Thursday, November 30, 2006

duck and shoot

Cut and Run. That’s the accusation Mr. POTUS consistently levels at his political opponents.

My opponents would Cut and Run. If we left Iraq now, that’d be Cutting and Running. We have to Stay the Course. We can’t Cut and Run.

Cut and Run. Where’d that come from? Cut. You can cut a fart. You can cut your nosehairs. You can cut carbs. And run? That seems pretty obvious. You can run, but you can’t hide. Your stockings can run. Your nose can run. But Cut and Run. What could that mean?

I’m lazy. Instead of pursuing the proper scholarly course to ferret out the phrase’s real etymology, I just type it into Google. In quotes. “Cut and Run.” I’ll be able to infer something from usage. Good god! 1,250,000 hits. I don’t have time for this.

Perhaps my friend Geoff Nunberg has done this work for me; let's add him to the search string. Ah, 48 results. Much better. Here’s a post Geoff’s written in Language Log. Geoff is the one who explained Shrub’s ubiquitous use of the word “see” when he’s about to take a nuanced idea and turn it into something Sponge Bob Square Pants could understand. I'm disappointed that there's no Cut and Run, although I’m quite certain Geoff has weighed in about the phrase.

There’s some vague imagery in my mind of cutting a fishing line and letting the big one run away. But that can’t be right. How about consulting Word Detective?

Word Detective offers a very satisfying discussion of the origins of the phrase:

…The roots of "cut and run" actually lie in the days of sailing ships. A ship at anchor coming under sudden attack by the enemy, rather than waste valuable time in the laborious task of hoisting its anchor, would sacrifice the anchor by cutting the cable, allowing the ship to get under sail and escape the attack quickly. "To cut and run" was thus an accepted military tactic in emergencies, and the phrase itself dates to at least the early 1700s. By the mid-1800s, "cut and run" was in common use as a metaphor for abruptly giving up an endeavor in the face of difficulty, and appears in non-nautical context in Dickens's 1861 novel Great Expectations.

Cut and Run. How pleasing to finally know what it means beyond being a pejorative term Shrub uses as a blanket substitute for any Middle East strategy proffered by a non-neocon. [Say “non-neocon” five times real fast. I bet you can’t. Even if you take those soda crackers out of your mouth, you can’t. Non-neocon. Non-neocon. Neo-noncon.]

I am, however, slightly disappointed that Cut and Run didn’t have stronger ties to Cut and Shoot.

When we lived in Texas, I remember a nearby Montgomery County town – a minor blip on the map – named “Cut and Shoot”. Cut ‘n Shoot, Texas. Like Cut and Run, Cut and Shoot has its roots in violence. According to The Online Handbook of Texas:

[Cut and Shoot] was apparently named after a 1912 community confrontation that almost led to violence. According to the different versions of the story, the dispute was either over the design of a new steeple for the town's only church, the issue of who should be allowed to preach there, or conflicting land claims among church members. A small boy at the scene reportedly declared, "I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute!" The boy's phrase apparently remained in residents' minds and was eventually adopted as the town's name.

Aha! Cut and Shoot has a stronger relationship to Cut and Run than we would’ve thought. The phrase is tied to a religious war (witness the role of the town’s only church) and there’s a deep rift (conflicting land claims) leading to an outbreak of sectarian violence and – dare I say it – Civil War. (I’m of a mind to play fast and loose with chronology here. Everyone else does it. Why can’t I?)

In fact, this seems like an example of a larger, more exciting, phenomenon: if you take the time to examine the history of these small towns more thoroughly, you’ll no doubt find out more than you’d bargained for. Pittstown’s subnormal IQ (the IQ of the average Pittstownian hovers around 68, even on a good day) is a case in point. It is the result of a complex small-town history, complete with an economic base gone bad (stove manufacturing) and secret government experiments that took place in a former tuberculosis sanitarium, creepy experiments involving psychedelic drugs administered to retarded and mightily confused patients without their knowledge and no doubt against their will.

Cut and Shoot – which apparently did not benefit from such an influx of government funds as our President’s favorite war – is not far from Chain of Lakes, Texas, the primary residence of a large alligator dubbed “The Major” by his fans. [I say “primary residence” because it’s well-known that he has a second home in Celebration, Florida, where he plans to retire. Nothing tastes better than a well-planned meal.]

