Zoot Suit

I’m in the kitchen with a bunch of secret service men and children. Barack and Michelle Obama enter, dressed for a state dinner.

Michelle wears a red gown, and Barack is in a longish blood-red coat and a matching fedora. Somehow his hair has grown to his shoulders.

Barack: Should I wear this coat to the party?

Me: yes.

But I think I’m hurting his feelings, so I change my mind and say why not?

Secretly I think the press will pillory him, just like Seth Myers ridiculed Trump’s fox pelt hair.

Barack to his daughter: What do you think? Should I wear this outfit?

Daughter whispers: no, and shakes her head.

Barack: I knew you’d tell me the truth! There’s no way I’m wearing this ridiculous get up.

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Email the Obama Team to Voice Concerns about Rick Warren

Dear President-Elect Obama,

In your acceptance speech in Grant Park you included gays in your words of inclusion. I was filled with hope that our country was embarking on a new era.

Now that Rick Warren has been announced as the paster who is to give the invocation at your inaugural ceremony, the bloom is fast fading from my rose of hope. In Rick Warren’s interview with Ann Curry, he claimed that being gay is an impulse one must work to overcome, a mindset that is not only outdated and incorrect, it is bigoted. On Warren’s web site it clearly stated that gays are not allowed as members of his church.

Why has your team chosen a man of bigotry to seal your presidency in the name of God?

Our country needs to move toward ever-increasing freedoms, not pander to those who live in fear, ignorance, and hatred.

Please reconsider the choice of Rick Warren. There are other pastors who base their beliefs on love and compassion for all.

If you are inclined to voice your opinion about Barack Obama’s choice of pastor for his inauguration, you can go to the web site for the transition team and write a letter. Remember to write Rick Warren in the subject area.

Team of Rivals

I’ll admit it, one reason why I’m reading Team of Rivals is because Barack Obama read it. What can I say? I love Barack. I’d marry him if I could. Sorry, Michelle, but you’re probably used to it, right?

A year ago my friend had seen the tome on my bookcase, and asked me if I liked it, and I had to admit the thought of reading it hadn’t crossed my mind. My father had dropped the book off at my house, thinking my son might like it, but it remained on the shelf collecting dust. When I saw CNN use the caption, ‘team of rivals’ to describe Barack Obama’s emerging cabinet, I figured I’d bite the bullet. I had to find out why this particular history book appealed to Obama.

After fifty pages into the story of Abraham Lincoln and the four other politicians who were his rivals I thought, wait a minute, are you really going to finish this thing? I mean, it’s straight history, over 900 pages, and you don’t read history. It’s a subject that tends to repeat itself, you know?

But Doris Kearns Goodwin, who won a Pulitzer Prize for this volume, has compiled a compelling story of these five men, their friends and their wives during the years leading up to Lincoln’s presidency. Yes, I’ve found many similarities between Obama’s campaign for president and Lincoln’s, and I’m learning about the benefits of keeping friends close and enemies, or rivals, closer, but what interests me the most are the letters Kearns Goodwin uses to illustrate the relationships between the characters, and to reveal the social mores of the time.

Some of you might know about Lincoln’s relationship with hottie Joshua Speed, a wealthy young man who befriended a penniless Lincoln in the beginning of his career in Springfield Illinois. The two shared the same bed for four years, sleeping in Jacob’s room above his place of business.

The words they and many other men used to describe their longing for each other when apart sound like the most of torrid love letters. And it seems that this type of close bond between men was very common. Kearns Goodwin says there is no evidence to suggest that these relationships were sexual, that it was a sanctioned form of pair bonding for educated men, who developed strong ties of romantic love without the ensuing touch twenty-first century inhabitants enjoy or practice.

It’s hard to say what the truth about those relationships really was. Are humans so different now than we were 150 years ago? I prefer to think that people back then expressed love in a variety of ways, with the person who happened to be nearby, much as we do today. I know my opinion isn’t based on fact, but then I also know I’d make a terrible historian.

Some thoughts about Chicago

When I was in Chicago last month for my brother-in-law’s wedding celebration, we walked up Magnificent Mile, crossed over the Chicago River, and headed to Millennium Park. Of course it was windy – Chicago is known as the Windy City, and this day lived up to the reputation.

