, we’re the last major city in California not to have rent control. Fifty-five thousand San Diegans signed the rent control initiative petition. There aren’t 55,000 realtors in San Diego." He pauses. “Maybe there are.”
In an age when money buys media, and media makes the candidate, Casady seems out of place. By mid-August, Wilson was outspending Casady five to one and hadn’t yet rolled out his big media guns. Even so, Casady has been getting considerable television and print coverage, chiefly because of his colorful past and his curious ways. He likes to quote Jesse Unruh’s line that “money is the mother’s milk of politics" and then add, “it’s time we weaned the baby." Indeed, his critics and supporters alike concede that Casady is a rare breed, a media candidate without money.
"Let’s face it, he’s cute and a lot of fun,” says Otto Bos, the mayor’s press secretary and a former Union reporter. "The press needs something to write about. But that doesn’t translate into a serious candidacy."
Nonetheless, the Wilson campaign is taking Casady seriously, so seriously, in fact, that Wilson’s office has been complaining about the San Diego Union's coverage of the race. In August, a thirty-two page dossier on Casady, prepared by Wilson’s staff, was leaked to several reporters on area newspapers, a technique common to many political campaigns. In it were xeroxed newspaper articles describing Casady's past and summations of some of his editorials written nearly two decades ago. The dossier included a description of an April 2, 1961 editorial as "extremely vitriolic’’ in attacking Eisenhower, Congressman Bob Wilson, elements of the Navy, and the Union-Tribune Publishing Company. Posing the possibility that Casady’s attack had somehow given the Union a “guilt complex,” the dossier asked, ‘‘Is this why the Union is seeking to compensate?” Union political writers Margaret Garrard Warner and Don Harrison say they know that Otto Bos has called Union editor Jerry Warren to complain about coverage given Casady. Margaret Warner says, “That surprises me. I’m not sure what Wilson’s camp is afraid of. ” Both Warner and Harrison emphasize that they have experienced no pressure from their editors to adjust their coverage. Adds Jerry Warren, “Otto has called, but I don’t take it as a major complaint. It's not unusual for a candidate's assistants to call and express their concerns.”
Margaret Warner is part of a mythology that has arisen around this campaign. Among politicos, she is known as the “midwife” of Casady’s candidacy because of a piece she wrote in early June. Warner reported speculation among Democratic activists that Casady might be a likely competitor to Wilson — at least to air the issues — since the more likely candidates, such as Assemblyman Larry Kapiloff and Supervisor Jim Bates, were hesitant to enter a seemingly hopeless race against an entrenched incumbent. Casady himself, unable to avoid a joke, coined the midwife phrase. “That Margaret,” he would say, “she’s my midwife.” San Diego Transcript reporter Gary Shaw dutifully passed the phrase on to the public.
“Calling me a midwife is absurd,” objects Warner. “I didn’t midwife the campaign; it was already there. I told Si that I was offended at such a male chauvinist remark. ”
The way Casady sees it, he’s not getting enough coverage. “I went in to see the Union's editorial board and it was like staring at a wall. First thing Jerry Warren asks me is, ‘Si, are you doing this for a lark?’ I told him, ‘Would I be appearing before you bunch of wolves if this was a lark?’ When I was explaining why I was running they kept telling me, ‘Now, Si, quit making a campaign speech.’ What was I supposed to do – talk about the Chargers?”
Associate editor Peter Kaye says the Union is, in fact, taking Casady seriously. “Sure, we asked him if it was a lark, and he assured us it wasn’t. I’ve known Si for years; beneath his veneer of being an agitator and muckraker he’s sincere and serious, with strong beliefs. I don’t always agree with him. but we can't play God and decide he’s not serious.” In Warner’s view. “What’s funny about this is that we’re the paper accused of deifying Pete all along. I think this controversy is part of San Diego’s coming of age politically. Political writing isn’t supposed to be like sports reporting; the possibility of someone winning isn’t the only criterion for coverage — we’re here to report political and social issues which can only come out in a political race.” Don Harrison, who has covered much of the day-to-day campaign, is also miffed at Wilson’s office. Says Harrison sarcastically, “Larry Thomas, a former Union reporter, became Wilson’s press secretary after covering the ’71 race. Otto Bos, another former Union writer, became Wilson’s press secretary after covering the ’76 race. I can assure you that in the unlikely event that it is offered, I will not accept the position of press secretary for the mayor. . . or for Si.”