When I went out there in 1994, the Major had already been corrupted by many years of tourist-proffered marshmallows. These middle-westerners were so enchanted by the large reptile that they stopped themselves just shy of feeding him the juicier of their infant offspring. Which I’m sure he would’ve preferred. Probably better for his teeth and his overall health.

But they just loved to watch that big gator eat. Did those marshmallows lead him down the well-worn path to adult-onset diabetes?

He should’ve just Cut and Run.

His life was probably a cut above the trials and tribulations of Ralph the Diving Pig, who hailed from Aquarena Springs, Texas (near San Marcos). The trouble with Ralph is that he gave the spectators a profound sense that he’d rather be Cutting and Running (or Cutting and Shooting) than diving. In fact, you got the feeling that he’d rather be doing just about anything else besides diving. Anything shy of becoming part and parcel of a sausage, that is, but that gives him a lot of wiggle room. He’d rather drive a Muni bus in San Francisco or wait tables in a Hooters in San Antonio. Anything but dive. Poor Ralph.

According to some web sites, Ralph retired in the early 1990s. Between you and me, he surely did not retire. I know he was portrayed as leading the life of Riley, swimming with the glamorous mermaids whose rigid bouffants did not collapse even when subjected a dip in the Springs and drinking slop-tinis out of a special pig-friendly bottle. No, Ralphie would’ve rather Cut and Run, or perhaps relocated to Cut and Shoot (although there’s a certain risk that The Major would’ve gotten wind of such of a tantalizing feast or that Dick Cheney would’ve chosen the retreat as a tranquil place to hunt and spray his close friends and a stray diving pig with birdshot).

As long as we’re talking about fear-mongering, neo-cons, diving pigs, and military terminology appropriated by civilians, let’s take a gander at Duck and Cover.

It’s really beginning to feel like a barnyard here with the pigs and ducks and ganders and Dick Cheney’s hunting rifle. Dick Cheney’s hunting rifle?


No. Duck and Cover.

Maybe you’re not old enough to remember Duck and Cover. Or maybe they’ve repurposed this exercise in surrealistic fear as an earthquake safety drill. But I remember it as the Drop Drill.

The idea was that you’d hear Civil Defense sirens bleating in the background. You might’ve even heard the awe-inspiring roar of the detonated nuke. Your teacher’d shout “Drop!” And as fast as you could, you’d fold yourself under your desk, put your hands over the back of your neck, squeeze your eyes shut against the blinding light of the blast.

If you were a girl (and I was, even back then), you also pulled your pea coat off the back of your chair and threw it over your back because Ducking and Covering presented a substantial overexposure problem if you were wearing a miniskirt. It seemed to be more about Ducking and Uncovering. You certainly don’t want to meet your maker (or even spend your last atheistic moments on earth) with your butt exposed like that.

And – when the “all clear” had been sounded – you’d get back out from under your desk and form an orderly line. To march somewhere – somewhere unspecified, a destination that was less radioactive than your fifth grade classroom. Somewhere Mrs. Perkins would lead you. Single file and solemn, at arms-length from the kid in front of you. You’d march off into the nuclear sunset.

I’m surprised that the current climate of fear has no attendant minor rituals like Duck and Cover. The teachers would time us. How fast could we dive under our desks? They’d use stopwatches to assess our Drop Drill performance. Talk about your educational metrics! We knew to the second how long it would take for a whole classroom full of fifth graders to dive under their desks. No child left behind.

Surely Staying the Course should have some kind of physical enactment like this. Shouldn’t this be delegated to Karl Rove himself now that every other Republipol wants to distance him or herself from the man the President affectionately calls “Turd Blossom”? Karl Rove should be able to come up with an imaginative, appropriate, and potentially obscene counterpart to Duck and Cover.

He’d probably just suggest drafting the little bastards. Conscription. That’s what he’d do. What better way to enact fear than dress everybody up in uniforms and march ‘em somewhere.

So we can’t trust these guys: we’ll have to do it ourselves. What’s the Duck and Cover drop drill that’ll allow us to Stay the Course? It’ll probably need to have a new name – X and Y – and, if there’s anything Google has taught us, it should have a sponsor: The Taco Bell Fourth Meal Nip and Tuck (this’ll probably involve an AK47, a dinghy, and cosmetic surgery). No – Nip and Tuck sounds wrong. How about the Axe Deodorant Body Spray Bob and Weave (this one’ll involve intricate maneuvers with a Glock, a condom, and a Peg Perego stroller).

