I’d Welcome a Stalker, but Only If He/She Can Do Yardwork

A headline at Huffington Post this morning got me very excited. I always get excited to discover things about me that are going on behind my back:

GN’R Album…Osment’s Bad B’way Debut…Garner’s Stalker….Affleck in Congo….

Wow, really? I’ve got a stalker? That’s so flattering (maybe I’ve been extra lonely lately).

But after clicking through, I realize that it’s really that camera-hound JENNIFER GARNER who’s got the stalking problem. Can she ever get enough attention? She says she’s reached her limit and had to file a restraining order, but I wonder about that. The limit, I mean.

Actually, I did have some weird goings on with a fan about 10 years ago. When my book Apocalypse Wow! came out in 1997, I expected to get a little hate mail or extra arguments on radio shows because of my mockery of religious millennial thinking. A little bit came, but (unfortunately for sales) not much. What did come in the mail, at roughly two-week intervals, were manila envelopes from a fan who read the book and realized that it was Destiny that she and I be together. My own marriage notwithstanding, this woman said that our union (probably more sexual than, say, intellectual) would bring about a new era of peace, growth and devil-worship. The notes got kind of scary and overwrought, and included things like pages torn out of bridal magazines and size charts for wedding rings. All around the envelope were the kind of angular printing and crystal-ball drawings that you might expect in your basic Breakfast Club.

Thankfully the letters were sent to my publisher, so the woman (whose name currently escapes me, though I could look it up, b/c I saved the envelopes, naturally) never figured out my address. Things devolved from spooky to pathetic after eight or nine envelopes, however. She said she wanted to come to Chicago and find me, but couldn’t raise the bus fare from Cleveland. She was also trying to find money for dental work, which was hard because she’d been out of work so long. (Really, what kind of dowry is that to attract a harbinger of the devil’s reign? Hmphh.) So our little one-way obsession was ended with no closure. I hope she found the money for that dental work, and also another fella with whom to herald the coming of the anti-Christ. I was obviously a false prophet.

Ryan Dempster Drinks the Kool-Aid

Ryan Dempster signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Cubs on Tuesday, even though he probably could’ve gotten a lot more money on the free agent market. His line of thinking, according to the Tribune:

His love of Chicago — and the Cubs chances of winning a world championship [emphasis added] — factored into the decision, and Dempster didn’t want to wait and see if he could make more money elsewhere.

“Given as close as we’ve been the last two years, I thought, ‘This is where I want to be,’ ” he said.

Actually, despite his obvious mental handicap, I think the world of Ryan Dempster. How could you help but love a pitcher who bikes to work, barbecues with his neighbors a half-mile from the stadium, and practices magic tricks for fun? He couldn’t be any more authentic if he moved into the Hotel Carlos.

A Budding Pat Oliphant?

On election night last week, the family was scattered around the living room, paying as much attention as they could to history being made. My kids (aged 10 and 13) surprised me by how much they enjoyed watching the talking heads stall for time and play with their big Etch-a-Sketches of the USA–but they also surprised me with how much they new about the electoral college, Congress and the rest of the arcana of our grand old land. They certainly knew more than me at that age.

Killing time as we waited for the polls on the West Coast to close and Obama named the winner, Number One Son grabbed a piece of newspaper and quickly sketched the caricatures of the four candidates shown below. He said he’d been working on them in school for a week or so, to amuse his classmates, and had perfected a few but not all. Looks like he could be on his way to being the first manga-inspired editorial cartoonist (but I can’t tell whether Joe Biden at the bottom is answering questions or summoning the mystic energies of a long-dead sorcerer to channel through his lapel flag pin).

A reference to Obama’s home state.

Not quite crotchety enough.

Price tags a nice touch.

On a Curve, Headed Downhill

It used to be I felt really old when I read the birthdates of the Playboy Playmates and saw they were younger than me (and how much they hated “war and phony people”).

Then I noticed some of my favorite baseball players were younger.

Then it was the rock starts, the movie stars, the comedians, and more Playmates (in the name of further reasearch).

Now the President of the United States is younger than me.

Oh well. At least I can still count on the pope.

No Wonder the Right Thinks We’re Pussies

One of my worst memories of the 2004 election–the second worst, actually, and by a very wide margin–was everyone on the web who started apologizing to Europe and the rest of the world for electing Bush again. All those po’ faced students in their dorm rooms, holding up hand-scrawled notes of apology to the rest of mankind, just because the election didn’t go like it “should” have. “We’re Sorry, Europe! Don’t hate us!” Apparently they even published a book with these little solicitations, perfect for passive-aggressive Francophiles everywhere. I’m sure the foreign image of the rugged American spirit was vastly improved by such whimperings.

