Monthly Archives: March 2008

i wnt to mke gr8 sx w/U

3/11/08

Oh, Eliot Spitzer, you were going to be so great. I mean, this dude was elected with about 470% of the vote, and could have been a contender. He was up against the Majority Satate Senate leader, notorious homophobe, death penalty lover and all-around jerk Joseph Bruno, and was fightin’ the good fight. Then he pulled some dirty politics on Bruno, ran a deficit, his approval plummeted to 33%, and then he, well, you know.

Apparently there’s some dithering on whether or not he’ll resign, but I’m sorry: I’m a lifelong pinko yellow-dog Democrat, and I’m here to tellya that if you get caught in a prostitution ring after thwarting prostitution rings as governor, you gotta quit. That seems to me like simple algebra, or, as my 10th-grade lit teacher would call it, “poetic irony”.

Most people think the same thing after an event like this – WHAT THE FUCK WAS THE MAN THINKING? Using bank transfers and text messages to arrange upscale brothel visits is only slightly less stupid than Jerry Springer paying a prostitute by check when he was mayor of Cincinnati. Here’s a man who has pretty much everything to lose, living in a world of ubiquitous surveillance, the frickin’ governor of New York, and the best pseudonym he can come up with is his friend George Fox?

There was a time when my mind would have boggled at that kind of self-destructive stupidity, but now, after years of being close to those who suffer, I see it for what it is: an untreated addiction. Where once I felt anger at those who seemed to lack willpower, I now understand it as something they truly can’t control. It’d be like asking a drunk to stop drinking, a smack addict to stop heroin, or me to stop eating sour gummi worms.

What the man needs now is to disappear, enter the “program” of his choice, get his addiction worked out in some healthy way, and then rehabilitate his character – because, in the case of the relentless Mr. Spitzer, he’s worth it. This is a guy capable of endless amounts of public good, but not for a while.

I’ve been trying to think why I hold a double standard for this case versus the Clinton/Lewinsky saga. My feeling about Bill and Monica was “who gives a shit?” Getting a blow job in the Oval Office and then prevaricating around it was dumb, and showed poor judgment, but it didn’t make him any less of a great president. Despite the shrill, endless screeches still echoing from the right-wing echo chamber, most Americans (around 65%) agreed with me.

But this time, it seems different. Maybe because the job of governor is so specific, with prostitution itself being a target. Maybe because it came so far out of left field. Maybe because shameless, hypocritical sex addicts who try to hold onto power is a tactic best left to the Republicans (see Mark Foley, Larry Craig, David Vitter, Rep. Bob Allen, Congressman Ken Calvert, Ed Schrock, etc.) Or maybe because, all politics aside, anything else would be insane.

days take forever, but years fly by

3/10/08

LucyVenLap2(bl).jpg

“if elected, I promise my constituents…”

Lucy had a new friend stop by, Zandy’s baby Henry – and of course, she was so excited I could barely tell her stories at bedtime. We wanted to see what Lucy looked like at 2½ months, and I came across this video some of you saw in 2005 – oh boy. I just can’t put it into words sometimes, which is the way it should be.

p&g tips

3/9/08

I have witnesses to back this up. Halfway through the first half of the Carolina-Dook game on Saturday night, I was getting frustrated – the dookies were getting away with egregious hacks, and their drives to the basket were way too easy. I shouted “Danny, you gotta teabag that Paulus fucker!” Yes, Lucy (and Barnaby) were both in the room, but I couldn’t help it, it just flew out of my mouth.

Exactly three minutes later, the Tar Heel Nation was treated to one of the greatest plays in the UNC-Duke rivalry EVER. To set it up: Greg Paulus tried to shoot a 3-pointer over Hansbrough, and it clanged right into Danny’s hands. Danny dribbled upcourt with Marcus, and did an old-school give-and-go. Marcus passed back to Danny, and Paulus tried to flop as Danny went up for one of the most spectacular, adversarial dunks caught on film. What would you call it? Hmmmm… ah yes, I remember. A TOTAL TEABAGGING. BY REQUEST.

