Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I Hang Out With Virgins

It's one of those days. THOSE days, when you're either getting ready to eat, or eating, or getting ready to travel, or traveling, or getting ready for guests. Or you might be eating while getting ready for guests who are traveling.

My calves are almost cramping. I say almost, because I think at the moment putting one foot in front on the other would create an Olympic athlete-scale cramp, the kind where everybody stops and rushes out onto the football field and everyone's like "oh no, he has a broken neck" but then it turns out to be a muscle cramp but the guy's too embarrassed to admit it so he hobbles off really feebly to make the point that he's not a sissy.

I've returned to Jazzercise. When I first heard the name "Jazzercise," I seriously thought it was like some old folks' exercise routine, like "Sittercise" on PBS where you sit in your chair and do waving motions or leg lifts to Patriotic music from the 30's or 40's.

Turns out that's not what Jazzercise is at all. It's a dance exercise class. That's about it. An instructor stands up front and twenty or thirty or forty women get their heart rates up to music like Beyonce and U2 and whatnot. It's a combination of cardio, strengthening, and stretching, which is actually wise, because by the time the cardio portion is done, I'm so winded that it actually makes me look forward to doing strengthening stuff with a mat and weights, just because it means sitting on the floor.

"But Big Red Couch, why do you like paying for Jazzercise instead of driving fifteen minutes to a college gym that's free and has TVs playing ESPN all the time?"

Yeah, the answer is in the question. The driving. The oft-broken cardio machines. And especially, the ESPN. Also, there's the problem of me trying to motivate myself to push harder in my workout, as opposed to turning my mind off and letting someone else tell me to kick higher and squat lower.

And there's the music. And it's all women. And that may not sound like a big deal, but it is. Time with the sistahood, even if you don't know them all, is really valuable.

And there's the prizes. Go enough times, you get something from the prize box. It's simple, but it's like a carrot in front of a donkey. And I am that donkey.

But I digress. This is about me. Hanging out with virgins. Not in a we're all dead and this is Islamic paradise way. Just in a I-happen-to-know-a-lot-of-virgins way.

So, because you're inundated with politics, Thanksgiving stuff, and Christmas decor, Let's Talk About Virgins!

Misconceptions About Virgins:

1. Virgins are sexually repressed and uncomfortable with their own sexuality.This is an interesting one. "Repressed" and "sexually inactive" are two different things, for one thing. There are a lot of sexually inactive women who aren't repressed. But if you're repressed, then you probably are sexually inactive.

So how is a woman not repressed, but sexually inactive? I'd use the quickly-regaining-popular-use term, "celibate." This means that you know you could have sex, but you choose not to. It also implies that sex isn't unappealing to you, but that you're simply refraining from it.

I'd say both sexually repressed women and sexually inactive women have a lot of tension. The difference is whether that tension becomes a negative (the former) or if it can be a positive. Ever notice how much convents and monasteries produce? Fruitcake, candy, wine, cheese...there's a lot of pent-up energy there, folks. Service projects, outdoor activity, and creativity can abound where there's a mentally healthy, sexually inactive woman.

A lot of virgins are very aware of their sexuality. Not in the sense that a seductive woman is: she is utilizing her confidence from past experience. But virgins are quite aware of their sexuality, which is why I've heard so many virgins express...frustration, from time to time. Some friends in college always called it being "stuck in neutral": the engine is there; it's revving; but there's no place to go. I've lost count of the number of laments I've heard from friends who are white-knuckled with being "horny." They do tend to be really productive, though: remodeling kitchens, running marathons. All celibate people have these experiences, regardless of whether they're still virgins.

2. Virgins are either weirdly religious or socially awkward: otherwise they would've seen some action by now.
There are virgins who aren't religious, and who aren't socially awkward. There are religious people who aren't virgins, and socially awkward people who aren't virgins. Some virgins believe their sexuality is tied to a robust expression of their faith, and many virgins are well-adjusted, fun people.

That being said, there are some virgins who lend extremely religious interpretations to All Things Sexual, and there are some virgins who Embody Social Awkwardness. But I wouldn't say the majority of virgins fall in one or both of these two categories.

The well-adjusted values virgin knows that she isn't denying her sexuality; she's disciplined and limited her expression of it. This means you can have a Christian virgin who knows that sex is good, that women and men worship God through a marriage covenant with consummation, and that - plug your ears, you squeam-o's - and that orgasms were part of the Eden plan of happy creation. (All you married people - or least, hopefully all you married people - are nodding your heads and saying Mmmmmhmm! Preach it, sistah!)

