One Foot in the Black

Firechick's Blog


December 10
Wildland Firefighter, Pyro-Evangelist
US Forest Service
I am a wildland firefighter for the US Forest Service. The government is "touchy" about its employees expressing our opinions publicly, so I am anonymous to avoid having to deal with permission or apologies.


Firechick's Links
JUNE 1, 2012 7:15PM

My Date with Bill Clinton

Rate: 45 Flag

It was the summer of 1998. Wildfires raged across the state of Florida.  The Daytona 500 was postponed for the first time in race history.  Ash rained down on Disneyworld.  Interstate 75 was closed.  Hundreds of homes burned to the ground, countless  communities were evacuated.  And the President came to town.  

I was assigned to an engine most of that fire season.  Up on the panhandle we'd been hard at it since Mother's Day (we had a "Mother's Day Fire").  Central Florida wasn't affected until late June when the summer monsoons came, bringing lightning  and wind to an already drought-stricken landscape.  The boss called three of us into the office and told us we would be driving an engine to Daytona Raceway to give out passes to people to see President Clinton speak.  We  were to wear our uniforms, be professional, and represent the US Forest Service.  

This was at the height of the Monica Lewisnky scandal, but Clinton had yet to confess to his....transgressions.  He was still denying "sexual relations with that woman" but the wolves were nipping at his heels.  When the other guys found out I was going I took a a lot of good-natured shit.  "Wanna borrow my knee pads?"  "Take plenty of chap stick!"  "Want one of my cigars?"  

Off we went.  Robbie the token black guy, me the token female, and Ken the token white guy.  Robbie and I were Clinton supporters, very excited for the opportunity, but Ken was a devout fundamental, conservative Christian.  He was just doing his duty.   We showed up at Daytona and quickly found our contact.  There was  a table set up and a list of "invitees" who we would verify with proper ID and then to whom we wold issue a pass.  

We were in the infield, and the place was buzzing with activity.  It was being used as a large distribution center for the various fires.  The National Guard had been activated and they were inventorying and distributing supplies.  Pallets of water and gatorade were stacked and re-stacked by fork lifts.  There were cases and cases of batteries.  Tools, generators, hard hats, gloves.  

People would come up and ask for their pass.  A few tried to scam us, but if they weren't on the list, they didn't get one.  There was a huge, white tent set up for the President's speech.  It was air-conditioned against the sweltering heat and humidity.  They were running shuttles with golf cart- like vehicles for everyone who had a pass.  

A few minutes before the start time, the person for whom we were working came over and told us to go ahead and gather everything up and head over to the tent.  "You mean we get to go?" I asked.  We had no idea we also got to attend.   Sweet.  We hopped on a cart and there we were.  

Now, this was pre 9/11, and looking back it's pretty amazing how kind of lax the security was.  All we had to do was flash our pass, and boom, we're in.  No metal detector, no pat down, no ID check, no profiling.  The AC felt so good.  We squeezed our way to the front with some other USFS folks.  A metal rail ran across the width of the tent.  This is what separated us from the President.  They had set up a small bleacher/riser behind the microphone for the back-drop.  Various people from various agencies  stood on the risers -- wildland firefighters in their yellow Nomex shirts; Divison of Forestry personnel in their khaki green uniforms; paramedics and EMTs in white; structural firefighters in their navey blues.   Women, blacks, Latinos, white guys.  

We didn't have to wait too long before Bill came out, just about on time.  He was much taller and slimmer than I expected.  Now, I'd never really thought he was attractive, he just wasn't my type.  But I liked him a lot as a president.  He did his speech, and I don't remember a lot of the content.  Typical stuff, I'm sure.  Thanks to the firefighters, the importance of working together, emergency declarations, rebuilding, yada yada yada.  When he finished we all clapped.  

And then he did the damndest thing -- he started at the other end of the metal rail and began working his way down shaking hands, posing for photos.  He didn't skip anyone.  Everyone who stepped up got a handshake and a word or two.  Holy shit, I was going to meet the President!  All kinds of things ran through my mind on what I would say to him.  That we need more funding to do more prescribed burning.  That FL was a fire environment and the residents needed to do their part to make their homes safer.   We were literally at the end of the rail so I had plenty of time to think.  

I could see him stop and shake my friend Carrie's hand.  She was talking to him and he looked like he was listening.    

