29 November 2008

Papal job sharing

I have not stopped writing. Since I last posted this way I have written many other things but have never got far enough in my satisfaction to leave them. It's been very gray here, literally and figuratively. Normally this time of year doesn't bother me-I get all wrecked in February, when it's been cold and gray (Chicago has descended into Seattle weather-wise the last few winters it seems) for eons-but this year I have felt a sense of brutality that usually stays away until Ash Wednesday.

This reminds me of a very short dream I had this afternoon during a blissful nap on my mother's living room couch. My wife and I were sitting at the dining room table with the last two popes. Benedict was admonishing me for not being consistent with teaching our son about religion and said that I needed to do better.

"After all" he said, "you asked us both to be popes for him."

"I prefer the term 'co-popes'," I said. And that was the end of the dream.

The concept of co-popes is something I definitely intend to explore.

So why am I in such a funk? Beats me. I have nothing to feel despondent over. We're moving next month into a house of our own, and while that should trigger a certain level of stress, it doesn't. It's exciting and I wish we were doing it tomorrow. I received final approval on my graduate thesis, so I will finally have my MFA next month and can pretend that I am an actual writer, which is all I've wanted to be these last forty years. Desmond is now on the down-slope of eleven months old and is perfect in every way still, so there is no reason for dirge there.

I could understand my mood if Obama had lost the election, but he did not, and as I watched the returns that evening I realized that the country nailed it, and that I really have no desire to wallow in the groans of those who will spend the next four years tearing him from limb to limb. This moment of clarity has led me to delete several bookmarks of punditry from my laptop; I don't have the stones for forced outrage and negativity anymore. Obama is not the messiah and will struggle as all presidents do, but he was the best option out there.

We can be such a bitter country.

So I don't know what's happening. All I know is that the last fifty times that I have tried to say something here I've abandoned it before the first paragraph was complete. I saw tonight that there is an auto-save on blogger so I had the pleasure of going back and reading snippets of muck, and I made the proper choice each and every time.

I haven't been worth my weight in words lately. I feel like I've walked into a spider web hanging across the front sidewalk and can't get it off of me.

This is not an original idea but it has cured me of block before: the random eleven, the first eleven songs that play randomly on my i-pod along with any thoughts that pop in. I'm too lazy to look back at who I took this from, but I will next time.

1. "Shaking the Tree"-Peter Gabriel. "Waiting your time/Dreaming of a better life." Show me a song that has more first-line-lyric angst for the average awkward fifteen year-old. I'll be waiting here for a while. I listen to this song and wonder what I am missing: the message is clearly skewed towards women, and given the melody, the women of Africa, and I wonder what Peter Gabriel has done that made him qualified to address feminine issues on that continent twenty years ago? Don't get me wrong, it's a great song. I just don't get what made him think of it.

2. "Hiding Out"-Pete Townshend. With an 'h'. This is from the most under-rated album of all-time: "White City." While it would be a stretch to say that the nine songs on this work saved my life, they certainly had an influence in the way I handled some difficult events. There is no sense explaining the circumstances that are unique to one life and one life only. Everyone has their White City (mine just happens to be named "White City"). I've made it known that many, many, many years from now I would like a copy of this CD to be buried with me.

3. "Zooropa"-U2. Zooropa is my favorite U2 album. I don't know anyone else who admits this. My best friend from college had the most annoying habit of listening to one song over and over and over again. I suffered through a cavalcade of multiple Madonna, Prince and Sheena Easton marathons while we were room mates, and if I could retaliate seventeen years after the fact, I'd force him to listen to the second half of this song for thirteen straight months. "She's gonna dream of the world she wants to live in. She's gonna dream out loud." About co-popes!

4. "Second Hand Love"-Pete Townshend. Normally I have a rule about repeating artists during a random eleven. Not tonight. "He's been laying his sin on you/I can sense it from a mile. And all my money is bet on you/But you're still selling your smile."

5. "Jailhouse Rock"-Elvis. I actually wrote "Presley." I remember the day Elvis died, and I remember some local radio DJ talking about it on a national news broadcast, and he went on and on about how this song was the best, not just of Elvis's, but in all of recorded history. That guy is still on the air in Chicago, and I've thought him an idiot since. I like the song. It's not the be-all end-all of Elvis though.

6. "Man on the Moon"-REM. Perfect. I am felling very Andy Kaffmaun-ish these last few weeks. Interesting fact that my only concern me: I just googled "Fred Blassey" after hearing his name mentioned in the song for the billionth time, and I still don't know what kind of breakfast mess he ever got into, but I am amazed that he was the genius behind "Pencil Neck Geek."

7. "Harvest Moon"-Neil Young. This song has been ruined for me eternally by the movie Away from Her. It was used in an almost perfect context, mind you, but it was just so exceptionally sad that I can't think of anything more now when I hear it. I used to think of how corny-romantic it would be to try to sing this song to my wife if we make it to, say, our 40th wedding anniversary, but now I would just be singing it to the empty shell of Julie Christie's mind. Moment goes POOF!

8. "I Feel Free"-Cream. There's a pun here that escapes me. Enjoy the humming.

9. "Modern Love"-David Bowie. Here's proof that I am a child of the MTV generation: my first thoughts upon hearing the distinctive drum beat that begins this song is the moment towards the end of its video where DB takes a bouquet of roses from a fan, nods his head in appreciative thanks, and then tosses them to another person in the audience. When you care enough to fling the very best.

