Thursday, March 03, 2016

A Candidate I Could Have a Beer With, Part IV

To tell the truth, I hadn't really drank in almost eight years. It's true that I felt a little better without all the booze, and I lost a little bit of weight, but the real reason I stopped (and I have never told Jane this) is that after my father-in-law died, I didn't have nearly as much cause to. (I don't know if the old prick had a heart attack at the idea of a black man as president, but it seems possible to me, given the timing. I remember thinking he'd die on the spot if I told him that I actually once met the dude, but I never got the chance.) But overall, things have felt better since then. I'm older than I was, obviously, but not enough to really start feeling it yet. There's a lot of work for a geologist with all the new gas wells everywhere, and if my job remains pretty thankless (and depressing when I think about it), it's still meant more regular hours, better pay, even a better place to live.

Better restaurants too.  But, yeah, Jesus.

It was a couple Saturdays ago, on family night. Jane wanted to try a new place, a real barbecue joint like the people are always going on about on her tv shows.  I guess they're popping up even out here these days. We went there, and they had sawdust on the floor, long wooden tables, and served the food to you on big sheets of paper. It all seemed a little fake to me, or maybe just out of place.  It was too clean in the corners or something, and nothing was worn or busted (and of course it was too expensive to pretend to think of as a dive) but I can't deny the food was delicious. It was as if it was trying to be down-home, but also the kind of place the suits could come in to for a meeting.  And hey, for all I know, that's how they actually do it down south.

The guy who walked in behind us was wearing a suit.   But he didn't wear it like an office guy would, like it was part of the job. Instead, this guy was beaming in it, hands in his pockets, shoulders back, paunch on display.  (Brother, this is why I slouch.)  I think he was proud that he got to wear a suit, like a kid wearing something too big for him. First impressions, right? We all got in line, and he stood really close behind me. I'm not necessarily a hands-off guy, but like most people, I do like a little personal space.

"Howdy, y'all," he said.  Yeah, Texas, I'm pretty sure, even if he didn't seem like the howdy-ing version.  More like the college-Texas accent I come across in the industry sometimes.  Maybe he stopped at this place because he thought it would make him feel at home.

"Nice family you got," he went on, leaning his head toward Jane and Simon. "I can't tell you how good it makes me feel to see real American families doing well in these trying economic times."

He spoke these words slowly, drawing out 'real American families' to the point of discomfort, and grinned a little closed-mouth grin when he was done. I started to ask where he was from, but the line moved forward just then, and there was an awkward moment as my wife and son moved up a step while I stood still. This guy bumped up even closer to me, now physically touching, and the grin didn't change. I moved forward too, determined to ignore him from here on out, but he kept tailing us.

And by the way, I am never eating at one of these places with group seating again.  People piled up along these tables and were almost forced to talk to people they didn't come in with.  I've met interesting strangers in my day, but I don't want to get stuck in a seat I can't move from if the conversation starts getting weird, like this one did.  I was just about to shove my face into my brisket (or whatever it was Jane picked out for me), and this guy plops his suited ass across from us, and now he's all "Excuse me," in a loud and haughty way, like he's really affronted about something. 


"Excuse me, please!" 

Maybe it's something about the drawl (and to be fair, he had already rubbed me the wrong way), but I could hear both a whine and a threat in his voice.  A couple other people had looked at him the first time, but now the whole restaurant was staring our way.  (Everyone except Simon, who had his head buried in a game.  Why did we ever get him that thing?)  The bench felt hard and narrow all of a sudden.

He pulled his lips back into that smile again, with his teeth just barely showing.  "I think it would be appropriate to thank the Lord for such a fine meal, don't you?"  He spread his arms out, "don't you?"

I think he meant everyone, but he was looking at me.  "I ...guess?"

"Smart people never guess.  Let's begin."  He pulled his hands together and bowed his head with great solemnity, but ruined the effect a little by opening up his eyes at the end and scanning the room with them before starting in.  I was watching more than listening, and that's probably why I was slow to pick up on what happened next.  

