Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Perfect Boston Christmas Story

It was four days before christmas and snowing so hard that the cloud only ended about 100 feet above the ground and I couldn't see the runway, even when we were on it.

Standing at baggage claim, I had some questions about which city I had landed in. There was a group, just arrived to pick up their friend, who could've been submitted to if the chick had been hot. One of the dudes had apparently watched one too many episodes of Miami Vice in deciding his outfit - fuzzy teal blazer, white tee-shirt, white slacks, white leather loafers, and oversized teal novelty sunglasses with little slats like Venetian blinds over the lenses. Did I mention that this is inside, at 10am? In Boston? In December?

His friend had clearly not gotten the location/time/date memo. Specimen number two was dressed in the most incredible array of hipster clothing ever assembled by a fratboy. His yellow straw fashion cowboy hat sat very stylishly atop a red bandana worn as a do-rag. He had a designer dress shirt (probably Hart and Huntington), french cuffs rolled up one half roll, and shirtfront buttoned down 5 buttons to show off his shaved chest. Yes, you read that right, shaved chest. No, he wasn't just hairless. That thing was definitely shaved. Additionally, he had designer jeans accented by gleaming white high-tops, and further improved with the perfect douchebag accessory - a pair of drumsticks in his back pocket. Cuz nothing says "I've never played a musical instrument" like carrying drumsticks in your back pocket to pick up your friend at the airport at 10am Sunday morning in the middle of a fucking blizzard.

The worst part was not the bizarre and pathetic attempt to look awesome, pulled off with such panache and complete misunderstanding of style and hipness as to simultaneously inspire awe and the guilt that attends making fun of the mentally disadvantaged. It wasn't the complete incongruity of the outfits with the surroundings - Logan Airport baggage claim, 10am Sunday morning, December 21, snowing and 29 degrees outside. No, the worst part was the fact that these two had obviously dressed this way that very morning and were not just recycling their douchebag costumes from the night before. I did, however, find myself wondering as to the number of Jager Bombs they had consumed in the last 24 hours. Jager Bombs and Heineken, I have no doubt about it.

Once my ride had arrived, we left this prime example of why people should need a license to reproduce and be issued one only after extensive screening. Headed for East Boston, it was still snowing hard, and there was snow everywhere, particularly along the sides of the road.

In some areas of Boston, there's a very specific code. The plows come in the night, and essentially bury any and all cars parked along the side. Any unfilled but eligible spaces fill with the overflow snow. The next day, car owners and those souls intrepid and ambitious enough to bother (there is relatively good public transit here, even in areas not easily serviced by the T) proceed to free their vehicles or open a space by shoveling. However, as everything in Boston comes with some sort of entitlement, the space that has been cleared then becomes de facto property of the individual who bravely opened accessibility. Thus, when such a person departs, he or she leaves a chair, a road cone, an old end table, a recycling box... anything he or she can find to mark the spot and claim it in perpetuity.

As we approached the diner, there was just such a spot, located much too deliciously close to avoid the temptation. I hopped out, moved the chair, and Julie parked.

Breakfast, for my current purposes, is an irrelevancy unworthy of note. However, exiting the restaurant filled with coffee, french toast and nutella, we discovered a peculiar situation. Our car, somehow, was now snowed in. If there had been any mystery to this, it lasted only as long as it took the guy with the shovel to dump his next load behind the car.

He was middle aged, overweight by 60 pounds, wearing non-descript winter gear (would've been cooler in a teal blazer, but whatever), and a Red Sox cap. In whatever time had elapsed between his arrival and our return, he had managed to pile about one and a half feet of slush and snow around every side of the car.

(please forgive my phonetic spelling of some parts of the following. But it's nowhere near as funny if you can't here Dude's Boston accent, which really made the whole thing)

Dude: This yowa cah? [Excuse me, does this vehicle belong to you?]

Julie: Yep.

Dude: Maybe yowa nawt familyah with the system heeyah, but when theya's a chaya in a spawt, that means you don't pahk theya. That's how it works in this naybahood. But you probably didn't know that. I mean, you voted for Obama, so cleahly you don't know much. [Hey moron, I can see from the Prius you're driving that you're not from around here, so let me explain the system because you're some sort of retard and you voted for a commie on top of it]

Julie: Yeah, it's also highly illegal.