Then he was there, right in front of me.  He turned to me and grasped my hand in his, and I swear to God, it was like one of those cheesy movies from the 60s.  The whole place went dark, except a light shone upon Bill and me.  Suddenly we were the only ones there.  It was so quiet.  He looked at me with those blue eyes and smiled and I forgot everything I had wanted to say.  I was reduced to a giggling, inarticulate school girl.  He thanked me for my service, let go of my hand, and the lights came back up.  It was noisy.  All those people were back.  I stood there in shock.  "What the fuck just happened," I think I muttered.    I shook it off in time to pose for a photo with Robbie and Bill (of course we were on a first-name basis now).  Ken agreed to take the photo since he did not want his picture taken with that adulterous Democrat.  

When I tell people this story the main point I want to make is this:  I was 34 years old, had had a brief starter marriage, was in love with the man who would become my husband, and was happy with my career and life. But I was ready to get down on my knees and blow the President after a brief handshake and smile.  So why would anyone think a 26 year old female intern working with him every day, wide-eyed and impressionable, wouldn't?   

On the front page of the "Jacksonvile News" the next day, Bill and me.  It wasn't a dream afterall.   Hey, where's his other hand and why am I smiling so broadly?


Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Now that you ask, where IS his other....etc?

Great writing here Flame-Eater Gurl!
Yeah, I met him too, in 1998 (or was it '99), at a dinner party in Chappaqua, and I wrote about it here. Hillary and Chelsea were there too, so thoughts of getting on my knees were not there. But he was charming. And Hillary even more so. She's the one who won my heart.
I bet he would have called out the National Guard to New Orleands, different disaster, same prez.
Fun post.

I think there's some kind of quasi-demonic energy that wakens and (firefighter, dig this) flames up in people who are in the limelight. Or perhaps it's vampiric, and they're drawing from the crowd (not just those present, but in the case of the prez the entire country, nay, the entire world).

Maybe even robotic Romney will get some of this happening for him...
Wow I love how you wrote this that you met a president and how you described your black out :)
Very cool what you do and I am happy to see once in awhile you get recognition..
sky -- I'm sworn to secrecy or I would certainly tell you. Thanks much!

Lea -- I'm going to go read your Billary post. I love Hillary, too. Hope she runs in '16.

Shanghai -- Um, what?

Myriad -- Thanks. I do dig it! But I have to say that I think Bill just had/has IT. Born with it I would say. Romney will NEVER have that charisma and charm.
LL2 -- Thanks, you always say the most perfect things in your comments to my posts. Means a lot. :)

Sorry, what I meant to say if Bill Clinton had still been president New Orleans would not have had to put signs on top of the dome saying "HELP US PLEASE."

Georgey decided he HAD to wait until the Governor called him PERSONALLY to request aide, as if seeing it on CNN were not enough evidence the state needed help NOW.
Great story, great writing. The man has charisma!
Your smile is worth a million bucks! Great photo and story!
Shanghai -- Whew, I was hoping that was what you meant! I agree completely.

toritto -- Thanks! Well, I think power does work on women, otherwise those ugly guys like Kissinger and Rove would be celibate not of their own choice. But it wasn't that say with Bill and me. To sound really cliche, it was some kinda animal magnetism LOL!

sweetfeet -- Thank you! He sure does.
Cathy GF -- Thanks so much for reading and your nice comment.
I totally get this! The same thing happened when I met Joe Biden! lol. Great story and great picture. :)
Awesome post --- loved it!
Midwest Muse blew Joe Biden?
I wouldn't blow him, but I would love to sit down and ask him a few questions. Not personal ones, I don't care who blew who. But, worldly questions and maybe even one about the off-limits area where they say we keep aliens. Great Post!
Larry! That's how rumors get started...
This is so cool and so well told. I just it out loud to my wfe and we laughed and laughed. Way to go...
I just "read" it to my wife...
Nice to remember a prez with a human touch (even if a bit too touchy, not in your case).

R for responsibility well done!
A great post, so well written we were there with you. I've met him a couple times, each time captive to his intense charisma and sexual magnetism.

