Maybe it's the sudden disappearance of that great big ball of light in the sky. Maybe it's being busless for the 10th straight day. Maybe it's the slowly closing vise-grip claw of tax season approaching. Maybe it's -- well, there are a lot of other things I could probably name, but the upshot is for the first time in a long, long time I woke up this morning feeling -- depressed.
Under The Weather
Cryin' In My Beer
Clinical depression is not something I have much experience with. Like most people, I get a little bit mopey every once in a while, but usually it's of a vaguely listless, I-don't-want-to-get-out-of-bed variety -- that nebulous feeling that things just aren't as right as they should be. This morning however, was noticeably different, definitely more of a my-life-really-sucks type of feeling that is so foreign to my normal disposition that I couldn't help but stand there at the bus stop at 7:00 a.m. thinking to myself, "COMTE, what reason in the world do you have to feel all 'Grumpy McGrumperson'?"
"Do I have to have a reason?"
"Well, if you don't have a good reason for feeling lower than the curb, then it's either inorganic, in which case it'll eventually cure itself, or it's organic, in which case The Pharmaceutical Industry probably has an ad running on cable right now for a brightly colored pill that will cure it (WARNING! Use of this product may result in the following side-effects: nausea, bleeding from orifi, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and heart palpatations. Consult your doctor before using.)"
"That's pretty cynical!"
"Hey, when you're feeling low, you ARE pretty cynical..."
"Got me there."
"Bet I do."
The fact that I even have an inner dialogue like this going so early in the morning is a clear indication that I'm definitely off my game. Usually I require at least one cup of coffee before this kind of "Point-Counterpoint" gets started.
Okay. So, list all the things that could be causing me to feel depressed:
1. My Car Is Broken.
2. It'll cost between $700 - $1200 to fix, which will eat up all of my
savings, including my tax refund.
3. It's raining
4. Income tax season starts in two weeks, and I don't have enough
volunteers to run my site.
5. Rehearsals for the show I'm directing start in less than four weeks,
and I don't have a complete cast, nobody's signing up for auditions
on Saturday, I don't have a full tech staff, the budget is abysmally
small, and I'm not getting much in the way of support from the
6. I'm fat.
7. I'm bald.
8. I feel old.
9. I'm lonely.
10.Although my job is secure, the company is slowly, inexorably
being ground into the dirt as a result of a prolonged,
acrimonious labor dispute.
If pressed, I could probably rattle off a couple more rationalizations for feeling all droopy, but I think we get the picture. Sure, none of this is life-threatening, and I'll be the first to admit there are thousands of people out there who would probably trade places with me in a heartbeat.
But, looking at this list with as much cold detachment as I can muster, it seems to contain enough to warrant a one day dump-fest.
The unseasonably warm and mostly sunny weather we've been having this month is probably a harbinger of things to come, namely a very dry, possibly hot summer, which of course means water shortages (yes if you can believe it, we actually have droughts every few years up here in to good, old, damp, mossy PNW). Still, very few of us are complaining in the short-term, since the normal alternative for this time of year is generally wet, cold and miserable. We're most of us already stooped over like little old ladies stricken with rickets or osteomalacia or whatever happens from accute Vitamin D deficiency, so we're more than happy to stretch our bones and recharge our biological solar cells any chance we get.
The Red Ranger is still on the fritz, and won't get back into the shop until after the first of the month, so I've been hoofing it around for most of the past two weeks. For some people, this will seem like a nearly insurmountable inconvenience, while others will probably scoff derisively at the amount of "sacrifice" this has entailed on my part. "Ooh, poor baby -- he had to ride the BUS!" The reality of course, as usual falls somewhere squarely between these two extremes; since I actually live close enough to my job to walk, the warm weather has been a boon, allowing me to get some semblance of daily exercise, but increasing the length of my "commute" approximately five-fold. Still, I know people out there who take 40 minutes (my average walking time) just to DRIVE to work.
Still, there are times when the convenience of having a petroleum by-product fueled, internal combustion engined vehicle has distinct advantages, particularly when distance is a factor; having to bum rides from friends to go to baby showers 30 miles away is always a bit of a hassle. And there's a sense of disconnectedness one feels, at least for a brief period, when contemplating the notion that in order to get from Point A to Point B, one must not only plan well in advance, checking bus schedules, calculating walking time, etc., etc., but that invariably the act of traveling itself becomes incredibly time-consuming. I'm lucky to live close enough into the city core to be able to get a lot of places on-foot if necessary, so really I have no reason to complain, but it's a bit of culture shock to realize that you can't just take off and go wherever you want on a moment's notice.