Another bit of mythology about Casady’s candidacy is that a prominent group of Democrats talked him into running, for the sake of the city. According to several individuals in on the groundwork, Casady himself laid the foundation. “The first time I heard about a Casady candidacy was from Si,” notes Larry Remer, editor of San Diego Newsline, which has promoted Casady’s run for mayor. “We were talking one day on the phone and he said, ‘Larry, if a prominent group of Democrats get together and ask me to run, I will.’” This was in early May; Kapiloff was making noises about possibly running, and so was former city councilman Floyd Morrow. “When Si said that, I laughed,” says Remer. A few days later, at a Newsline fundraiser attended by Casady, local Democrats, and other liberal activists, Remer stood up on a table and announced, “Si Casady has told me he’s available. There’s a committee of prominent Democrats meeting in the lobby right now.” Adds Remer, “I was joking, but everybody applauded; they thought I was serious.” Margaret Warner was in the audience.
A group of prominent Democrats did meet a few days later. “We were doing what you do at a Padres game — sitting around dying of boredom.” recounts Jack Canaan. At the ball game with Canaan was Harvey Furgatch, establishment Democrat and developer who now supports Wilson and insists, “I was not one bit involved in getting Si started.” Also present were Remer and former supervisor Jack Walsh. According to Canaan, “Si had been kidding, I guess, about running. But to pass the time, we started considering what kind of candidate he might make.” Leaving the stadium, the group bumped into Armistead Carter, a former banker, retired investment broker, native son, and long-time civic leader. “Army Carter was completely serious about Si running; he’d been thinking about it, too. If Si’s candidacy had a father, it was Army.”
At first, Casady’s running for mayor sounded like a joke to Margaret Warner, but when she called Jack Canaan to check out the rumors, she began to take the possibility seriously. “Jack is a level-headed guy, and he was already talking about money and a slogan.” (The slogan was “Si, Si.” Fortunately for Casady, it was never used.)
After an hour’s meeting with Casady, and phone calls to Remer and Steve Peace, Kapiloff's assistant — who considered Casady a serious candidate — Warner wrote her story. This allowed Kapiloff to slip gracefully from the scene. (He is not now actively helping Casady.) And Floyd Morrow, instead of announcing his candidacy, accepted an invitation to a Russian chess tournament.
Why did Casady plant the seeds of his own candidacy? He insists that he has never yearned to be in politics, that his years in newspaper publishing gave him all the power he needed. But after ten years in semi-retirement — a sort of self-imposed exile from the rabid politics of the ’60s — a renewed urge to be at the center of things must have surfaced. Says his friend. Army Carter, “Now that I’m older, I miss being involved, don’t you know? I think it was inactivity that caused him to do this.”
One of the things Otto Bos worries about is “just where was Casady during his ten years’ semi-retirement?” Casady answers, “Working for the CIA.” Actually, Casady devoted the first few years of it to political action and the rest to “seeing the world.” As chairman of the National Conference for New Politics — with Andrew Young and Dr. Spock on the board — Casady worked to involve the poor, blacks, women, and students in politics. After one conference at Chicago’s Palmer House, at which Martin Luther King was the keynote speaker, the hotel sued Casady’s organization for $10,000 in damages, “because some of our people really didn’t know how to live in a fancy hotel like that. ’’Casady attended the Stockholm Peace Conference, and then joined the International Executive Service Corps, a Peace Corps-like organization for older executives. “We called it the Paunch Corps. ” Casady gave publishing advice to Asian entrepreneurs, and, in the company of several other Western journalists, was kicked out of Singapore in 1972 for what Si says was speaking too vociferously on behalf of freedom of the press. Casady and his wife, Virginia, spent the remainder of that period traveling in South and Central America, surviving the 1976 Guatemala earthquake, and spending several months “walking around a deserted island off the coast of Guatemala. ’’Casady allows,4 ‘I had a lot of stuff to get out of my system. I’d worked for forty years and I wanted to see things. When I got done with that, I came home refreshed. All I can say to Otto is, ‘All work and no play makes Pete a dull boy. It’s his turn to take a vacation.’”
