Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

From the Clinton Autobiography


There was a moment there, when I handed Junior the keys to the White House, my house. He grabbed them greedily, but I was still holding on. He kept on tugging as if to say, Give them back, these keys were always ours, you just borrowed them from Daddy. But I knew and he knew that I hadn't borrowed them, I'd whopped his daddy fair and square, and no amount of grabbing was going to erase the basic truth. On the other hand, I couldn't help feeling that I had somehow squatted here, that the Bushes and their kind were, in fact, taking back their property. I know it's crazy: I've been called America's first black president, America's first gay president, but nobody as far as I know has called me America's first homeless president. But believe it or not, that's how I feel. Every house I ever lived in was temporary, beginning with my momma's trailer in Hope, Arkansas. After that I lived in rented houses and in State houses that looked grand, but were transitory and impermanent like sand castles. Every time we moved, I sang to Hillary, "I got no home in this world anymore," and that's how I felt. When Hillary decided to run for the Senate we caught a lot of flak for buying a big house. Well, after all these years of living in other people's homes, we were finally getting a place of our own. Ironic, isn't it? But by the time we were ready to move in, I had lost all desire to own a house. I was kind of superstitious about it, actually. If I settled down, it meant that I couldn't live in other peoples' houses anymore and, who knows, maybe I couldn't live in their hearts, either. These things are related: You can't share anybody's pain from across 15 miles of manicured lawn and an electrified fence. Junior and his people could never understand that, what it's like to be off center, permanently on the move, never safe for more than a few years. What the hell do you worry about summering at Kennebunkport? Lobster and golf balls? We are the same age, but not from the same world. People might think that reaching the pinnacle of power, becoming the absolute insider, would cure the outsider blues. Not a chance. That's why I asked Josef Brodsky, the Russian exile, to compose the inaugural poem for my second term. I knew that a truly homeless person might understand. Maybe I should have asked Eudora Welty, though. Southern genius. Demographically way old. Should have asked her to write an inaugural short story. Changed the paradigm. I stuck to poetry, sentiment and homelessness instead. When I handed Junior the keys and saw the glee in his eyes as he took over the White House, I had my own gleeful thought. He may be home in this house for a while, but I'm at home with the English language. I've got a house and home, but it's not made of brick and mortar.

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