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Life out here by Bret Kofford: Running with Shameless Shilling'

November 07, 2001

In a place that might have been far away but could be right here, and in a time that could have been long ago but might be right now, there was a man who never quit running. His name might not have been Shameless Shillin' but it could have been.

Yes, Shameless Shillin' could not stop running. It was who he was. It wasn't that he was running to the store for a loaf of bread or running around the park to get in shape or running from angry husbands who caught him in bed with their wives. No, Shameless Shillin' was always running for one and only one thing: office.

Shameless Shillin' did get elected a few times, but always to the same position. While that made Shameless Shillin' happy, it didn't get him to even slow his running. Before the election results were even tallied, Shameless Shillin' already was running for the next, better, higher position. He could never rest. He had to run and run and run.


He particularly could never rest if there was a camera around. Shameless Shillin' constantly called the media to cover this or that public thing he was doing. Always immaculately groomed and richly coiffured, Shameless Shillin' was constantly camera-ready, and if the cameras were there for someone else, he would manage to nudge his way into camera range anyway. Shameless Shillin' might not have been the one who created the maxim "any publicity is good publicity," but he took that maxim to the maximum. He even used his wedding as a staged campaign event.

No one could doubt that this guy could run. Folks weren't quite sure where his running money came from — most of it reportedly came from rickshaw drivers in Manila — but he always had money to spend lavishly on his campaigns, his clothes and his coiffures.

Shameless Shillin' knew how to appeal to the breadth of voters, and he did it by using his family and supporters. Everyone from his great-grandaunt in a wheelchair to his cousin with the wandering eye to his friend's friend's poodle Fi-Fi showed up in ads, always with their arms or paws around Shameless Shillin' and always with a Shameless eye to appeal to the elderly, the disabled, those with wandering eyes, dog lovers and whatever other contingent he might be able to mine. And Shameless Shillin' always draped himself in the flag while running, knowing no one could argue with that sentiment, particularly during the war.

Shameless Shillin' was half Portuguese and half Filipino, and those were two of the biggest ethnic groups in the area. Shameless Shillin' worked that angle, too. At one event he would be Portuguese, at the next he would be Filipino, and at a third he would be an All-American boy, all depending on what he thought fit that crowd.

Everywhere people gathered, there was Shameless Shillin' — high school football games, funerals, an ice cream truck stopped at the corner, a cat run over by a car — because he realized getting people to know his face would mean votes in the future.

Shameless Shillin' convinced local television stations to let him do public service announcements and even had his own "public service" television program called "Shillin' and the Community." Some pointed out it would be a better and more humble name if "the community" came before "Shillin'," but others thought "Shillin' and the Community" would be the perfect name for the show if the "and" were just removed.

If things didn't look good for Shameless Shillin' with only a short time left in a race, he would do what needed to be done, whether it meant organizing forces in a last-minute letters to the editor campaign, swamping the television with campaign commercial after campaign commercial or sending absentee ballots to non-existing voters, although that last one was just an allegation, albeit with Shameless handprints all over it.

The sad thing is Shameless Shillin' didn't know what to do each time after he was elected. He didn't like sitting at meetings because he preferred running in front of crowds. He didn't like getting things done in the community because it took away from his running in front of crowds. He didn't like behind-the-scenes policy work because he needed to be in the public running in front of crowds.

He couldn't really run on his record because he didn't have one. Oh, he claimed certain victories, but they either weren't totally his, weren't his at all or hadn't ever been done. That didn't stop Shameless Shillin' from claiming those victories anyway. And when others on his council or opponents criticized him, or the media scrutinized his record and behavior, he and his supporters claimed jealously of all Shameless Shillin' had done and of all the love Shameless Shillin' had from his people.

Shameless Shillin' announced during one campaign that this would be his last run, that he would run no more forever, and he was devoting this final run to an aging relative, over whom he draped himself.

No one really believed Shameless Shillin', though. He lived to run and ran to live. Without running he surely would die. He would never quit running, people knew.

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