I Needed This On A Monday

This man gives me life. That is all.


Bath Bombs

I dreamed I was giving a massage to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. There was nothing salacious about this. Bodywork is my skill, my calling, my career. I fix stressed, injured people. Probably it was easy for my dreaming mind to imagine that Mr. Mueller could use some destressing. The odd thing was that I was using the dining room table that lived in the house(s) I grew up in, one that was made for the family by a Maine artisan related to a family friend, out of solid oak, not a nail or screw in it, all wooden pegged with a longitudinal strut that I used to sneakily rest my feet on. No clothing was off. I kept getting interrupted between this extremity and that, so that when people started arriving expecting to be served some sort of repast on that table I hadn’t done Mr. Mueller’s feet yet. I held out. Feet are important.

One of the chattering, irritating, girly arrivals had come with a supply of “Bath Bombs,” I’ve read of the things, blobs of bath salts or bubble stuff with usually obnoxious aromas. These, though differently colored and composed, were all pecan-scented.

My Southern relatives, whom I repudiate to the extent that I would carve their DNA out of myself with a blunt knife if it were possible and survivable, owned many pecan orchards. They would probably vote for Roy “Lolitaphile” Moore if they were still living. Don’t know about subsequent generations. I cut them off.

There’s just something wrong about dreaming politics. I’m glad the next segment of the dream involved an old client of mine coming into possession of a hot pink convertible.



I Will Sign Your Petition If You WIll Leave Me Alone

If you are active on the Net at all, sooner or later, you get them: you stumble across one, or a friend forwards it to you. You know what I’m talking about: a petition, usually an “urgent” petition, intended to accomplish just about anything you can name. One exhorts the FDA to release an orphan drug, one stamps its little foot and tells members of the Republican Congress to lighten up on Planned Parenthood (rotsa ruck), one asks a rural judge not to euthanize a little kid’s pet hen.

I sign a lot of these things (even the pet hen one, surprisingly). There are quite a few started by real people, who are not after your wallet or your loyalty; they just want to stop a pig fight or spare a pit bull. Some of them are obvious harvesting devices — a candidate for office or a political asks for your signature and then up pops a screen asking you to donate. Others lie in wait. A week or two down the road, your mailbox is full of stuff from the League Of Environmental Hand-Wringers or the Send A Gay Kid To Camp Committee, advising you discreetly at the bottom that you are receiving this mail “because you signed up for updates from us.”

The one I just deleted stated candidly that by signing the petition I was requesting updates from the League Of Conservation Voters. Wonderful group I’m sure. Doing good work. Lots of groups like that out there. I’ll gladly sign any petition instrument they circulate that I consider worthy of attention, but please, please don’t send me all this goddam mail.

Can we make a deal? Seriously? I’ll sign if you promise to never send me anything else unless it’s another petition that addresses some action of consequence that you want taken or prevented. You know, a piece of legislation or a commutation of sentence or something. I have already decided who’s getting my charitable money and I don’t have time to delete mail from forty-seven different committees, or even unsubscribe from all their mailing lists every time one circulates a petition that I actually think is worth supporting.

The Internet is a mighty engine and it has given small movements the power to create great change, but in the great tradition of this land, both politics and now activism are becoming indistinguishable from marketing.

House Calls

Along with signing for the third-party candidate in the upcoming local election, I have been leafleting houses. “Lit dropping” is an odd, solitary pastime; you can do it in teams, of course, checking in with your posse intermittently, but it’s pretty much a matter of one person, one piece of lit, one screen door, repeat till tired.

In a spring special election like this you at least get fresh air, sun, and inspiriting exercise (up and down all those porch steps; it is not a recreation for the unfit). And no matter what, you get the curious, voyeuristic experience of surveying other people’s domiciles at close quarters, even when you would rather not.

Some characteristic types stand out among the fairly neat, fairly well kept, fairly ordinary dwellings that predominate.

The “I’m Paid Too Much” House

A good number of these around here. This one was built sometime in the last decade or two, most likely as an infill home or on the site of a teardown, and probably sold for close to seven figures off the bat. It has little gables and ornamental windows. The lawn is flawless and often visited by some toxic lawn care service. A security service emblem is displayed somewhere on the property.  All the paintwork, mulching, paving, etc. looks as if it was just done yesterday by a professional. There is a precious but excruciatingly tasteful little wreath on the door.

The “Is Someone Dead In There?” House

Equally offputting from the other end of the spectrum is the house which looks as if it is soon to feature in a local news segment about hoarding or dementia. There is almost always a screened porch filled with archaeological tiers of crap. Rubber sea horses, jerricans, plastic chairs full of egg cartons, a peeling credenza, three weathered lawn ducks, the list is infinite. Sometimes the screens are still in the flaking frame, sometimes they aren’t. Gutters sag. The windows haven’t been scraped or painted or puttied in decades. Freebee newspapers, yellowing pizza flyers and similar drop-off debris fester around the entry.  You don’t waste a flyer on this house, but you wonder if you should call someone at the County Building.

