Good news, America. My constant barrage of kidney stones have finally carved a path through my friendly filters, a direct route to my urethra. Now, instead of crippling pain seizing me every time some jagged little ball of calcium decides to make the trek, I barely feel anything at all... until it hits my pecker. A quick burst of agony when I pee and then it's over. Stifled screams of pain in public urinals are far preferable to hours of moaning, rolling around on the floor of the bar or coffee house barking like a dog, swinging blindly at ankles as passerby attempt to stomp me like a cockroach.

I passed a kidney stone in the pisser of the Renaissance Hotel in Columbus where John McCain held his first Columbus event today in the tiny Hayes ballroom. He arrived in Columbus this morning from Wisconsin in time for a 'media availability' this afternoon. I missed that availability as I was desperately trying to sleep after an all night ride on the...Straight Talk Express...

I spent most of the evening in the hotel bar. There was a Fireman Political Action Committee meeting and I was entirely surrounded by mustachioed firemen sucking down Budweiser. I sat at the bar next to a young black associate-producer from CBS assigned to the McCain campaign. He told me that he would fly around Ohio with the candidate tomorrow. First stop: Yellow Springs. Surprised, I asked him if he was certain they were flying, and he suddenly looked very tired.

"Man, it happens all the time...we wait an hour for them to de-ice the plane, the flight lasts twenty minutes, and then we have to take a bus forty miles to the town where he's supposed to be." The poor bastard's not even a McCain supporter. He is clinging to hopes of a minor promotion after this evil bullshit is finally over in November. Another young person sucked into the harsh machinery of the mainstream media, where your best and most realistic dreams are beaten out of you with a big steel wrench. I told the bartender to put my beer on his tab right in front of him, hoping to get a rise. He just sat there, staring at his buffalo wings with this awful empty look in his eyes.

I went out for a cigarette and was forced to listen to the chatter of many young Republicans working for McCain's campaign. I was repeatedly asked to keep the conversation off the record, but I will tell you this: I was surprised at many young folk were supporters entirely because of McCain's "sincere" character. A press-relations staffer from Washington D.C. admitted that he found Ron Paul's fiscal conservatism more appealing but said McCain's "straight talk" had won him over. I am sure his decision had nothing whatever to do with Ron Paul's abysmal number of delegates.

Hotties abounded. I was shocked; I expected McCain's female constituency to be generally over 50 and equipped with stainless-steel Craftsman ass rods. There were a number of whorish youths roving the crowd, with Cirque du Soleil make up and abundant cleavage. One is forced to speculate on the grim possibility that the campaign hired a small contingent of strippers to get the crowd's blood flowing.

And flow it did. Sweet Jesus, what intolerable drivel...Pat Tiberi led an O-H-I-O cheer and shamelessly appealed to the ghost of Ronald Reagan. He quoted President Jimmy Carter as saying that "Americans may have to face the idea that their best days were over," eliciting half-hearted boos from the crowd. Unsatisfied with such a low level of negativity, he stabbed again and reminding the crowd of Michelle Obama's "patriotic faux pas"(?)

That routine was played three or four times throughout the night, several times by the candidate himself. I'll teach you, and you can do it at home. It goes like this:

"I love America!"(applause)

"I am proud of America!"(applause/burnt corpse of David Koresh jerks in grave)

"I have always been proud of America!"(applause swells as crowd realizes he's taking a potshot at Michelle; somewhere Robert McNamara jerks off in his bathtub onto the very same toy boat he blew up in the "gulf of Tonkin" and titters girlishly)

"I am not ashamed of America, and I have never been ashamed of America!" (crowd applauding wildly, eyes wide, blood on their minds...blood! Meanwhile, Saint Peter beckons Richard Nixon through the Pearly Gates. "Sorry for the delay, fella. We just had NO IDEA..."

If the worst thing McCain's camp can put together against Obama is his wife's renewed pride in America, he's in trouble. The Obamas are black; black people have even fewer reasons to be 'proud' of their country than do whites, as we have two generations alive that remember lynchings and fiery crosses...nooses can still hang from trees in towns like Jena.

