10 November 2008

Dear Zachary: a letter to a son about his father

Dear friends: you should probably go see this movie. Chicago, it's now playing at the Gene Siskel Film center downtown, scheduled for this week only. Courtney, Sara, Megan, and everyone in Portland, it's at the Hollywood Theatre next week. Albuquerque folks, it's playing in Santa Fe on the 28th. Everyone else, you're on your own. But really, if you have the chance, see this film. It's good, and so, so sad.

06 November 2008

Dogs, 2; Chickens, 1. Oh, and Gays? ZERO

So, Tuesday was amazing. Being in Chicago was absolutely incredible. It was like everyone was having their birthday on the same day. But not just any birthday: the BEST birthday. That one birthday you looked forward to your whole LIFE, the one where you finally got a PONY.

Happy Birthday, America!

And not only was Obama totally eloquent and poetic as always, but then he went and promised his daughters a PUPPY? In his acceptance speech?!? Best president ever! The only thing better would be if he promised EVERYONE a puppy! Hey Obama, we ALL worked hard to get you elected! We stood in lines for hours! We TOTALLY deserve a puppy!! That would be great, too, because then we wouldn't have to move. We'd be like, Sorry Landlady! I know our lease says No Dogs, but this is from the PRESIDENT. President Obama! It's our fundamental right to have a puppy!

Ahhh.... a girl can dream, right?

Speaking of fundamental rights, though, I have to say that the happiness of the election has been tempered by the total shittiness of Prop 8. The title of this blog is Bittersweet, but it's rarely so apropos. For the last two days, I've have this tight feeling in my throat like in middle school when your friends all suddenly decided they didn't like you anymore and wouldn't let you sit with them, but wouldn't tell you why. Years ago, when I used to teach "bully proofing" in middle and high schools, my students nearly always agreed that the kind of psychological exclusion bullying was the worst by far. Today I'm reminded of it, and though I'm so, so pleased by the presidential election, and so happy about President Obama, my happiness is being choked out by this feeling of sitting by myself at lunch, wondering what I did wrong.

It's hard to join the overwhelming national celebration of falling racial barriers when, at the very same time, laws are being passed to discriminate against a large group of Americans. I mean, how could the people of California seriously stand in the voting booth and think, "I am totally voting for Barack Obama! It's about time we had a minority in the White House! Hell yes! This generation is so much more enlightened and tolerant and awesome than any other generation in American history! Oh, and while I'm here... I think 18,000 marriages between loving, consenting adults should totally be annulled! What, they want equal rights? Who do they think they are? This is America!"


Meanwhile, those very same voters overwhelmingly passed Prop 2, granting rights to chickens to stand up and stretch their wings while waiting to be fricasseed.

And then, in a kick-me type comedy of bad timing, the Chicago suburb Oak Park is hosting a Mass Wedding Ceremony this weekend, just to rub it in. Great, Oak Park, thanks for reminding thousands of Chicagoans that they can no longer head out to sunny CA to get married.

Oh, and did I mention that this Mass Wedding is for DOGS?

It's a Mass Dog Wedding. Because they can get married. Just not gay people.

So here's the thing. Personally, I have no problem with the event -- it's a fundraiser for a local shelter, and you know, whatever it takes to raise money for pooches. But. I'm thinking that the Mass Dog Wedding in Oak Park will certainly be mobbed by protesters, right? Because the reason states keep passing straight marriage only laws is to "protect the sanctity of marriage." Because the sanctity of Brit's various marriages, and Madonna's inevitable third marriage, and the sacred unions of the hundreds of people who get married at Graceland Wedding Chapel each year is so sanct that it needs constant protection from evil gays who also want to have three different hubands and get married by Elvis!

But seriously, California and everyone who voted for Prop 8: surely, the mass dog wedding makes FAR more of a mockery of your sacred institution than the weddings of committed, consensual, adult human beings who actually love each other?? Right? I mean, you have to protect marriage from all threats, not just the threat of a wedding with two brides and no grooms. So get your asses out here and protest this shit, because otherwise I'm going to start suspecting that you don't care that much about marriage after all, and you ACTUALLY JUST HATE GAY PEOPLE.

