A Memorable Journey

I’ll do a wrap-up post on my time at WWDC, but I felt that I had to write about this first. On the way back to Van­cou­ver from San Fran­cis­co, I had sched­uled a shut­tle, but at the last minute, can­celed and decid­ed to use BART again. It was one of those deci­sions that I’ll no doubt look back on and think, it’s a good thing, because oth­er­wise I wouldn’t have had the expe­ri­ence that I had. Fri­day the 13th has always been lucky for me, and this June 13th was no exception.

After board­ing the train at Civic Cen­ter, after 2 or 3 stops, 2 men in suits got on the train. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Navy blue suit, blue eyes and gray hair, a US Flag lapel… it was Howard Dean. Yes that Howard Dean, the for­mer Gov­er­nor of Ver­mont, front-run­ner can­di­date for Pres­i­dent in 2004 (whose cam­paign I worked on) and cur­rent­ly, the Chair­man of the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Com­mit­tee. ‘I’m nev­er going to have anoth­er chance like this,’ I said to myself. In a moment or two, I got up the nerve and intro­duced myself to him, telling him that I had worked on his cam­paign (He imme­di­ate­ly said ‘Thank you’ for that) and that I was a great admir­er of his. He was on his way to some meet­ings at hotels at the air­port, and to avoid the traf­fic, had decid­ed to take BART. I told him where we had moved (and why). He had many ques­tions about Van­cou­ver; he hadn’t vis­it­ed the city for 40 years. He did men­tion, that he loved Cana­da, and often went to a fam­i­ly house in Nova Sco­tia, near Bras d’Or Lake (since Ver­mont is so close to the Cana­di­an bor­der). Pam and I had gone to that area for our hon­ey­moon. He talked about how cos­mopoli­tan a rep­u­ta­tion that Van­cou­ver has, and that he could absolute­ly under­stand our move here. He asked if we were going to get Cana­di­an cit­i­zen­ship, and that obvi­ous­ly, being a techie, I would have had no prob­lem get­ting land­ed immi­grant sta­tus. We chat­ted about a num­ber of sub­jects: the Pri­ma­ry, What Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma will do to help put the coun­try back on the right track (and whether we’d return after that), even a bit about our land in Ver­mont (“You should hang on to that”, Dean said. “When we get out of this Real Estate slump, that’s going to be worth some seri­ous mon­ey.”). We rem­i­nisced a bit about when I had last seen him on the cam­paign, in Portsmouth, New Hamp­shire, when he spoke by the riv­er, with boats with his ban­ners float­ing back and forth behind him. When I com­ment­ed on the flag pin on his lapel, he said that it was “to show the Repub­li­cans that they don’t own the flag”. He laughed when I sug­gest­ed that per­haps the Democ­rats could have a slight­ly dif­fer­ent (and maybe a more ele­gant) design for it.

To prove that this is not what it sounds like, a ‘tall tale’, I got his assis­tant to take a pic­ture of the two of us, seat­ed on the BART seat:

Howard Dean and Your

We part­ed as he went off to his meet­ing, and I head­ed to my check-in for the flight home, feel­ing as if I were in the air already. At the gate, I imme­di­ate­ly called fam­i­ly all over North Amer­i­ca to tell them of my good for­tune and began this post.

My last­ing impres­sion of Dean is pret­ty much how I imag­ined him one-on-one. He seemed inter­est­ed and charm­ing, intel­li­gent, a good lis­ten­er and a smart busi­ness­man. He was very gra­cious, and seemed gen­uine­ly inter­est­ed and engaged. In short, I was not disappointed.

I sus­pect that the aver­age per­son has a shot at meet­ing and talk­ing to, per­haps 1 or 2 famous peo­ple in their life­time. You hope that those celebri­ties are peo­ple that you’d also like to meet and per­haps even some­one who you admire. I’ve actu­al­ly had more than my share of meet­ings with famous peo­ple in my life so far. I’ve met and even had some con­ver­sa­tions with sev­er­al com­posers, includ­ing Olivi­er Mes­si­aen, Aaron Cop­land, Vir­gil Thomp­son, Ned Rorem, Elliott Carter, Steve Reich and Leonard Bern­stein, play­wright Edward Albee, the writ­ers Isaac Asi­mov and William Gib­son, and some brief moments where I shared a tran­sit ride with Michael Dukakis and William Weld (It’s odd how I always meet the politi­cians when rid­ing on mass tran­sit) I’ve even met some lumi­nar­ies in soft­ware and busi­ness, includ­ing John Scul­ley (the first CEO of Apple Com­put­er while Steve Jobs was in exile) and Bill Atkin­son, one of the more inter­est­ing fig­ures in the his­to­ry of com­put­ers (he invent­ed 2 ear­ly pieces of soft­ware for the Mac, which became the first of 2 cat­e­gories of soft­ware, Mac­Paint, which begot bitmap edi­tors and Hyper­Card, which it may be argued, was a pre­cur­sor to the World-wide Web and has been said to be the inspi­ra­tion behind the con­cept of the Wiki). As Near­ly-Cana­di­ans (and as I’ve not­ed in pre­vi­ous posts in this blog), Pam and I even shared a pic­nic table with actress Nan­cy Robert­son (who plays Wan­da on “Cor­ner Gas”) and briefly met Roch Car­ri­er, the author of The Hock­ey Sweater, a clas­sic sto­ry, ani­mat­ed film and key­stone of Cana­di­an identity.

Nev­er­the­less, it was great to final­ly be able to tell Howard Dean how much I had looked up to him. On June 13, 2008, with­out any warn­ing, I got a chance to talk to one of my per­son­al heroes, and I’m thrilled.

