As a newspaper columnist, you get a bit of notoriety, the right to air your views, abuse on social media, and possession of a genuine character or two.
One of mine is perennial presidential candidate Edward T. O'Donnell Jr., 70, a Wilmington native who lives in low-cost hotels, partly for the free phone service. He has no permanent address, no cellphone. "There's no avalanche of national news media trying to reach me," he says, glumly.
I first met Ed at Independence Mall on July 4, 2013. I was looking for a column, he was a virgin looking for votes.
My interview was noteworthy more for his revelation of celibacy than for his candidacy. I've been celibate for periods in my life, but not on purpose.
"I believe in Christian virginity, celibacy, and chastity," Ed said the other day when I checked in on him. That means no sexual relations before marriage, and he's never been married. "There is no lack of happiness for the single person who devotes his life to helping people and building a better world."
It's OK if you laugh, he expects it. He'd like you to take his platform seriously. It has many planks (including eliminating job stress, secondhand smoke, and litter), but the main points are "no guns, no war, guaranteed jobs."
He has received 496 votes in the New Hampshire presidential primary. That's the combined vote total of the nine times he's run, and he's warming up for an independent run in 2020. It looks like Orange Crush Donald Trump for the Republicans, assuming nothing bad (cough, cough, impeachment) happens to him, while on the Democratic side it can be anyone from Old Reliable Joe Biden to Empress of the Bronx Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
In a poorly typed letter to me (he spells my name wrong, but I'm used to that) Ed writes, "Do you know how wildly popular you are — especially among Quakers and liberals?"
Moi? You got the right guy?
Most of the letter is about one of my favorite topics, immigration.
I love legal immigration. I hate illegal immigration because, well, it's against the law. Many Democrats treat immigration law like dandruff, they just brush it off, but Ed has an idea:
"Every nation agrees to take in a certain number of immigrants, reducing pressure on U.S.," he writes. Unlikely, but OK.
"Guaranteed job income for everyone, including immigrants, paid for with $3 trillion in unspent corporate cash and charity dollars." Ummm.
Ed runs because he wants to share his ideas about love, peace, and tolerance. After Colgate University, he did a year at Harvard Divinity School, and his politics are unapologetically "Christocentric," in his words.
Over the years he's burned through the $1.5 million inheritance left by his pediatrician father. He spent money on his quixotic campaigns, and also on the Winthrop Foundation he set up to distribute food, clothing, and toiletries to the homeless. His paltry income comes from distributing literature for small businesses.
His presidential platform is on his Facebook page, which is a little out of date.
Ed sees one path to the presidency. Vice President Pence resigns, President Trump names Ed vice president, and then Trump resigns.
Is that likely?
"Based on Christocentricity, a universe run by Christ, I believe it is," says Ed, who has been endorsed by Philly Jesus.
In reality, he has a better chance of getting married than getting elected, but he's never been close to marriage, he tells me.