The ghastly head of Karl Rove suddenly appeared ten feet tall on a projection screen, providing CNN with analysis of the Wisconsin primary results. The room burst into applause the second they saw his bloaty visage. I was stunned, and for the first time, afraid. What was wrong, here?

Many Republicans have learned to dissociate themselves with the current administration as much as possible; Republicans are conservative and morally oriented, and the Bush administration wasn't conservative, or moral. I personally have no problem with young twinks frolicking around the White House grounds and dressing like journalists, feeding the President fluff questions like fat succulent grapes, but conservatives should. Karl Rove demonstrated his trustworthiness time and time again, and no conscionable American should applaud for the fucker, Republican or not.

Yet there they were, heartily cheering the man responsible for single-handedly putting the reigns of the free world into a horse-shy fake cowboy who was proud to be a "C" student at an Ivy League college paid for by Daddy. The comparisons with the Nixon administration are unavoidable: Dick, Spiro Agnew, Henry Kissinger, J. Edgar Hoover...G-Dubs, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, George Tenet. Uncanny parallels...twisted, terrifying. How did it happen again?

I may have wandered there, a touch, but I confess: I chatter when I'm nervous. I clapped loudly for Rove with the dogs, and urged the rest of the press to clap as well...

"Fools! Clap, if you know what's good for you! They're about to turn!"

McCain was two hours late, so I returned to the bar to read Newsweek and drink. When the deal was finally ready to go down, I was two hours drunker than I had anticipated. By that time, I was probably six hours drunker than the conservative crowd was expecting, walking a little slow, my eyes not eager to focus. I probably could have played it off but a firefighter had crashed into me earlier and spilled Bud Light all over my coat. The smell of booze and my generally poor hygiene garnered me some sympathetic looks from the press and cold hostility from anyone in the crowd who passed downwind of me. I wouldn't describe the vibe as "weird", necessarily. Weird is a paraplegic waking up to find his toes gnawed off by a pit-bull puppy. The vibe was...unfavorable. I relinquished my hopes of making new friends and embraced my near-perfect social isolation, spitting my minty Camel Snus-bag onto the table next to my computer, which was already well-dusted with rolling tobacco. To seal up my ostracization, I asked one of the cuter girls on the CNN crew to grab me a Pepsi and tried to tip her a dollar-fifty, ("Here's a dollar, here's a dollar,") which she declined with a sneer.

McCain finally took the stage after the triumphant announcement of his victory in Wisconsin, high-stepping to Credence Clearwater Revival...of course. I couldn't tell for sure but I think they were playing "Traveling Band", although "Bad Moon Rising" would have been more appropriate. For a veteran, I mean...for a good patriotic veteran.

McCain's speech was one I had heard before so I didn't even take notes, focusing instead on getting close with the camera and scoring some angles. As the lizard-eyed candidate croaked on about Obama's lack of foreign policy experience ("He said we wanted to bomb Pakistan, our ally! What kind of foreign policy is that?"), I stumbled over two wheelchairs and their occupants, bumped into the hotties strategically placed on the stage riser, smacked my head on someone's big network camera, and finally got a decent angle. I glanced back at the press box in time to see some fuckhead stumble over my laptop's power cord, yanking my fragile, ten-year-old Sony Breadwinner off the table and onto the floor with a distinctive crash clearly audible from my position next to the stage. I screeched "Goddamn You!" but sudden applause drowned out my angry response for everyone except an old cowboy feller and his churchwife, both of whom glared at me reproachfully.

Fuming, I continued to take photos of the Senator and his mean-eyed plastic wife Cindy, her perma-smile sending out enough RF waves to curl the hair of the taller people in the crowd. His speech was mercifully brief, however, and he began to make his exit across the stage. A few of us climbed on stage to get a close-up while he limped around the crowd. As I climbed across the stage, some old man "accidentally" tripped me. Far too drunk to catch my balance in the crowded conditions, I went down squalling like a hog in rut. I came up cussing the evil old bastard for I was worth and swatting at him with my fedora. Out of the corner of my eye I glimpsed hotel security heading toward me, so I headed into the crowd. The fuckers lost interest when I left the immediate stage area; I was headed away from the candidate no longer a threat. McCain shook a few hands and made his own hasty exit through the other end of the ballroom, and the crowd fled quickly, leaving the press to pack up and head back to the bar.