10. "Seven Veils"-Peter Murphy. There are times when I wish I could plug my brain in and people could relive certain moments of my life, because there is no way that I can convey certain feeling in writing. This song would be one of those moments, and I would show you an early morning in Iowa City, May 1991, me walking through a city park at 5:30 on my way home from work, this song playing on my headphones. You have no idea what I am talking about, I know.

11. "Little Bird"-Annie Lennox. Maybe it's because I really want to be done this now and go to bed, but I have no thoughts about this song.

03 November 2008

I'm tired. I'm beat. I'm exhausted. And yet, I can't stop. I'm watching Sean Hannity on Fox right now swear on the souls of his children that every single poll that shows John McCain losing tomorrow is spot-off. It's laughable, even if McCain somehow wins.

I'm tired. I can't wait for this election to be over. I have a high degree of confidence that Obama will win tomorrow, though I do no think that it will be the stomp that most think it will be. I think we will all be strung along for a while, and that McCain will grab a state or two that he was not expected to win, but I don't see a scenario where he can win.

Gee, Newt Gingrich thinks all of the polls are wrong too.

I don't think Obama is going to be the be-all, end-all savior president that some envision him to be, but he surely would (let's not get ahead of ourselves shall we?) would be a massive upgrade over the "current occupant."

Irony alert: eight years ago I probably would have voted for John McCain had he been running against Al Gore (whom I did vote for-George W. Bush never had me fooled). I think the 2000 John McCain would have been a decent follow-up to President Clinton. Plus, if McCain had been the GOP candidate in 2000 it would have meant that he rose above the Republican slime machine. As the nominee in 2008, he has embraced it.

And Palin? Look, I share no negative opinion of her as a woman or even as a republican, but there is simply no way that she should be second in line for the presidency of this country. Not now. When the election is over let her go back to Alaska and season herself for four years, and then we can talk. McCain could have asked many more qualified conservative women to be his running mate and might have won the election.

I can't wait for the phone to stop ringing. We don't even answer it anymore. Our machine is full of pleas to vote for this water-reclamation manager (and what is political about water, pray tell?) and that state representative. Please make it stop.

It's laughable. And on the national stage, I proclaim that starting Wednesday that I will knee-cap anyone who refers to another person by the first name and their occupation. No more "Joe the Plumber." No more "Chico the sous chef." No more "Jessica the elevator repair person.

Ah, Joe the Plumber. I held off on this pork chop for a while and thus my remarks are probably passe, but there was other stuff going on around here: homes to buy (yes!), theses to FINALLY be approved ('bout damn time), ten-month old sons to dress up as Piglet for Halloween (forgive me, son).

Newt Gingrich just referenced Joe the Plumber. If it were thirty-six hours later, he'd be limping for the rest of 2008. Thwack!

Joe the Plumber is an idiot. Wait a tic, Sam the plumber. There we go. In the great tradition of laborers named Sam made famous on TV (There was "Sam the Butcher" from the Brady Bunch, and, um, "Sam the Butcher" from the Brady Bunch), we have Sam Wurzelbacher, the Plumber. It's the plumber! He's come to fix the sink! And raise the bar of self-electoral-righteousness.

Look, I respect any person willing to do a job where the possibility exists that someone else's poop might wind up on your hands, but that doesn't give you the right to be duplicitous and self-serving. Sammy tried to make it seem like he was an undecided voter when he had his little "chat" with Obama, but he was hardly that. He might have had me going if he didn't show up on 57 conservative radio shows within the next week.

The challenge here is to say something about Joe the Plumber that hasn't been said so far in this party, since I am so late to it. I've heard he has hired a publicist, is thinking of running for Congress and wants to cut a country music album. May I suggest he market the "Wurzelburger"? Of course, I suspect people might want to verify what it would be made out of before ingesting it.

With apologies to John, Paul, George and Ringo (and this is really one of my favorite Beatles' songs), I present:


Standing on a street in Toledo
Waiting for Obama to pass.
Plumbing's my game, can it get me some fame?
Cuz you know my balls are made out of brass.
Christ! You know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
Can't buy my boss' business,
You should feel sorry for me.

I told him that his tax plan was crap,
With my arms folded across of my chest.
But Obama he say, "you can make it ok,
You'll have lots of money left to invest."
Christ! You know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
Should have been a butcher,
Then I'd get my meat for free.

Last debate I'm mentioned eighty-six times,
Set the minutes on the clock to fifteen.
Then the newspapers stressed, Joe the Plumber's depressed,
And my bald melon's in Us Magazine.
Christ! You know it ain't easy.
You know how hard it can be.
My life's a talking point,
Ain't got no privacy.

Need a plumbing license and I owe back taxes,
Roto-rooter won't return my calls.
When life's one great big clog, and the media treats you like a dog
It's like your septic system won't vent-

Made a lightning trip to Manhattan,
Sittin' next to Sean Hannity.
Like Momma always said,
If you let things go to your head
Even you can shill for the GOP.
Christ! You know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
Hair transplants are expensive,
But smear campaigns are free!

Now I'm out with Sarah and John,
Hey look there's Mike Huckabee!
If I say with some measure, that Obama's soft on terror
Can I get a picture with Guiliani?
Christ you know it ain't easy,
You know how hard it can be.
I'm gonna need some help here,
Fifteen minutes is an eternity.