Ed. ~ This story was written over the course of a few sleepless weeks in the midst of the 2008 presidential election. We are reprinting it here with the author’s permission.
Waking up in a town filled with sewer rats and weasels is a horror that no man should have to experience. The incessant clicking of their jaws and the screech of their voice pours over your synapses with a dread so powerful, that the color drains from your skin. At times like this I really wish I could put the rats and weasels into a cage and unleash them on my Editor’s desk.
Every month, she devises some new torture to put me through. And every month I have to devise a new and wholly diabolical way to escape her clutches.
It all began on a warm Tuesday that summer. An infernal sound penetrated through the fog and forced me to climb my ass out of the bed. I picked up the phone to hear her voice. Shit, I thought, not again. She told me to “get your ass to Denver tomorrow… blah, blah… Presidential debates… (unintelligible muttering)… you’re credentialed… yes, for all four of them…”
I looked at the calendar and instantly understood that it meant nineteen days of crossing the country to listen to manufactured drivel from some of the most despised men in America. How could I take anything they said with an ounce of credibility? The minute one of them opens their mouth and starts talking… BOOM!… and I pass out. I actually feel like they are performing a frontal lobotomy on me. I found myself wishing I was back within the comfortable confines of Columbus, my home.
With trepidation filling my soul, I grabbed my overnight bag and headed for the airport. I put in a call to my lawyer, Greg, and informed his answering machine that I might need him to bail me out of jail if the weasels got too close. I envisioned gazing into the great underbelly of sheer madness and feeling like I might not make it back. If that happens, I want Matt Damon to play me in the movie adaptation of my life titled “One Story Too Far.”
After arriving at the ticket counter, I demanded a First Class seat. If she’s sending me on this apocalyptic journey, I might as well travel in comfort and style. Before long, I was ensconced in my seat and lamenting the fact one can longer smoke on airplanes.
“Double scotch, no rocks, beer chaser, chop chop,” I told the flight attendant. She raised an eyebrow, but brought me the drinks. I hoped that the serene, and very fake smile plastered on my face allayed her fears of me turning into some raving lunatic that would have to be taken off the aircraft in handcuffs by four burly cops and an air marshal. She didn’t appear reassured.
The perfect soundtrack to this nightmare floated around my head as I descended into the Denver International Airport. “God said you can do what you want, but the next time you see me coming you better run…” The lyrics to Highway 61 Revisited were about as perfect as I could have hoped for. I wanted to run. I told Raoul, my cab driver, to take me to the “Lancer Lounge, and step on it. I need courage and a story.” With a glance in the rear-view mirror and a simple nod of his head, we were off to the races.
There was no way I could subject myself to the pretentious hipsters and groupies in the media corps, with their fancy, hipster drinks being sipped in various “see and be seen” locales. No, I needed the best of watering holes… a dive bar.
The Lancer Lounge neatly fit the bill. Dark, smoky and just the “right” smell slapped me in the face as I walked through the door. As my eyes became adjusted to the gloom, my eyes did a double-take as I spotted my disheveled lawyer draped over a bar stool with very bloodshot eyes.
Next to him on the bar sat a glass of whiskey. I glanced around the room and saw no one, save the bartender. So, I walked up, grabbed the glass and downed it all in one gulp. “How did you know I’d come here?” I asked him.
“When you’re given a heinous assignment, you always find a place like this,” he said. He did have a point… and my Editor had most of the receipts to prove it.
After downing more drinks, as there’s no way I could mingle with the press corps sober, we hailed a cab to the University of Denver. One thing about the throng of media that covers Presidential elections is that they all fawn over each other, while sharpening their knives for the quick thrust into a competitors’ back at the first golden opportunity.
They are like a pack of ravenous mongrel dogs, ready to pounce. Their beady, little eyes snapped back and forth, drunk with bloodlust. They were about to gorge at the trough of a Presidential Debate, and they were positively salivating at that prospect of potential gaffs and viral one-liners slung from the frothy jowls of those that would be king.
I lasted about two minutes into the molasses-paced debate before deciding I was losing brain cells at an alarming rate listening to these two say everything, while really saying nothing at all.
I sought out Rose, a White staffer I knew from the times that I’d spent at Sodom on the Potomac. With my lawyer in tow, we wandered around the cavernous room, our tumblers sloshing whisky with every misplaced lurch. “What the hell did you bring him here for?” she screeched upon seeing the two of us traipsing up to her. It was not a friendly “it’s great to see you” or “how have you been?” No, she looked like she wanted to call over the Secret Service to cart us both away.