What happened to John McCain? How shallow was the "maverick" deal? I feel as though I remember a time when I didn't have so much of a problem with him. He wants to shut down Guantanamo and stop torturing people, right? He has voted against lobbyist pressure, and worked to reduce their influence. He voted down the business-favoring Bush tax cuts.

He now strikes me, after a close-up evaluation, as a reptile. He is cold and bloodless; his war-time heroism eroded by the political process and he is now so hungry for power that he would piss down your back and call it rain if he thought he could get away with it. He will present a formidable opposition to Barack Obama, and I think he is quite a bit more vicious than prickly little Hillary.

I went back to Victorian's Midnight Cafe and began to work on the story, but I found my way into the drugs and someone's space-bag of White Zinfandel. By the time 8:00 a.m. rolled around, I had nearly forgotten the Q&A session scheduled for 10:00. No sleep, and with all that shitty wine coursing though my system. The sun was up, no question. I had to try to make it.

I parked my car directly behind the "Straight Talk Express", which was being packed up in preparation for the tour of the State, beginning with Yellow Springs, Ohio. I thought that very odd until I realized Mike DeWine was a leading McCain supporter and had a lout of clout in the area. The night before, one of the staffers had tried to convince me to sign up for the bus tour.

"It'll be great! There's plenty of room on the press's almost never full. There's an ice cream shop we are stopping at; it'll be a great photo op!" There was three inches of snow on the ground. A meet-and-greet outside an ice cream shop in Yellow Springs, where Ohio's only truly progressive school was in the process of dying, hardly seemed a proud photo op for either McCain or the idiot journalist who recorded it. Besides, press doesn't ride for free on those buses. Were the trip complimentary, I could justify wasting an entire day and winding up stranded in Dayton Ohio, watching McCain and his harem fly off through booze-fogged eyes, hitchhiking home. No way I was going to PAY for a trip like that, though. That's like paying to drive a bunch of meth-crazed rednecks to the liquor store, knowing that once the Wild Rose was acquired they would kick the living shit out of you and leave in the slush beside the road. Only a fool...and I'm no fool.

I got in and sat up less than a minute before McCain arrived with his wife and, sure enough, Mike DeWine. This was right before the Times broke the story about his "inappropriate relationship" with the female lobbyist, so the press were relatively disinterested. Someone asked him to clarify remarks he had made regarding Obama's willingness to bomb our allies (Pakistan) in his speech the night before. The Ol' Straight Shooter shifted the lump on his jaw to the other side of his mouth and clarified that, in fact, he was more remarking on the Illinois senator's poor grasp of military strategy: one should never advertise one's aggressive intentions. Never mind the Predator drone that fired a missiles into the Pakistani mountains two weeks ago, killing "the Libyan", supposedly the number three man in al Quaida at the time. Did the candidate just criticize Obama for considering the exact same action his own chicken-hawk party had just taken? McCain's once-vaunted candor seems to have been replaced with a poorly concealed duplicity that rivals Dubya's own sideways shit-speak.

Can I even say that? Is this sill journalism, or do I venture shamelessly into punditry, involuntarily? Would H.L Mencken find this acceptable?

I asked the Senator whether he would support a hand-counted paper ballot this November. He stuttered for a minute.

"Well, that's up to the states. That doesn't have anything to do with me." He left then, as I tried to pursue him. The game was over, however, and I cursed myself for leaving him such as easy out on the question. The old fucker is not cunning enough to have found that response so readily.

I left feeling foolish...the whole thing hadn't even outlasted my hangover. The bright sun glared of the ice, and I realized someone had stolen the press magnets I keep on the side of my 93 Honda Accord. Some wretched son of a bitch decided they needed them more than I did. What kind of country is this, anyway? Where a legitimate presidential candidate would personally harass hack writers like me, and why? John McCain is a spiteful bully and I will be very proud of America indeed when the people rise as one voice and say,

"No! Not this asshole! We'll take the other one! To Hell with this bullshit."