No, this wasn't a dream, although I have to admit I woke up the next morning and wondered, "Did that really happen?"
But it did, and on the 4th of July. And with unlimited alcohol, although from what I could tell, the governor was not imbibing.
It was the All-American Festival at Peoria Sports Complex, and the city allowed people to bring alcohol into the event, provided it wasn't in glass containers. So on a particularly hot Wednesday evening hours before the fireworks I'm helping my friends Bones and Chazz finish off a fifth of vodka in a plastic bottle. We're kicking back in the grass by the "rock stage," where local Christian rock band CTS is playing a mix of covers and originals, when CTS frontman Jeff Senour makes an announcement from the stage: "Governor Napolitano is making her way through the crowd, and she should be up this way shortly."
Yeah, right. The program for the festival doesn't even mention the governor making an appearance, let alone walking through the crowd greeting people.
Me, Bones, and Chazz are craning our heads, looking for Napolitano, when Senour makes another announcement. "We hear that the governor's favorite band is The Beatles, so we're going to play a Beatles song just for her."
As the band begins playing what sounds like a mash-up between "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" and "Twist and Shout," I stand up to stretch my legs and, suddenly, the governor's standing right in front of me, wearing beige khaki pants, a blue polo shirt, and a smile. She walked right up to us while her plain-clothed security dudes were still working their way through the crowd behind her.
"Hello," she says to me, holding out her hand.
I shake it and say, "It's nice to meet you, governor," in my best, breathy "Happy Birthday, Mr. President" voice.
We stand there just looking at each other for a few seconds, and then she says, "Happy 4th of July."
I return the sentiment, then suddenly, I'm seized by something I cannot explain (probably the vodka) and I start dancing, bobbing my head around and shuffling my feet. "You like The Beatles?" I ask the governor, doing my best to look like I have some rhythm.
Then, to my surreal surprise, Napolitano starts dancing with me. Not just bobbing her head or clapping her hands, but actually busting some moves. "I like the classics!" she says, throwing up a Saturday Night Fever disco finger and moving her hips to the beat.
We dance for several seconds, while people gather around the governor for pictures and photos. I'm wondering several things: What would she do if I tried to grind up on her? Should I try to give her my phone number? Where on Earth did she learn how to boogie like this? Is this really happening? And how long is she going to hang out by us?
Chazz answers the latter question when he suddenly grabs the almost-empty fifth of vodka, affects a British accent, and says, "Hey Gov'na want a shot of vodka?"
Napolitano smiles, says "No thanks," and shuffles off as fast as she shuffled up. She spends about 15 more minutes walking around meeting people. The guitar player of CTS comes offstage during a solo and plays in front of Napolitano for a few seconds, then the whole band stops playing and comes offstage to get a picture with her (we all tried getting the governor on the stage, but that was a no-go).
As Napolitano makes her way back across the field, she passes us again. I smile like a goon and clap my hands to the beat. Napolitano claps her hands to the beat, too, gives us a thumbs-up, yells, "Hey, all right!" and then disappears back down the field.
Bones turns to me and laughs. "Is it just me, or did you two have a whole hmm moment there?"
I'm as speculative as anyone else about the governor's sexual orientation, but I gotta admit, I so have a crush on her now. Not only is she the most powerful political figure in this state, but damned if she can't shake a tail feather, too. And the half-mullet hair actually doesn't look that bad in person. It's just short hair that's, uh, full-bodied.
I drank a lot of vodka that night.
After dancing with the governor, the fireworks show could've easily been anti-climactic, but the weird music mix to which the pyrotechnics are semi-choreographed has me continually on my toes, asking, "What the fuck?"
It starts with Neil Diamond's "America," then segues into John Mellencamp's "Small Town," both songs that sorta fit the holiday. But when the mix suddenly shifts and sandwiches the Jackson 5 between Tom Jones and a house music remix of Madonna's "Holiday," followed by Diana Ross' "I'm Coming Out," I start to wonder if we're at a gay pride festival.
By the end of the night, I've switched from vodka to water, but Bones and Chazz are still pouring drinks. Bones hands me a paper cup and says, "Come on, one last Independence Day toast."
We raise our cups high and Bones smiles. "Happy 4th of July! Here's to flirting with the governor!"