“Rose,” I said with a wink in my eye, “you know I don’t want to be here any more than you want me here.” I grabbed a drink from a passing waiter and proceeded to pepper her for answers to the monotonous bloviating that was spewing forth from the stage, threatening to wash over me like a tsunami rushing ashore.
She did her best to shoo me away, but to no avail. I asked her what the President thought of the downtrodden people in America that could really care less about a debate, all while trying to find a job and put food on their table.
Right then, Matt, a conservative staffer, stopped by and attempted to chime in on our conversation. Rather quickly, and after he had listed the liberal challenger’s shortcomings, I lashed out at him with “your boy is no better!” Although, “out of touch narcissist” was the term I think I used to describe the current dumpster fire, but it didn’t really matter, as my point was made.
They both gave me an incredulous look as I tore into the men they worked for. Unemployment, disillusionment, rampant disgust at both parties; I was on the pulpit, evangelizing on the cesspool that American politics had become. At one point in my soliloquy I even imagined both men saying “fuck the doomed” about the majority of Americans that were living paycheck to paycheck.
After what seemed like an eternity where Rose and Matt never got a word in edgewise, my lawyer sidled up to me and suggested we leave, post haste. It was good thing he arrived when he did, as the Secret Service was inching our way. I’m sure they had itchy trigger fingers, and I was just the type of target they would be gunning for, having not fired their guns yet that evening. We jumped in the closet taxi and beat feet to the airport.
With my lawyer seated next to me, we flew to Lexington, Kentucky. The undercard of debates was happening in the small town of Danville, and I didn’t want to miss the high comedy that would surely ensue. Of course, I had some time to kill, as the next debate was a week away. So, I rented a Ford Mustang convertible. There’s no better way to see the sights than seated in an American muscle car, terrorizing the countryside and imbibing in Kentucky Bourbon.
This would be “The Thrill in the Ville” part deux. The Marquis de Sade could not have picked a better venue than Centre College in Danville, KY. And quaint, surreal, down-home mid-America it surely was. I puffed out my chest and flapped my wings at the prospect of burrowing into the “heart of America” like a mole scurrying into the depths.
The southern hospitality flows with an unending ease that warmed the cockles of my heart. Maybe it was the sub-cockle region that was getting warm. I wasn’t quite sure, but wasted no time trying to ascertain the answer This was a medical question for another time, perhaps.
As I meandered through the assembled riff-raff of undercard media hounds, I spotted Rose sauntering in with a look of consternation on her angelic face. Which is unbelievable, as the angels are slaughtered within minutes of arriving in Washington, D.C. to begin their political careers. Thus, it made this truly a sight to behold. That she was able to retain “the look” without being eaten alive, well… she’s a survivor.
She glanced my way, rolled her eyes and said, “Would you please behave yourself tonight?” I assured her that I would, all while my fingers were crossed behind my back. She walked away and I found my seat. Joe is a seasoned politician that is hard to dislike, while the man on the other side of the table looks like he just went through puberty. Obviously, the gloves would be off for this event. But the outcome was far from certain in the hazy netherworld of presidential politics.
The look on puberty-boys face as he got “schooled” brought a twinkle to my eye. This is debate at its best in the twenty-first century. The Yin and the Yang, the old and the new, the seasoned and the prepubescent; it was all on display for the world to see. The only thing missing were the blood spatters on the floor as the victor stands on the head of his opponent and screams “There can be only one!” This then, is what oratory has come down to. It’s a wonder anyone has a brain left in their tiny little skulls.
I decided right then and there that there was no way I could subject myself to more mind-numbing non-talk from two more debates. If my Editor wanted that story, she could come out here into the wilderness and hunt it down herself. It’s amazing that more media flacks that cover the effluvia of politics don’t off themselves. It truly is.
But, rest assured, the mindless automatons that bring you the news will continue to spew forth the partisan venom to help you make up your mind.
This is how I found myself waking up in a town filled with sewer rats and weasels, in abject horror. This is Sodom on the Potomac. This is the home of American politics, where the rich get richer, irregardless of how many “other” people suffer. This is Washington, D.C. baby! Take your medicine like a good little child, as no back talk will be tolerated and you will continue to tread upon the existence that the few have determined you will lead. How dare you challenge the government that knows what’s best for you?
So, as you read this and prepare to exercise your right vote, let this little thought roll around your melon and course through your veins… voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil.
The revolution is at hand. It’s time to rise up and make your voice heard throughout the land. I don’t mean with bullets and bombs and guns. I mean with words and actions that truly bring about change. It’s either that or crawl back into the bottle from which you spilled out of.
Speaking of which, where is that bourbon I brought back from Kentucky? I’ll bet Rose knows…