Ah, I just don’t have it in me to create something as timeless as Duck and Cover. I’m just surprised that the pols don’t have this pinned down already. But what about you? Don’t you have some great ideas we can use here? And don’t exhort me to apply anything Directly to my Forehead. Let’s do some thinking here.

Oh, c’mon. Don’t be such a Drag (and Drop).

Monday, November 20, 2006

book tourist

It’s never perfectly safe to go hear a writer you like read from his or her new book.

No matter how often Postmodernity levels its fully-loaded AK47 at the Author (we're back to reading Proust through a bombsight), I still have a strong sense of the authorial voice. What happens if that voice – coming straight outta the author’s mouth – is squeaky, nasal, hammy, or otherwise nails-on-a-blackboard awful? Or what if it's even just incongruous?

What happens if Papa Hemingway is really Mama Cass?

Well, maybe that’s not such a great example. The four-part ham-and-heroin sandwich harmony versus the cold and clear bull-and-bullet cocktail.

Let me try this again: What happens if Dr. Benway sends Dr. Phil in his stead?

Can you hear me now?

I took this chance twice last week. Twice. You’d think I’d stay holed up in my house, in front of my laptop like I’m supposed to. If humans were meant to leave the house, they wouldn’t have evolved such nice butts to sit on. They’d have wings and flippers too so they’d be able to get around without skidding and weaving down 101 or taking San Francisco’s colorful Muni, which always smells like that little Chinese grandmother sitting in front of you just farted.

Nor would there be so many chairs. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are an awful lot of chairs around. And Barcaloungers. Would a beneficent god have invented TiVo and Barcaloungers with cup holders if he’d meant for people to stand up? No!

If people weren't designed to sit, they’d be standing around all the time, just waiting for the next opportunity to go somewhere. And they’d have fur. Lots of fur, so when they walked out into a dank San Francisco fall evening, they wouldn’t be so darned cold.

Nope. It’s pretty clear that from an evolutionary perspective, people were never intended to leave the house. Especially not to go hear writers flogging their new books. Turn on the TV, forgodssake! Even my hero Stephen Colbert hosts writers on book tours. There's just no need to witness a book tour first hand, without the considerable safety offered by the MUTE button.

First – with some sense of deep misgiving – I heard Richard Ford read from his new novel, The Lay of the Land at Kepler’s Books down in Menlo Park. Then I heard Roz Chast (who is very likely my favorite cartoonist) in one of those NPRish “in conversation with” events at the Herbst Theater here in San Francisco.

Oh, both venues were exceedingly dangerous. Fraught with peril, you might say.

I can see that you’re looking at me funny. Dangerous? You probably see my basic point about butts and Barcaloungers and evolutionary trends. But really. Dangerous?

Emotionally, the worst thing you can do is to look around you at one of these things. These are your people. These are the people who read the same midlist fiction that you do and laugh at the same cartoons. Eeeewwwww.

Okay. So maybe what you do is squinch your eyes mostly shut – into little light-sensitive slits – and focus on the writer’s voice. It’s okay if you bump into a few people. They’re mostly not the type who’ll haul off and slug you. If you shuffle, you probably won’t squash anybody’s toes.

What I do, because I’m not so good at keeping my eyes squinched shut (except in the morning when I first wake up and stumble around owl-like with only one eye open), is I put my sweatshirt on backward, so the hood forms a natural barrier against unwelcome perceptions of my fellow audience members. That audience? They reflect on you. Limit the danger.

Got that? Hooded sweatshirt on backward. Okay? Hoodie on backward.

There I was at Kepler’s in Menlo Park with my hoodie on backward and my recently-purchased Lay of the Land clutched in my hand. Only because I was taking a new book into a bookstore, I concealed it in a plastic Safeway bag. At best, I always feel like I’m shoplifting, and this was even worse because I also looked like I was shoplifting. I was careful to put the receipt for the Lay of the Land in the Safeway bag with the new book in its perfect-condition dust jacket since I obviously didn't buy the book at Safeway. But still I could feel a halo of guilt radiating out of my head.

Good thing I had my sweatshirt on backward. That way no-one could see my guilty expression.

