Three weeks ago, Dennis Frank Macek decided he’d like to run for the U.S. Senate seat in Nebraska.
He talked to his wife about it, and he talked to his fiddle teacher about it, and he talked to me about it.
“I don’t have any illusions I’m going to win,” said Macek, a Texan who landed in Nebraska when his wife, Judith Wilson, accepted a job at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012.
“I just want to stir things up a little.”
Stir away, Mr. Macek.
It’s an uphill battle in the fundraising department, although friends have kicked in enough to take him to four figures.
And he has yet to get his website up and running, although he is looking for someone to take on the job.
Name recognition? That would be Ma-Chek, pronounced the Bohemian way, he says.
But first things first, which would be the need for 4,000 petition signatures to put his name on the ballot in November alongside Ben Sasse (R) and Dave Domina (D).
Late Friday afternoon, nonpartisan Macek and Wilson (his No. 1 supporter) were trying to make that happen, walking downtown with a handful of posters and half a dozen rolls of masking tape, spreading the word about Tuesday night’s Petition Signing Party at Duggan’s Pub.
“We’ve been going to coffee shops mostly," said Wilson. “Any place with a public bulletin board.”
The party starts at 6 and ends at 9, entertainment provided by Dr. John Walker and the Prairie Dogs, a bluegrass ensemble that includes Macek’s fiddle teacher.
Terry Keefe met Macek -- a man he describes as an “unbelievably energetic 70-something-year-old” -- about six months ago, and gives him lessons every other week.
Macek mentioned running for office at his last lesson, said Keefe.
“He’s worried about energy consumption and the planet, and in good conscience, he felt like he had to get the message out.”
His official campaign slogan is this: “Clean Energy, New Business, No Excuses.”
“Exclusive use of clean energy promoted via government partnerships,” says Macek, a small man with a new knee wearing a cowboy shirt, faded ball cap and turquoise jewelry.
People need to wake up, says Wilson, combing her husband’s silver hair before he has his photo taken at the paper -- a quick break from distributing posters.
The de facto campaign manager and impromptu hair stylist pointed to the United Nations Report on Climate Change, which predicts a 4.8-degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century.
“Nebraska will be a desert,” she says.
“A scorched desert,” adds Macek.
The couple married 33 years ago, a few years after they met at the University of Texas at Austin, both of them graduate students. She was impressed by his critique of a James Baldwin short story, and it went from there.
While Wilson spent her career in academia -- she’s a director of the Schmoker Reading Center at the university now -- Macek made a living as an air-conditioning technician, writing novels on the side.
“Literary stuff,” he says, pointing out a Kirkus review of “A Rose from Charlie and Marie” that calls the 504-page book “a multifaceted meditation on the ephemeral nature of existence, doubling as an equally intricate espionage thriller.” (Available on Amazon, says Wilson.)
Others, he admits, didn’t go over so well.
And now he’s retired from his day job, learning fiddle, and fiddling around with politics.
He’s tired of gridlock, he says.
“Let’s focus on the greater good.”
On Tuesday night, he’d like people to come out and focus on some good music and the plight of Mother Earth. Maybe dance.
And hopefully sign his petition. He has until September to reach the magic number.
In the meantime, he plans to sound the environmental alarm -- which, big money, mainstream candidate or not -- is something we all should heed.
“I’m just trying to sound the alarm, Miss Cindy,”’ he says.
Then he makes a small speech, sounding a bit like a politician, and a bit like Billy Jack and a lot like a guy who writes literary thrillers.
“We are in World War III, and somebody has to do something about it, and that’s me.”