In August of 1978, the City Club honored Casady’s seventieth birthday with a testimonial dinner at which former governor Pat Brown spoke. Back in 1966, Casady had been president of the California Democratic Council (CDC), which during the Sixties was the major Democratic organization in the state. Governor Pat Brown pushed him out of this office because Casady’s anti-war statements were embarrassing to Lyndon Johnson and to the governor himself. (After one speech in Petaluma, Harvey Furgatch gave Casady a gold-plated cigarette lighter shaped like an egg; Petaluma is billed as the egg capital of the world, and Casady had apparently laid a big one.) Now, twelve years later, Casady was welcomed home by the political establishment that had rejected him in 1966; moreover, he was lauded for his early opposition to the war. Perhaps it was that night when the idea entered his head to reclaim the presidency of the CDC. In any event, Casady announced at a La Jolla meeting of Democratic party activists last January, three days before the Party’s convention in Sacramento, that he might launch a “blitz campaign” for the presidency. Although his announcement was met with some enthusiasm, he later decided not to run. His renewed interest in the CDC presidency, however, led Otto Bos to develop his own theory as to why Si is now running for mayor. Casady, according to Bos, is aspiring to lower office. “Maybe he’s actually hoping for a county or statewide Democratic chairmanship. He desperately wants to get back on top of the Democratic heap.”
Casady’s campaign organization is headquartered in the Guymon home in Mission Hills. The slightly run-down, brooding eighteen-room mansion is owned by Casady’s son Kent and Kent’s estranged wife, Janed Guymon Casady. Jay Gatsby could be lurking in its shadows: instead. Ocean Beach activist Tom Kozden is. An “F” restaurant rating card is hanging in one of the windows, and another sign directs Casady volunteers to the basement: “We’re working underground. ’’ In the basement library, three or four volunteers are busy trying to figure out which phone to answer. Casady asks a reporter to answer one phone: it’s Army Carter in a nervous rush. “You get him to come to the phone; he won’t call me back. I want to talk to him about rent control!” Casady forgets Carter is on hold, and Carter holds for nearly a half hour.
Three weeks before the primary, the candidate followed a sleepy itinerary that peaked at one scheduled appearance a day (with many unscheduled appointments). There were campaign T-shirts, but there were no billboards, no radio or TV spots, and no bumper stickers: on the back bumper of Casady's car was only a Mike Gotch for City Council sticker.
"The man has spent his life in the printing business.” says one long-time friend. “His campaign brochure looks like a high school kid designed it. I want to shake Si by the shoulders. I’m so frustrated. He should know better.”
This criticism bothers Casady only mildly. “What the people see is what they get.” he says. “There’s no fancy PR firm working for me. I’m not a package somebody’s trying to sell you.” As for the confusion and dissension. Casady maintains they are typical of a campaign without much money. “You get by with lots of love and emotion.”
Jack Canaan says Casady is lucky he hasn’t raised much money. “Might do him more harm than good. There are some very excitable people around him who might come up with some very bizarre ideas on how to use it.” Canaan, who eight years ago demanded a $3000 retainer from the Frank Curran mayoral campaign "before I would even lift a pencil.” donated three weeks of his time to Casady’s early campaign. "Not only did I not ask Si for any money, but l'm out of pocket $175," he says proudly. Canaan hand-painted many of Casady's original posters. He is still an enthusiastic supporter and has offered to help Casady on a fee-basis, but so far the Casady organization has not taken him up on his offer.
"With the exception of Army Carter, many of Casady's original supporters are gone,” says Harvey Furgalch. "They haven’t followed through. Maybe they were looking for a sacrificial lamb. ”
The workers close to Casady tend to blame the campaign’s disorganization not only on the candidate, but on the late start, and on Wayne Hughes, Casady’s campaign manager. The man who ran State Senator Bob Wilson’s campaign, attorney Hughes is seldom in the mansion. Asked if Hughes is an active manager, Terry Nettles. campaign coordinator, says. "Well, that’s hard to answer.” Another worker, close to Casady, is less kind. "Given his choice. Hughes would rather run the campaign from a bunker somewhere with a big vat of money to dip into. Some of the hardest workers got turned off to Wayne and split. Then others left when they kept coming to meetings that never accomplished anything.”
Ocean Beach activist and spokesman for the Fair Rent Coalition, Tom Kozden, sees this as the campaign’s possibly fatal defect. "Hughes never understood that Si’s kind of candidacy can’t be based on money; his is a people campaign. Nobody went out and organized the people. ” Even the Tom Hayden organization, the Campaign for Economic Democracy (CED), is not especially active in Casady’s effort, despite the insistence by Wilson’s campaign manager, Mike McDade, that they "seem to have picked Casady as a vehicle to express some of their views.” But Casady has almost made up for all of this with his ability to attract media attention. One of his most effective ploys was arranging the endorsement from Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. in an attempt to offset his radical image. This prompted Wilson to come up with an endorsement from Goldwater's son, a California congressman and a Republican.
