It's too soon, really, to make a lot of confident predictions about the election next week and potential aftermath; we've entered into that weird zone in political reporting where it's mostly too late to talk about the various races and have much impact (voting is already underway in a number of major races, and operatives believe that events in the final seven days are usually not able to substantially alter outcomes, however debatable that is)... but it's too soon to draw a lot of conclusions about what may or may not occur. That's especially true this year: while it may not be close, the fact remains that there's not an overwhelming certainty about the results.
Still, watching a lot of political coverage - much of it horrendous - I'm struck by the fact that come a week from Wednesday, we'll still have many of the large, divisive, unsolvable problems we've been struggling with. Much of my last few weeks has been following the various elements of the foreclosure mess, which is sure to provide much of the upheaval in the coming months on most economic fronts. The issues are complicated, but I'm not sure the outcomes will be.
As when I first started this blog - back in 2006, with the first wave of, well, Pelosi-led Democratic waves - the dynamics of races doesn't move me as much of the issues. As such, I've kind of decided to revisit some earlier topics I've generally labeled "issues", looking at a variety of topics that are bound to be tackled, whatever the election's outcomes.
And, in that context, it seems natural to start with healthcare, and reform.
I'm not a fatalist, or a pessimist... but sometimes I feel like something's just out to get me.
The past week has been simply overwhelming, and each time I feel like my head is somewhat above water, I get pulled back down.
Since the "tree fall" incident, we've been - I've been - getting about in a rental car, paid for, mostly, by the insurance company (I can't complain, by the way, about AllState; they really seem to get the job done). Saturday morning, on my way to visit Jennifer in NYC, I got a flat tire, necessitating roadside assistance, and installation of the "toy spare" which is next to no help.
That came on top of a grueling week at work, which resulted in cancelling other previously made plans with Red to see The Social Network - which, of course, may be a different kind of sign, since I'm not sure it's a great film, but was mostly going to be a nice chance to catch up with Red.
Then, last night, given the flat tire situation, Mom and I had to drive halfway across Westchester to exchange cars... which happened so late in the evening that I had to give up on going to a New York Rangers/New Jersey Devils game at Madison Square Garden for which a coworker had given me his season tickets. And I, stupidly, promised to use them.
It's not one thing, it's everything - every ruined plan, every lost chance to see friends (this whole weekend was originally planned, about a month ago, to be a visit to J in B, which wound up postponed) - that just leaves me feeling defeated.
It's not conducive to a mood to want to write, or for that matter, do much else. I get up, and most of the days, I go to work... and if not, I get up, try to catch up on some household chores and try to recover from the days of working. The connection to the world, to something beyond myself... well, it's just not there, right now, and at the very least, it's highly frustrating. I haven't been into New York City in weeks. I haven't seen my friends, gone to social events or had much of a life. And the stuff with cars... well, I jst start to feel doomed. It's not the end of the world... it's just not a very nice world for me, these days.
And now, off we go to do some more car shopping. Fun!
So we're heading to the grocery store, Mom and I, and we're discussing fragrances, and she says, " you know I just tried one of those samples [that come included in her Macy*s bill each month] and I found one I liked, and it turned out to be another one of those Paris Hilton fragrances."
And we both laughed.
The back story here is that about maybe a year or so ago, Mom and I went to the mall to do some shopping, and one reason was that Mom needed new fragrance. Now, traditionally, I buy Mom something from Lancome - ever since she tried Tresor and loved it - but we were in between holidays where gifts are involved, and she was in need. And she has been trying more different scents. So everything seemed fine.
I wound up separating from her and stopping by the Chanel counter, because my pal Jennifer had mentioned some lipstick questions and I wanted to check out her options - yes, I am both that gay and that involved in my female companions' beauty choices - but they didn't have the newest items. Slightly chagrined, I turned around just in time to see Mom finishing her purchase. Of Fairy Dust. By Paris Hilton.
