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Old 08-31-2004, 03:07 PM
Left Coast, Right Brain
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Seattle
Posts: 201
Having a beer with John Kerry

(Interesting comments about Viet Nam.)

A Beer with John Kerry
By Michael Hainey


We all know the problem with John Kerry—the personality disorder. Could this guy seem any more like an Audio-Animatronics™ creation ready-made for the Hall of Presidents at Disney World? Before casting my vote this November, I had to find out for myself if he's as stiff as we all seem to think. So it was that I met Kerry at All Stars Sports Bar & Grill in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, late in the afternoon of July 4 for a few beers.
GQ: Great to meet you, Senator.JK: Sure. Love GQ. Always have it around the house.
GQ: Beer good for you? JK: Sure.
GQ: [to bartender] Two Buds.
GQ: Cheers, Senator. JK: I had a tough day. Damn hot.
GQ: Since we're in a sports bar, let me ask: Who's your sports hero? JK: I've got so many. Bobby Orr. Jaromir Jagr. Wayne Gretzky. DiMaggio.
GQ: How about Phil Esposito? JK: Absolutely. I wore number 7 because of him.
GQ: Who's the better band: Stones or Beatles? JK: Um...
GQ: And don't give me some lame political answer and say "I like them both." Pick one. JK: Well, I can pick both. I can tell you the truth, and the truth is I love both. I love "Brown Sugar." I love "Jumpin' Jack Flash." I love, you know, "Satisfaction." I like "Little Red Rooster." I love every Beatles song. I mean, I love the Beatles. I love the Abbey Road album, I love the White Album.
GQ: But, c'mon—you have to choose one. JK: But I don't have to. And that's the glory of life. I play them both. I do! I play them both. I've got them both in my car.
GQ: What about Dylan? Ever met him? JK: I have. It was like meeting an icon. I love Dylan. He's brilliant. One of my favorite songs ever in life is... I mean, I can name any number of his songs that I love [long pause]... but you know, Lay across my big brass bed—"Lay, Lady, Lay."
GQ: Is there anyone you want to meet that you haven't? JK: Lots of people.
GQ: You're a senator, though. You can call up anyone.JK: Yeah, but you don't go around doing that.
GQ: I would. You could subpoena them to testify. JK: When we're in the majority. [Laughs.]
GQ: Is there a fictional character you identify most with? JK: That's a really good question. There's a little Huck Finn in me; there's a little Tom Sawyer in me.
GQ: I think there's some Gatsby in you. JK: No!
GQ: In the way that Gatsby comes out of the Huck Finn tradition—a truly American character. JK: I think he's a little shallow. He was too materialistic. I wouldn't want to be that at all.
GQ: Huck Finn? What's that about? JK: I like the adventure. And the observational qualities he had for what was going on around him. I like Conor Larkin too.
GQ: The guy from Trinity? JK: Yeah. He stood for something. Fought for it. Fell in love.
GQ: So back when you were single, between wives, you were the Bachelor Senator. I mean, that must've been a great time. It sounds like the premise for a sitcom or a Ben Affleck movie or— JK: That's ridiculous. Those were not good days, is all I can say. I think if you ask anyone, Bob Kerrey, or anyone who's been single on Capitol Hill, you'll find it's no fun.
GQ: Why? Because you can't trust anyone? JK: It's just not fun. That's not a good world, and everyone wants a piece of you, and all I can say is, thank God I found Teresa.
GQ: I'm single. What should I look for in a woman? JK: Look for what gets your heart.
GQ: What would it be for you, with Teresa? JK: Someone who excites you, turns you on. It's a quality of character. It's a kind of presentation. Sense of womanhood. Confident. It's a woman who loves being a woman. Who knows how to ßirt and have fun. Smart. Has a sense of self. Strong. And obviously sexy and saucy and challenging.
GQ: How do you like to be challenged? I want a woman who's going to call me on my ****. JK: I think every man wants a woman who also is supportive, there for you. But that's only part of a relationship. It's work. It's hard. Nobody who's not had a relationship or who hasn't been married understands. You have to care about it. You have to invest in it, and you compromise on certain things. But if it works, it's great.
GQ: And when it doesn't? JK: When it doesn't, for one reason or another, you wind up like I did.
GQ: Divorced? JK: Yeah.
GQ: But that's— JK: It happens.
GQ: But you don't regret any of that. JK: Well, I think you're always saddened by it.
GQ: But sadness is not regret. JK: Right, but it takes its toll. And anybody who's been through it will tell you that. I would advise people to try to find a way to avoid it. It's not fun. It's tough on kids; it's tough on people.
