Story by Pig’s Arms North America Correspondent, Neville Cole
The best thing about being the Pig’s Arms North American correspondent is the unspoken freedom I have to do whatever it takes to chase down a story. Interestingly, I have learned over the years that the best stories don’t have to be chased. The best stories come to you. The trick is letting them find you.
This can be tougher than it seems. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve sat for hours at the bar of some swanky hotel eating mixed nuts and ordering overpriced cocktails waiting for something important to happen; but, every now and then, it does.
Case in point… Not long ago I was hanging out on the beltway, working the angles, trying to wrangle an exclusive with President Obama when quite by accident (or was it fate?) I happened to spot this miserable-looking bloke sitting all alone in a dark corner. He appeared to be quite literally crying in his beer.
When he lifted up his face to the flickering light, I could just make out that it was none other than reigning Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott. I decided to see if couldn’t cheer the poor bastard up. I ordered up two Pink Fizzes and wandered over to make my acquaintance. Here’s how our conversation went:
Me: Hey bud… You look like you could use a drink.
Tony (wiping eyes): Wha? Who? What?
Me: Pink Fizz?
Tony: Oh… Ah… Sure. Why not?
Me: Tough day?
Tony: Wasn’t supposed to be. This was going to be my chance to shine. I met with POTUS today.
Me: You met with the President of the United States? Wow!
Tony: He’s POTUS, so what? I’m the PMA. I was born for this job! People know I get stuck right in to it and that’s exactly what I wanted Barack Obama to find out for himself. I didn’t tell him just what he wanted to hear either. I let him know what I thought of his taxation policy for a start.
Me: How did that go over?
Tony: How do you think? He looked at me like I had just floated in to town on a boat.
Me: That’s not right… He may be the leader of the free world; but you’re the wonder down under and if anyone knows about unfair taxation policies, it’s you.
Tony: Thanks, mate. That’s kind of you to say; but, to tell the truth, I don’t feel like the wonder down under. Right now, I feel a lot more like poor old Jesus.
Tony: Cause I’m being crucified in the press.
Me: What for?
Tony: For one, they’re all saying I’m not a real conservationist.
Me: You’re a terrific conversationalist! I can tell that right off the bat…
Tony: That’s what I was telling that Barack Obama. I told him I reckon we all should rest lightly on the planet. I let him know that the terms “conservative” and “conservation” have common root cause both of them mean keeping all the good stuff for ourselves.
Me: Sounds like the two of you had a very constructive and genial discussion.
Tony: I thought so. I just want to do the right thing by our planet, you know. That’s why I keep in such close contact with all them forestry blokes and mining companies…they’re the ones out in the field. They are in touch with the earth every day. They know what’s going on. But this Barack Obama…to be honest, I don’t think he got where I was coming from.
Me: Too bad George W isn’t running things still…something tells me you and he would’ve see eye to eye.
Tony: Of course. You see. The great thing about GW is… he knows Jesus. I was trying to tell Obama that he needs to get his Immigration thing under control. I told him that Jesus was the answer because he knew that there was a place for everything and that’s it is not necessarily everyone’s place to come to Australia or America either for that matter. Obama looked at me like I was from outer space… then I remembered… he’s a Muslim.
Me: Of course!
Tony: Well, everything went to hell in a hand basket after that. Who would ever imagine that you can’t talk about Jesus in America? He was practically born there! Still, if there’s one thing I’ve learned being the PMA, it’s that with great power comes great envy. You find out real quick that everyone is out to bring you down. You know right away that every little thing you say will be taken out of context and blown up completely out of proportion. You can’t even have a laugh with a 62 year old sex worker anymore. You can never take a single step wrong. Until you walked a mile in my shoes you don’t know what it’s like to be me. No one can live up to all these expectations.
No one can be the suppository of all knowledge! Not even me…
Me: I’m…lost for words.
Tony pulled his mouth into a tight smile, put a hand on my shoulder, and said quietly, almost wistfully: “I know mate, I know. Me too.” Then he thanked me for the Pink Fizz and walked off alone in the Washington night.
Editor’s note: Neville didn’t specifically say that Tony didn’t pick up the tab. He’s that kind of guy.