I WAS raking leaves this weekend, and my neighbor was obsessively vacuuming her lawn, as usual--that's not an exaggeration--and we made a little friendly chitter-chatter at the property line, as you will, which generally includes her expression of concern for my mother, and my reply that my own memory isn't exactly sparkling, which is not news to me, but is now somewhat disconcerting seeing as how it's held up against the cold light of serious mental deterioration on a regular basis. And she mentioned that she was approaching the big Five-Oh, and that she and her husband had both noted a disturbing decrease in memory-related mental acuity, to the extent that her husband was now taking...now taking...that...stuff...
And so the two of us spent the next three minutes trapped in a sort of half-tense/half hysterical pre-dotage before I came up with Gingko biloba! I have to admit I felt the glory of triumph. Stuff like that is just a mite too disturbing for real laughs, at least at the time (I knew recounting it would provoke a snort fest in my Poor Wife, which it did); it's like an uncomfortable joke, where the laughter is supposed to be a release, but where the set-up was so over-elaborated that by the end you just felt sorry for everyone involved.
The other Neighbor News was that their daughter, lately licensed to drive, had announced she was joining the Young Democrats. This is apparently one of those grand passages in life which are now accompanied by a tee-shirt, for which she was said to be impatiently waiting. And this means nothing whatsoever until you set it in relief against Dad's Reagan/Bush '84 poster in the garage--framed, it is--and the memory that their Bush/Cheney Double Aught yard sign stayed in place through that horrible autumn and right on through the inauguration. In point of fact I don't remember whether they eventually removed it or it got swept away by a snow plow. Dad reportedly did not take the news too well.
For comparison's sake, the BushCheney'04 sign went up late and came down early, and this year, nothin'. We're blessed, actually, that this year the signage begins in the next block, or Little Appalachia, as we like to call it, and does not include any of the MITCH signs which are roughly three times the size of the actual governor. Ever the over-compensator. Anyway, the only bit of political theatre we have to view out the picture window every dawn is Old Glory across the street. This spring it went from fixed-staff parade-waver model stuck into a metal holder on a mailbox post, to a Woodstock-cape sized deal on a fifteen foot metal pole, and which, like its predecessor, flies day and night, rain or shine, no lights, no black ribbon compensating for the inability to lower it to half-staff. Nothin'. It never fails that the people most likely to fly the thing are the ones least likely to give a shit about etiquette and respect.
Which I guess is our theme for the day; I just saw an electoral map with Indiana glowing in some odd color. We're a Tossup State. This is treated, in some quarters, particularly the ones where all the barking seems to be coming from, as some sort of sea change--last night, by my unofficial tally, was Day 214 in the Nightly Local News Hairdos Remind Us How Long It's Been Since Indiana Voted Democratic Festival and, really, you try livin' through that and maintaining your sanity--when it should, in a normal world, be treated as an early warning to the other 47 to Just Fucking Run Like Hell. Forty years of voting Republican might seem to some people like a measure of how "Red" the state is, but, if I may but point out, it's actually a measure of how fucking stupid the voters around here are. I'm sorry, really; I'd love to sound all cheery and upbeat an' shit, and Lord knows there's nobody in the country more eager than I to see Republicans Bite It, Big, and Keep On Biting It Every Day, Forever, but I have to be honest. The only time in my lifetime people in Indiana voted for a President who did not immediately turn around and rain shit upon them, steadily, and almost gleefully, is when the guy they voted for lost. Indiana's practically the only Solid Red state in the nation that sends in more in Federal tax dollars than it gets back. It sends reliable pro-Pentagon votes to Congress every two years, and since Reagan took office has seen every single one of its military installations closed and votes in, time and again, the anti-unionists who've solved that little problem by helping ship all the manufacturing jobs out of the country. We're the friggin' Madden Curse of states; y'know, it's just 11 electoral votes or something--I've lost count, but it drops every Census--so assuming Senator Obama doesn't really need 'em I think he should just pass. Maybe make a gift of 'em to McCain, if it comes to that.
Yeah, yeah, I know, it could all be breaking the other way, in the direction of the Increasingly Erratic Express and his aggressively ignorant small-town lunatic of a running mate.
McCain's program, so far as I can tell, is to keep doing the one thing he managed to do well: rile up the base. I'm not sure how that's supposed to translate into more votes, but, hey, it's his campaign. Socialism! It's got that fine, creepy-guy-with-the-overgrown-hedges-and-the-curtains-always-drawn vibe, the guy these people decided, for reasons which are still unclear, was the Gravitational Center of American Political Discourse, after which they managed to go 6-4 in Presidential elections, which convinced them they'd stumbled on some sort of eternal verity. And the thing that's really remarkable is that McCain spent twenty-five years in Washington, at least half of them as anathema to his own party, and he still had no idea what the base was, which sorta underlines the point that they've been taking them for granted for three decades. Surely somebody somewhere, knowing the sort of cash he had at his disposal, could have sat him down in 2005 and performed the tricky "scrolling" maneuver for him while making him read a page from Little Green Footballs. "Are you honestly cynical enough about America to imagine that if you're required to appeal to these people just to win the nomination you'll do so? And still pretend America is worth governing?"
And the funny thing about that is, it's difficult to believe, watching Councilwoman Palin's case of premature Norma Desmonditis--swear to god, every half-witted "celebrity" in this country is now convinced the ideal career arc is 1) achieving 15 minutes of fame; 2) the last ten minutes, when everything you touch turns to shit; and 3) your reprise as Hogan Knows Best--that this is what McCain's primary supporters thought they were getting in a candidate. They had every opportunity to vote for Sarah Palin in the primaries, even if she did look like Fred Dumbo Thompson. Ed Rollins said, over the weekend, that Palin "would be the most popular Republican when this thing's over". Here's hopin', Ed. Here's hopin'.
Which brings us back, in an odd way, to the neighbors. He's not a Palin religious wacko; more like a Libruls Want To Take Away My Guns and Macho Bluster As a Substitute for Learning Anything About World Affairs guy. And the guns, so far as I know, are for duck hunting, which he doesn't do much of. I have no idea what he thinks of Palin; I don't discuss politics, religion, or popular movies in polite society. But he's got that same aggressive intellectual sloth that's so common among a generation (or more) of Americans who decided, or were taught, that if the facts were against them then there was something wrong with the facts. And his wife told me that, when their daughter announced her new party affiliation he made her call her (paternal) grandfather and tell him, on the grounds, I take it, that you had to go back at least a generation to find a wingnut with any experience in talking to someone he disagrees with.