GQ: A friend of yours has said that Teresa has changed you for the better, opened you up. JK: No doubt. After my first marriage, I was like a lot of people who had a relationship that doesn't work—you want to make sure that the next one does. Teresa gave me a sense of confidence about relationships that filled that.
GQ: But confidence? You seem like the most confident guy in the world. JK: Everybody always has doubts about something. If you don't, you're not thinking. I'm confident about a lot of things, but I'm not somebody who's blind to human frailty and to the need for humility. We all have our flaws. And Teresa, you know, gave me just a great sort of strong, clear commitment to who I am.
GQ: Does it frustrate you, the way your wife gets characterized? JK: Yes. It's very unfair. She's not defined by her money. She's not defined by her surname. She's defined by what she thinks. Who she is. Where her heart is. What her gut is. She spent years as a mom, like every other mom in America, taking care of her kids. She wasn't spoiled. She didn't have nannies up the kazoo, things like that. She cooked for her kids, she took care of her kids, she raised her kids, and, you know, she works really hard. And after her husband, her first husband, was killed, she took on enormous responsibilities. She is really phenomenally capable.
GQ: Were you closer to your father or your mother? JK: At different times closer to each. But like with any son, there sure were times when I parted ways with my old man. I also never saw my father a lot growing up because he was in the Foreign Service and always traveling. So when I became a father, I wanted to be sure and carve out time for my kids, to let them know I was there for them and how much I loved them.
GQ: Here's a crazy theory. JK: Okay.
GQ: You've got a great résumé, you're an internationalist, patrician. You're more the son of George Bush Senior than W. is. JK: I don't want to go anywhere near that. Except to say this: I like Junior, but I like the senior Bush enormously. A very decent, thoughtful guy. And I have great respect for him.
GQ: W. seems like he came out of a laboratory. JK: I don't comment on him personally at all.
GQ: What's that gold chain around your neck? JK: It's a Saint Christopher's medal, given to me by a family friend before I shipped out for Nam, and I haven't taken it off since.
GQ: You beat prostate cancer. Was that your first thought of mortality? JK: Oh God! No. You kidding, man? I mean, Jesus, I saw my own death any number of times in Vietnam. There was this period where I was convinced I'd be killed. But I made it back with a sense that every day is extra. You know, we used to have a saying over there when we were screwing around and getting in trouble, breaking the rules. We'd look at each other and we'd say, "We're ****in' idiots, and this is Vietnam." I mean, that attitude is liberating. It's sort of been there, done that. And they can't—I'm gonna get in trouble for saying the F-word there—but people who come back from that are very lucky and know that, and it is very liberating. You know, there's not much that scares me. So I'm not worried about things—certainly not dying, because too many of my friends did. And so I think it empowers you to go out and tell the truth and let the chips fall where they may. Bush and Cheney don't understand that. That's one of the things I think is most lacking in their stewardship of our country.
GQ: Did you come back from Nam with any psychic damage? JK: I was very lucky, Mike. I think I was able to take that pain and put it out there in my efforts to end the war. And so I very publicly laid out my depth of opposition to what was happening and my feelings about what had happened over there in a way that, you know, a lot of guys didn't have that opportunity, or couldn't or didn't, and they kind of held it in. And I think that's the harder thing; that's the problem for a lot of guys. So I never did have any of those issues. It doesn't slow me down; it motivates me.
GQ: You've never seen a therapist? JK: No. I had some nightmares when I came home, which is not unusual.
GQ: Like what? JK: I can't say. To me Vietnam is an old place, an old memory. It is old history, it's gone, it's past. The less I have to talk about it, frankly, the happier I am.
GQ: How does it all end for you? JK: It's up to the American people.
GQ: I'm talking in a metaphysical sense, big picture. JK: I mean, that's yet to be defined.
GQ: How would you want it to end, if you could choose? JK: Boy, that's just really hanging out there, isn't it? [Long pause; wells up.] Gracefully. Yeah, gracefully.
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