The “Have You Heard Of Birth Control?” House

Kid Crap announces this house from a block away. Toddler trikes, toy tractors, inflatable wading pools, action figures and loud colored plastic whatsits of uncertain purpose litter the porch, lawn and driveway. I can never decide whether to drop off a leaflet or a condom.

The “Why Can’t Every Day Be Christmas?” House

Perhaps the occupants of this house were never allowed any fun when they were little. I cannot believe they are simply too lazy to take down decorations since the scope and ambition of their holiday display usually suggests a large financial outlay and days of effort. They just can’t bring themselves to put the damn stuff away. Christmas tree wire sculptures with bulbs, light strings, and wreaths tied with red flocked ribbon usually feature. As of March 14 I scoped two of these in about five blocks of a single-family neighborhood. Halloween is another dangerous holiday for these people. Sometimes in a trifecta, if you catch the right spot on the calendar, you can find Jack O’Lantern, Tom Turkey and St. Nick on the same porch.  When the spring winds blow and the bulbs start to break they finally, sulkily clear it all up. Sometimes..

The “You Can’t Be Too Tacky” House

These houses — a close relative of the Christmas style above — are kept by people who may well be tidy and proud but believe there is no feature of the property that cannot be improved by white paint (on rocks, bricks, or even used tires repurposed as raised flower beds), a little festoon of chain, a gnome or animal figure, or a pinwheel. One exuberant model on my frequent running route sports a lawn fountain about three feet high made of some painted hydrastone stuff, whose tiers are populated by little bearded dwarves. Quite often, at different seasons, you find articulated cardboard figures mounted on their front doors, waving to you in honor of St. Patrick’s or the Fourth of July. Surprisingly, most of these displays look carefully tended. I try to imagine having that kind of time.

I always come home after these excursions and stand on my front walk wondering if there is something I need to paint, or a solar light that is one too many. I usually end up sweeping. One skid on a drift of fallen magnolia blossom is enough to give you religion.

The Unbearable Tightness Of Voting

No, I’m not talking about getting people liquored up to procure their votes (a grand American tradition, which may have helped kill Edgar Allan Poe), but about the way my back felt after standing at the polling place for a couple hours and a stitch, passing out leaflets for the local Green Party suicide candidate for county supervisor.

I do this every year just to piss people off. The Greens tend to run educated, sober people with fatalistic attitudes and a genuine sense of community responsibility, leavened every so often by someone who is just angry and wants to prove that the rest of the world is made up of fools and vultures. Lately we have been mostly getting the responsible ones. Like Unitarians, they have good hearts and willing hands and not nearly enough of the Old Nick in ’em.

The current lady needs a better campaign picture (the one on her palm card suggests that she is gazing winsomely up at the voter from the angle and distance of a woman about to deliver a blow job, never a dignified image) and perhaps a sense of theatre to make up for her lack of traction and funding. If I had thought of it early enough, I would have suggested a slogan like “Occupy Courthouse Plaza” (which is where the county government has its seat, and other parts). I doubt it would have been well received though because her campaign has mostly been underwritten by the guy I managed for Congress here a few years back, the one who hates me now because I wrote him into a satirical novel along with the rest of the County’s political hacks. Elections are complicated things.

I can stuff campaign literature into doorhandles and force it into voters’ hands with the best of them, though, so I did that for a few hours despite the still lingering mold in the air (at sunset, like clockwork, it brought on a glutinous coughing fit that made me hang onto the nearest railing). On these kinds of expeditions, as time goes on the unpleasantness of protracted standing goads me into a succession of quaint postures and I find that this actually helps me stuff the lit into the voters’ hot little hands; they pause to try to figure out what I am doing and then they are toast. You always get some of the hard cases who stride right by everyone like a stork on crack, but I scored a lot of hits on people who didn’t take the major party sample ballots.

It only took about an hour on a heating pad to straighten me out, if you don’t count the hacking sounds I am still making at intervals. I keep thinking about designing literature and orchestrating publicity for Earnest-And-Winsome if she decides to run again, and then think of the groin strain I got pounding signs into wet medians in 2004, which didn’t go away till 2008. I still hear from it on damp days.

Tie me to the mast until the Sirens stop singing. I don’t need any more of this.


Damn. I got out of politics too soon after all.

Campaign stunt launches a corporate ‘candidate’ for Congress

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Murray Hill might be the perfect candidate for this political moment: young, bold, media-savvy, a Washington outsider eager to reshape the way things are done in the nation’s capital. And if these are cynical times, well, then, it’s safe to say Murray Hill is by far the most cynical.

That’s because this little upstart is, in fact, a start-up. Murray Hill is actually Murray Hill Inc., a small, five-year-old Silver Spring public relations company that is seeking office to prove a point (and perhaps get a little attention).

After the Supreme Court declared that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to funding political campaigns, the self-described progressive firm took what it considers the next logical step: declaring for office. More…