With Howard Dean's announcement today that he is dropping out of the Democratic Presidential race, I wonder how long it will be before the Edwards people start ringing the doorbells of those of us committed to support Dean in the upcoming District and eventually State Caucuses? If they're smart, they won't wait long, because the more they delay the better the chances that many will jump on the Kerry Juggernaut.
Then again, maybe we should hold out for a while, and try to leverage whatever influence we might have to get some of Dr. Dean's ideas into the Party Platform.
I'm not much of a dater. Since my last breakup nearly four years ago, I've probably been on literally a handful (minus a thumb) of actual, real, honest-to-goodness, not-just-hanging-with-a-female-friend dates. So, both myself and the person I had dinner with last evening were in a bit of a quandry as to whether what we were doing met the definition of "A First Date".
A cozy, dimly lit bistro on Capital Hill. 7:00 p.m. Tuesday 18 Feb 2004. The Waiter has just screwed up HER order and backed away, genuflecting in profuse apology.
Well, we've known each other about -- what nine years or so?
Right, but there was that gap of about four years there --
Okay, but in any case --
Call it nine years then.
And of course, you were married that whole time.
That reminds me. I have a divorce councelling session tomorrow! Gawd, I just want to get the paperwork signed, signed signed!
But, you still love him, right?
Oh, I'll always love him, it's just that I'm not, you know --
-- IN love with him.
Exactly! But, we were together for so long, I just feel like I need time to figure out what kind of person I want to be before I get into another serious relationship.
That makes sense.
Which is why things with ___ (__ who shall remain nameless, is somebody she's "seeing") are sort of, well complicated.
So, the rumors are true!
Oh, puhleeze! It's not like it's a big secret or anything!
But, you're here tonight, with me.
Yeah, so what do we call this?
You mean, is it a "date"?
I'm not sure -- it's been a long time for me...
Me too, but as best I recall, you ask somebody to dinner, chat, talk about your lives -- that's pretty much the definition of a "date".
Oooh, we're on a date!
So, once we had that point of protocol established, things went pretty smoothly. We even agreed to have another "date" sometime in the near future. But, of course she's still seeing ___, so there's already a bit of the old sabot in the machinery as it were. But on the other hand, you know somebody for this long, and things just sort of have a way of working themselves out for the best, no matter what.
I knew it was a good date, however, when I returned to "The Red Ranger" (new name for my '75 VW bus), and the darned thing wouldn't start! And this after having just got it back from a tune-up earlier that same evening!
As the AAA tow truck lugged us both home, I just chalked it up to some Karmic balancing; evidentally I'd used up so much good Karma earlier, that the universe just had to give me a bit of the old "not so fast, mister!" treatment.
Spring, When A(n Old) Young Man's Fancy Turns To Love (Or Not)
Well, here we are with another Valentine's Day careening into view like a Seattleite's SUV sliding down a snow dusted hill, and for the entirety of this weekend those of us not bound up in an intimate, interpersonal relationship will be deluged, inundated, buried in a Marachino Cherry ooze of cloying sentimentality and sticky chocolate-and-roses Public Displays of Affection.
And though we'll never admit it, we're jealous as all get-out that we're not participating.
So, all you lovers out there, regardless of age -- feel free to kiss, coo and generally make sloppy, romantic fools of yourselves. Just ignore the snide, cynical whisperings coming from the more well-lit corners of the room, and try not to feel too superior -- most of us would trade places with you in a New York minute, if given the chance.
So, my boss just brought up an interesting bit of personal trivia. He's originally from upstate NY (Binghamton, to be precise) and about 15 years ago he hired a nephew of Rod Serling. During the interview the guy mentioned the fact that one of the wierdest moments in his life to date was that as a kid he would be at his uncle's house watching reruns of The Twilight Zone WITH Rod Serling.
As most of the nation knows by now, yesterday Washington held it's Democratic Presidential Caucus, and as expected Sen. John Kerry continued his winning streak, taking a commanding percentage of the vote count both here as well as in Michigan (and as of this writing also easily sweeping the Maine caucuses held today). This was a big blow to Howard Dean's chances to stay in the fray, as he campaigned heavily in this state, and his relatively meagre showing this weekend makes it increasingly unlikely that he'll be able to stay in the race until the National Democratic Convention in late July.
Which is really a shame, not just for candidate personally, but also for the many people -- myself included -- who have been energized by his brash, no-holds-barred style of campaigning. Although I've been somewhat active in the local Democratic party for a number of years, Dean's entry into the race last fall seemed like a breath of fresh air after nearly four years of what has amounted to Dems on the national scene at least (our blunt, outspoken, shoot-from-the-hip Congressman Jim McDermott being a notable exception) rolling over on just about everything the Bush Administration has sent their way. Granted, it's tough when your the minority party, but it's only been in the last few weeks that any Democrat other than Dean has had both their own name and the word "spine" used favorably together in the same sentence.