I was mortified, but it was too late. I tried to talk her out of it. No chance. She really liked the way it smelled. I pointed out it was mortifying to wear something "designed" by Paris hilton. She agreed... but she liked the scent. And anyway, it was on sale. And it came with lotion. And lots of free samples. Of other Paris Hilton scents. And "Queen" by Queen Latifah.
There is, of course, a long history of famous women - and a few men - slapping their names and likenesses onto cardboard packaging and licensing themselves for marketing in the fragrance market. In recent years, though, this nonsense has blown up exponentially, as the opportunity to acquire the label of "celebrity" has become all too commonplace, and the fashion world has become a little too enamored of the idea of "actresses" as fashion icons. Jennifer and I both bemoan the descent of the fashion magazine covers from featuring unknown or barely known models on their covers to a plethora of has been, might be and never were women from television and film, hawking a project or a book... or licensing themselves out as a "designer" of dime store toilet water or polyester ready to wear separates.
There are so many factors involved: the destruction of print media, which has made magazine publishers desperate to prop up sales (which semi-celebrity covers often do); there's the rise of Sex and the City and "chick flick" culture, which has made a fetish of "designer" looks, and there's the recession as well, which has forced retailers to fall back on familiar ways to drum up sales. Recognize the name and/or photo of the woman on the tag or the box? Bet you'll love her shoes, too!
All of this, really, has gone a long way to cheapen the notion of luxury, made fashion that much more disposable, and injured the idea that quality, not just a "designer name" is what matters when shopping. It has also, to no small degree, propped up the curious "careers" of people like Paris Hilton, whose claims to being an "heiress" or a "Park Avenue Princess" seem much less her reality than an attention seeking young woman of minimal talents who has traded her notoriety for success in the discount racks and department store counters, where a slew of similar dubious enterprises (Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Queen Latifah, Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Simpson... and on and on) compete for space.
Fragrance, after all, is the selling of next to nothing at all besides a dream. In Hilton's case, that dream appears to be the usual cachet of dreams of fame and fortune, or the "glamour" they confer, matched to a series of what I have to call cloying scents, with no particular rhyme or reason except to release new product at regular intervals, this keeping the whole operation going along.
Don't get me wrong, I've got nothing against Paris Hilton or her desire to earn a living; a girl has to eat, after all. And it's not exactly Ms. Hilton's fault that she's achieved a kind of credibility that somehow confers "designer" status on lending her name for a cut of the profits. In a world where Jaclyn Smith has enjoyed a 30+ year second career as a "designer" for K-Mart, Paris Hilton surely makes the cut as both well known and, somehow, qualified. But you'll have to forgive me for thinking that the whole business just, well, stinks.
The race for New York Governor ended last week, though it took a few days to sink in, and while there's still a few weeks to go before its official, the result is clear: say hello to Governor Cuomo. Again.
Let's be clear: it was always unlikely that Carl Paladino, one of a number of gadfly-ish wealthy New Yorkers who seem to think their money alone is a clear indication of their suitability for high office, would succeed in his attempt to derail Cuomo's ascension, but for a while there, he was just successful enough to make the possibility an interesting alternative, while managing to tamp down a penchant for going way off the cuff in his statements.
Paladino also managed, at not terribly excessive expense, to eliminate the Republican Party's chosen loser/victim, Rick Lazio, who most of us remember at that angry lad who did himself in running against Hillary Clinton by harassing her at a televised debate upstate. Since then, he's gone onto... a not especially interesting in the private sectr, while trying to keep the fire warm for future political runs. New York is full of these people - even attracting them from out of state (why hello, Harold Ford! Have you met William Weld?). For some reason, they all seem to think they should be Governor. Or Senator. Much like those wacky millionaires.
