Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Overwrought

Halloween Overwrought

I received an urgent, all caps e-mail through the neighborhood news group: HALLOWEEN SAFETY TIPS FOR DOGS. Himself read to me about long winded Missouri debates about the minutiae of regulating sex offenders on Halloween. Should they be allowed to celebrate with their own children? Is it ok for them to display jack o'lanterns on their lawns? The election is moments from us. We pondered at bootcamp what we’ll talk about when it's all over. Rocky, our cruel and sadistic trainer sneered, "Perhaps then yas can get yerselves a workout in" in that voice she used to tell us about the time back home in Wales when she got mugged. She was on her way to the pub with her sister to watch some big international sporting event and she felt a grab at her fanny pack, which contained her drinking money. The would be mugger’s poor choice of victim yielded him only serious contusions and no drinking money. A guard who manned an area security camera that captured the interaction was a friend of Rocky's dad and said to him, "Theys tough yer girls." We're tough but it's scary. Halloween is upon us and daylight-saving time will end and we're in a lather about the election and we are fraught with imagining how a tanking economy is going to end up affecting us personally. I haven't even opened the Thanksgiving issues of the cooking magazines.

One of the missing links, now that the blood relatives who reared me are no longer available for explanation, is what suffering made everyone in my family so fucked up about money. I may be wrong but I have always blamed it on the Depression, a time when both of my parents relied on charity. My dad was always reticent to talk much about his father, who committed suicide, according to the story, due to financial pressures, when my dad was about nine years old. I know however that there was a relatively prosperous time when the family managed, and I believe owned a part of, a hotel in Port Angeles. Was this change in circumstances due to the Depression or was there another ill-fatedness that I will never understand? There seems to be reason to be genuinely frightened at the condition of the economy and my suspicions about my parents' Depression experiences ratchet this up a lot for me.

I speculated recently that it seems that the surviving members of the Weather Underground are probably good people. I will never manage to reach a full understanding of the times, although I experienced them myself, because I was too busy being young. This indelible and yet ephemeral imprint, and a disturbing parallel between those times and these, is why I gravitate now to remembrances of and reflections on the phenomena of my child and teenhood. Because of the localness and the luridness, I remember following news of the Manson Family. Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were murdered in the Silverlake hills. I believe that Leno, a grocer, owned the market which was known as The Hub, and is now the Trader Joes on Hyperion. Another nasty news making cult Silverlake connection was noted by the L.A. Weekly about two Red Diaper Silverlake kids, Ivanhoe and Marshall alums, Phyllis Alexander and Eugene Chaikin who married and in the spirit of the time, fell under the sway of a charismatic social activist minister. Gene gave up a successful law career. They sold their valley home and packed their two children off to a religious community which being built in Ukiah. All four of them died in Jonestown on November 18, 1978.

My skepticism about Obama is considered traitorous but I have said many good things about the man. His Marshall-like plan for Afghanistan seems prudent and even though our friend Anthony in Ireland pretty much sees the U.S. as pigs, I think that using our resources to build the infrastructure and promote peace is a good thing. Even if we often take it on more in the spirit of strategy than of compassion it is good to build schools and hospitals. I cannot fault Obama that we are so friggin' wretched and hollow eyed after the Bush years that the embrace of him as the answer of answers smacks of cult. The hard times of Vietnam, and Nixon and Kent State were stimulus for community organizers to hone their craft. But the period also yielded the Manson Family and the Reverend Jim Jones which I don’t think anyone would deny, were very much the products an era whose desperation and bleakness spawned mass obedience to the service of madness. Maybe we have come very far and the seeds that were planted towards shepherding a movement of enfranchisement have borne fruit and Obama really is the antidote.

Obama's management of his campaign has demonstrated a strategic brilliance that I hope will similarly illuminate the Oval Office. The Obama campaign's mobilization of volunteer campaigners is unparalleled although it seems that volunteers are strictly forbidden to answer any undecided voter concerns with regard to policy and that anyone posing this sort of question is to be immediately referred to the campaign website. It's ok for Obama folks to send money and take time off from work to travel at their own expense to swing states and trudge dusty Nevada sidewalks, banging on doors but they are not to be trusted to articulate what motivates them to dedicate themselves to the cause.

My husband, the same age as Obama, feels himself too young to be the president, which certainly relieves all of our anxieties about having to uproot to The White House. One pundit observed that although McCain’s era was Vietnam, there was very much a feeling of WWII about him. I think Obama’s youth will actually be an advantage, as his deft campaign has proven again and again that he has a sophisticated understanding of communications and technology. He seems then likely able to conceptualize the use of these most modern technologies as tools to further peace, and freedom and education.