Thank you, Danny Green, for – well, this:

DannyDunk1(bl).jpg DannyDunk2(bl).jpg

DannyDunk4(bl).jpg  ……and my favorite:  DannyDunk3(bl).jpg

eve

3/6/08

UNCSBP(bl).jpg

Most of you already know that Eve Carson, UNC’s student body president, is dead. Shot multiple times near Davie Circle in Chapel Hill, she’s the kind of girl we all would have known, and by all accounts, would have adored. I can’t tell you how this resonates with all of us who have daughters we love. It feels like we can only keep them safe enough, and the rest is up to an occasionally cruel, cruel world.

Take a look at the slideshow they have on the DTH, and try to send your thoughts to her family, as well as the family of Lauren Burk, who was also shot in her car at Auburn the day before. Words don’t do any of this remote justice, so there’s where I’ll stop, but if you want to add comments, I’m going to send them to Eve’s family in a letter. Take care today, OK?

kiss me kiss me kiss me

3/5/08

As I’m battling some intense weariness (and yesterday’s blog comments were awesome), I thought I’d answer Neva’s question with a call for fundraising. She asked me about Larry Kissell, and I’ll just say he’s an awesome guy who ran for Congress in North Carolina in 2006, and lost by 330 votes to a total billionaire douchebag. He’s a high school social studies teacher, whip-smart, and is running for the 8th Congressional District again, and it would be a HUGE pickup if he wins. The Eighth is a vague middle-south district between Kannapolis and Laurinburg, the undulating lands that bore many of your forefathers. If you can, donate some cash to the Kissell campaign.

Oh, just so you know who he’s running against, his opponent (again) is Robin Hayes, a wingnut moron who said “stability in Iraq ultimately depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ – everything depends on everyone learning about the birth of the Savior.” (Take a look at the headline.) Hayes also flip-flopped on CAFTA, which has proven devastating to NC’s textile workers, while himself being one of the richest people in Congress because of… yep, his grandfather’s textile empire.

Oh, didn’t I mention Hayes was a Dook graduate? Must have slipped my mind. But yes, he is.

What was that donation page for Larry Kissell again? Right here!

teacher.jpg

Larry teaching at East Montgomery High

eyes glaze over

3/4/08

Okay, I know Obama still has a huge lead in delegates, and it’s good news that twice as many Democrats voted in the primaries than Republicans, but… I’m sorry, I got really, really depressed after learning the results of last night’s tally.

I try to temper my antipathy towards Hillary, because our own Kirsten Gillibrand in NY-20 supports her, and I don’t want to become a scorched-earth jerk about the whole thing. But Campaign Clinton’s behavior over the last few weeks has been nothing short of reprehensible – that “3am and the phone’s ringing” ad? How on earth can a Democrat do that to another Democrat?

It’s further proof what other pundits have been saying all along: the Clinton’s race for the White House is about the Clintons, and the rest of us are secondary. The press, which has been a disgusting enabler of our leaders’ worst behavior since 1999, obviously relishes a race that isn’t over yet, because it means more bloviating, and more ad revenue from evenings like last night.

And of course, the real winners are conservatives, the right-wing hate machine, and these assholes. There’s only one thing they want more than a protracted, mean-spirited, divisive Democratic primary: Hillary’s nomination, because John McCain would probably beat her by five points.

But, like I always say, demoralizing nights like last night aren’t the fault of campaigns, the media, or Limbaugh. It’s the fault of a populace all too willing to be convinced by Rovian scare ads, and seniors who are racist, and need to be escorted onto an ice floe.

I know you guys hate it when I talk like that, and there are certainly millions voting for Hillary because they’ve done the research and truly think she’s the better candidate. To them, I say congrats on a good night. But for the rest of them, they’re gonna get what they deserve, which is another Republican president.