The well-adjusted social virgin loves others, values community, serves in her local context, builds meaningful relationships with others, and carves a niche for her calling. One of my virgo-friends, "Anne," beautifully embodies this. She's always part of something intriguing and nuanced: an arts consortium, or a Bohemian church plant. She delicately savors beauty, and cultivates healthy relationships with the care of a detailed horticulturalist.

3. Two virgins will find it impossible to have good sex.
A friend posed this question the other day: " IS...IT? Has it changed? Has it gotten better?"

Because there's an underground community of virgin communication. No, it's not a different language, like Vulcan. I mean that when you have a group of friends who are virgins, as soon as the virgins begin to get married, all of the others are going to ask about it, and the now married people will give pragmatic advice. One of my friends was given a basket right before her (gorgeous) wedding, that included things like cranberry tablets, and ibuprofen.

Now, most people would think the next sentence is right out of the 19th century, and that I drive a buggy and hang out with the Amish. But I don't. They're nice people and all, I just don't know any Amish blokes. But the fact is, my husband and I were both virgos when we got married. (I know, men always roll their eyes and think a woman is naive if she believes it, but those men assume all other men are liars - which means that they probably are, too.)

All I have to say is this: virgins get a painful, uncomfortable picture of a honeymoon painted for them, with foreboding and dread. But surprisingly, the honeymoon isn't always that painful, uncomfortable, or dreadful. In fact - plug your ears, squeam-o's - I was surprised at how good it was, all things considered (all things being two virgins).

So, does it change over time? Well, it's different. But it's hard to qualify it as "better," because it's something you're both learning as you go, which by and in itself makes it quite sweet.

Here's the wrong assumption: experience makes things better.

Here's the correction: just about anything is more than a virgin's ever experienced, so because it's new, it's amazing. A roller coaster enthusiast can go on about how this one roller coaster is great, how technically superb it is. But is it any more thrilling for that person, really, than the first time someone else goes on any roller coaster?

I honestly think that fringe sex stuff is becoming more mainstream simply because there are fewer virgins. Virgins get a lot more bang for their buck, because they're more easily...well, you know. People who've had a lot of experiences need to find more and more extreme stuff because it takes more to rev their engines than it used to.

So this Thanksgiving, I raise my glass to virgins; here's to you, white-knuckled celibates. Three cheers for virgins!

Sunday, November 23, 2008



As opposed to brevity, which you won't often find on this blog.

Or levitation, which you often won't find on this non-floating blog.

Levity - not the kind that Gov. Palin was talking about as she gave an inter
view after pardoning an Alaskan turkey - an interview held right in front of the turkey-goes-bye-bye jugular-slitting chute. On purpose? Who knows. Yes, liberals everywhere, there is a Santa Claus, and he eats turkey, too.

No, here's a little Couch-style levity for you: (hum "2001: A Space Odyssey" to yourse

"Big Red Couch, that site is hilarious!" you think. I know, gentle reader. I know.
Hamburger earrings. Banana earrings. It's a perfect
storm, really.

What's that? You're fretting? You have a friend who, in turn, has everything?

Yes, but does she have a California roll sushi necklace

I didn't think so.
"But," you fret, "I'm looking for that hard-to-find gift...breakfast food cuff links..."

You mean, like BACON AND EGG cuff links? has you, once again!

Poor Charlie. Poor, Poor Charlie.

Ever see "The Land Before Time"? And I'm not talking about crappy "Land Before Time VII," or any ridiculous thing like that. I mean the REAL one. The ORIGINal one. Hey, original has origin in it.

Anyway, in "The Land Before Time," one of characters melodramatically utters, "Poor Petrie. Poor, poor Petrie" (Petrie is a pterodactyl that can't fly.)

I don't have a pterodactyl, or "The Land Before Time," although I do mysteriously have the ability to spell pterodactyl, and I think that's because of my brother's childhood love of All Things Dinosaur, which has led to the fact that my first impulse in a store when I see something dinosaur-y is to buy it for him for Christmas. Then I remember he's 23.

Anyway, I do have a dog. Two dogs. My husband and I have two dogs, we've had them since February. They came to us via a stork, or a cabbage patch. They always disguise cabbage patches as humane societies.

