When we roll into Exeter, N.H. a good hour ahead of schedule, there’s already people lined up around the block waiting for Amy to show up at the Old Town Hall.
Now Exeter is a fine town, home to Phillips Exeter Academy, a marvelous downtown, and some truly friendly people. But one thing Exeter is not known for is its parking. Another is the capacity of its meeting venues. Neither is in copious supply.
We keep driving. I need some space to set up in order to track down alternate events in the increasingly likely chance we’re going to miss out on this one; a bathroom wouldn’t go amiss. And so we happen on an unlikely oasis in brick: Supreme Pizza.
Manny is the guy in charge; he’s genuine and friendly, happy to spend a minute talking with a couple of emotional wrecks fleeing the chaos of the campaign. He’s excited when I tell him I’m a blogger; he loves my card case. Apparently, this is one shop where all the candidates end up stopping when they’re in town.
Klobuchar’s the nicest, he says. There’s a story about her crashing a family Superbowl party down on Water Street; apparently her campaign sprung for pizza and one of his drivers got to meet her. Decent tip but not extravagant.
The Buttigieg campaign, on the other hand… well. Manny’s a nice guy and friendly, and he’s willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. But security for Mayor Pete’s people kept three drivers tied up for over an hour on a busy night; they looked into every single pizza box and took their time about it. Not at all considerate. And, apparently, no tip. Big order, but the drivers are going home with nothing.
Manny’s daughter got to shake Bernie’s hand a couple months ago. She was shy about it, but he urged her on and she summoned up the courage. Proud papa shows me the picture.
Which is particularly impressive when you consider something else about not just Manny but most of the employees and the regular customers that have been wandering in and out: They’re voting Trump. Everyone’s excited about going down to the rally and seeing The Man Himself; there was a battle among the staff about who was going to have to stay and work. Maybe one in ten of the folks that pass through here are remotely interested in the Democratic ticket for the sake of the candidates.
This makes sense. Supreme Pizza has one hell of a menu and three full brick ovens for hand-tossed, but this isn’t the sort of place that features arugula as an alternate topping. There’s no kale salads for sale, no quinoa anywhere near here. For all that we’re next door to a prestigious prep school serving the nation’s liberal elite, there’s no draw from that at all; this is a pizza place, and it’s blue collar. Life is pretty good for Manny and his friends, but it’s pretty marginal; the last thing they’re interested in is upping the minimum wage to $15 an hour and mandating healthcare for every worker.
I didn’t dig hard with Manny; I took politics just as far as seemed polite and dropped it. He’s pretty sharp, and it’s obvious he pays a lot of attention to the world around him. That makes him an honest-to-goodness informed voter, and if he favors Trump who am I to argue? My job is to present facts with enough context to make them understandable; once that’s done, everyone gets to make up their own minds.
Supreme Pizza is on my list to visit again any time I’m passing through, and not just because the homemade yalaktoboureko is wonderful (though it is; my God I’ve never had anything so good) and the steak bomb one of the best I’ve had since Bucky’s at Brothers Pizza. No, it’s the people. This place is like coming home again, the people like family — and I’ve been here all of three quarters of an hour.
Time to get back to the event and see if we can squeeze in. There’s no more chances to see Klobuchar before the primary, so we’ll do our best and trust to hope.