Dude: Well, illegal, whatevah, the mayer agrees wit me.
(Meanwhile, Dude continues to shovel snow in behind the car)

Me: Yeah, the mayor voted for Obama, too.

Julie: Ok, whatever, you can stop doing that now.

Dude: I'll keep fuckin' doin' this as long as I want.
(Julie removes snow shovel and broom from her trunk, I take shovel and begin to shovel us out)

Dude: You know, people work haahd to shovel out a spawt. I know yowa nawt from around heeyah, but just so you know, that how it werks.

(Julie uses broom to brush snow that's fallen off of car. I continue to shovel it out. Dude gives up shoveling, leans against his van, which he was apparently able to park in the next space over without trouble. He makes a variety of incomprehensible but no doubt snarky comments under his breath. Two latino dudes with snow shovels stand in a doorway and watch, laughing. I finish)

Me: Ok, I think we're good.
(Julie gets in the car, dude is now on his cell phone, speaking more loudly)

Dude: Yeah, some dumbass pahked in my spawt. (pause) No, I shoveled theya cahr in. (pause) No, next time they'll get fowa flat tiyahs. (pause) No, I didn't tell them that, but he can heeya me just fine.

Me: Dude, why you gonna go getting all west-coast passive aggressive? I mean, you
went to all this work, and now you're not gonna say that to my face?

Dude: I just did.

Me: No, you just told you friend loud enough for me to hear. Seriously. If you want to say it, do it, but don't get all passive aggressive after you just shoveled my car in.

Dude: Ok, do that again in this naybahood, you'll get fowa slashed tiyas.

Me: Thanks. That's way better.
(Julie starts trying to pull out of the space, but her Prius isn't really designed for snow. I start pushing, dude comes over)

Dude: Heyah, let me help you with that.
(car gets loose, I go towards the passenger side)

Dude: See, I'm nawt such a bad guy.

Me: Oh, no worries. I thought it was hilarious. I'd have done the same thing.

Dude: So, no haahd feelings?

Me: No, it's all good.

Dude: (extending his hand) I'm Frankie D!

Me: Evan.

Frankie D: I figyahd you guys were new to the naybahood, wanted to make shoewa you undahstood the system.

Me: Alright. Take it easy Frankie D.

Frankie D: Merry Christmas!

Me: You too.

Perfect. I love Boston. In very small, very short doses. As soon as I realized my feet were wet and cold, I wanted to go home again.

addendum: My buddy from Philly laughed at this. He was like, "you guys are a bunch of fuckin' sissies. In Philly, he would've slashed your tires and stood around to pick a fight when you got back. You heard it Boston. Philly is referring to us as a bunch of lilly livered panty waists. At least we've got subtelty. ;-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren and the Obama Doctrine

I've paid as little attention as possible to things like the current kerfluffle surrounding the selection of Pastor Rick Warren to perform the Inaugural Invocation. However, I recently had an exchange that sparked a bit of thought.

A volunteer who had come from California to Las Vegas to carry us through the final days of the campaign wrote asking that I forward his note to those in the "Obama in crowd" with whom I was familiar. After reading his thoughts, I was moved to a few of my own. For his own words, read here:

The truth is, I pay very little attention to these types of issues because what has come to pass for dialogue in this country is anything but. Dialogue has come to mean two or more opposing "experts" presenting individual monologues at increasing volume until the commercial break. Or, in this case, a letter writing protest campaign that does nothing but stir continued controversy for the talking heads to bloviate further until we are all stirred into an irrational frenzy. This sickness started long before I ever bothered following politics, and has undoubtedly culminated in the preposterous situation in which we currently find ourselves. The simple fact is that, if anyone in positions of authority bothered to listen to opposing voices with any seriousness, most of the issues we currently face would long ago have found reasonable solutions or been prevented altogether.