Now Daisy is extremely intelligent: half beagle, half cocker spaniel, she's beautiful. She's also, in the family, the "kid" who's always into things, mischievous, curious, and in trouble, because she's so intelligent. She's also extremely pushy, kind of like Miss Piggy. My brother gives me ironic looks when I lament the self-entitlement Daisy seems to have. I don't know what he could possibly be implying.

Daisy came to us from a family who started having kids and decided she was too much to handle; so they gave her to a humane society that took...less than stellar care of its inmates. She was muddy, dirty, and did not have the lack of worms they claimed. She was also charming, outgoing, and a perfect girl dog for me.

But then we come to Charlie. Charlie is the dachshund that John wanted. Only he's a coon hound. After weeks of talking about how funny Dachshund's wormy little bodies are, after hours of scanning Dachshund rescues in Kentucky, and checking for Dachshunds on, which lists the animals in your area shelters...he became entranced with a coon hound.

A sweet, lovable, coon hound.

For the record, coon hounds are bigger than Dachshunds. He went to visit him at a shelter and came back with him the same day.

Poor Charlie. Poor, poor Charlie. I don't think Charlie had ever lived with people before. He's bigger than Daisy, but much more shy and retreating. When we brought Charlie home, he wouldn't leave his blanket for about four days. What people he had been around hadn't treated him well: he flinched, shied, and ducked. John finally picked him up and carried him around the apartment so Charlie would know he was welcome to, you know, get up and walk around.

It took him several days, but eventually he felt safe enough to leave his blanket.

Then we brought Daisy home, and un-neutered Charlie wasn't shy anymore. My brother still does impressions of my squawking. "JOHN, JOHN, STOP him JOHN, CHARLIE, NO! NO!" And so on.

But around people, Charlie is still shy. The dogs are best friends now, more like brother and sister than anything.

We've noticed something, though.

Charlie is kind of dumb.

Now, I still insist that he's not dumb, he's sweet. I also insist that it's more a language barrier, a sociological barrier than anything: he simply hasn't known how to live with people. Take words, for instance. Daisy picks up on words and their meanings as they relate to her quite quickly. She adjusts to routines, recognizes signals, so on.

Charlie is our foreign exchange student. Blank looks, querying expressions, goodwill, but oblivious to social customs and norms. He's sweet, he loves us, he loves to snuggle (I don't know if that's typical of all foreign exchange students), but he often has this frustrated expression that says "I can't make them understand me."

Which is why I'm so proud of him.

Because today - November 23rd - 10 months after bringing him home - he finally told me he had to go potty outside.

*Insert Ticker Tape Parade*

Usually, he waits for Daisy, the Type A of the two, to take the lead and tell us. She barks, she howls, she scampers to the back door. We sigh. We bundle up. We take her out. (They can't be trusted by themselves.)

Or, he sneaks into the corner and you hear a suspicious stream of something. You know, like with two year olds.

But today? He stared, intently. He barked. When I said, "potty," he scampered to the back door.

Ten months later, he's starting to get it.

Now, he does know how to sit for treats: John drilled that into him. And he knows "house" means his kennel, not a TV show on Fox. He pretends not to know NO, but he really does.

And he finally cued me that he had to go outside.

Now, progress with Charlie is spotty: it usually stops and starts, like a college student's beat up old car, spluttering, until it finally picks up momentum.

But today is a good day for Charlie.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

High Strung

My mom says I'm high strung.

This is probably true.

That being said, oh my gosh: if you want to watch a completely disturbing movie featuring two of my favorite actresses, but will almost break your brain, watch "Notes on a Scandal." It's actually one of the best post-mortems of sin that I've ever seen, and the villain, when all is said and done, rather resembles the villain in Agatha Christie's "Curtain." Featuring the astoundingly good actress Dame Judi Dench, and the versatile Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal" should be required viewing for anyone who doesn't take evil seriously. That being said, this is not a film that should be watched with children in the house, or even late at night, because it will mess with your head, kind of like "Silence of the Lambs."

Another intense, gruesome, but mesmerizing thing that caught my attention lately? "Prime Suspect," with yet another brilliant British actress, Helen Mirren. This was a tv show that began in the early 90's - crime drama. So far, I'm enjoying it. Mirren's character faces similar challenges to that of "The Closer", Brenda Leigh Johnson, though without some of the peripheral humor.

I must've been in a dark mood when I lined up this portion of my Blockbuster Online queue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Neti Pot, Banana Phone

What a strange week.