I didn’t have long to wait for a web-based, grass-roots show of mealymouthed pussitude to emerge in 2008. Even though the Democratic candidate won, there had to be some way for leftists to show that they really can be clueless and masochistic. This morning, I found it.

At the website of one zefrank, progressive and otherwise slaphappy viewers are invited to submit pictures of themselves with notes to those in the Red States, offering hands of friendship and uplifting civic attitudes. “From52to48” messages include “We’re not that Different, You and I”, “We need one another”, “We can only do it together,” and “Dear 48, You Complete Me, Love 52.”

Gawd, please STFU. (That’s not an acronym I use often or lightly, but since we’re being all webby here…)

People, listen. The election is less than 48 hours from being finished. It was a close one, and an expensive one, but history was made. It was hard fought and hard earned. Don’t take it lightly, or assume it means an era of enlightenment for us all.

For the past two months, the right has called Obama everything from a baby-eater to a Marxist to an evil hypnotist to a Muslim sleeper agent. They’ve touted the idea that his wife runs around talking to third-world journalists and freely uses the word “Whitey” with them. They’ve said Obama hates his country, even as he engaged in and triumphed in the process that makes this a unique place on earth. Do you think all that hate was just “politics as usual”? Do you think that now, with McCain reverting to the “real” McCain and Palin off to smoke the year’s moose jerky, they’ll want to lick their wounds and their embarrassment alongside you in your little latte-powered salon? That everyone is as reasonable and open-minded as you obviously think you are? Do you think it’s time to break out with the Kumbaya?

Holy shit, people, get a grip. As Mr Dooley once said, “Politics ain’t beanbag.” I’m not for excessive partisanship, but I don’t believe in rolling over like a fat puppy either, just because I want everyone to like each other. Progressives won, and that’s been rare enough that we should savor the victory. To start reaching out for warm hugs the very next day? Nauseating. Fey. Childish. Everything that fills the caricature that talk-radio hosts paint of you.

Welcome to the 21st Century (At Last)

Now THAT was an entertaining 22 months. And that ending? Perfect. Sublime. Couldn’t ask for anything more, short of a Cubs rally in the same park. After months of hearing accusations that Obama is a sleeper agent for the Muslim baby-eaters (how in the world did he control himself on Halloween, with all that tender meat on the hoof?), the clamor died down and the best candidate (and let’s hope the best office holder) won the day. My kids stayed up up to watch the returns. Liam showed us the political caricatures he’s been practicing all week (he might become the world’s first manga-style political cartoonist), and we all practiced new iterations of Obama’s name that will soon enter the lexicon: Obamanomics, Obamapathy, Obamaplomacy, Obamanoia….it’s a growth industry.

I gotta admit, it felt good to be on the winning side again, although still a little bewildering that my side had been losing so often to the incompetent, the hateful and the backward. For the bigger picture of racial equality, one of my first thoughts after 10 pm was, “Well, it’s about TIME.” but my impatience couldn’t dilute the warm fuzzies I felt that this nation finally lived up to what it says it stands for. And to win Obama didn’t have to change his cool, elegant, intellectual style. How insanely great to have a powerful rhetorical speaker up there again, especially when he brings in the cadences of the black church to his speeches. It’s like a living slice of American heritage up there, showing the rest of the world how it’s done on the South Side of Chicago, every Sunday morning and evening.

People will have to remember, of course, that Obama’s a politician, and he does everything with a calculation in mind. A good friend of mine in Illinois politics found that out when running for office and discovering Obama’s endorsement wasn’t going to come, despite their serving very closely in the state senate together. He doesn’t give away his chits lightly, sometimes not at all. So he’s not going to waste time banning hate radio or interfering with union elections, like Fred Barnes was sputtering about on Fox last night. (I wanted to watch Fox most of all last night, but it was so dreary and browbeaten and the tech gaffes so frequent that I gave up. It was like a public access show hosted by people who just got fired. Which, come to think of it, is pretty close to the truth.)

