Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grim Richard Rocks the Vote

    The other day, while dropping off a library book, I noticed the early voting line winding around the library. Naturally, I was intrigued. Longtime readers of this column know that there's nothing I like more than a good, long line. And since there's no Iphone or Harry Potter book coming out in the next couple of months, the early voting line might be my last chance to faire en queue until, say, Black Friday.
    So I decided to get in line, but first I picked up the kids from school. Sure, part of me hopes that they'll learn to enjoy long lines with the same reverence I do, but also I figured it would be nice if my kids had at least one memory of me doing something responsible.
    But as much as I like standing in line to buy stuff, the early voting line almost broke me. When I arrived, the line only ran down one side of our tropical library and was fairly short, maybe 300 feet long. Soon after, though, the computers that checked for voter eligibility went down and turned a 30 minute civics lesson for my kids into something a little more difficult.
    You see, my kids have to the ability to behave for roughly 29 minutes. And sure enough, for exactly that short period of time, my kids amused themselves by collecting rocks at the edge of the parking lot and asking precocious questions about the election process. At about 30 minutes, though, you could see their kidness cracking through the good behavior, like monsters awaking inside ancient terra cotta statues.
    Some of the crowd was getting surly, too.
    "I thought the whole point of early voting," said one middle-aged guy in dress slacks, "is to avoid the long lines on election day. This stinks."
    A lot of people in line agreed. Since early voting started, we've been seeing reporter after reporter detailing the difficulties and long lines for voting in this neck of the woods. Standing in the same place without moving only confirmed the news reports that was something potentially wrong here - that South Florida was screwing up again.
    And as my kids flitted in and out of the line, throwing leaves and arguing over rocks, I started to feel the same way. I started to feel like voting was harder than it was supposed to be. 
    And then I remembered something.
    I stood in two separate lines to buy the last Harry Potter book. I once stood in a mile-long line to get into an event at the San Diego comic convention. I once waited five hours to buy a video game console. In other words, I will stand in line for hours just to get some amazingly stupid shit.
    And I remembered, too, that this is South Florida. There are a hundred Guatemalans within a half mile who traveled a thousand miles to get to the city I live in. That's a pretty long line, too. I bet any one of those people would trade places with me, even if it meant spending two hours in line once every four years.
    Don't believe the media and don't believe the grumpy people in line. Our system is working, even when the voting machines aren't. Our system is working because I can stand in line with kids without worrying about their safety.
    I finally got to vote. And I'm glad my kids did see it. If you're reading this, I hope you vote - no matter who your candidate is, no matter how busy you are. Our kids are watching. And some of them are going to remember that their mom and dad once stood in line for eight hours to buy a Wii, but they couldn't find one extra hour to vote.


Monday, October 13, 2008

The Five

    I was driving my son Gabriel to school today and listening to Wilco's song "Hummingbird" when I realized what an amazing song it is. To begin with, it has possibly the best lyrical opening line ever created for a pop song:
    "His goal in life was to be an echo."
    This line is, of course, pure genius - rich, creamy imagery surrounding a satisfying nougat with just the right amount of artsy fartsy. It reminds me of moi, frankly. Especially the nougat.
    The rest of the song is just as good. In fact, when the song got to these words...
    "Remember to remember me
    Standing still in your past
    Floating fast like a hummingbird"
    ...I realized that "Hummingbird" is one of The Five - my personal list of the five best songs ever written. As you might expect, this is not a permanent list. The collection varies, sometimes on whim. There was a dark day this summer, for instance, when "I Kissed a Girl" occupied all five spots. I don't like to talk about that day or my brief struggle with lesbianism.
    As of today, though, The Five are as follows:
    "Hummingbird" by Wilco
    "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" as covered by Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole A.K.A Bruddah Iz
    "My Babe" by Little Walter
    "Love Stinks" by the J. Geils Band
    "Little Tornado" by Aimee Mann
    As you can see, I'm feeling a little "sensitive" right now. BTW, If you've got a list of The Five, let me see 'em. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Bounce House

    In principle, I like birthday parties. But my wife, honestly, has a celebration problem and she's making it hard for me to enjoy any of party or holiday celebration. Take my son Julian's recent sixth birthday party. 
    Julian duck-duck-goosed his way into pre-pre-pre teendom with 60 guests from his class and neighborhood, two separate SpongeBob birthday cakes and a full range of alcoholic drinks for the parents.
    Also, Julian and his guests enjoyed a full-sized bounce house, one of those inflatable rooms that kids jump around in at carnivals and school fairs. I planned to include it in the list of birthday excesses detailed earlier, until Bridget pointed out that I spent more time bouncing than any of the kids.
    I couldn't help it. It made my stomach feel funny.
    Friends and family know that Bridget's preoccupation with celebrations doesn't stop at birthday parties either. We put up two Christmas trees every year. Bridget picks a theme for one and I pick a theme for the other. This year, for instance, one of the trees (Bridget's) will use Herbie the Dentist and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as metaphors for man's alienation from society. My tree's theme will be, uh, candy canes.
    Bridget's obsession is not just wearing me down. Gabriel's ninth birthday is coming up and Bridget talked with him about the party as we set the table for dinner.
    "So, Gabriel, how many kids are you inviting to your birthday party?"
    Gabriel shrugged. "I don't know, maybe five. I don't have a lot of friends."
    Bridget smiled.
    "Well, honey, you've got a month to make some more friends. Get on it."
    Gabriel looked to me for sympathy, but I couldn't help him. I've seen the party budget that Bridget prepared and there's no way we're gonna be able to justify the bounce house for just five kids.