On a trip to Wal-Mart I saw something a nurse friend recommended last winter:

This little puppy is a humidifier - it releases steam, only steam that smells like comfort and sinus clarity - thanks to some scented oils you pour in a cup on the top. As a frequent suffererer of sinus infections, which is like bottled misery, I was lamenting last winter. But, what ho! A weapon against the evil spoils of winter: a $13, steam-producing wellness machine.

But that made me go over to the allergy aisle to get the scented oil for the steam to heat, which made me see this:It's a neti pot. Don't laugh, I saw it on Oprah. It was also given glowing recommendations from allergy/sinus suffererers. I've been intrigued ever since. Here's why John wasn't keen on the idea, and my brother swore not to ever talk to me again if I got one:

Because this is what you do with it. If you're unclear on what you're seeing - well, you mix the saline solution in the pot, put the tip to your nose, and tilt the pot. Gravity does the rest. And by "rest," I mean, gravity pours the water into your nose, which subsequently means up your nose, through your sinuses, and out the other nostril. I need to do this sometime when Angie's seven-year-old son is over: it would totally make his day.

"But," you say, "aren't you generally uncoordinated, graceless, and without the ability to exercise spatial intelligence? And doesn't going under water make you splutter if you don't plug your nose?"

Well, if you put it like that, yes. But I read the directions, and most importantly, followed them, so when I felt it hit, I stayed calm.

"But," you say, "didn't you mention a banana phone in the title?"

Well, if you put it like that, yes. I ran across this sucker today:

Now, I've been talking into bananas for years. But never with actual phones in them. Don't ask. After I found this hot little item, this correspondence occurred with Emily:


You may revel in the knowledge that this exists, but I forbid you to buy one.
It’s a banana. It’s a phone. It’s a mind-blowing phenomenon.
I’ve been talking into bananas for years; they’ve just never talked back.
But now?
"There’s always money in the banana stand."

You don’t have a cell phone.

That’s because I didn’t have a banana.
Please don’t be jealous. It’s just that fruit makes any phone call a party.
I have two choices.
1. I can say, “You silly ape! Your logic is driving me bananas.”
2. I can say, “Elizabeth, I’m going to peel a banana, blend the fruit with some cayenne pepper and garlic, refill the peel with the mashy mix, suture it closed, and then stick it up your butt if you don’t get some sense soon.”
Hmm. Which one should I pick? 

Ah, friends. The spice of life. Emily, I think you're just jealous of my neti pot. I know you want one. Who wouldn't?

Advice to Malls

To Mall Managers Everywhere:

I do not want to see garish bows and lights before Thanksgiving. Respect Black Friday. With this economy, putting out Christmas decorations early won't make people spend anymore than what they've already budgeted, it will only disgruntle holiday purists who like to keep their seasons distinct. Don't press the nativity scenes on me while pilgrims are still out.

Every mall should have a coat check kiosk. The air in malls is hot and dry. I always forget this until I'm inside. Then I have to lug around a coat on one arm, next to my purse, while draping clothes to try on over the other arm. I would gladly pay a few bucks to check my coat at a central kiosk. I'm sure some moms out there would agree.

To employees in clothing stores: greet me once. That's it. If I need help, I'll ask for it. Don't bug me for your commission, and if you're bored, find something else to do besides sound surprised when I leave without buying any of your overpriced apparel.

More Salvation Army bell ringers. They're so friendly. Post them at each entrance.

Well, that's about it for the moment. Yes, I had to brave a shopping mall today. Why do you ask?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Under the Tree at the Couch

When you grow up, people never know what to get you.
A multi-pack of Play-Doh just won't cover the universal "kid" present base anymore.

Though I always did love Legos...
Anyway, I ran across a few exceptionally cute items at Pier 1's website while watching "House" tonight.
red bird plate. $5.

red batik dinnerware. $3-$4.
mercury glass votive holders. $4.

carved tree frames. $14 & $24.

fleur de lis embossed filled candle. $2.98.

paper star lanterns. $9 & $14.

golden floral rim dinnerware. $5 & $6.

blue printed toss pillow. $7.48.

vanilla almond latte candles. $6-$20.

embroidered pillow - sand. $24.

I'm the kind of person who refuses to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. Only like the day after, but still. But as soon as the weather drops below eighty degrees, I hum happily, knowing that the season is changing, cool weather in the offing, hot tea steeping, Thanksgiving coming, Advent just around the corner.

Ahhhh. 'Tis the season.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Homina, Homina, Homina

Word has it that that comedian phrase comes from Jackie Gleason's character Ralph, in "The Honeymooners."

