Saturday, January 26, 2008

Primary Callers

Something tells me there's an election coming up. Not sure what tipped me off - maybe the multitude of hyper-friendly strangers calling me at dinnertime to urge me to vote for their candidate. Or the ALL CAPS flyers filling my mailbox advising me that certain candidates hate, hate, HATE puppies and rainbows. Or perhaps it's the full-frontal assault of television ads confiding in me that if so-and-so wins, the global-warming terrorists will control the casinos. At this point, all it would take to secure my vote is a commercial quietly stating, "I'm running for President, and I promise to never, ever call you at dinnertime."

In a oddly disturbing way, it's comforting to have our politicos out there bouncing around, making noise. Like kids, if they're too quiet, they're up to something. This is our chance to influence them, before they close the door to the Oval office and take crayons to the walls.

Many people seem to pick candidates like they'd pick a baseball team or a hairstyle- a gut, emotional call made early in their formative years. Their choice is based on a revelation, a feeling, or an aversion to certain vegetables. I'm not talking about you specifically of course. I know for a fact you would never do such a thing. It's all those other knuckleheads out there. I'm sure you know who I'm talking about - all those wingnuts who don't agree with us and will somehow find their way to the voting booths, wiping out the votes of good, upstanding citizens such as ourselves. There out to be a law against letting them do things like that.

For once I'd like to see us vote for process, not person. No faces, no voices - just answers to essay questions:
Question) Describe in detail how would you fix healthcare.

Candidate A) raise taxes

Candidate B) lower taxes

Candidate C) tax taxes

On second thought, maybe the vegetable-aversion issue is the way to go.

Putting skepticism aside for a moment, however, there is at least one website,, that offers a 'candidate calculator.' You're given a list of issues, you pick your stance and how strongly you feel about each issue, and it tells you the candidate who best aligns with your views. Whether you like it or not. Interesting idea, although it fails to factor in fibber-potential, experience, hairstyle, and those crucial sports & vegetable affiliations.

California's time in the national sun is coming. On January 30th we'll have a Republican candidate debate at the Reagan Library. The candidates will argue their points while suspended in the air in front of Air Force One. Really. This sounded like a network ploy for ratings until I found out they'll actually have a floor built under them. Initially I had visions of Huckabee puppets suspended from strings. When McCain gets going, he resembles something out of a Punch and Judy show, so it could work. Besides, many of the candidates have made it this far without a real, functioning platform beneath them. Why change now?

We are a big state. We aren't New Hampshire or Nevada, media trinkets that blink and fade. We're a big deal and we demand respect. We take flak over our 'Governator.' Our writers' strike is crippling water-cooler talk nationwide. The entire state could use a big, long drink. The last thing we need is a faux pas involving a candidate falling from the Air Force One stage, or tripping over a dangling participle, or suffering from a fractured 'misstatement.' Let's keep it safe and sane, and get through this political fracas together.

One more thing, dear candidates - we would like some substance. We may be known for our Hollywood fluff, but that means we can spot it a backlot away. So pass the meat and go easy on the gravy. Yes, it's dinnertime, so please - don't call.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

For the Love of Football

It's finally here - that unique American tradition, Super Bowl Sunday. As I'm sure you're aware, Super Bowl Sunday is a manly day full of manly activities, such as stuffing oneself silly and watching commercials. All this manly man hubbub is interrupted briefly by spurts of footballish activity, as two teams vie for the best camera angle in stretchy tights.

Ever wonder why it's followed rather quickly by that ever-popular holiday minefield, Valentine's Day? One clue can be found in an obscure Latin quotation from St. Valentine - "Apologia mius dem ballus pointius carpe lo inflagrante mio che mucho doodoo." This translates loosely to 'Sorry I Spent So Much Time Watching Football But It's Over Now So I Guess I'm Yours.'

Like many people, you might not be aware that Saint Valentine was a voracious football fan. This was back in the 3rd century, just before Howard Cosell invented the faux comb-over. A new, exciting sport, it was originally going to be called American Soccer, but since America hadn't been discovered yet, they decided to simply call it 'football.'