Here’s the thing, though – my friends, family, and various loved ones don’t deserve another Republican president. If Hillary gets the nod, I’ll vote for her, but I won’t be sending any money. I’ll concentrate my efforts on a few local fights (NY-20, the NY State Senate, Larry Kissell in NC, etc.) but I’ll be largely done with politics, and so will millions and millions of others. You won’t have to read entries like this, and I’m sure many of my readers will breathe a huge fucking sigh of relief.

my irish candidate, Byrock O’Bama

3/3/08

Today’s blog is brought to you by my loverly wife Tessa! Read on…

ObamaPosterFromTX(bl).jpg

handmade sign from San Antonio, 2/29/08

At the dinner table tonight, out of the blue, Lucy said, “I like to say ‘Barack Obama’.” She paused while Ian and I giggled at her exaggerated delivery of BA-RACK O’BAMA, then she said, with great seriousness, “All the time.”

I have been doing just that. I flew down to San Antonio on Friday with Lucy, who had a chance to hang out with her Nana while Jason (my best friend) and I knocked on doors in support of Senator Obama’s primary bid in Texas.

I have never canvassed before. I made some phone calls for Kerry, Ian and I worked for Election Protection (a non-partisan group that fights for fair elections in districts troubled with fraud or intimidation or just hotly contested) and I worked the hotline for NALEO in Los Angeles for the mid-term. But I have never gone door-to-door. And I have never wanted to.

It seemed so invasive. And scary. And presumptuous. I expected one door slam after another. I expected to be challenged. I expected to be asked complex policy questions for which I had no answer. I expected the worst.

But I’m pretty damned excited by this guy, so I wanted to give it a shot. (A shout out to my nephew-in-law Sean Patrick, who made his own difference in Iowa and encouraged me out the door).

Jason and I were assigned to the South district headquarters. A bail bondsman/Obama supporter gave over this office for the duration (apparently, he has two others). Propped up next to the campaign material was a plastic board with Bondman Ray’s info, should you ever need it. It was a little kooky. But not as kooky as the mid-western political-junkie-lady wearing a lei (I kid you not) and a million campaign buttons, who was repeating self-evident instructions to the canvassers. I’m telling you, the Obama campaign is a grassroots organization, for better or for worse.

We were in this district because I speak Spanish and the south part of town is overwhelmingly Latino. (I will use Latino and Hispanic interchangeably, but there is much controversy on this issue. Check out “Hispanic vs. Latino” in Google. The Texans seemed cool with both, so I am taking that as my cue. Forgive me if you have trouble with either.) As it turned out, I only spoke Spanish with a couple of people, but my “special skill” got us assigned us to a profoundly under-served neighborhood. Parts of our district were firmly middle class, but other parts felt much more fragile – gang tagging, abandoned houses, boarded windows.

It was an amazing experience – I loved talking to people, many of whom had felt abandoned by the political process. One woman had been registered to vote for a decade but never made it to the polls. For a couple of young men, this will be their first election. We had great chats with Clinton supporters – all of whom we encouraged to vote. And one of our most playful moments was spent with a GOP faithful. And, as it turned out, only a one person slammed the door in our face.

One of the more fascinating trends we noticed were voting splits in families. In one case, we met a 50-ish guy, his forty-ish wife and his 20-ish son. The father was for Hillary and the wife and son for Barack. Apparently, they discuss issues over dinner. And that is good for all of us.

For what it’s worth, the votes in our district were split down the middle.

Jason and I walked away feeling like we had made a real, if tiny, difference. I love voting. I always have. I’ll vote on anything. Just to raise my hand, to add my voice, to stand up for something – even if that something is Thin Mints versus Samoas. I relished getting people who had never voted excited about voting. And Obama does reach those people. He means something to them. As he means something to me. Here’s the thing: you like who you like. I like Obama for both substantive and emotional reasons, most of which I won’t share here; unlike Ian, I don’t particularly like firing up the fray.

The last thing I’ll say – during the out-of-state volunteer meeting, Jason leaned over to me and said “look around this room.” At first, I didn’t know what he meant. But then I got it. It was the most diverse place I had ever been – and that includes that Veldt party with the visiting Pakistanis on Rosemary Street in 1989. There were young men and old women; every nuance of race in America from Latino to Filipino to African-American to Asian, Indian and Caucasian; a couple of chicks in sassy suits, a few Tejano cowboys in serious cowboy hats, a passel of kids from the Kennedy School for Social Justice, a bunch of Hispanic teenagers who had traveled from New Mexico and were staying with extended family, and a gaggle of women from Marin County in aggressively plain shoes.

