When you drive a beat-up 1963 Dodge Dart convertible, you’re used to getting a little attention. So when the man in the shiny SUV stopped in the middle of the street as I was parking and called me over, I thought I was ready to answer his questions–yeah, it has the good, old slant six; nope, doesn’t have push-button transmission.

But that’s not what he wanted.

“So, you were for Kerry and I’ll bet you don’t like SUVs but you don’t mind driving around belching smoke?” he said as best I can recall, a big grin on his face.

I was thrown for a loop. He saw the Kerry-Edwards sticker on my bumper. I knew the plugs were fouled and planned to change them out. But I don’t think he was as interested in letting me know about my engine problems as he was in razzing me.

I stuttered something about whether it would have been OK to blow smoke if I’d been for Bush. Then I tried to think of a clever retort about the hypocrisy of the “Clear Skies Initiative.” But I ended up just saying he was absolutely right, I knew there was a problem, planned to fix it, and thanks for pointing it out to me.

I described the conversation to Lanya Shapiro, an activist who has taken it upon herself to bring together people who coalesced against the Iraq war and George W. Bush over the last 18 months.

“At least it was a conversation,” she tells me. “He had a point. We need to acknowledge that. And even when they’re being jerks, we need to engage with them.”

Shapiro invited people to a meeting last Sunday to find ways to channel their energy, post-Nov. 2. Though it was one of the most magnificent fall days of the year, 40 people showed up–Deaniacs, progressive Democrats, Democratic women, Kerry supporters and more.

“I’m just trying to find individuals who are looking for a home and encourage them to have the conversation and to figure out what they’re energetic about and plug them into groups on those issues,” she says.

Shapiro is having another meeting Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 6:45 p.m. at the Parkwood Library, 5122 Revere Road in South Durham, off I-40 at a spot central to most of the Triangle. To sign up or for more info, go to www.dfa.meetup.com.

At the first meeting, participants came up with six potential next steps for getting involved. One of them was: Creating more dialogue across differences. That’s obviously one that both sides need to work on.