Saturday night at dinner at a venerable restaurant in the east valley, the kind where prices are north of middling and the Patriots/Giants game played discreetly on a small TV behind the bar, my wife and I supped with old friends from out of town. One is the district attorney of a county in another state; his wife is a renaissance type: politically involved, a writer, a sometimes public radio host.
As we cleaned our plates and headed toward dessert and coffee, the DA put the question to me: “So, who are you going to vote for in the primary?”
I would have liked to have had an immediate answer, but lo after all this time I didn’t. I paused. The tension rose. It seemed for a moment as if the room volume lowered and, as in those old E.F. Hutton commercials, everyone – no doubt searching for their own answer – cocked an ear toward our table.
Slowly my shoulders began to rise, my elbows pulled in to my sides, my palms turned skyward, and my mouth opened as if silently pronouncing the first syllable of pomegranate in my sense memory’s best approximation of Captain James T. Kirk.
“I . . . justdon’tknow...Spock.
Everyone went back to their dinner. No help from me.
“You know,” I said, “my problem is that I don’t believe any of the theories or analyses that the media proffers about the candidates.” I confess I’m talking about the Democrats because – not to violate the no-rant rule here – I’m not about to vote for more of the same as the last eight years – or worse. The media are not dispassionate observers. They want ratings. They have corporate points of view. They’ll seize on any quirk if it gets viewers. If they could have Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton. Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears and any other gossip and paparazzi-worthy household names behind those podiums, they'd sell their parents into slavery. Of course, I'd vote for Lohan. Sorry, it's personal.
"Maybe it’s an illusion that the media was at one time more responsible and serious-minded," I continued, "but I still can’t shake the feeling that they’re now just playing those guys on TV.”
Now my dinner companions did the Kirk shrug. I took a deep breath.
“If that’s not bad enough, I don’t believe what the candidates themselves say. They’re auditioning for a part. They’ll say anything. You know: ‘Of course I can ride a horse. And really well!’”
I thought about mentioning the TRILATERAL Commission, the One World Fascists, the secret police and the energy oligarches who really rule the world, but dessert came.
“So what are you going to do?” the DA asked.
“I think it all comes down to body language, to physique, to their faces. Whose eyes blink? Who stutters? Who can’t keep their stories straight? Who looks left or right and not into the camera? Who could lose a few pounds, or dress better? Who actually sounds like they know what they’re talking about? Whose body odor do you imagine you can smell through the screen. Who doesn’t overuse the phrase ‘The American People...’. Who’s got the hottest spouse? Who would you be embarrassed to date? Who looks like one of the cool kids? Whose eyes/face/smirk spell trouble?
“In other words, it’s just like high school. Just like life.
“It’s either that or put them all into a Jack LaLanne juicer, filter out the political seeds, triangulating stems, flat out lying skin, and hyperbolic pulp, and come up with a super candidate who has the best nutritional elements of each.
“But whatever we do,” I said, “we need a change to have a chance. And then we have to give that change a chance.”
And then I dug into the Tiramisu and chewed over our choices some more.
Celebrate. Love your loved ones. Happy New Year.