Since St. Valentine had taken an oath of poverty, he didn't have access to 24-hour NFL network games. A true martyr, he did not even use a remote, claiming the batteries contributed to global warming and he didn't want activists getting all up in his hair shirt. Ancient records show he attended Super Bowl MCXXIXVI, held at the Coliseum. His beloved Pompeii Packers beat the Assisi Rams in an epic battle, winning XXVIXX to XXVIIX. The losing team was tossed to the Detroit Lions.

In fact, many of the saints were fans, gaining martyrdom through their extreme sacrifices for their teams. It was recently discovered that the aura or 'halo' seen so often around a saint's head was actually an early form of fan headgear known as a 'cheesehead.'

St. Valentine set aside Sunday to offer prayers that his team would find strength and a decent linebacker. This did not sit well with his boss, Monsignor Testaverde, a Saints season ticket-holder. Tempers finally flared when Saint Valentine, secretly listening to a game via teeny radio, cried "Whoooo, touchdown!!!" during evening vespers and awakened the nuns.

A few weeks after this incident, as a token of apology to his boss, St. Valentine sent Testaverde roses and candy. This was a huge success, and Valentine was quickly promoted to Martyr-in-Waiting. His idea was widely copied and marketed by Greek greeting card companies, becoming known as 'Valentine's Day to Kiss Up to His Boss,' This was later shortened to the term we use now - Arbor Day. Sorry - Valentine's Day.

And 'sorry' it is. Nowadays the weeks between Super Bowl Sunday and Valentine's Day are traditionally filled with quiet reflection. This is because men are distraught over the death of the football season, and women are peeved that the trash has not been taken out since September. Men typically misinterpret women's stony silence as commiseration. Women consider men's mourning to be a self-imposed time-out, since they know they were wrong, horribly wrong, and horribly humbled by their wrongness. Reality lies somewhere far, far away. Yes, reality is on vacation.

But we are not. Enter St. Valentine and his wonderful solution - a proffering of humble, sweet 'sorry.' Was it heartfelt? We may never know. Did it work? Absolutely. Just ask your local florist.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


On a recent breezy day we were stopped at a red light in Thousands Oaks. He crossed the street in front of us, a slight scowl upon his face. No reason for the dull glare, I guessed, except out of habit, perhaps a little mental self-defense to keep the chill at bay. An anti-grin to show he was unapproachable, closed.

So I waved to him.

It was a soccer-mom wave. A goofy, quirky, unexpected wave attached to my big, toothy grin, and it caught him by surprise. It caught me by surprise. The corners of his mouth curved up a bit as he moved on. Warmed.

Coming from a small town, I'm used to making eye contact with passersby. Only we didn't call them that. We called them neighbors. Everyone knew everyone, perhaps because we acknowledged each other. Weird how we had more physical space around each other, yet we were closer.

When I ventured off to college in New York City, I continued my country 'howdy' ways, frightening quite a few people. City style was the do-not-disturb, look-away look. Black clothes, dark glare. With my menacing smile, they probably thought I was part of a marauding new gang of bad little white girls. Make eye contact with me and I will steal your wallet AND your soul.

I tried to change my ways, but I was too far gone. I didn't mean to scare anyone, it was just a natural thing to look, nod, and say 'hi.' My friends warned me, tried to get me to stop. But it was impossible.

Then the unthinkable happened - my look caught on. Competing bands of 'howdy' gangs soon appeared, each striving to be friendlier than the last. A particularly vicious turf war broke out when members of the "Smilin' Grins" invited the "Hey-How-Are-You's" over for coffee and danish. Everyone was hugging and laughing. It was horrible.

For a while, I led the "Hi Street Hello's." We were known for our impeccable personal hygiene and 'Happy Face' tattoos. But that wasn't good enough for us. We branched out, helping find lost pets, planting flowers, and taking the trash out for the elderly even if they begged us not to. Other gangs copied us, but we didn't care. We loved them anyway.

Hey, it could happen.

"You're different, Mom," my son said as the light turned green. "But in a good way."

I was warmed.