We've been chatting here at "the couch", not about what your dreams mean, or why you have a phobia of bats and tapioca pudding - that would be Freud's couch. No, we've been talking about humor.

Recently, I watched footage of an old Kennedy press conference - that guy was funny! Relaxed, (buzzed?) at ease with reporters, and avoiding answering any questions he didn't feel like answering - but with off the cuff wit that someone my age could only associate with Reagan or Clinton.

"But," you ask, "for those of us who don't sit around watching grainy archival footage for fun, what is there for US to laugh at?"

Hehehe. I promise not to name any politicians in response to that.

Arackbay Bobamamay.

See? No one named. I stay true to my word.

Laughter. As Reader's Digest informed me at a tender young age, the best medicine. I was heavily influenced by Reader's Digest as a child. I still remember a joke I didn't get. I get it now.

A family favorite for turning on the guffaw is a classic John Cleese British television series, "Fawlty Towers." Cleese, the gangly-legged member of Monty Python who still turns up in random roles (Nearly Headless Nick, in Harry Potter movies; the voice of a villain in "Fievel Goes West) plays an insufferable jerk who runs a hotel - not a good combination in the service industry. Once again, I plug online movie rental services: you can have obscure things like this pop up in your mailbox without having to suffer through the fact that the Blockbuster down the street doesn't even carry "The Godfather" anymore. Yes, that happened to me. A sour-looking youth in a blue shirt raised his eyebrow. "Basically, if it's good, classic, old - we don't have it. Try Patti's Video Barn down the road. SHE has everything." Oh, jaded English majors everywhere, cynical with the world.

One world development I'm very pleased to see in my lifetime is the advent of the boxed DVD series. Your favorite side-splitting show, available to watch again. And again. And again. Seinfeld. Everybody Loves Raymond. Malcolm in the Middle (to this day, Dewey is one of my all-time favorite TV characters.) 20/20.

Not really 20/20.

A fairly family-friendly movie I saw recently that had me laughing much more than I expected? "Get Smart," starring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart. The funniest cameo in the film, by far, was Bill Murray in a tree. IN a tree. This should've done far better at the box office. But a line in it makes fun of Hollywooders who constantly issue a stream of political opinions, so it's possible the marketing department kind of shrugged and let this one fall to the side.

A hilarious kids' movie is "Flushed Away" - very British humor, which, ever since I saw a British improv troupe perform "Romeo and Juliet" in the streets of "England" in Epcot Center when I was six, has caused me to laugh until I cry. I laughed so hard, standing there at Epcot, that they finally paused and commented on it. Sometimes I wonder what cultural preferences are tacked onto our genes like a car-top carrier. Bagpipes have a very powerful effect on me, it's quite visceral and irrational. I want to dance, to kill something, to smear war paint on my face. Rainy days make me feel at home. Monarchy seems natural; but so does rebellion, which I think is where the Scottish influence is evident. I delight in verbal quips, puns, and plays on words. And I felt like I was going home when I visited the wind-whipped western Scottish shore.

My mom has always laughed at the British "Keeping Up Appearances," featuring Hyacinth Bucket ("it's pronounced Bookay"), and Dad has always laughed at the classic "Andy Griffith Show," especially Barney ("what's the matter Barn, eat too many green apples?") My brother howls with laughter at the show "The Office," but also giggles at the zombie/romantic comedy "Shaun of the Dead." I personally howl with laughter at the little-known British film "Death at a Funeral." John laughs at "Family Guy" and "The Office," and loves Will Ferrell's "Anchorman."

Let's not forget the rich comedic value of "The Muppet Show," which I sat and watched the other day with three other twentysomething's. We laughed and chortled. That Steve Martin is one wild and crazy guy.

I look forward to seeing the action-spoof "Tropic Thunder," and will be interested to see if this Thanksgiving "What About Bob?" makes it out of its box with John's family, since we won't be there for Christmas. I named a goldfish after the fish in that movie once.

Happy Laughing!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Indulge in Humor

Well, the national after-party hangover has begun.

Conservatives are morose and lackluster, staring out of gray windows and idly fiddling with knick-knacks.

Liberals are beginning to realize that the guy they just elected inherited an intensely large pile of crap, with the Dow plummeting since the election, and world leaders aiming really large missiles at each other.

So I think it's safe to say that the world needs some humor, to paraphrase the reasoning behind the start of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes.

