The original home of the blog known as 802 Online

Friday, August 27, 2004

Live from Montpelier

Blogging this morning from Capitol Grounds in Montpelier, which is home to two free wi-fi connections--one through a service called NoWirz, the other through the Vermont Broadband Council. The VBC office is upstairs, and they're kind enough to keep their signal open to the public. At least until web traffic skyrockets and starts slowing the connection.

I stopped here on my way to the city clerk's office in Greensboro, Vermont, where I hope to find the deed to Chief Justice William Rehnquist's summer home. It contains a restrictive covenant dating back to the 1920s that says no one of the "Hebrew race" can buy the land. This unpleasant fact came to light during Rehnquist's Chief Justice confirmation hearings in the 1980s. Obviously this kind of clause is now non-binding and unenforceable, but once they're part of a deed, they're tough to remove.

I talked to the Chief last night. He says he didn't know the clause was there until those hearings. Didn't know it when he bought the property in 1974. And that's...plausible. Lots of other famous folks have discovered racist restrictive covenants in their deeds, people like JFK, George Bush, and Richard Nixon (or so I've read). The lesson, it seems, is always read the fine print.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

4 years ago yesterday...

My partner and I were officially civil unioned. We had a big, memorable party at the Rock Point School library on Labor Day weekend 2000. The "ceremony" at Rhombus Gallery, however, was private. Marc Awodey, my friend, mentor, and favorite Justice of the Peace, presided. Ann-Elise and I chose not to invite anyone else.

The three of us met at Rhombus, where I had given my first solo poetry reading, and where Ann-Elise and I had gone on our first date. Marc asked us if we agreed to enter into this contractual, state-sanctioned relationship, and we said yes. That was pretty much it. We didn't even write vows. We never have. We're still not quite sure what we agreed to. But we're still together four years later. Rhombus Gallery, alas, has since fallen victim to gentrification.

It's worth noting, though, that we don't actually celebrate August 25th as our anniversary. Like most queer couples, we never expected to be able to get married (and we may never be able to). We always celebrated on April 25th--the day we had our first date--and we continue to do so. Is this a sign of internalized homophobia? Perhaps. But I think it's just more exciting to say we've been together for 6 1/2 years rather than 4.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

This week in Seven Days, 8/25/04

I compiled a wi-fi guide to Northeastern Vermont, reported from the Rock The Vote concert in Burlington, and penned a profile of world famous debate coach Alfred "Tuna" Snider.

The Rock the Vote post is available only in the print edition of the paper, but the other two stories can be found, after 4pm EST, at .

An evening with Chief Justice William Rehnquist

Here's a brief item I wrote for Seven Days newspaper about the chief's speech at the United Church of Christ Fellowship Hall, August 11, 2004. As far as I could tell, he was ABSOLUTELY UNGUARDED (?!?).

I didn't write about this, but when I chased him backstage, I got him to take a picture with me, which I can't yet scan. I also asked him why he put those gold stripes on his robe. "I just wanted to liven things up," he said.


Chief Justice William Rehnquist is a major player in Washington, D.C., but when the spry 79-year-old jurist visits his summer home in Greensboro, he's just a regular guy.

At least, he tries to be. As one of nine Supreme Court Justices who interpret the laws of the land, he wields astonishing power. Appointed to the bench by Richard Nixon in 1971 and elevated to Chief in 1986, Rehnquist is the court's leading conservative. He voted against Roe v. Wade; he would allow states to criminalize homosexual behavior; and he helped put George W. Bush in the White House.

But the Chief didn't come here to talk about current events; he entertained the audience of 200 star-struck Vermonters with the story of the highly controversial election... of 1876. Rehnquist recently penned a book on the subject.

That year, Democrat Samuel Tilden won the popular election but missed a majority in the Electoral College by a single vote. Congress appointed a panel including five Supreme Court justices to pick the president. The Republican-dominated commission voted 8-7 along party lines for Rutherford B. Hayes. During his 35-minute address, Rehnquist defended the panel members' objectivity in the face of what he called the "largely undeserved opprobrium from a hostile Democratic press."

Not that anyone was really listening. Sure, a few historians were in attendance, but most spectators undoubtedly came to gawk at this legal dinosaur who summers in their midst -- a man who, in 1952, actually wrote a memorandum in support of school segregation.

Though many tuned out his speech -- even the guy who introduced him kept dozing off -- everyone perked up for the brief Q&A. Not surprisingly, Rehnquist avoided tough questions, such as an inquiry about the wisdom of intervening in the 2000 election. "I don't re-canvass decisions that I've participated in," he said with a smile, "and if I did, I wouldn't do it here in this forum." The crowd laughed, perhaps relieved that he had sidestepped controversy.

The most shocking aspect of Rehnquist's appearance was its normality -- if there were bodyguards protecting him, I didn't see them. At the end of the evening, the Chief Justice drove off alone in a green Subaru with Virginia plates, just another tourist.  


This is me, experimenting with the idea of having a blog. I'm on-line at Speeder and Earl's on Pine Street in Burlington. Free wifi. Gotta pay for the coffee.

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