In any case, Lazio became one of those high profile upsets within the Republican Party, when Paladino used his money to tap into those pockets of residual right wing anger, particularly in upstate New York, against the Party Establishment (which is mostly downstate and Long Island based). Not expecting any serious challenge, Lazio and the Party were caught flat footed as Paladino tapped into a lot of angry voter sentiment. By primary day, it was clear Lazio was toast, and Paladino sailed through, winning nearly 2 to 1. And, to try and keep Lazio from running a thoroughly dismal effort as the name on the Conservative Party line, the GOP bought him off with a judgeship.
I mean, it's not like those ant-Establishment Tea Partiers were entirely wrong.
Paladino seemed to take his surprise success as an indication of momentum, even though the vote totals in the GOP primary were especially small (low turnout, plus the state is heavily Democratic). Still, early polling made clear what many New York lefties already knew: that for a minute, at least, nearly everyone was considering voting for anyone as an alternative to having to take Andy Cuomo.
Cuomo's running a "Spitzer-lite" campaign from his Attorney General post, just like Spitzer, promising reforms and actions meant to improve Albany. Most of it, however well meaning, is simply impossible to take with a straight face. Cuomo's been around Albany and state government, never mind the Democratic Party machine, since his father was Governor, and has, even as AG, shown little interest in really shaking up Albany's culture so much as helping to ensure that there's a liberal, D-based majority operating ii. That's not say the Paladino camp's assertions about Cuomo being dirty have any weight at all... but electing Cuomo is the extension of a family dynasty in state politics, some bracing indication of a fresh start in Albany.
Paladino might have been able to make good use of the general indifference to Cuomo, except that like many self financing millionaires, he's got a sure sense of his skills and few advisors to get him to think and talk strategically. All of which goes a long way to explain how he wound up in front of an audience of very Orthodox Jewish leaders (read:men) in Brooklyn, saying that gays (read: gay men) were pervs pretty much only interested in weird sex and kids, and probably both at the same time.
Somebody should have told him that rhetoric wins you elections... in South Carolina.
Once word got out about that, Paladino's run has pretty much ended; it's a now daily cycle of apologies, further gaffes, and plenty of manufactured outrage. Just how much Paladino meant what he said isn't entirely clear... which goes back to that South Carolina thing: it's awfully hard, even in upstate New York, to have the kind of limited exposure to gays that allows the kind of sweeping, ignorant generalizations Paladino offered to fly. And Paladino's nowhere near that naive: there's his gay nephew, and the fact that he happened upon a Pride Parade in Toronto (hint for avoiding exposure to those wild and crazy gays: don't go), and better still, he rented space in Buffalo in one of his buildings to a gay nightclub run by his son.
All of this, while quite amusing, does underline a serious reality, a reminder that the right is all over the place this election season on gay issues. The rising presence of gays within the GOP - both the familiar Log Cabins (who just succeeded in squashing ongoing enforcement of Don't Ask, Don't Tell) as well as the newer, more conservative GOProud (which managed to win the approving presence of Ann Coulter at the recent meeting, even if she can't quite get her own gay perspective to make sense), has made rote recitations of antigay boilerplate harder. Then, too, Republicans can't win in most cosmopolitan urbanized areas with antigay lines, and they know it. Yet, at the same time, the fight against marriage equality, and the religious intolerance of the most zealous movement conservatives means that the strains of "it's an abomination" and "those people are sick" are never that far off.
It's also pretty miserable that, in a moment in a state that could use some especially fresh winds of change, our election is over pretty much before the voting begins: the promise of a Cuomo ascendancy doesn't even include the likelihood of marriage equality in the state, given that the Empire Pride Agenda, which confidently expected to pass the bill last year, failed miserably in counting votes in the State Senate. And while there's a lot of brave talk about recasting the State Senate this time, the current expectation is that the place will look very much like it did last time, with only the most outrageous ne'er do wells - Hiram Montserrate and Pedro Espada - effectively eliminated (none through criminal charges, the other in about the only primary upset in the state). Little real reform, only the slim possibility of marriage rights... it's a good indication of why, with Paladino out of the running, there hasn't exactly been a stampede to being thrilled with Cuomo, even now.
