Hopped, not hip.

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

Rainy rainy day here in the ATL, an election day (one runoff race), a day where Sam and I (accompanied by brother James) walked to our library (our polling place) in a light rain and returned in a really, really substantial downpour. The last third of our walk was what I think Sammy would call a marcha forcada, a forced walk through flooded streets and cracked Virginia-Highland sidewalks, slapped by drooping damp treebranches as we slipped on once-beautiful autumn leaves and water, water everywhere.

But we’re all safe and dry and warm now and our civic duty was done (later, the butchers at Whole Foods seemed amazed that there was an election today: “who’s it for? A judge? Judge Judy?”)…and I’m winding down our Tuesday, thinking about the mixed media on my Mac screen.

I’ve been watching a DVD set of SCTV–the first season of their hilarious ‘network 90’ broadcasts from the late 1970s. These folks have always inspired and entertained me in a way that Saturday Night Live never quite could, and their special breed of daring included isolating themselves in Edmonton, Alberta with very little budget–and in that fine “hey let’s put on a show” tradition I enjoyed at TBS, they did. They used television to parody and tell truths about television, and they did it at a time when (let me tell you) television was hard.

Also flowing through my G5 (going through the multiple steps necessary to grab a streaming RealAudio file and turn it into a playable MP3 file–oh, don’t ask) are several episodes of Pop Vultures, a program for Public Radio produced nominally by Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Productions, but really it’s a buncha music fans in their twenties sitting ’round talking–apparently in bulk, and then through the miracle of some inspired editing, it becomes a fresh, original set of conversations about music and our emotional attachments and didactic conclusions about same. It’s conducted by a Drew Barrymoreish young writer named Kate Sullivan, and once they’ve trimmed most of the “you know”s and “like”s out of it and muffled some of the “sh(mmf)t”s and “f(mmuh)ck”s, it’s really quite listenable.

The feeling I get overhearing excited chat about the Black Stripes and OutKast and what the hell breakbeats are reminds me of the pangs I sagged from when my fellow WGDR disk jockeys would talk music and it was clear that I just wasn’t in their league.

But I knew crappy music way better than they did. And see where that got me!

So I’m adrift between the old masters of SCTV and the young Vultures of Pop, and the rain might be picking up again outside.

Time to say goodnight.

North with the wind.

Sunday, November 7th, 2004

We pulled out of Milwaukee this morning headed for Sammy’s parents’ cottage in the Upper Peninsula, the second part of this, our third major car trip this autumn. Sammy’s doing the math as we head out of Escanaba, comfortable that we’ll arrive in time to be of some help to her parents. “Ooh, what’s that?” she asks, pointing off to the right…oh. It’s a mosquito. A big, four-foot, very detailed mosquito sculpture mounted on what looked like a shipping container, there without comment or notice on the side of the road. That tells you one of the things the U.P. folk like to joke about, when they aren’t cracking wise about accents or snowmobiles or, of course, the weather.

The weather has, indeed, been terrific so far, and although there are some grey clouds hovering over Lake Michigan, we’re in the sunshine and we have been, albeit with a cool, stiff wind, most of this trip.

The mission of our first leg—stopping in Milwaukee, was the birthday celebration—okay, the fiftieth birthday celebration, of our good friend Deb, who comments here occasionally and much more frequently (and interestingly) over at nancynall.com. We had a great time, socializing, visiting, and eating Thai food—not quite the indigenous cuisine of a south Milwaukee suburb.

We had a little time on Saturday to take a tour of Milwaukee’s last national mass-market brewery (although since Miller is now owned by a South Africa conglomerate, Milwaukee folks are a little less boosterish about the one-time ‘champagne of bottled beers.’) It was interesting to me because it remains a tour of an actual working place that makes something, as opposed to those companies that now that offer fake assembly lines or mini-theme parks to tourists, along with the obligatory gift shop. (That might have been a trend pioneered by the Universal Studios tour, which surprised me in the 1970s by how little it was, in fact, a tour of Universal Studios.)

We also wandered around the Milwaukee Art Museum, which is this great modernist thing, a bright white sailing ship with unfolding wings, perched on the shores of Lake Michigan (where, by the way, it is cooler.) The art museum gives the downtown of Milwaukee a connection to the lakefront that, on a sunny day at least, is quite pleasant.

The other thing we’re having a chance to do on this trip is to commiserate with friends about the outcome of the Presidential election, which, to say the least, didn’t go our way. At Deb’s party, one newspaper reporter talked about the excruciating assignment of covering a Kerry would-be victory rally that started out awash in hope and ended in pain…and I suppose that would be the story for either side in a contest this polarized, nasty, and portentious. Kerry’s unification concession was inspiring, but the ill health of the chief justice and the tenor of George W’s press conference (his first in about three centuries, I think) leads me to believe that his wild spending spree of political capital will be painful for us to finance, and not just in monetary terms.