19 Replies to “A Memorable Journey”

  1. Very nice saga, David. Glad you were able to tell Dr. Dean about your move to Cana­da and why — Very good!

    Remind me to hang around you on the next Fri­day the 13th .…

  2. That’s So cool! I’m so glad you spoke with him. And even fur­ther luck, what a real­ly great pho­to, you both look great!

  3. Thanks all. Yes, when I com­ment­ed on the fact that it was nice to see him tak­ing pub­lic tran­sit, Dean men­tioned that he knew and had tak­en rides on the tran­sit sys­tems in sev­er­al cities (and start­ed list­ing them — no ‘Yee-ha!’ at the end of the list, tho 🙂 )

  4. David — I’m so glad you had that expe­ri­ence. You of all peo­ple deserve to have those kinds of moments. Thanks for shar­ing it all in your blog!

  5. Wow…what a great way to end WWDC week!

    I’ve tak­en the Bart to the Air­port in the past and found it to be a much bet­ter alter­na­tive than mak­ing my friend dri­ve all the way out there from his place in Moun­tain View. 

    The fact that you bumped into Howard Dean makes it all that more cool!

  6. Awe­some! That’s so damned cool.…

    btw after I saw Gore endorsed Oba­ma today I tried to donate $50 to the cam­paign, only to find that as a Cana­di­an I can’t do so. Boo hiss! I want a non-crazy per­son in the White House as much as any American!

  7. I’m hap­py to ‘mon­ey-laun­der’ any Cana­di­an con­tri­bu­tions to the Oba­ma campaign.

    BTW, today I made the hilar­i­ous Freudi­an slip of refer­ring to that sausage mak­er with a booth on Granville Island as ‘Oba­ma’ Sausage.

  8. Frankly, I’m a bit jeal­ous David. On anoth­er note, Howard Dean looks like he’s got a bit of make­up on, maybe he did some tv inter­views that day. Almost a wax fac­sim­i­le. Just my first impression.

  9. I noticed you sort of skipped over the answer to the ques­tion of whether you’d move back to the land of the free if Oba­ma could put the USA back on track. You would be missed — but then, I sup­pose you already are, from the oth­er direc­tion. Com­pli­cat­ed stuff.

  10. Arjun — He prob­a­bly looks more waxy in the pho­to than he was in real life, as far as I can tell. It may be just the light­ing in the sub­way car.

    Jonathon — We actu­al­ly did touch on it, and I told him of our wor­ry about the deficit, and how we were con­cerned that no mat­ter who was in pow­er, the prob­lems would be felt in tough times for Amer­i­cans our age in about 20 years or so (when I’d hoped to be able to retire). To Dean’s cred­it, he did­n’t try to make me feel guilty for hav­ing aban­doned the coun­try, nor did he say that we should come back; only that Cana­da was a fine coun­try, and that he could cer­tain­ly under­stand our attrac­tion to the place. It’s nice to know that we are/would be missed in either direc­tion, and I guess that comes with the ter­ri­to­ry. That said, I have met so many good peo­ple here, and had so many pos­i­tive expe­ri­ences that I could imag­ine being just as heart­sick return­ing to Boston as it was to leave. Per­haps even more.

  11. Just saw this pho­to over on Flickr and thought I’d say hi.

    Very cool! Brings back a lot of mem­o­ries of all those week­ends can­vass­ing in New Hamp­shire! Michael and I spent the eve of my 30th birth­day in an air­port hang­er at 3am with a cou­ple hun­dred peo­ple wait­ing for Dean to return from Iowa (his “yell” trip) …

  12. Thanks, Rob. I’ll be sure to do that…

    Sooz! I had no idea you were there the morn­ing after the scream. Good to hear from you (although I sort of feel in touch a lit­tle through Twitter).

  13. That’s fan­tas­tic!

    What an amaz­ing sto­ry; I’m glad your trip down to SF for WWDC end­ed with a bang.

    Great catch­ing up with you too! Say hi to Pam for me.

  14. Hi Jamie,

    Yes, it was just a few days after I saw you that I got to meet Dr. Dean. Too bad you weren’t with me, espe­cial­ly since it’s prob­a­bly a part of the BART line that you ride all of the time (Begin­ner’s Luck, I guess).

    It was great to catch up with you. Hope it won’t be too long before I’m in town again.

  15. Very cool, indeed. We still have our Dean bumper stick­er on the car! Your sto­ry is right up there with my meet­ing Den­nis Kucinich at the Cleve­land air­port as we were wait­ing to board. He was head­ed to Van­cou­ver to a con­fer­ence to intro­duce his Depart­ment of Peace plan. But you got a photo!! 😉

  16. My celebri­ty on a train sto­ry is more embar­rass­ing. I was a stu­dent at the time and a bit well known as I chaired some sig­nif­i­cant Union meet­ings. So when I got into con­ver­sa­tion with a tall, fair haired man on a train to Not­ting­ham, I assumed he knew me from them. He seemed famil­iar but I could not place him. Then he got off at Leices­ter — so that shot my the­o­ry. A long while lat­er I realised I had been talk­ing to Mon­ty Python star Gra­ham Chap­man — and for years wor­ried I would be lam­pooned in a sketch as ‘the bore in the buf­fet car’. I was­n’t — and he was a very pleas­ant trav­el­ling com­pan­ion. And it has nev­er stopped me from talk­ing to com­plete strangers, some­thing that the Eng­lish are sup­posed not to do.

  17. Hi Stephen,
    How do you know that per­haps he did­n’t use a piece of the con­ver­sa­tion in a sketch that did­n’t take place on a train? Hope not, but if noth­ing else, it might be a chal­lenge to look at some of those Mon­ty Python pro­grams (which I still see rebroad­cast on US PBS these days). Who knows, you could always say “See that bit where the guy says ‘Bet she does, bet she does…’? That was my bit!”

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