Still, gays can take grim satisfaction in knowing that comments like Paladino's are a bridge too far in this state, effectively ending a political run before it could even start. We're not Queens up here, after all, we're Empresses in the Empire State. And you just don't piss off an Empress. Or especially, more than one. And we got lots of em around these parts.
Throughout this crisis, the Obama administration has been far more worried about protecting the banks than protecting homeowners.
- New York Times, October 14th Editorial, "The Foreclosure Crisis"
As lackluster as this election season has been, one of its most tantalizing frustrations is the near-universal inability of familiar prognosticators to wrap their usual assessments around the events leading up to this election. This was supposed to be an election about "voter rage"... except it turned out that aimless anger does not a focused movement make.
Then we were told that this was an election full of "anti-incumbent fervor", only to realize that the vast majority of incumbents were overcoming their primary challenges, even with some high profile Republican upsets. The actual number of incumbents losing seats this fall will probably not be all that statistically different from previous years.
Yet, the "this is a midterm election like most, where the party in power will lose seats" and its corollary "there's a powerful Republican wave coming" also don't quite bear out... at least not yet. The most reasonably prescient prediction appears to be that a number of Governor-ships will indeed switch from D to R, probably reflecting the sense that the economic issues we're struggling with seem especially painful the closer government is to the local communities which are suffering.
My mom and I have a bet - that alone is noteworthy, given that neither of us are especially keen on gambling - on whether or not there will be a lot of close elections come November 2nd. She says yes; I say no, and here's why: whatever the prediction is that's about to come true... it's not even close. My sense is that this election will be hard to evaluate for overall trends because the margins of victory, in all directions, will be substantive. The idea of late night sessions and nail-biting counts of absentee and paper ballots will turn out to be largely unnecessary, because wherever this is going... it's definitely going there.
If you've ever been to a vet hospital or funeral home to deal with the end of things, you might know that those final way stations are not the most desirable places; once something or someone is gone, what remains are... remains. I think it may only be human to want this part to somehow happen where no one has to watch, or to see.
I went to the garage today where the wreck of our car was, to "pick up a few things", to clean out what was left there when, mostly in shock, I was in no position to figure out what had to come out at the time of the accident. There the car sat, sandwiched in between two other sad wrecks, ready to be taken away. The garage sits on a fairly industrial stretch of road in central Westchester, a clearinghouse of insurance company evaluations, repairs and removals. As I said, they were very nice. Though I think they see a lot of final retrievals pass through.
It wasn't a fun afternnon, and seing the car brought back more of a flood of emotions than I expected, as traumatic events do. In plain dayight, well after the fact, it's clear the tree landed at a diagonal that kept it from smashing the driver side windshield as badly as the passenger side - the instinct to try and pull past the tree as it fell, apparently kicked in, though I remember not trying to pull up because I figured having it fall on the roof would be a worse disaster. And as I suspected that day, the problem for repair was that the tree bent the passenger side door frame, which would have meant a frame replacement on the car... not worth doing, I'm pretty sure, in ever.
And so I gathered CD's, and some old clothes (I had been carrying around my costumes from the show I did in the summer, lazily putting off adding them to my wash), and a few other items and loaded up the rental. And decided, since I missed it, to load in the new Katy Perry CD which I'd bought a few weeks befopre the accident and had been cranking on most of my rides to and from work. It's a fun, light little album, I still recommend it. But listening to Teenage Dream, thinking about what had just happened as I was driving away, brought me to sobs. "Don't Ever Look Back" she says, and that line's resonated with me ever since the accident. Driving was, in fact, my teenage dream, I realized today. Mostly, though, I've wanted the sense of closure and moving on from the accident that still isn't quite there. Let's run away... and don't ever look back. If only it could be so.