For my two cents, I plan to watch a lot of comedy in the coming days. Old episodes of "The Office," new DVD releases, laugh-inducing You Tube clips. Our ability to laugh at ourselves is most important. Of course, a close second is laughing with (and my brother would say "at") others.

It's a serious world we live in, and I hope our new president finds himself safe and sound every moment of his executive tenure. That's something I worry about.

But we have enough worries - mortgages and rent, security and crime.

So for those of you who like to leave comments, please share with the rest of us your favorite comedies, movie and television.

An unlikely source of relaxation - unlikely to anyone not born in the 80's - has been a DVD set of "The Muppet Show," season two to be exact. A friend's son was spending time at our house yesterday, and he loves it - preferred to watch it over "Narnia" or "March of the Penguins" or cartoon "Robin Hood." There are so many puns that adults end up laughing, and so many visual gags that kids giggle nonstop. Who doesn't want to see Steve Martin talking to Kermit, or Gilda Radnor talking to Miss Piggy?

Share your old faves and new discoveries, so we can guffaw, laugh, giggle, belly-laugh, shriek, and howl.

P.S. I've posted fresh news items in the "Extra! Extra!" bar, not least of which involves a woman who ran a mile with a rabid fox chewing on her arm.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What It All Means

Of course, there's plenty of "Monday morning quarterback"-ing going on.

(You fellow pale folk who never go in the sun or have interest in sports, that phrase refers to football fans' "expert" opinions and critiques on the weekends' football performances. It's slightly derogatory, like an "armchair" anything, "armchair philosopher," etc.)

Discerning people know that the next few years cannot be prophesied. The wise among us will dissect the downfall of McCain - there are some quite good dissections at National Review online.

Here are a few thoughts, headlines, results, newsworthy stories, and a general trick or treater's plastic pumpkin carrier of leftover Halloween candy thoughts.

1) This marks the end of the Karl Rove era. I can't say I'm crying too many tears over that. That he engineered two Bush wins, fine. It's the way he did it so often, that I think put people off to his strategies. As my grandma used to say about Gene Keady, one-time basketball coach at Purdue, and rival of Bobby Knight at IU, "he's mean." Mark my words: this election was less a referendum on Bush, no matter what anybody says, and more a referendum on party leadership, chief among them, Karl Rove. Or, as one usually conservative friend-turned-Obama-Republican said, "it's about showing them [Republicans] that this [Obama] is the kind of candidate we want." Is it a generational thing? Partly. But notice that both parties had an outside-the-beltway appeal: McCain tried to emphasize his "maverick" status, no one could argue that Alaskan Palin wasn't a part of Washington insiders, and even Obama managed to inherently make this argument via his "change" slogan - he's ultimately a Chicagoan, with little real Washington experience.

2. Branding matters. This is best shown in this Wall Street Journal piece, a fantastic piece of journalism. In particular, note that at one point, after five hours of debate, McCain's top five advisors couldn't come up with a campaign focus, or answer the question, "Why John McCain?" Now, (clear throat) it should be noted that all five were men, and one wonders if perhaps some women should have been in the discussion. At any rate, marketing matters, especially with the iPod crowd of voters.

But Obama? I can tell you right now what his brand is. #1, "Change." #2, "Yes We Can." There was even a great New York Times story several months ago on his choice of font for his campaign signs. And he utilized the old-fashioned call and response method: his message was change; the crowd response was "yes we can." Go to any black church on a Sunday, and you'll see call and response in action.

But what was McCain's brand? "Nation First." But I had to stop and think about it for several seconds before I could come up with it. Why? Partly because he had several different points he utilized instead of marketing one theme - "peace," "prosperity" and some other key words on signs. But you know, I can't help think that "nation first" was a terrible slogan to begin with. It's fine to be patriotic. But who do you know who's worried about "the nation"? Now, who do you know who's worried about their pensions, retirement, 401k, and so on? One is personal, the other is abstract. Personal beats abstract every time. And besides, many in his base wouldn't have said "nation first." They would've said "family first" or "faith first." He needed some fresh, inventive advisors, instead of the old guard, who didn't "get" his constituents.

3. Author Michael Crichton died unexpectedly. This has nothing to do with the election. It just made me sad. Michael Crichton wrote the phenomenally best-selling "Jurassic Park," as well as creating the show "E.R." and penning a book blasting the political use of scientific data, that is, the pandemic of global warming paranoia. You can read his Caltech speech, "Aliens Cause Global Warming," here.