I've worked in politics and written about all the Monicas on The Hill who were drawn to the power of much lesser men. I just wish Bill hadn't lied, his only true criminal act. So many haters, so much overkill reaction from guys doing the same thing. Glad you got your "date" regardless.
I shook LBJ's hand but he was the VP at the time, and I was picketing the first Gulf War when George H.W. Bush rode past in his black limo with the tinted windows.
Hell I'd get down on my knees for ole BC. Whattay man!
This was so interesting - and the ending was very, very cheeky ;-)

I haven't had the privilege to meet Bill, but I did meet Hilary at a book signing (also pre-9/11 and with a surprising lack of security), and I had the same experience - well, not in the same way - but Hilary had so much charisma. I guess a lot of politicians must.

Thanks for a delightful story!
I was in Tampa then! Other issues to be dealt with, though I remember the drought. They quit running the fountains in town.

Very cool, meeting Clinton. I wish I could.
nice piece on bill, hee hee:-) I'd take him any day.
Great post. I know I would react like that too. Love the man and love his politics. He is so global.
Gonna have to promote you from FireChick to FireBoss.
Midwest Muse -- Well, tell us about it!!

postmormongirl -- Thanks much.

Larry -- Nice to hear from you. I just LOVE your humor.

rwnutjob -- Well, thank you :)

Scanner -- I would never judge you if you did blow him. I agree, I'd love to sit down with both Bill and Hillary and talk about the world.

Rob -- Aw, thank you so much. Glad you both liked it.

Tantersg -- Haha for sure. Thanks.

Sally -- I think only the people who've witnessed it really understand what he had/has. Wow, i bet that was all something to see. Thanks.

jmac -- And???? Any sparks fly between you and LBJ? hahaha I crack myself up. Did you feel like hurling a rock at Bush's limo?

icyhighs -- :)

Alysa -- Thanks! Oh, I would just love to meet Hilary. So cool.

Deborah -- Thank you much.

phyllis -- there's still time....

Pandora -- i think he actually is better looking now.

zanelle -- That is such a great word for him -- "global."

Bo -- Aw, shucks. Thanks, man.
I saw Bill once when he gave a speech. I was four rows away but he didn't do too much for me personally (though I was impressed with his non-profit project). I'm glad he did something for you because I got to read this great story.
Scarlett -- Maybe you were outside the field of his magnetism. 'Cause until he grabbed my hand he never did anything for me, either. I'm really glad you enjoyed my post, thanks the nice comment.
I read this last night then dashed out -- I just enjoyed this so much!
What a funny moment for you-- I'm a bit jealous, I've love to meet him.
I never once blamed that young woman, there's just some major charisma and hypnotizing abilities to that man! I miss him as president. I loved feeling and knowing the smartest guy around was in charge, personal peccadillos aside....
...okay, using 'peccadillos' might be marginalizing the issue, but...hell, I like the word.
Great storytelling here, Firechick! Your story about Bill certainly beats the crap out of the time I met Ronald Reagan.
Just Thinking... -- Thanks! I agree about Monica. I miss him, too, and get exactly what you said. I still can't believe we went from him to W. Thanks for using the word "peccadillos." Don't see that word nearly enough!

Jennifer -- Thanks. RR? Ewwww. A guy I used to work with had a crush on Nancy. Double ewwww.
Zounds! That is quite a smile you're flashing.
You described perfectly what it's like to meet people who have that particular, rare gift. I spent 10 minutes talking to Bobby Kennedy once, and it was the same thing. I've heard they do it by focusing their attention on you, making you feel like the only person in the universe. But I've tried to do it. There must be something else to it.
What is it about some people? I can only hope that they use their powers for good!
This was funny, and very interesting indeed, for what you have provided
is an account of Charisma.
A much worn word. Means very little today.
But it is real, and it is almost overpowering when encountered.

Charisma: from "charis", gift.
In theology, a divinely conferred power.
Which of course is how, in the not so old days, we used to
choose our leaders, yes?

Makes me wonder if Queen Elizabeth, or her grandson William
got it..

I think my dad had a bit of it.
Like you say, the world disappears, and there is..this person.

Who have i met that did that to me? Uh, no one really...
my dad...but...i am biased....
i've met him, more than once. i thought, until i did, that his often-remarked-on ability to focus on someone and make a genuine personal connection was overstated. it isn't, as you learned. good piece.
Never met him...but would like to. Many women I met "during the day" both R and D say they would have probably "enjoyed" his company had they been invited. Interesting..there is no doubt that he has tremendous appeal. But in fact, I would enjoy meeting Hillary. She is fascinating and will most likely end up being as famous if not more famous than her husband.
Candace -- Wow, you did? I know, I know, it's crazy, huh?