Regardless of whether or not Dean is forced out of the running in the next few weeks, there's little doubt but that both the issues he's kept in the forefront, as well as his more confrontational style of campaigning has had a lauditory effect, particularly on Kerry who for the past month or so has pretty much restructured his entire approach using the Dean playbook as his guide. So, in one sense Dean and his supporters may have lost the battle, but in effect won the war, as they've effectively forced the Kerry campaign to change course in a manner that makes the rhetoric at least sound more and more like Dean's with each passing day.
The real disappointment yesterday, however, was just how much "the electability factor" has come into play. It seems that many otherwise sensible Democrats are ready and willing to sacrifice principles in exchange for backing the "winning horse" as it were, which frankly I find a bit disturbing. Sure, it's important to slate a viable candidate in November, but I bristle at the idea that a candidate's stance on the issues is less important than whether or not he's popular with the electorate; this is exactly how Bush got into the White House in the first place (SCOTUS not withstanding), and it just feels like we're subtly being forced to use the Republican's playbook, which has the potential of working against us.
Still, it was heartening to see the turnout yesterday at the caucuses, which generally in this state at least has always been something less than spectacular. For those not in the know, until this year Washington State has utilized an open primary system, whereby anyone could vote for any candidate regardless of party affiliation. What most people probably didn't realize however, was that the results of the primaries were non-binding; each party still held its own separate caucuses from which delegates to the National party conventions were eventually selected. It was these delegates that actually determined which candidates in each party would receive support, and the fact that usually both the primary and the caucus results coincided was mere coincidence, and so far as the parties were concerned irrelevent.
So, because the Washington State Supreme Court under pressure from both major political parties threw out the primary system (and the Republicans of course with an incumbent executive won't be holding a Presidential Caucus this year), people had to attend the caucus if they wanted their vote to count for anything. Many voters in Washington have never participated in a caucus before, and so for most it was hopefully an educational experience.
The thing I've always liked about the caucus system is that it compells individuals to not only study the issues and candidates beforehand, but it also entails discussion about them as well. Participants don't just hunker down in the voting booth and make little circles on their ballots; they have to listen to other people explain why they're supporting a particular candidate, and in many cases try to convince some of those folks to vote for their choice in return. The caucus in effect transforms the process of selection from a private to a public engagement, turning it int a conversation as opposed to an internal monologue. Voters have to publically declare their intention to support a particular candidate, who must then garner at least 15% of the votes in a given precinct in order to qualify for delegatges. If they're shy of that threshhold after the first round of voting, then they're out of the running and any voters supporting them must either switch to a different candidate or declare themselves uncommitted.
So, the whole process can turn into a bit of a horse trade, as supporters of qualifying candidates try to convince others why they should throw in with their lot. It therefore forces voters to really study the issues and individuals so that they can make the most compelling argument in favor of their candidate. In short, people have to really educate themselves, and not just rely on vague impressions or gut feelings. Some can be compelled to change their votes, a few will stick with their candidate regardless of whether they qualify for delegates, and a few more will jump into the uncommitted pool, in the hopes of leveraging their ability to hold their commitment in reserve for further into the process. It's all very messy, loud and on the surface appears rather disorganized, but there is a method to the madness as it were, and frankly it's a whole lot more interesting and engaging that spending five minutes in a voting booth.
Needless to say, my precinct had a rather smallish turnout compared to the other three that shared caucus space at the Swedish Hall on lower Queen Anne yesterday, but the debate was no less impassioned. Of the 17 people who signed in, most were Kerry supporters (7), followed by Dean (5), two for Clark, one for Kucinich, and three undeclared. Since Clark and Kucinich were booted after the first round, the battle was on to try to pull their supporters into the Dean camp, however of the three Kerry's side took two with one going uncommited. So, of the five delegates allotted to our precinct to go to the District Caucus in May, the final count was three Kerry, one Dean and one uncommitted, which despite the small turnout, was still a pretty reasonable reflection of the State as a whole.
Regardless of the final results, however, literally everyone from our precinct caucus who stuck around for the actual proceedings (it was possible to sign in, make your declaration, then leave, which several people from our precinct evidentally did) was elected as either a delegate or alternate to go on to the District Caucus; so for the majority of folk their direct participation in the process will continue. That's another great thing about the system; it ain't over until it's over, and along the way you get a number of chances to keep trying to pull people into your camp.
So, I'll be going into the 36th District Caucus on the 1st of May as my precinct's Dean delegate. I just hope he's still around in a month and a-half to cast my vote for -- otherwise, I'm going to be the one getting all the attention from the horse-traders.