Casady was extremely pleased at the ruckus. "I heard a quote the other day; ‘How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child.’ I’ll have to call Don Harrison up with that one." Whether Casady asked Goldwater directly for the endorsement is unclear, but Goldwater owed him a favor of sorts. Back when Goldwater was "Mr. Arizona” in the mid-Forties, Casady pegged him as a Republican comer. Casady knew that in order to please the owner of the two newspapers he published, he had to promote a Republican for Congress. He admired Goldwater’s unabashed defense of Jewish causes, and liked him personally. "We were at a party one night and Barry was wearing a handsome, cream-colored vest. I admired it. He said ‘I hate the damn thing’ and took it off and gave it to me. Still have it around here somewhere. Too small.” Just as he had during Lyndon Johnson’s first successful Senate race when he was general manager of a string of South Texas papers, Casady threw the weight of his Phoenix papers behind Goldwater — and helped him win a seat in Congress. Casady has a second endorsement letter from Goldwater. as yet unpublished, which states, "I have never forgotten the help you gave me in getting started.”
Along with the blessing of the Police Officers Association; city, county, and state employee associations: and other labor groups, Casady attracted the endorsement of his old enemy Pat Brown. Casady holds no hard feelings towards Brown. "You can’t blame the fox for chasing the rabbit; it’s genetic.” Telephoned at his Los Angeles office. Brown says. "We agreed ninety-five percent of the time. He’s one of the most courageous men I know, and one of the few men who ever turned down a position I offered. He turned down the head of the highway commission, you know. Way ahead of his time on Vietnam. Too bad his views weren’t accepted; might have saved 50,000 American lives.” Does Brown regret kicking Casady out of the CDC presidency for those views? “I’m not the kind of person who has regrets. ”
Meanwhile, Wilson has received one endorsement he didn’t even want: that of Lee Hubbard, his last opponent, who insists that Wilson has come around to his point of view on several issues, including a more favorable attitude to residential growth. Wilson’s campaign manager, Mike McDade, is upset that this may solidify Casady’s contention that Wilson has compromised on controlled growth. “Nobody asked Hubbard for his gratuitous offer. The endorsement may have been given to embarrass Wilson.” Casady wonders if Hubbard may eventually support him, especially considering his sponsorship of several other causes once championed by Hubbard, including support of the city manager form of government.
Even if Casady has friends in high places, he still has a name identification problem. He spent an irritating half hour on the phone one morning trying to find out why information operators weren’t giving out his campaign headquarters’ phone number. He finally learned that neither his supporters nor the operators could spell his name. “Who am I?” he yelled at one operator, “I’m the candidate. My name is spelled C-A-S-A-D-Y. Listen, has someone told you not to give out this number? Let me talk to somebody who can give me an answer. I’ve lost your vote, but I can get a lot more if you’ll start giving out my number. ” With his hand covering the receiver, he added, “The phone company needs a new mayor.”
Casady says he learned all about name identification from his son, Kent, who lost an assembly primary race in the mid-Sixties. “Kent had a weird artist friend who did this huge billboard for him. It was so weird you couldn’t read Kent’s name. They had to put a little sign at the bottom of the billboard that said, ‘Kent Casady, Assembly.’ Kent’s the only candidate I know who had less name recognition when he finished than when he started.” But if Si Casady’s campaign has any chance at all, at this late date, it is because the sons, including Kent, are taking over.
Cort, 32, a TV writer who wrote a recent Kenny Rogers special, and Derek, 43, administrative assistant to State Senator Jim Mills, have come home. With their arrival, the campaign organization is beginning to change. Cort has begun writing and producing radio spots, more professional campaign literature has appeared, and television spots are on the way. The TV spots will focus on name identification and on issues like the third term for which Wilson once promised he would not run, low police pay in the face of a rising murder rate, and Wilson’s alleged switch on controlled growth. De-emphasized will be rent control, downtown redevelopment (Casady sees it as socialism for the rich), and condominium conversion. “These issues are too complex for a media package,” explains Cort. “We’ll continue to push these issues in his speeches and debates. My father has already put Wilson on the defensive on a number of these issues — the condo conversion ordinance, for instance, probably wouldn’t have happened without the pressure he was creating.” The brothers have intensified fundraising efforts and have budgeted $25,000, most of which will be spent on TV and radio. Cort expects Wilson to out-spend that three to one. “It’s important that people understand that some of the disorganization of the early campaign is ending. The candidacy is really making a turnaround, and the city is responding.”
On the campaign trail, Casady still shows a penchant for showing up at the wrong place at the wrong time, or failing to show at all. For instance, when he should have been at the first candidate’s session in Otay Mesa, Casady spoke against condo conversion at a University City town meeting in the heart of condo-land. The icy reception was interrupted by a man who wanted to know why Casady wasn’t talking about University City.