I decided that I, for one, would not shrink from engaging in a discussion, nor would I pay party line lipservice to the cause du jour. And so, rather than perform my perfunctory lie of "yes, I'll pass it on," followed by a quick trip to my trash can, I decided to write a real response, which can be found below. And, since I'm currently unemployed (available for hire?), and will soon be trying to find ways to escape from my family over the holidays (enjoy personal time?), I hereby throw my hat into the ring to be trampled and/or carried aloft. Allow me to present my argument for the Obama Doctrine, and the inclusion of Rick Warren in my 30th birthday party (oh yes, Jan. 20 is actually my 30th birthday party, this inauguration business is just a sideshow).

Hi Kevin,

I have been well, although now getting very bored. Hopefully, there will be something productive for me soon.

As to my ties with the Obama "in-crowd", I was never much in with them. However, I will be happy to pass your note to those with whom I am in touch.

For myself, to be honest, I think the selection of Warren is a good one. The reasons are:

1: While his support for prop 8 is something I firmly condemn, he has played an integral role in moving the evangelical discussion into progressive arenas on issues ranging from climate change to poverty.

2: He is respected in large parts of the evangelical community, and the hopes of preventing further laws similar to prop 8 rest, I believe, in engaging people in dialogue, not in protest or boycott.

3: The greatest need we have in this country is dialogue. It has been the most sorely lacking aspect of governance in the last many years, including the Clinton years. The idea that we should refuse to seek diverse points of view or that shutting out voices of opposition is productive has been clearly disproven. I believe that allowing someone such as Warren to take part, despite a clear disagreement on an important issue, will help to open the lines of dialogue for all of us. I further believe it will allow us to change minds on many issues, just as Warren has been able to bring millions of evangelicals to the causes of environmental stewardship, philanthropy, and other social issues that are too often anathema to the religious right.

4: If we want to live in a pluralist society where ALL voices are heard, and where ALL people are truly equal, then we not only cannot shrink from including those with whom we disagree, indeed, we must seek them out and invite them to take part in the process. Only by including ALL voices and opinions can we hope to win support for our own ideas. The bigotry that you suffer is caused by something not dissimilar from the root of your protest - an unwillingness to engage in a calm and rational discussion with those we oppose or simply do not understand. The philosophy which has produced the greatest progressive results of the last century, Gandhi's non-violent resistance, requires that we show we are willing to do what our opponents are not: engage with and undertake to understand an opposing, and in this case oppressive, point of view, despite our strongest reservations.

In the end, I personally support the selection of Rick Warren, but I will be happy to present your case to those few individuals I know. No one was ever hurt by hearing an opposing point of view. The most important lessons of my life were learned by hearing out my opponents. At worst, I came away having confirmed my own predisposition. Often, I came away with a new perspective that strengthened my own ideas. At best, I was able to open my opponent's mind to a new idea. I worked to elect Barack not because I thought he would value the wise council of those with whom I agree, but because I knew he would seek the opinions of those whom I oppose.

End transmission.

And begin the Obama Doctrine. I for one welcome it. I'm tired of finger pointing, I'm tired of name calling, I'm tired of letter writing campaigns, blustering emails, fanciful ads in the NYT, and all manner of protest. I'm not a partisan warrior. I'm not into holding signs, or yelling, or going home if I don't get my way. If you thought we were electing a partisan warrior, you were looking at the wrong guy. If you want the liberal version of GWB, someone who seeks only complementary council and pushes forward only a fractional agenda, then you're no better than everyone you spit on. If everyone doesn't have a seat at the table, everyone loses the game. I personally am ready to play.

* addendum - just to be clear, I'd like to restate my strong opposition to Warren's stance on gay marriage. If the so-called defenders of traditional marriage really want to protect marriage and hew strictly to biblical teachings, their first real battle has to be for the criminalization of divorce. If you're gonna pick a fight based on religion and not bigotry, that's the one. Nowhere does the bible say that two men or two women can't marry one another, just that they're not supposed to engage in physical intimacy. There are some pretty strong words to be said against divorce in there though. Religious argument against gay marriage is, in my opinion, based in bigotry, not gospel, and the focus on gay marriage as a threat to traditional marriage is a white elephant, a flimsy smokescreen for hatemongering and a pathetically thin hypocracy. If you want a fundamentalist interpretation of the bible, outlaw divorce first. Oh, but wait. Then you'd be limited in your options too.