4. Proposition 8 passed in California. Yes, most of us voted for people yesterday, but a few people voted on specific issues and referendums. Proposition 8 bans same-sex marriage, and passed in California yesterday. In the continual ping-pong match in that state (now it's legal, now it's not), voters have yet again voiced their opinions. What the courts will do next, who knows. If you watch the "Ellen" show, this will probably get mentioned. (I think Ellen is hilarious, and she usually doesn't engage in too much politics, but she has lately with the election.) Ellen DeGeneres recently "married" her partner, Portia de Rossi, in California.

[Aside: I use quotes around married, not to be pejorative, but simply to assert my belief that the state is not a giver or taker of sacraments, individuals are, as they are administered by the church. Because I believe marriage is sacramental, I don't think that the state, as such, has the ability to perform a "marriage." States legalize unions, churches marry. I know that's probably more esoteric than most people prefer, but it's the best way I know to describe my perspective on the issue. The debate, then, should be whether the state should sanction civil unions for same-sex couples. But most people use "marriage" and "civil union" as synonymous, which I acknowledge; and most people fighting for same-sex "civil unions" don't just want something the state sanctions; they want the more religiously tinged term, "marriage."]

5. Voters in Washington approved assisted suicide. You can read the story here. You need to know that for me, this is the most sobering news I've heard coming out of yesterday's voting. Washington is the second state to pass this kind of legislation, following Oregon. In my opinion, it is more troubling than any other thing I've seen. I wish that voters were half as concerned about this as they were about Proposition 8. Perhaps at some point I'll delve a little deeper into my reflections on life, death, and theology. For now, all I can say is that this should be fought at every level of government, state and federal, with the realization that how we treat life at the beginning and end of living defines us as a people.

6. There is a national schizophrenia. I don't say this to slam NAMI or mental illness, I say it to make the point that there were a lot of internal inconsistencies on ballots yesterday.

Voters wielded their ballots to vote in Barack Obama, but not to give Democrats their coveted 60 seats in the Senate; they voted in some states to ban same-sex marriage, but in others, to allow assisted suicide; red states predicted to be poached by Obama remained red; but swing states swung heavily in his favor, including Pennsylvania, who forgave the "cling to religion and guns" gaffe, as well as Murtha's "racist" and "redneck" comments about his own constituents. Missouri, usually a litmus of the national scene, is still too close to call, modeling nicely the fact that while Obama wiped the floor with electoral votes, the popular vote was considerably closer. Some Hillary supporters migrated to the Palin half of the Republican ticket, and some Republicans became "Obama Republicans" to Reagan's "Reagan Democrats."

Since I have declared the Era of Karl Rove dead, and given this national voter schizophrenia, I think it's obvious to state that the Republican Party Has Its Work Cut Out For It. Because it has four years to reformulate party leadership, come to grips with the new mood of the nation, and identify those conservatives who might be the next American Idol, I mean president.

If I had to bet today, I'd bet that Sarah Palin isn't done on the national scene.. I'd also bet we'll be seeing more of Bobby Jindal (I hope). Some veterans have exited the scene: Elizabeth Dole's disastrous ad against her opponent cooked her goose, and so we have another dynasty passing away.

If anything is clear, it's that we need Republican Party leadership with emotional intelligence.

Promised Land

Almost one hundred and fifty years ago, a war ripped the still-adolescent United States of America in half. Lights twinkled on the northern side of the Ohio River, beckoning slaves through dark, moonlit paths, across the water. To reach the other side was to breathe the air of freedom. Some of those houses still stand on the northern bank of the river dramatically captured in Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," in Eliza's frantic escape scene.

The Lord, by Moses, to Pharaoh said: Oh! let my people go.
If not, I'll smite your first-born dead—Oh! let my people go.
Oh! go down, Moses,
Away down to Egypt's land,
And tell King Pharaoh
To let my people go.
During that time, when families were split apart, North and South, fighting on different sides of the war, Old Testament imagery illustrated the slaves' bid for freedom. Some spirituals employed specific code, so that women and men could communicate with each other in song, while working in the fields.

The North was the Promised Land. In broader meaning, the Civil War was fought to make sure that all the borders - north, south, east, and west - of the United States lined a whole Promised Land, in which plantations built on the shoulders of whip-scarred slaves did not constitute the only future for a person with black skin.

One hundred years later, the Promised Land still wasn't present in the South, and the Civil Rights movement demanded that a little seamstress tired from a day of work should sit wherever she wanted on the city bus.