When Casady finally did catch up with Wilson, though, it was on friendly turf — Ocean Beach, ninety percent renters. At a meeting sponsored by the town council, Casady was cheered and Wilson was booed. While the five other candidates spoke, Casady looked slightly embarrassed and Wilson kept making nervous comments behind his hand. When the chairman rang a cowbell to end a speech, Raul Gonzalez, the socialist mayoral candidate, cracked, “This is just like the Gong Show. ”
There is deep feeling among many Democrats and others that this campaign is indeed just like the Gong Show. Casady may well come closer than anyone would have guessed, but without money and a strong organization, his chances are slim. Wilson is apparently so formidable an opponent that even if Casady had money, he might not win. For instance, in 1976 Lee Hubbard outspent Wilson and still lost by sixty percent in the primary. Many well-known Democratic contributors are aligned with Wilson; powerful Democrat like Harvey Furgatch believe that Wilson is a good, strong mayor. “One of the ironies of this campaign,” the Union's Margaret Warner points out, “is that in ’77 the Republicans got together and put their money and energy behind several candidates, and the Democrats were caught flatfooted, embarrassed. The various factions of the Democrats said, ‘Wait until next time,’ but here it is ’79 and they’re still falling apart.” Although the city races are nominally nonpartisan, conservative Republicans increasingly dominate the contests — chiefly because they are organized. Says Evonne Schulze, who lost the ’77 city council race to Republican Larry Stirling by 500 votes, “The Republicans have held workshops, groomed young candidates. They have a definite plan. Until we Democrats start thinking like that, we're never going to have viable candidates (even though there are more registered Democrats than Republicans in the city)."
Says Harvey Furgatch, “The Democrats in power — Mills, Van Deerlin, Deddeh, Bates, Kapiloff — have never been interested in forming a strong Democratic party. They win because they build up their own little fiefdoms. Maybe about the year 2010 the Democrats will get organized.” There are extremely serious issues that should be debated, clearly, effectively, says Schulze, but because no strong organization is behind Si Casady he cannot do it, certainly not alone.
Forty-five minutes before midnight, the full moon is hanging straight above Ocean Boulevard in Pacific Beach, where crowds of bare-chested, beery-eyed teenagers are swirling like grunion at high tide. Television arc lamps explode into existence like five new moons.
The white-haired man steps to the center of the boulevard. He blinks, shields his eyes with his hand, and tries to see beyond the perimeter of blinding light, where police stand, feet spread, snapping their walkie-talkies. Two newscasters, who Casady later describes as “dapper as real estate agents,” flank him. One of them points a microphone at the candidate. Casady begins to talk. Suddenly, the crowd erupts into a spewing roar. The kids are trying to drown him out, angry at anyone — any politician — who wants to close down their cruising strip. They wail for a full ten minutes. But no matter how hard the crowd roars, the folks at home can hear Si just fine. Asked later what he said, Casady smiled. “I recited a prayer and sang the ‘Star Spangled Banner’. . . Actually, I said Pete Wilson was correct in closing the street, but doing it this way — this suddenly — is like letting a kid steal from a cookie jar for a year, then chopping off his arm. The reason he finally chops off the arm is because we’re six weeks from the election. Typical Six Weeks’ Syndrome.”
As the moons are extinguished and the crowd drifts away to the sound of breaking beer bottles. Los Angeles Times reporter Nancy Skelton approaches Casady.
“Nancy! Didn’t think you’d be here,” says the candidate, pleased.
“Don’t you ever do this again,” hisses Skelton, pointing her notepad at him. “Who ever heard of an 11:00 p.m. news conference?”
A young man in his twenties weaves toward the reporter and the candidate. His eyes and his pants are at half mast. “You think ... ah, yeah ...” he interrupts, “California is gettin’ too big, ain’t it? Thus the problem. Too many people comin’ in.”
Casady looks at him and considers.
“I mean, I been here for days and I never seen the same face twice.”
“Where you from?” asks Casady. “Oregon. ” He wanders off, and Casady watches him curiously, eyes unblinking.
”1 feel sorry for these kids,” he says. “All they have anymore is wheels. Skateboards, cars, bikes, roller skates, wheels, wheels. They catch plastic fish from plastic ponds.”
The cops have finished clearing the street, and Casady suddenly realizes that he and his wife have been separated in the confusion. “That’s the trouble with women,” he remarks, smiling slightly. “They never stand hitched.”
It’s midnight. The candidate is wandering around the dark deserted parking lots trying to find his wife.
Bemused, he reflects, “The secret, when you’re lost, is to stay in one place.”