Ande -- Isn't that something? Yes, I would LOVE to meet Hillary. Maybe when she's campaigning again for 2016 :)
Oh yeah, I get it, Chick. Meeting him was the only human encounter that left me completely unable to speak a coherent sentence. He is the most charismatic person I had ever met -- until I met Hillary several years later at Rutgers University. Her appeal was different, of course -- I am all the way straight -- but I liked her on a personal level almost instantly. You did a great job of writing this memory.

Lezlie -- I know, right? Others have said the same thing you did about Hillary. I hope I get to meet her someday. Thanks.
You nailed it, he was born with it if you believe in Astrology. Astrology buffs know Clinton had a Stellium of his Ascendant, Mars, Neptune, Jupiter and Venus (relationships with others) in Libra. Most Presidents and candidate like like McCain, Palin, Obama, and Biden have a minimum of 4 planets in one sign. Clinton could publicly strangle a child while selling bibles to a watching crowd and they'd keep buying.

I'm Libra, we're too charming with just one planet there. Anyway I was vaccintated against charisma at an early age by observing it. It's understandable you were hit hard, good thing you didn't have knee pads. Very insightful about poor Monica. Great story and photo, loved how you led up to your meeting. How wonderful to have the memory and photo of meeting a President.
Enjoyed your story, Firechick. Some public figures do have that kind of charisma to swipe people off their feet. Others just don't.
Wow! Can't believe you and my lesbian best friend had the same reaction ti Bill Clinton! We need to do a study of as many women of different ages, ethnicities, orientation, and marital status to see if this reaction is universal. There's a nasty rumor spread by some folks in the GOP that he was frquently accused of rape when he was governor of Arkansas. I don't thinkit's true. I know rape is about violence and not sex. But you can't rape someone who's willing. Great piece! Which Karen was still alive so you two could compare notes!
Nice story. Not sure how I'd feel meeting Clinton but I did make out with Warren Zevon.
My brother went to summer ballet camp with Chelsea Clinton. He always said it was a little weird having suited men sitting in the back of the class watching. But from what I hear, Chelsea was a very nice person.
Great story Firechick.
Great story as others have commented. Not surprising you have the cajones to tell it like it is, running into flames the way you do..
Enjoyed this.
i tell u bout the time I haz date with Bill, his handz weren't just holdin' mine! OY NOZE!!!

RATD 49 times x 10000!! U must RATD for today!!!
I've met politicians( Kennedy, Wellstone, Graham) and rock stars (The Charlatans, Dandy Warhols, Sugar Ray, Jamiroquai etc). The politicians were way sexier.
Does he still have a bent penis? Bill I mean....
l'Heure -- That's really interesting and makes a lot of sense. "vaccinated against charisma" -- now that's funny!

FusunA -- You're so right. Thanks.

FrogTownDiva -- I know, crazy, right? I would also loved to have talked about it with her. Thanks.

MWG -- I loved Warren Zevon. Please write about it!

pmg -- I have heard that, too.

trilogy -- Thanks so much.

rita -- glad you liked it. (I often run FROM the flames). Thanks.

Hot Shoe -- Oh, you lucky dame! Thanks for all the rates!

Catholic Girl -- Well, I haven't met any rock stars but I imagine you're right.

CreekEnd UK -- I couldn't tell when I grabbed in in the crotch. Probably.
I first met Bill when he was governor of Arkansas. There were a couple of other meetings at affairs in Little Rock and then we moved away. Everyone knew about his penchant for straying where the opposite sex was concerned. Our daughter came home at age 8 to tell us that the neighbors were splitting up. Startled we asked an 8 year old why. "Because Maryjean's mom is having an affair with Bill Clinton."
Despite all of that people loved him. He is the single most charismatic person I have ever met. R
Some folks have greater charismatic charm than others.
What got me wasn't how she fell for his charm, but how she kept that dress at her mother's without having it dry cleaned.
I mean, that's gross, right?
And then to bring it out od storage just in time for the trial of a lifetime. Always seemed planned to me.