Archive for November, 2004

Deck the Halls

November 26, 2004

Holiday Traditions I Could Really Do Without: Pointlessly self-fulfilling media stories about the day-after-Thanksgiving shopping rush; the president pardoning a turkey, especially when the president is one who mimicked a death-row inmate pleading for her life; the third- and fourth-rate football announcers pulled out of God knows what woodwork to cover all the bowl games, and whose forced chortling and inane jargon-riddled spiels (“And Calhoun rushes for plus yardage!”) are literally indistinguishable from The Simpsons’ send-ups of sports broadcasters; the inevitable story about a family gathering gone homicidally bad; all the goddam rushing around people do; worrying what Christmas will be like with neither family nor old friends close by.

Holiday Tradition Keepers: Dinner at Chris and Aurora’s and the chance to catch up with friends I haven’t seen in a year; Jon Carroll’s annual Thanksgiving Day column; the Christmas lights on the Embarcadero Buildings, especially as seen from the Bay Bridge; watching It’s a Gift on New Year’s Eve; the hush and expanse of deserted streets on Christmas morning, followed by the slow emergence of little kids trying out their new bikes in wobbly amateur fashion; pondering the hassles and mayhem of all the cross-country travelers from the serenity of my couch; the stray spontaneous get-together with old friends for a holiday toddy; seeing people give generously to the homeless, with both parties coming away feeling better about themselves; the warm blanket of camaraderie that hangs itself over The Expansion about this time of year; sleeping through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade for the umpteenth year in a row; uninvited meditations about John Lennon thanks to “Happy Christmas (War is Over)” and because it’s that time of year; the first cigarette after Thanksgiving dinner, a/k/a The Best Cigarette of the Year; worrying what Christmas will be like with neither family nor old friends close by, and somehow getting by just fine each year.

& that's the he & the she of it

November 15, 2004

If I could be watching California Split while I was listening to “Fleurette Africane” at the same time that some Scandinavian amazon was reading Absalom, Absalom! out loud to me, why, I’d die a happy man.

Peachy Keen

November 10, 2004

Late in The Candidate there’s a scene where Robert Redford, playing an underdog senatorial candidate, is sitting in the back of a limousine and exhaustedly riffing in a gibbering way on his campaign’s tagline until he unmasks it as the pure pap it is, causing his campaign manager to pop his head up in alarm. If my life had a tagline – you know, one beyond “I’m not as stupid as I look” or “Not again!” – I swear that’s what I’d be doing with it right now. I’m so tired and un-with it tonight I may as well be in a Holiday Inn room waiting to get up and go to tomorrow’s session of an Amish quilting convention.

Hard Rain

November 3, 2004

[Prescript: Tonight I got drenched in a cloudburst during a cross-city walk that I didn’t plan on happening. ‘Twas basically okay, though, for at all the crucial nodes and junctures I had the jukebox remnants of Ms. Williams’ “Jackson” playing in my head. The stuff that matters is the stuff that gets you through.]

If this election really was as historic as everyone seems to think it was and if the speed with which TV resumes normal broadcasting after outsized events is any indication, Americans must be the most bovine creatures that ever existed; by 10 a.m. today I felt like I was finding nothing but Malcolm in the Middle reruns the morning after Lincoln visited Ford’s Theater. The lasting damage looks to have occurred inside my friends’ psyches, but then a lot of them really expected Kerry to win. I never could see it myself – I mean, I live in America, and paid glancing attention to what’s been going on here the last 30 years or so – plus his campaign was spattered with telltale signs as he failed to get a lasting national bump from even a single one of his supposed highlights (e.g., Iowa, naming Edwards, or the convention) or gain any traction despite the endless trail of bad news that littered Bush’s excellent Iraqi adventure like a line of smelly elephant turds. The most interesting part of the whole day yesterday – that is, the only part that had any emotional coloring beyond outright head-rolling depression – came around four o’clock. By then the major anchors were openly chirping about how happy and gloomy the Kerry and Bush camps were respectively thanks to the early exit polls from Florida and Ohio, and that was the capper to a train of details accruing over the previous 48 hours that made everyone feel the wind shifting behind John Kerry’s back. But then there came a long empty hour or two in which the pundits droned on and flashed their fancy graphics but no real hard news was breaking that was like the anticipatory moments before a gathering thunderstorm. You could see the clouds piling up overhead and darkening in hue…but then they just sat there and the rain never came. By the third or fourth time that George Stephanopoulos and the other handicappers mentioned that the red and blue states were falling into the exact same slots as 2000, it was obvious that something was wrong, and that all the ballyhooed new turns this election was supposed to hinge upon – the insurgent youth vote, the angry minority vote, and a Democratic party incensed by ’00 and flush with cash gathered through the Internet – weren’t going to cut the nut.

While it’s true that 55,000,000 Americans voted for a liberal Massachusetts senator who once referred to our wartime actions in Vietnam as “atrocities” and put him within a single state’s electoral votes of the White House, it’s also true that more than 59,000,000 reelected a man who, after plunging us into a harebrained war and gutting the economy, couldn’t think of a single mistake that he’d made in the course of it all. The fact that this same man acted as if he had a mandate when he didn’t even have a majority of the popular vote makes it easy to guess what he’ll do now that he’s been reelected after a noisome campaign, had his single largest Senate opponent removed, firmed up the House, and stands in line to make perhaps a couple or three Supreme Court appointments. How one should react to these circumstances seems entirely a matter of personal choice, but right now I can sympathize equally with the suicidal, the expatriate, and the armed revolutionary. “Don’t mourn – organize,” is what Joe Hill supposedly said before a Utah firing squad cut him down, and that seems like an outstanding posture for all true-blue activist types to adopt. On the other hand, the real problem is America itself, and that’s a question even the smartest political animals on the left rarely seem to get a handle on. [Here follows some stuff I really shouldn’t post yet. This program has a nifty feature that allows you to X out all troublesome Microsoft Word features, but to date it doesn’t do shit towards salting down my more lachrymose, heartrending prose. Let me re-read tomorrow and see what I think then. Expression aside, the sentiment remains the same: This country has one long row to hoe.]


November 2, 2004

From beginning to end, this was the Perfect Crappy Day.

Faster, Pussycat…Kill! Kill!

November 2, 2004

I just proudly cast my vote for the man whose most memorable campaign promise was, “I will hunt down and kill the terrorists, wherever they are.” Then while walking home I saw a young woman whose garb had a pronounced hippie tilt, twirling around on Market Street while waving a Kerry sign and flashing the peace-sign at motorists. Some peace candidate. I’m praying Kerry wins alright, but circumstances have made him the damn strangest candidate in a while: a sheep in wolf’s clothing, an obvious peacenik forced to accuse the president of not killing enough people, when everyone knows he’ll only try to reduce the violence should he win. All this in a yahoo political climate that makes it impossible for anyone to even raise the subject of why 9/11 happened…Goodnight, Irene. Well, good luck to you, John, and to the rest of us while I’m at it.

It seems we’re fated to know only two types of election in our lifetime: the nerve-shattering squeaker and the soul-destroying landslide. I spent the ’72 election getting drunk in a Houston titty-bar with Glenn Smith (I still tear up whenever I hear “Witchy Woman”) and the ’84 election in Cuernavaca with a bunch of American duffers who thought they were auditioning for a dinner theater production of The Year of Living Dangerously. But tonight, being an older and wiser man, I’m merely laying in the scotch and tranquilizers for tonight’s televisual festivities. I just wonder who’s going to make me kick out the TV screen first, George W. Bush or that blithering idiot Dan Rather…

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