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Texas Book Festival, 2000

I wrote this for the Texas Observer back in 2000, back in the days when an editor could tell you to walk around and write about what you saw and then publish it. That judicious editor was Nate Blakeslee.

It begins like this:

Around 2 o’clock that afternoon, the protesters filed loosely up the Capitol ground’s main drive, and that’s when the Texas Book Festival started to get spicy. It was Saturday, day of rest and leisure, we were there for books, and they were mounting the Capitol steps, about 300 strong, waving signs and clapping their hands. What they were protesting wasn’t immediately obvious (the death penalty? the drug war?), and mixed among tourists, bewildered festival-goers, and men in military uniforms standing near Veteran’s Day wreaths, they seemed out of place–until I heard their chants, led by a woman with a bullhorn: “Every vote counts! Every vote counts!”

This is one of my favorite paragraphs:

The morning after the election I’d felt gray and choked and a little shaky, as you might if you’d mixed beer, cigarettes, and election returns at the Horseshoe Lounge, though only when I went to get the newspaper did I realize bigger headaches than mine had blossomed overnight. At 1:20 a.m., when they called Florida for Bush, I’d gone to bed, hoping that sleep would soothe my heart and make it its own thing again, something I’d recognize–only to wake up and discover that sleep had undone the stitches of the world. It was cold and rainy; the day felt like Christmas Day gone awry. Where the hell is Santa Claus?