I think he’ll do a damn fine job as president, if the economy rights itself soon. But beyond that, I agree with what he said last night that it “wasn’t about him.” It truly wasn’t. It’s terrific that a smart guy who knows the Constitution is actually going to lead the country. It’s great that the racial barrier to the White House has been broken, and we can tell our children–in the BEST and non-ironic way–that anyone can grow up to be president. It’s heartening to have a role model for black kids, especially young boys, who is sober, hard-working, smart and classy. It’ll be good to have Michelle Obama and her girls in the White House (can you imagine that Nieman Marcus mannequin Cindy McCain or that braying ignoramus Palin being our ambassador to the world? Just when you thought Bush was the worst it could be…)

But I think what I like best about this whole day is that the adults are back in charge. The best parts of what our country has stood for have been validated. And the people that I meet everyday have taken the country back from slobbering, reactionary loonies. We want to move on. We don’t want to fight the wars of the 50s, 60s and 80s again. The world needs our energy and intelligence if it’s going to survive and prosper. Let’s get on with things, for criminy’s sake. It’s time to live in the 21st century at last.

Cool image from Patrick Moberg.

View from the VFW Tatler Post

Here on the north side of Chicago, we’ve been living in kind of a bubble this election season. No one has bothered to phone us, pamphlet us, persuade us one way or another. We’ve been considered a slam dunk for Obama since probably May or June. On top of that, our incumbent senator, US reps and state reps are all expected to cruise to easy victory. It gives me a skewed vision of what is going on in the rest of the country. People in other reliably crimson or indigo districts probably feel the same neglect, with a mixture of relief and longing.

I’ve spent most of the morning reading reports of huge lines for voting in other parts of the country. Here, I went to the VFW Post on Western Avenue at 10, was checked in and given a ballot right away, met about four neighbors, and was out of there in 10 minutes. The hardest part about the experience was the dank smell of spilled Budweiser, old cigars and Sansabelt slacks that every VFW Post probably has. (For some reason I always feel obliged to vote at that station. Maybe because it’s the only time I’ll ever go into such a place, and it may be an endangered species around here. A slice of life that I can’t participate in.) I’m still not used to the humongous paper ballot we’re given in Cook County. It’s literally 18 inches by 30 inches, with a privacy envelope that’s even bigger. It reminds me of a large prop a magician might use for a card trick. Holding it makes me feel foolish, a little clowny. After completing arrows next to names with a marker, the voter feeds it into a big optical reader and the ballot lands in a sealed cardboard crate. For all I can tell, there might be a couple midgets in the box reading my ballot and phoning the results downtown. There’s room enough for them.

In this country business is so consolidated that consumers can choose between two brands of razor, three brands of potato chips, maybe four types of gas station. Why then do we seem to have umpteen different ways to vote–between punch cards, scanners, touchscreens, paper ballots, and all the rest? This is the ONLY area of modern life where I’d prefer to see some standardization.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful Indian Summer morning here, with red and yellow leaves still hanging on the trees and tinting the sunlight. It’s a marvelous day to be making some history. My prediction is that Obama will win decisively (don’t know about a landslide, but that would be marvelous to see). The real entertainment this evening will be watching how it happened. Does Obama take Virginia? North Carolina? Georgia? (Some people are predicting that last one, but that seems like a longshot. Still, wouldn’t I love to be proved wrong.) As someone else has recommended, I might watch the results on Fox News, just to watch whether commentators can exist on TV running on nothing but fumes of bile. It will also be fun to watch the acceptance speech being delivered right here in the Windy City. I’m not going to bother heading downtown. Crowds bug me lately, but it will be terrific fun to watch them go bananas.

I can’t say much more about this election and its place in history. Too many billions of words have been typed already. I will say this: Regardless of the candidate’s race, I never thought I’d see Democrats run such a disciplined, organized, thoughtful national campaign AND come out on top. I give immense amounts of credit to Howard Dean and his 50-State Initiative, for showing people that there were liberals worth courting deep in the heart of “red” areas, and conservatives who would listen to new ideas if given a chance. Thankfully Obama raised enough money to be able to campaign in places a Democrat wouldn’t have bothered visiting in years past, and was so thoughtful, stirring and all-in-all TOGETHER out on the campaign trail. It will be good to see the adults back in charge in Washington.

I’ve tried to stay rational about this election, maybe even skeptical, hiding my hopes and concerns behind a big mask of snark. But it’s hard to keep that mask up after reading the accounts of people spending hours in line to vote, of black people (stories about 90 year old grannies just kill me) voting for president with tears in their eyes, of record turnout everywhere. I’m happiest to be able to kick out the Republican scumsuckers who’ve wrecked this country, its Constitution, economy, security and hopes for the future during the past eight years. Tack onto that the fact that we’re about to elect an African-American to the highest office, and it blows my little mind. I don’t subscribe to the doctrine of American exceptionalism, but this can be one exceptionally surprising country. I love it.