In the last decade, President George W. Bush has created the most diverse administration in the history of this country - including Elaine Chao, Alberto Gonzalez, Margaret Spellings, Carlos Gutierrez, Gen. Colin Powell, and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

There will be plenty of time in coming months to state my disagreements with the ideas of the now Majority Party. Goodness knows I've done that sufficiently the last few months.

But today - today is a day to express, in a completely new way, Thanksgiving. The United States of America has overcome a burdened common memory replete with the pain of past wrongs, the struggles of the present to live with dignity, and the scramble to ensure for the future the knowledge, in living memory, of a living, breathing, tangible example of someone in leadership who looks just like you.

I do not have to agree with the policies and positions of the now dominant party to appreciate the profound nature of what just happened. In fact, it is because of the memory of felt pride when John McCain named Sarah Palin his running mate, that I can appreciate what it means to feel represented; what it means to feel that someone like you has been honored; what it means to know the healing effect that the gift of dignity brings.

Just a few months ago, I wrote about what it felt like to watch a woman receive honor: the way it washed away the pain of having seen women mistreated. Sharp memories dulled a little in their ability to wound.

I am so profoundly proud to know that sisters and brothers around my nation get to feel that today. If there is a ghost in the Lincoln bedroom, as White House rumors speculate, he must be smiling to know that from the days of Lincoln, the White House has come full circle.

Any man or woman who has a certificate tucked away in a chest full of heirlooms that shows a mother or grandfather's entrance into the United States through Ellis Island should reflect on the gifts available to all immigrants.

Hispanic citizens working hard to learn a new language, navigate a new government, and earn money for their families can sense the new urgency of motivation - there is room, in our country, for you. There is room for you to do whatever you have the courage and vision to carry out. There is room for Gonzalezes, for Smiths, for O'Hares. And yes, for Obamas.

The Lord, by Moses, to Pharaoh said: Oh! let my people go.
If not, I'll smite your first-born dead—Oh! let my people go.
Oh! go down, Moses,
Away down to Egypt's land,
And tell King Pharaoh
To let my people go.

Listen here to Louis Armstrong's "Go Down Moses"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bulletin from the Voting Line

We waited about twenty or twenty-five minutes to vote today; not bad, compared to other areas, but remarkable, in that usually in this precinct there IS no wait.

But what was striking was the vehemence evidenced in a solid red county, belonging to a state that is anything but a swing state: a frazzled-looking poll worker was lamenting the fervor of early morning voters, who insisted that the voting lines be reorganized. Why? Fear of cheaters. We're not in a swing state, people, but early morning voters pitched a fit, saying the way the polling site was set up might allow people to vote multiple times.

Do I find myself distressed at this? Heck no. FINALLY - people are excited and passionate about taking ownership in our country! One man stood in line with his excited-looking daughter, who was sporting a Disney nightgown and fuzzy slippers. Well done, parents who take this opportunity to show your kids what it means to be American. (The schools are out today.)

We visited Starbucks for our free post-vote coffee (no verification required), then drove to Krispy Kreme for our free post-vote doughnuts ("I voted" stickers proudly placed on lapels). Krispy Kreme came out ahead on that deal. We walked away with our free doughnuts, and John's creme de la creme, a box of a dozen hot, glazed circles of goodness and wonder. Krispy Kreme was full of parents who'd brought their kids along after voting.

Reports are that so far, the longest lines are in cities, and are also around pre-work/lunchtime/post-work. I suggest beating the rush. If you have any problems, immediately contact your Secretary of State; if they don't respond, smile sweetly and tell them that you'll just inform your local media, then.

Voter turnout is as high as everyone thought it might be, which is good news. I hope it sets a precedent for the next few elections, as well.

Meanwhile, the most annoying headline I've seen all day? From USA Today: "historic election begins, between African-American and oldest candidate ever." Yes, that's what makes McCain's ticket unique...or wait, maybe it has something to do with the Republican woman who's his running mate!

Ah well. Go enjoy your free small coffee, your star-shaped doughnut, and, if you live near a Ben and Jerry's, a free scoop of ice cream between 5-8 tonight.

I love voting. Have I mentioned that? I skipped the straight party option just so I could punch the individual buttons and relish the fact.

I was wound up before the Krispy Kreme/Starbucks excursion. Now it's to what my mom endearingly calls the "motormouth" stage.

Aaaand I'm proooooud to beeeee an Americaaaaan...where at least I knoooow (for nooow) I'm freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee...

The dogs wish they could vote, but they lack opposable thumbs.