I didn’t shoplift this book. Honest! I did not shoplift this book.

I bought it at the Hudson Booksellers across from Gate A15 in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport. I even asked the clerk – a young Hispanic guy with homemade tattoos on his hands – if any writers came through there on book tours to read from their new works and sign newly purchased copies. Yes, he told me, they did. We both mused on what a bummer it’d be to know that some jowly businessman was listening to you because he was on the delayed 7:48 American Airlines flight to Albuquerque which just so happened to leave out of Gate A17 and he had an hour to kill.

It’d be better to flog that book on the Colbert Report than to loiter in the DFW Hudson’s on a Wednesday night when thunderstorms are threatening to send everyone scurrying for rooms at the DFW Hyatt (or the DFW Day's Inn, for the less fortunate). Even if Stephen was getting snarky at your expense, you'd be better off. Much better off.

If you were already signing books at the Hudson's in Terminal A, would you go sign books at the Hudson’s in Terminal C then too? Or would you be competing with Sue Grafton there? Maybe you could draw in the overflow crowd from Auntie Anne's Pretzels or the Manchu Wok.

A Pulitzer Prize winner like Richard Ford isn’t likely to be reading at the DFW Hudson’s though. Good thing. You probably couldn’t get through DFW security with your sweatshirt on backward so the hood covered your face. Or maybe you could, so long as your salves, lotions, and creams fit into a regulation quart Ziplock bag. (Damn! I’m still mourning the loss of my French toothpaste. Damn! Why didn't I smuggle it on? Damn!)

The funny thing is Richard Ford looks and sounds exactly like you’d imagine Frank Bascombe to look and sound. He must know that. In fact, he explained that he sent an aide out to research the prostate cancer stuff so we wouldn’t all think that he himself secretly had cancer. I peeked over my hood for just a second to take a look at him, careful not to take in the overall demographic of my fellow Richard Ford readers.

I even asked a softball question when he was done reading the entirety of the initial segment called, "Are You Ready to Meet Your Maker?" Just to hear my voice followed by his voice.

“Why is Frank Bascombe a realtor,” I asked him. Can you imagine? Thank god my voice was muffled by my identity-concealing hood. I sat with my Safeway bag crackling on my lap, listening to him give exactly the answer I expected. Mumblety-stuff about the quintessential American-ness of selling houses to people. But he was nice enough about it. He even signed my book and listened patiently to my little narrative about buying my copy at the DFW Hudson’s in Terminal A, right by Gate A15.

After that, I beat it out of Kepler’s fast, Safeway bag, Hudson's receipt, and signed copy of Lay of the Land in hand, thudding into other customers as I bumbled toward the door. Not very good visibility through the black sweatshirt hood. The fleece was starting to congest my nasal passages too.

In case you're wondering, I did remember to re-orient my sweatshirt before I got back into my car.

I’m safety-minded.

I'm safety-minded in addition to obsessing over my obliviousness and fetishizing my privacy.

It was raining on the night we went to see Roz Chast. I blew into San Francisco's Herbst Theater lofted by the stylish leopard-spotted umbrella that Marcia gave me for my last birthday. I'm sure I looked a bit like a soggy Mary Poppins with her sweatshirt on backward. Only different. This time the hood kept the annoying rain spatters off my face in addition to keeping me from examining my fellow audience members.

Roz Chast was great. We were in the back section of the balcony in the nosebleed seats. Her voice was perfect. Reedy. New York-y. Hyper. Perfect. Absolutely perfect. I was completely irritated when the moderator (Dave Eggers) turned to the audience for questions.

“Shut up!” I wanted to tell the people in the audience who don’t wear their sweatshirts hood-forward. “Shut up! Let her talk about whatever she wants to talk about. Let her tell us about how when she gets lost she just gives up and tells herself, ‘guess I’d better find an apartment here. I’ll never find my way back home.’ Don’t interrupt her!”

How can the audience ask someone like Roz Chast their dumb-ass questions about her creative process?

“What color pencil do you draw with?”

Geeks. Shut up. Just let Roz Chast do all the talking.

“Who’s your own favorite cartoonist?”

Shut up! They must shut up. They can’t ask these stupid, stupid questions of someone who got a job at the New Yorker without knowing who Mr. Shawn was. This is not Richard Ford qua Frank Bascombe. This is Roz Chast.

