Catching up with the guv |

Catching up with the guv

For most of the crowd at Thursday night’s conference of Republican governors at the Aspen Institute, the main attraction was the heavyset, tough-talking governor from New Jersey. I’m sure I was the only one who came to see the guy I remember as an athletic, charismatic Senator from the next neighborhood over.

Chris Christie and I come from the same town, Livingston, N.J. We go back as far as Squiretown Elementary School. We were never buddies — he was a grade ahead of me — but we crossed paths, especially in Little League baseball, where Christie played for the Senators. (My brother, who remembers every bit of worthless childhood trivia — “If it wasn’t on the SATs, I knew it” is his favorite line — can’t recall if Christie ever came to play ball at our house. He says there is an 80 percent likelihood.) He was on the bulky side, nothing more, not so heavy that he wasn’t an excellent hitter. Later on, he became the catcher for the Livingston High School baseball team — no small feat; the team was state champion a couple of years with Christie behind the plate. He also was the perennial president of his class.

Knowing that Christie would want to meet up with an old acquaintance who abandoned New Jersey decades ago and has never voted for a Republican, I tried to set up an interview. When it became apparent that wasn’t going to happen, I attended Thursday’s conference (where Christie was the clear star — funny, straight-talking, very New Jersey) with the thought that I could corner him for a moment afterward. But when the conference, packed with people, ended, Christie lingered onstage a minute before being ushered out a side entrance. Figuring my chance was gone, I headed to my bike — but glimpsed Christie getting into a car just ahead. I chased down the car a few blocks before realizing this more likely would end with me getting shot at than getting a shot at meeting the guv. At Main Street, I gave up the stalk and headed into town.

A minute later, outside Campo di Fiore, there he was again, getting out of his car and onto the sidewalk. Clearly there were bigger forces at work here. I jumped off my bike, walked up to him and, with a slightly nervous security detail watching, told Christie who I was.

The legends seem true; Christie is personable, down-to-Earth and, despite the image he projects of being lacking in charm, a warm guy. He stopped what he was doing, took a few minutes to get reacquainted and seemed to enjoy it. I told him I was hoping to make him the first Republican I ever voted for — and that I didn’t plan on moving back to New Jersey to do so.

Livingston seems to have more than its share of notables: Jay Greenspan, who went on to become Jason Alexander and, more significantly, “Seinfeld’s” George Costanza; Alan Krueger, chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (Krueger’s younger brother Richard and I were close friends and did the kind of things that prevent you from ever getting near the White House); best-selling novelist Harlan Coben; TV comedian Chelsea Handler; filmmaker Todd Solondz, who made the outstanding “Happiness” (along with a string of more puzzling movies); my own classmate Shiva Ayyadurai, who, it turns out, wasn’t being delinquent like the rest of us when he was cutting class — he spent his extracurricular high school time inventing email; a whole bunch of Mafiosi; and maybe a future president.

I can’t count myself among that group. (Yet!) But Governor, the next time you come to town, consider an interview with the 20-year arts editor of The Aspen Times, one-time winner (second place) of a Colorado Press Association award in the food writing category, former singer-guitarist of the bands the Limits, Basic Food Group and the B-S Foundation, a big advocate for balancing government budgets and one of the few Americans who think of Chris Christie as the athletic, hard-hitting baseball player and popular student leader who lived in one of those little red-brick houses on Northfield Avenue.

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