This week, for the first time since the primaries I was actually able to examine the Obama website because previously I had been unable to access it without logging in with my name and e-mail address. I found an egregious grammatical error in the statement on educational policy and because I SUPPORT THE MAN, I sent an e-mail advising of this. I have not received a thank-you note but my in-box has been deluged.
As I toil on this piece, I received the following note from Barack himself:
Layne --I want you to be there with me on Election Night when the results come in.We're planning a big event that will include tens of thousands of supporters in Grant Park in downtown Chicago.We're saving some of the best seats in the house for 5 people who make their first donation to the campaign before Sunday at midnight.If you're selected, you can bring a guest, and we'll fly you in and put you up in a hotel for the night. You'll go backstage at the big event and -- no matter what happens -- you'll have a front row seat to history as we celebrate the supporters who got us over the finish line.Any donation counts -- whatever you can afford. Show your support at this crucial time with a donation of $5 or more, and you could join me on Election Night:
This movement for change has been a testament to the power of ordinary Americans coming together to achieve extraordinary things.I look forward to having you there on Election Night.
Thank you,

Yes, I would be a first time giver. I have sent no money to Obama. My husband noted on his blog that he had only "allowed" me to send money to Jerry Brown which sounds piggish but we just don’t give money to politicians or issues we don’t both agree on so it’s a matter of "allowing each other," but it did sound piggish. This plea for funds, particularly when it’s been reported that the campaign still has a bundle in the bank, has a t.v. game show quality to it and I thought it was sort of icky. I share it because Himself and I are the only ones we know–except maybe for Carrie and Anthony in Drogheda, who haven’t given money to the Obama campaign and this might give a little insight, into their tactics and I can’t tell if it’s savvy or cynical or both. On the money thing, and something everyone at Casamurphy agrees on, is that if you have some extra send it to the campaign to defeat Prop. 8 which having been wildly outspent urgently needs more airtime. Donate at

I hope that four years from now, our friends abroad will think better of our nation and even more important, that we will think better of it ourselves. A lot of people who I like and trust feel that Obama is a harbinger of this and I hope they are right and that my scepticism is proven unfounded. What scares me the most is not Obama's suitability to the position, but that burdened with the obstacles he faces, it will be impossible for him to live up to the zeal inspired by his campaign. Even Jesus probably wouldn't be up to being Jesus right now.

There are other things I cannot blame Obama for. Nearly one billion dollars has been spent on this presidential election. As one whose legacy it is to be fucked up about money, I have to say this sucks. Public funding for elections should not be optional. Every candidate should have exactly the same bank balance going into the fray and all of those issue committees and other loopholes for funneling in large amounts of corporate dough into campaign coffers should be cut off. And it's definitely not my beat but a glance will give an idea of how much political influence is bought and sold in this country and it seems a Catch 22 that any politician with sufficient stature to effectively challenge this and diminish influence peddling would be too beholden to PACs and lobbies to pursue reform. It's also time, although the more sparsely populated states will resist, to rethink the woefully outmoded electoral college and make each vote count equally.

There was a four block section cul de sac with handsome low slung valley ranch style houses behind the home on Fulton Avenue where I grew up. This was deigned the safest spot for trick or treating. One year for my costume I commandeered a huge cardboard refrigerator carton and painted the front with buttons and dials and cut holes for my arms and I was a computer. Most people assumed there were two or three kids inside so I made a good haul on the candy. I cannot really remember what I thought a computer really did, or was expected to do in the future, in those days but I think I had a feeling it was destined someday to replace thinking.

Himself and myself have never had much Halloween inclination. We have dressed up for Purim once or twice but other than that we have never attended nor hosted a costume party for adults. Our children still look forward to Halloween but I think their teen hormones make it a much less purely sweet experience like when they were little. We are charged with foisting them, they are too old to be chaperoned and only require transport, in Silverlake where they will trick or treat with hundreds of other kids from Ivanhoe and Marshall and knock on the doors of ordinary families undoubtedly also made anxious by these times. I feel very much that we are on the cusp of defining the zeitgeist shorthand that for all eternity will refer to the beginning of this millennium. It is Halloween and it is scary to think how much history we are living and that things will never be the same again. Shabbat Shalom.


harry said...

Shweetie pie, huny bunch, it's not your skepticism I fault for a moment, it's your analysis. Sketicism be good, incomplete thinking be incomplete.

FionnchĂș said...

Marc Cooper comments in the LA Weekly how he hopes in four years the legacy of Obama will be fewer of us who define ourselves as Dems or GOP. I concur!

Speaking of redefinition: thinking of you in a fridge carton scampering across the suburbs scarfing candy one Halloween: what an image to keep close to my heart. xxx me