And Roz Chast is perfect.

Yet she’s so easy to identify with. She even admits to that eccentric fear of horses that guarantees you’ll be a social misfit as a preteen girl. I remember when my own friends were in that horse-y phase, when they’d doodle horses in their notebooks and all the talk would be about horses, horses, horses.

“My uncle Mike says he’s going to get me a horse and board her in his stables. I’m going to call her Midnight/Star/Misty/Velvet and ride her every day.”

Now I find it fascinating that preteen girls give horses names that are so very similar to porn star names. But then – back in my chicklet years – I thought horses were scary, almost as scary as dogs, tempered by the fact that even though they were bigger than dogs, at least horses were vegetarians and probably didn’t eat humans. Or at least not very often. It would've made the newspapers if they did.

“She’s like me!” I thought. “I bet she always gets crumby seats too because she doesn’t want to buy tickets early so she has to choose two seats from among the thousands that are still available. I bet she buys tickets late. When there are only two seats left together. Just like I do.”

Of course, Roz Chast can draw funny prancing horses with big smiles on their long horse-y faces, but I figure that’s why she’s on stage and I’m in almost the last row of the balcony, in the dark.

With my sweatshirt on backwards.

I still believe that it’s not a good idea to thwart evolution and leave a seated position. Except if you get a chance to see Roz Chast. Then it’s worth it.

Don’t ask her any questions though, okay?

I’ll know who you are right away because you’ll be the other person with your sweatshirt on backward. Busted!

Monday, November 06, 2006

ballot buddies/election day

I know it’s neurotic, but I fear every visit to the doctor.

Even though I feel fine, I’m sure that my minor symptoms, taken in aggregate, will spell a frightening diagnosis. A twinge will become intractable pain; the usual lumps and bumps will morph into basketball-sized cysts with fingernails, teeth, and hair. Symptoms I have yet to notice will turn into neon signs of impending personal doom when interpreted by a respected member of the medical profession.

During the final week leading up to a doctor’s appointment, I can make no further plans, lest I am immediately confined to bed or given a death sentence. The day before, I am dizzy with fear. All I can do is play Spider and do jigsaw puzzles on my computer (even crossword puzzles are too much). And the long drive to the doctor’s office (for I’m not inclined to change doctors once I have one, regardless of the inconvenience this loyalty introduces)? Forget about it. I’m making semi-audible deals with all deities, major and minor, that come to mind. Powers great and small. Weighing the trade-offs between a fatal car crash and the horrors of embarking on a miracle cure.

Of course, I’m not the first person to behave this way. Woody Allen (the uncontested king of the neurotics and fussy older guys with bad judgment) has more than once made light of this kind of megalomaniacal suffering.

Sure. Medical neuroses can be funny. But mostly they're boring.

I like to think I’m special, because I can magically transform medical dread into a unique type of procrastination. Those other guys. They just feel dizzy. Lightheaded. And maybe sleep with someone ill-advised, marry their adopted daughters, or say something they live to regret.

Me? I’m paralyzed. I can’t go forward. I can only play solitaire.

This time I couldn’t complete my absentee ballot until my doctor's appointment was history. Until I’d dangled my feet off the end of an examining table and read a well-worn issue of Marie Claire, pondering last season’s fashion dos and don'ts, clad in the enormous one-size-fits-someone-other-than-me paper gown. Never mind that voting would be a perfect parting shot: I’d have been able to cast my vote with the deep Platonic detachment of knowing I wouldn’t be governed by the pols I'd chosen and the policies I'd endorsed.

But I couldn’t vote ‘til afterward.

We’ve been getting political flyers for months. I mostly shred them in my Fellowes Powershred Model 120C-2, feeling a small sense of glee as a glossy mailing becomes party confetti or fodder for some tweaker’s late-night identity theft project. But I’d wedged a few of the most interesting flyers in among my stack of official voting materials -- a phone-book sized compendium of local candidates and ballot initiatives and a state companion booklet that’s almost as thick. And the outsized absentee ballot envelope with the 5 double-sided optical scan cards.

With all that paper we'd received, you’d think our votes actually mattered.