As I type, we’re rolling around the Big Bay de Noc (Lake Michigan by any other name) and the greying skies are now setting impossibly white snow flurries adrift across the hood of our car! Yes, we’ve gone from a warmish morning to a snowy but still—barely—sunshiny afternoon.

And one last change as we pull into Manistique, Michigan…it’s sleet that’s skittering across the road, as some last shafts of light come in from the west. Sammy looks north, away from the lake, and says “ten miles that way and it’s probably nice.”

We’ve arrived in the Upper Peninsula in November. What did we expect?

Report from Columbus, Ohio.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Michael Smith (Leslie and Christopher’s friend) checks in from the battleground that is also my home town:

I got up this morning at 5:30 a.m. to make sure I made it to my polling location by the time they opened at 6:30 a.m. I arrived at the Sherwood Middle School at 6:15 a.m. and the line was already from the front doors to the front side-walk (probably 100 feet or so) where it made a 90 degree turn and continued almost the entire length of the school. I would estimate there were at least 200 people waiting ahead of me, prior to the polls opening. By the time the front doors opened, the line extended at least another 100 feet past the school. Just tremendous turn-out.

The crowd was very mixed, just like our neighborhood with a large turn-out of African-Americans.There was only the minor chit-chat about the length of the line and how in past years it was never like this. No one really talked issues or candidates, no activism at all really. There was a group of three in front of me, probably pretty much the average late 50’s Bush supporters. The one woman had the most God-awful “Re-elect the First Family” photo button on her jacket. The photo made President Bush and Laura look like bobbleheads—not a terribly inaccurate photo I guess.

The line had a small laugh when a school bus full of middle-schoolers drove buy and the children began chanting “Kerry, Kerry!” to those waiting in line to get into the building. Of course, Button Lady didn’t appreciate this very much and opinioned to her fellow Bush supporters that “unfortunately children have brains and mouths too!”.

I dare say they exhibited far better use of both than this trio.Once the polls actually opened things went rather smoothly. There was a fair amount of confusion due to the set-up of the sign-in tables and arrangement of the actual voting machines. I am certain none of the confusion would have occurred had there been the typical small voter turn-out. Due to the large number, it quickly resulted in large disorganized lines getting intermixed with people being very uncertain as to where they should be. However, within 15 minutes people began assisting each other – offering tips on what line to go to, etc. Typical Ohio, we tend to be friendly here I guess.

I did not see a single “campaigner” outside the 100 foot line. I also did not see a single member of either party there to challenge voters—an issue that has gotten a lot of press here in Columbus and nation-wide. In fact, on the way home from work at 5:00 on the local call in radio station not one person reported having an issue voting other than lengthy waits in line—some up to 3 hours.

For myself, I was done and out in about an 1 3/4 hours from the time I arrived.

Interestingly enough, on the way back to my car I was asked by two separate groups of African-American middle school children who I voted for. I was really pre-occupied about beating traffic to get to a job that I was already late for and really didn’t want to respond to what were most likely smart-mouth little punk kids. Wouldn’t you know, both groups of kids gave little cheers after I gruffly responded “Kerry”! After the second group did that in the space of 15 seconds, I just stopped dead in my tracks and began laughing out loud—I still don’t know why but it was just so encouraging to see these kids so aware!

Back here in Atlanta, my father had to go to the polling place three times before he was able to get into a line he could endure. An amazing day so far…let’s see how it plays out as the sun goes down here on the East Coast.

A line grows in Virginia-Highland.

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

On an overcast but warm Tuesday morning, we strolled from the house toward the library, noticing more folks than usual on the streets—families with strollers, iPodded and cellphoned twentysomethings, and a sizeable crowd from the soup kitchen/homeless ministry around the corner on Ponce.

It’s election day, of course.

We vote at our local library, and are used to short-to-nonexistent lines, and we figured that voting at 9:30 or so would get us past the initial rush of folks who have actual jobs. That may have been the case, but we were greeted with a very long line that grew much longer by the time we left.
The line was convivial, and we made it through in 20 minutes or so, and our local pollworkers did absolutely everything they could to facilitate getting us in and getting us out. Once inside, of course, we had to face those annoying Diebold voting machines (I kept thinking ‘wouldn’t antialiased type make this a lot easier on folks?’) but Sam and I had both done our homework and it took seconds to poke the screen a couple of dozen times.

I’m proudly wearing my sticker. I feel empowered. Of course, in the greater scheme, I’m holding my breath. And the first stop sign we came to walking away from the polling place reminded us that change is possible.