And that room, that weird assemblage of messy differences – that felt like America to me. And I was proud.

always bet on purple

3/2/08

Tonight I find myself alone in our house, which is now a stunningly rare occurrence. I used to spend entire months by myself, or at least in some form of sequestration, but it’s been a long time, and the swingin’ carelessness of a free reign doesn’t feel as comfortable as it used to.

Y’see, my two ladies went to Texas for a doubleheader: Lucy’s spring trip to see her grandmother in San Antonio, and Tessa’s stint with the Obama campaign. Tessa’s taking her fluent Spanish into the Hispanic parts of San Antonio to canvas neighborhoods that might tip the balance, which further enshrines her in the Pantheon of Awesome. I’ve tried talking to her for days, but the intensity of the election is making it hard to get a word in. Besides, I went to:

ExCalPanVegas(bl).jpg

view out my window

That’s right, Vegas [insert ironic exclamation point]. Sean, Jordana and Barnaby came out West with her folks, and I decided to meet them there, ‘cuz we don’t see them enough as it is. Dorking out, we stayed at the Excalibur, best known for being the casino where you can still get a room. For some reason, we always roomed at the Excalibur during the very early ’90s when my mom was doing recordings in Utah, and very little has changed – it’s still sailing the seas of cheese.

Something about the Medieval theme yells CHINTZ and always has – is it the odd papier-mâché turrets that line the room? The sad bar wenches hoisting elderly boobs in their polyester bodices? I wonder how many times the Excalibur, the Luxor and other themed casinos have internal memos entitled “The Fight to Stay Relevant” or “Re-Branding Without Re-Decorating”.

Undeterred, I did my usual gambling ritual, which consists of playing low-roller blackjack until I made back the cost of the hotel room, then curling up with a video poker machine until I got an exciting hand. In all seriousness, if you’re not an addict and you have a realistic sense of adventure, it’s not that hard to do Vegas for free. It’s obvious that the aluminum arches of New York New York© are buttressed by the sad sacks who demand Vegas make them rich, and Vegas does not like to be told what to do.

Unfortunately for the delicate sensibilities of yours truly, it was NASCAR week at the Speedway, which meant they airlifted hundreds of thousands of rednecks and dumped them on the Strip. Just as I’d get going on a nice blackjack table, a gargantuanly fat couple wearing matching Dale Earnhardt #3 Memorial Pantsuits would plop down next to me drunk on coconut daquiris, and light their fucking cigarettes. I mean, I forgot people were still allowed to smoke inside in this country.

When I moved to the South just before puberty, I took it upon myself not to be a goddamn snob about my environment. I enjoyed the short winters of Virginia and North Carolina, and realized that there is no better second-person plural than “y’all”. I learned to go crabbing, cubbing, shagging, and drank liquored Cheerwine with the Budster. I piled through Brunswick Stew with Salem and digested treatises on barbecue courtesy of Dana and Lindsay. My accent twisted into something with a hint of Cackalackian, and last weekend, I served cream cheese with pepper jelly. If I were to choose, I’d consider myself culturally Southern.

But I draw the line at fucking NASCAR. I don’t understand NASCAR the way Americans don’t understand a 3-day cricket match with Pakistan. Everything about the “sport” makes my skin crawl – the fans’ outfits, the television coverage, the particular grating accent of everyone involved, Calvin peeing on various numbers, but mostly, the sheer, unadulterated boredom of watching cars go around in a circle.

Yes, I understand the cool stuff about drafting, the precision clock management of the pit crew, the occasional explosive accident where the driver miraculously survives, and I’ve even been to the track (thus negating the hockey defense of “you have to be there to get it“). And yeah, maybe it’s tinged with politics as well – NASCAR culture burgeons with that stained-glass mega-church evangelism, fraught with a rejection of intellect and a creepy sentimentalism. But I never said I was rational about it.

I know I’m supposed to have a healthy appreciation for all facets of America, and the message of Obama – carried in both languages by my wife this weekend – is about finding places we all connect rather than harping on differences. But if we’re truly going to redraw the map, and make the blues and reds into purples, is there still room for me to loathe NASCAR?