It’s hard to get excited about the race between our congressional district’s embarrassing incumbent Nancy Pelosi and her unelectable opponents. Write someone in, urges Esquire. But who? Jerry Garcia? From the number of Jerry Garcia dolls on display in Haight shop windows, you’d conclude he’d be a shoo-in. An easy win. But he’s been dead (in the literal sense of the word) for more than a decade; I'm thinking this'd disqualify him.

Jerry. Jerry. Maybe the name association would be enough. Jerry. How 'bout Jerry Brown? Nah. He’s running for something else, some other California office that he hasn’t held yet. I forget which one, but I usually vote for him. There are still a few novel offices left for him to hold. I wonder if he keeps track.

Then how 'bout Jerry of Ben and Jerry’s? Nah – all that milk fat is hard on the arteries.

Jerry Lewis? Unwatchable. Totally unwatchable. And you know you’d have to watch those old clips if he were on the ballot. His opponents would dig them out and project them in your windows, onto every blank wall. This isn't France. People'd be appalled.

Jerry Springer? Better stop while we're ahead.

You’d think we’d be able to elect someone supercool like the East Bay’s Barbara Lee rather than that erstwhile vice-chairman of the Junior League Fashion Show Committee. But no – Nancy Pelosi’s apparently the best we can do. We've got our Nancy and our Diane. I don't even want to talk about it. What's with us?

And we knew even before the ballots were counted that the Hummer-driving Herr Gropenmeister was going to be governor again – I bet most voters didn’t even recognize Angelides’ name. Ronald Reagan, George Murphy, Sonny Bono, Clint Eastwood, Shirley Temple Black. We Californians do it again and again. The real bitch of it is, for the most part, they were awful on the big screen too.

The local races are the most interesting anyway. The neighborhood contests. The politicians who come calling at our neighborhood meetings, judge our Miss Cha-Cha Heels contests, and declare the first week in August as Charo Week. The San Francisco Board of Supes and the city-wide propositions. That's as far as my interest can really extend.

The local race I've been tracking is District 8, Board of Supervisors. Incumbent Bevan Dufty v. challengers Alix Rosenthal and Starchild NLN (No Last Name, as opposed to NMI, No Middle Initial). It's all with Bevan Dufty in our household. Even Lumpy voted for him.

Mr. Dufty probably doesn't care about my endorsement; I'm neither an activist, nor well-known outside my own imagination. But I'm behind him anyway.

Alix Rosenthal, Mr. Dufty's opponent, represents the Castro/Noe Valley divide. The difference between walking down 18th at the snug end of Daddy’s nice black leather harness and strolling down 24th in the padded comfort of Mommy’s Peg Perego stroller. Alix is Noe Valley or maybe the New Haight. Bevan is the Castro.

My neighbor Evert once told us that the dividing line between the Castro and Noe Valley was our house: He lives in the party-all-night, All American Boy, Cliff’s Variety Castro and we live in the breeders’ paradise, See Jane Run, Tuggey's Hardware Noe Valley. I hope that’s not the case. The dividing line may be invisible, but it's profound.

Remember the Wikipedia entry for Pittstown, New York that I told you about? The upstate burg that sports an average IQ of 68? That’s the work of an insider. An inside job. Someone who has developed a rich love-hate relationship with his hamlet. A guy who might hang out at Captain Mike’s and Yee’s Oriental if he were in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The small town hero of a Richard Russo novel.

Well, I see the Wikipedia entry for Pittstown has been changed by a smarty-pants outsider. Some guy who doesn’t really know the place at all, but who just assumes he’s the arbiter of normal. On September 22nd, which was no doubt a crisp, early fall day where Mr. Smarty Pants lives, the following discussion took place about Wikipedia’s Pittstown entry:

The current page lists the average IQ of this town as 68. Assuming this IQ is the "intelligence quotient" discussed in a Wikipedia article of the same name, this puts the average IQ of this town in the "mildly retarded" range, which is difficult to believe.

No reference is cited for this data. I recommend its deletion.

D. Clippinger
This Mr./Ms. Clippinger is a decidedly over-earnest outsider. I recommend his medication be changed. Immediately. Perhaps he needs another hobby too. He’s the kind of guy who’d vote for Alix Rosenthal.