The following photo is the skyline reflected in a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, entitled Cloud Gate. My friends in Chicago tell me everyone calls it the bean.

Taken with my cell phone, this photo is of the underbelly of Cloud Gate. The little specs are the reflections of all the people walking underneath. Looking at the photo, I’m reminded of a microcosm, with the tiny people being enveloped by a mother ship or a cosmic space mama.

I hadn’t been to Chicago in decades, not since I was a young girl, when I lived in Arlington Heights, a town about thirty minutes outside the city by train, on the north side. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Chicago, Barack Obama’s home is in Hyde Park, a neighborhood inside the city, to the south.

It’s interesting to note that Barack Obama fell in love with a woman whose family had deep roots in the south side of Chicago. In a PBS documentary, Barack says that he admired the sense of belonging he discovered through his wife Michelle’s family; he realized through his relationship with her that belonging to a place was an aspect of his life he lacked, and needed to develop.

Sometimes I ask myself how someone finds the courage, or the confidence to embark on a path such as becoming the president of the United States. I wouldn’t want that job, especially not now, although Barack seems born for it. But that’s a reduction of the facts, to say he was born with the ability, the desire, the self-assurance and the courage to take up the challenge of running the United States.

Obviously he’s gifted with intelligence, but the judgment, wisdom, and confidence had to be either learned or instilled in him. He gives a lot of credit to his grandmother, and to his wife Michelle, but I wonder, after my recent visit to Chicago, if living in such a powerful, thunderously strong city as Chicago might have also contributed to his drive to reach the White House.

Snapshot of the Wrigley Building, on Miracle Mile in Chicago

Illinois poet Carl Sandburg,(1878-1967), wrote a poem called Chicago, which many American children used read in school. It exudes the wild male energy of the city.

Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders:

Frank Marshall Davis (1905-1987), wrote Chicago’s Congo, in which he paints the city as a larger than life woman.

Chicago is an overgrown woman
wearing her skyscrapers

And in 1967 Marge Piercy published Visiting a dead man on a summer day, in which the narrator speaks to Louis Sullivan, one of the most celebrated architects of the first skyscrapers of Chicago, while sitting on his grave. In the second stanza the narrator says,

The waste of a good man
bleeds the future that’s come
in Chicago, in flat America,
where the poor still bleed from the teeth,

We are all influenced by our environments, and in Barack Obama’s case, I would wager the power of the city, combined with the poverty of many of the people, spurred him on to use his intelligence and wisdom to, dare I say it, save the world.

journal entries and election angst

10/29

Ben and I stood in line for two and a half hours to vote. The sun shone brightly, but the wind was sharp, and my toes went numb inside my sneakers. We made friends with a woman in line, who opened up after I let it be known that we were voting for Barack Obama. She said, “I don’t think he’s going to win. I don’t think America is ready for a black president.”

How sad if her fear comes true. I realize she was expressing her doubts because she was trying to ward off huge disappointment. Many of us feel the same way. We need Barack to win the election, to take us into the twenty-first century, and to help heal the wounds slavery caused.

When I got home from voting I was chilled to the bone, and worn out. I crawled under the covers, still wearing my corduroy jeans and a sweatshirt, and slept for an hour.

10/30

A man in the tire store waiting room told me he was from Miami after he heard me mention the word immigration to the store manager. “It was a great place to grow up,” he said, “ lived and worked there for over fifty years, but now it’s a third world country.”

He sounded bitter. I can see how crime and poverty might make living conditions where he once lived problematic. But third world country? The bitterness? It sounded like he was blaming the immigrants for the problems, an opinion with racist overtones.

I didn’t tell him how much I loved Calle Ocho when I was in Miami many years ago, or how I enjoyed speaking and hearing Spanish, sipping espresso with a sliver of lemon rind at outdoor cafes, seeing men dressed in guayaberas, the women sauntering in brightly colored skirts, high heels, perfect make up and glossy hair.

11/2

My son Freeboarder said, “Sarah Palin is not a leader, she’s an enforcer, and a pretty thick-headed one at that.” He’s fifteen! Out of the mouths of babes, as they say.

11/3

To all the Obama supporters: don’t boo, just vote.