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Spotlight Follows Kerry on Day Off

Times Staff Writer

It’s not often one gets a quiet afternoon away from the office to run errands. When you’re campaigning for president of the United States, those moments can be even more fleeting.

John F. Kerry was home in Boston on Friday for what was billed as a day off. But a routine trip out on a snowy afternoon by the presumed Democratic nominee quickly turned into a big-time production.

The Massachusetts senator and his daughter Vanessa, 27, were escorted from their stately red brick townhouse in Beacon Hill to a nearby Borders bookstore by a seven-car motorcade -- two police cars, three SUVs loaded with Secret Service agents and two minivans stuffed with reporters. Tom Keady, a veteran advance man who arranged President Clinton’s visits to Boston, was on hand to coordinate.

“So much for a mundane day with Dad,” said the candidate’s daughter.

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As he edges closer to becoming the party’s official nominee, Kerry’s privacy has rapidly receded. The national media are now treating him or with nearly the same scrutiny they apply to the president. Next week, members of his press corps are planning to accompany him on a five-day vacation with his wife.

On Friday, a gaggle of reporters tailed the senator on his round of errands, just in case he made news.

They were on hand as Kerry perused the history section at Borders, picked up his bicycle from a repair shop and even when he bought a jockstrap, among other items, at a local sporting goods shop.

Kerry appeared to take the spectacle in stride, ignoring a boom mike and a television camera that tracked his every move.

At Borders, he pulled several books off the shelves -- including weighty tomes such as “The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time and the Texture of Reality” by Brian Greene and Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin, slinging them under his arm as he wandered around the store.

At one point, Kerry asked store manager Don Durica if he had a copy of David Cay Johnston’s “Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else.” The book was quickly procured.

A reporter jokingly offered Kerry a copy of “Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite.”

“I don’t want to read it,” the senator said with a laugh. He paused at the shelf where his own book stood close by a compilation of speeches by President Bush, without comment.

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Kerry did his best to browse like any other customer, but it was impossible to shrug off his situation.

At one point, he was approached by Martin McGuinness, a leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army.

McGuinness was in town to speak at Harvard, and the two men, who know each other, engaged in a detailed discussion of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

As Kerry left -- with seven books, including such titles as “Middlesex,” “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” -- Durica thanked him profusely for stopping by.

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“Thank you,” the senator responded. “You have no idea what a delight it is for me to just kind of wind through a bookstore. I haven’t had time to do it in months.”

Kerry and daughter then tromped through the falling snow several blocks down the street to City Sports, a sporting goods store blaring pop music, where the candidate bought a pair of running shorts, some tennis balls and the athletic supporter.

In the evening, his motorcade headed to the small suburb of Belmont, home of Wheelworks, a local bicycle shop. Kerry picked up his yellow and red Serotta bike, which he had left a month ago to be serviced.

The few customers in the store gaped at the agents and reporters who poured in after him.

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“Guess who is in the bike shop? No, it’s not Uncle Jim,” David Feldman, 37, told his wife via cellphone. “It’s Sen. Kerry.”

Perhaps the candidate finally had his fill of a “down” day. Late Friday evening, he and his daughter scrapped plans to go out to a movie, opting instead to spend a quiet night at home.


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