I’m happy to be in the Castro, where if we decide the average IQ is 68, it sticks. Where people aren’t so darned serious. Where Fairy Godmothers and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence hang out on street corners. Where no-one makes a snarky comment when your fishnet stockings have a run or you lose a heel because you're wearing knock-off Manolo Blahniks. Where the guy in front of you in line at Cala will hand you his affinity card, no questions asked, even though his purchasing data will be besmirched by your 3 jars of Gerber all-meat babyfood (for Lumpy), store-made sushi (a prototypical medium food, especially if it’s one of the made-for-Americans deep fried flavors like the chicken McNuggets sushi with teriyaki dipping sauce), and 3 big Nestle’s Toffee Chip bars (all that chocolate! all that sugar! for only a dollar! such a deal!).

He even says, “She’s my long-lost 3rd cousin once removed” to the checker to legitimize the transaction.

I love the Castro and am far surer that Bevan, whose godmother was Billie Holiday, understands neighborhood issues better than Alix, who lists regular attendance at Burning Man as one of her qualifications.

What I say is: Go! I exile you hip people to the desert!

What about Perennial Libertarian candidate Starchild? The Bay Area Reporter's election coverage included an interview with all three candidates in which Starchild promoted gun ownership as the best crime deterrent.

"If you look at the overall crime rates you don't see a spike in crime. There is an increase in violent crimes in San Francisco as far as shootings," Starchild said. "To combat that, let people have the right to self defense. People should be allowed to keep guns."

My thought was, maybe not.

“Oh, she’s an exotic dancer,” Mark says, ever willing to throw his support behind someone who throws her behind around.

I tell him, “She’s a he” by way of ending that discussion as we fill out our absentee ballots.

Absentee voting is fun! We use those scan-tron 'complete the arrow' voting cards, and because it's San Francisco and because San Francisco is in California, we have 5 separate 11" x 17" cards, both sides chock-a-block with important voting decisions.

It'd be a daunting task without a ballot buddy: you shouldn't scuba without a dive buddy and you shouldn't vote without a ballot buddy. Someone to play audience to your outrage. Someone to twitter with you about silly names and outrageous propositions. Someone with whom to uncover the truthy bits concealed in the deceptive questions and to help you vigorously darken the arrows of the straightforward ones.

We sit at the dining room table, which is strewn with detritus of our various gluing and painting projects, and fight over who gets to use the #2 pencil. All of the booklets, pamphlets, postcards, and Magic Eight Balls are at the ready. We mark right on our ballots, not on the practice sheet.

It's an enormous undertaking. Even just coloring in the arrows is a substantial effort. I'd hate to be doing this in the morning gloom of my neighbor's garage.

Some friends of mine once had a pre-election party. We were earnest. We contemplated the issues at stake on our sample ballots. Governance had not deteriorated to the extent it has today. I remember being pleased with the informed quality of my choices.

But it's a lot more fun having a ballot buddy.

With glee, together we darken the arrow in favor of San Francisco Proposition J, Policy Declaration of San Francisco calling for the Impeachment of President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard B. Cheney. It's a for or against vote, but it might be more appropriate to choose among options like Totally! By All Means! It's About Time! At Least! No Shit! You've already gone through most of the rest of the ballot by this time and you're ready to throw the book at the whole crew.

The reason I used an absentee ballot wasn't just so I could vote at home with my ballot buddy; it was because I spent election night in Austin, Texas. Austin! Home of Kinky Friedman, Texas Jewboy. Gubernatorial candidate, Kinky Friedman. While some of Kinky's politics are a bit too Liebermanesque for me, I still have got to love him for running.

That's why I found myself (with Chris Borgman and Geoff Bowker, among others) at Scholz Beer Garten, which -- if you're a good student of Molly Ivins -- you know is the real seat of Texas state government. It's not that fancy-dancy State Capitol building (although the capitol building is really swell and photogenic); it's Scholz's.

That's why Kinky Friedman was there. That's why all the local newspeople were there, dressed in their finest from the midsection up. That's why lots of strange-looking Texans in Kinky Friedman poly blend t-shirts and leather trousers were there. That's why *I* was there, toasting the assembled multitudes with a Shiner Bock.

You go, Kinky! You go! At least it's not business as usual.

Impeach those losers in Washington. Distract Nancy with a good Bloomie's sale. Send Alix to Black Rock desert. Send Kinky to Washington (but make him fly coach, so it doesn't go to his head). Keep Pittstown mildly retarded.

I think I'm going to live. Hope you voted. I did.