A saloon is sometimes all that is needed to reconnect with what makes this country great.
As I normally try to stray from the hyperbolic it is sometimes difficult to use terms that trend close to that definition. So it is with a touch of unease when I say that Mike Rowe is a national institution, but I say it in earnest. He is what is needed in this country, and he appears imbued with more common sense and pragmatism than can be contained within a solitary figure.
The former host of “Dirty Jobs” has a number of media offerings these days, and you would be satisfied with any of his content. Of particular note is his podcast, “The Way I Heard It”. These are brief stories of real people with notable twists, in the same vein as Paul Harvey’s “The Rest Of The Story”.
Rowe recently posted a tale on his FaceBook page that does quite a lot: it sums him up as man, it reveals a piece of America in a style all his own, and it typifies the kind of character we actually harbor in this country that is eclipsed by all of the angst and outrage we are presented on a daily basis. Mike Rowe is a great tonic to that political bile.
Most writers have an appreciation for encounters; those unexpected meetings that transpire and, if you are blessed with a proper ear or gifted with conversation, reveal something poignant. Rowe tells us of just such an episode he had, made all the better that he was at a drinking establishment.
So I’m at the bar last night, waiting for my drink to arrive, when the man beside me orders a “Clint.”
“A Clint?” says the bartender.
The man reaches into his pocket and offers the bartender a business card. The bartender examines the card and nods his head.
“One Clint, coming up!”
I turn to the man beside me, who appears to be the same age as my father. “It’s none of my business,” I say, “but what the hell is a Clint?”
The man smiles and hands me his card. “Keep it,” he says. “Might come in handy sometime.”
Now, I fully realize my years in covering politics and the fetid moral swamp that is Hollywood (to say nothing of the wallow in social media) has overdeveloped my cynical muscle. The barrage of bias from the mainstream media has only ramped up that bulk, serving as a cynicism steroid, if you will. This does serve a useful purpose, at times. The night Jussie Smollett’s “attack” claims broke, as an example, my radar binged loudly with a DOUBT IT flashing alarm.
Yet, often I have to check myself when reading Rowe because his sublime flair for the casual dramatics sometimes has me wondering if he is trending into that familiar journalistic practice of “fabulousness”. On occasion, he feels like he has ambled over to that embellished realm, not unlike Jean Sheppard, the narrator of the classic “A Christmas Story”.
But that is on me; I’m the one with the issue. Because, just as I am saying to myself “This bar story is almost too right”, Rowe calmly takes my shoulders and steers me back onto the correct path. He has a picture of the very card that Clint offered to he hooch-slinger, and to Rowe as well.
And so, after being properly corrected and given proof of this very basic claim, I read on with Mike’s account.
“May I assume you’re the Clint for which the drink is named?” I ask.
“You may,” says Clint.
“And may I further assume you’re a man who has grown weary of describing a drink no one has ever heard of?”
“You may,” says Clint.
We shake hands, and I make no further assumptions about the man with a taste for pink cocktails. We chat some more though, and I soon learn that Clint has spent his life in law enforcement. Specifically, I learn that he worked with the secret service.
Rowe happened upon Clint Hill, a man who served as a Secret Service agent under five administrations. This is the kind of encounter a writer savors experiencing. That a man like Mike Rowe did is all the better. His touch, his tone, and his very gentle frankness are perfectly suited to this type of meeting.
As to be expected, Mr. Hill has an expansive personal history, one that has led to him writing no fewer than three memoirs on his life working on the White House detail. Rowe noted this obviousness, and he encouraged people to look further into Mr. Hill’s personal history. And here is where you can see the benefit of taking time to back away from the cesspit that is our contemporary politics.
After Mike Rowe’s post on Monday, Clint Hill’s book “Five Presidents” has taken on a renewed interest — and this is not some manufactured press event for a new release. The book has been out of circulation for three years, and still, it received enough notice from Mike’s mention, and his post, that for a time it moved to the top of the sales chart.
It serves as a perfect emblem of what we can do in our times. Ease back from the hype and the venom we are served and seek out the items that reflect what we are truly made from. If even for a day a man like Clint Hill can surpass the swamp-like content of Andrew McCabe then things are not so bad around here. And, as a capper, Rowe can help me to occasionally drop that shield of cynicism that is required in the social battlefield.
Sometimes, haggling like this over the presentation of a cocktail is all the conflict we need from this world.
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