Boo to California, Florida, and Arizona for ruining what should have been an amazing, perfect week for me. And props to the Obamas for thinking about getting your puppy from a rescue organization instead of a breeder or puppy mill. I'll take a rescued puppy too, please. If you're in town, we could even get them dog-married.

04 November 2008

November 4, 2008

We know the battle ahead will be long. But always remember that, no matter what obstacles stand in our way, nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.

We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics. And they will only grow louder and more dissonant in the weeks and months to come.

We've been asked to pause for a reality check. We've been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope. But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can.

And so, tomorrow, as we take the campaign south and west, as we learn that the struggles of the textile workers in Spartanburg are not so different than the plight of the dishwasher in Las Vegas, that the hopes of the little girl who goes to the crumbling school in Dillon are the same as the dreams of the boy who learns on the streets of L.A., we will remember that there is something happening in America, that we are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people, we are one nation.

And, together, we will begin the next great chapter in the American story, with three words that will ring from coast to coast, from sea to shining sea:

Yes we can.

03 November 2008

02 November 2008


...and it only took me two and a half hours!

The Line to Vote at Welles Park

I went over to Welles Park on Thursday, knowing I'd have to wait in line for a while -- I figured a half hour, maybe an hour. When I got in line, a man said it was about two hours from the tree. The tree? I wasn't even AT the tree yet! I thought about cashing it in then and waiting until Tuesday, but it was such a beautiful day, and I didn't actually have anything better to do, so I decided to stay and wait. And wait. And wait.

Two Hours From the Tree

It could have been fun, if the people around me had been fun. I tried to make friends, thinking about how fun it would be to say we'd become friends waiting in line to vote in the 2008 election. But the woman behind me did NOT want to be friends with me. We stood next to each other for two hours and fifteen minutes, without break -- one hundred and thirty five minutes, each one slower than the one before -- and she REFUSED to befriend me. The man behind her seemed like he would have been friends, but by the time I was desperate enough with boredom to try to befriend him, he'd been beaten into submission by Silent Lady's aggressive silence.

Inside, the Line Snaked Up and Down the Hallway

I wrote in my journal for over an hour, standing awkwardly, cradling it against my left arm, but after ten or so pages I was sick of myself. No wonder Silent Lady didn't want to befriend me. I was BORING. Eventually, I decided to bag writing, and started texting my friends for moral support. I'M WAITING TO VOTE. IT'S HOT AND SMELLY IN HERE. I'VE BEEN HERE OVER AN HOUR ALREADY AND I'M HUNGRY AND TIRED. They wrote back, "IS IT SMELLY BECAUSE YOU'RE THERE?" and "SUCKS TO BE YOU!!" My sister wrote, "IN OREGON WE GET TO MAIL OUR BALLOTS. HA." Not exactly the kind of moral support I was looking for, a-holes. But thanks.

When I finally got to the part where I got to hand my voter information to a sleepy volunteer, I was very nervous that they'd make some sort of fuss about it, but it all went through just fine. Not so for the woman in front of me (not Silent Lady - this woman was more like Justifiably Angry Lady). The poll worker who took Justifiably Angry Lady's info said that according to the system, she'd already voted "like NINE times!" JAL said, "I haven't voted yet, but I've been waiting in line for over two hours, and I would really like to vote now." The volunteer called the head of the polling place over, and she fired off a bunch of questions at JAL: "Did you apply for an absentee ballot? No? Well, you must have been living abroad in the last few years. Did you move recently? Well, you must have applied for an absentee ballot. That's the only explanation. Or you were living in another country." JAL planted her fists against her hips. "I haven't lived in another country, ever, I've been living in the same place for five years, and I did NOT apply for an absentee ballot. AND I've been waiting in line to vote for the last two hours!"

By the time I left, after doggedly working my way through the 15 page ballot, and double checking my answers like it was a school test, and printing out a paper trail of evidence that I voted, and getting my receipt of voting to put in my scrapbook, JAL was still standing there, waiting to vote. Yikes.

These are strange, hopeful times. If you haven't voted yet... have fun standing in line on Tuesday! Bring a book, catch up on old Newsweeks you've been meaning to get through. Hand out snacks to your fellow voters. Make friends with the people around you (unless they're Aggressively Silent).

Vote. Vote. Vote.