"...and Lord, deliver unto this great land a true leader who can steer us away from the false gods of socialism, and protect the unborn from the predations of liberal..."

Oh shit, that's not a good topic to bring up around Jane.  She gripped my leg hard enough to bruise it. 

In the quiet moment between the murmured "amen" and the normal diner sounds resuming, I could hear my wife's teeth grind.  Mr. College-Texas was no longer paying attention though, and was now digging happily into his greens and noisily poking them into his mouth.

"You know," she said coldly, "I had an abortion once.  It saved my life.  And even if it didn't, I am sure I could live with the ...predation."

He looked up, his eyebrows arched and mouth slack.  "Well, you're going to straight to hell then."

I did my best, good husband that I am.  "Hey, who the hell do you think you are?"

"Sir, where did you go to school?"


"I am certain that it was no Princeton.  You are clearly no Einstein, no Madison.  Who am I?  Someone who without doubt has an IQ far higher than yours.  Do you really wish to get into an argument with me?"

I am not normally one to lose my cool, such as it is.  All those years listening to Jane's father and I never raised my voice.  But this guy.  "Bent fuck sad potato you!" I yelled.

"I rest my case.  Enjoy life with your harlot."  He dabbed the corners of his mouth with a napkin, let the grin slither across his face one last time, and got up.  As he turned his back, I got up too.  But Jane grabbed my arm.

"Please don't, Bob.  You're not that kind of person."

"I'm not following him, Hon," I said, rapidly deflating.   "I think I'd really like a beer though" 


Inkberrow said...

If (if) the Teddy Bear is the inspiration for the judgmental Golden Corral habitue, I must protest that the lovable cuss would not peremptorily condemn Bob and Jane to hell, but instead would generously warn them of it while inviting them to accept the gift intercession through repentance and the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus. Ted's a lover, not a biter.

Keifus said...

The 'harlot' thing is actually lifted from an anecdote about college Ted, from one of his classmates (which may or may not be true). Presumably, he's better at keeping that sort of thing in these days. [Maybe it'd've read better if I got him up reading Dr. Seuss for hours.]

Everything I've read suggests that he is very off-putting in person, with very little situational understanding of other people's sensitivities or propriety. The sort of guy who will interrupt a conversation and start talking about himself, expecting people to be thinking what he is (and unperturbed that they're not). My own reaction to him is that he seems as grandiose and transparently insincere as a tv preacher. He looks like Bluto Blutarsky at his most sheepishly, unrepentantly guilty.

I dunno, these were an awful lot easier when I did the schtick 8(!) years ago. McCain, Clinton, Obama... they had all obviously sold 'em, but I could imagine that they had souls in the first place. Cruz is less a guy you could have a beer with, and more one who would drive you to drink (not that you should let him!).

P.S. I have you pegged for a Trump man, Ink, though obviously not for the style. Surely you aren't too moved by the more overtly theocratic types, right?

Inkberrow said...

I supported Ted Cruz for the nomination before supporting Ted Cruz for the nomination was.....okay it's never been cool, and never will be, but I mean I was there when he was capped at five percent and the blowhard naysayers said he was a nonstarter. I do so because he's easily the smartest and most capable GOP candidate, with Kasich his only rival there, and he's an actual conservative. That latter includes enough of what I like and need on borders/immigration, the clash of cultures with Islam, staunch support of Israel, Obamacare, bleep the Congressional establishment on both sides, e.g.) and not too much of what I don't like but don't need because those horses have left the barn (I wish at times he was pro-choice and pro-marriage equality as I am). But he cannot be everything to everyone--no one can--and he has the integrity not to pretend he can be. I read a seeming contradiction in your assessment, Keifus---is he a opportunistic faker, an Elmer Gantry, or is he a committed, hidebound Jesus freak? Tough to be both, though Obama certainly faked his 2008 "Marriage is One Man, One Woman" session at Pastor Rick Warren's feet. Finally, I find Cruz attractive, and would like my own anatomically incorrect Teddy Ruxpin with his features.

Maybe likewise, I have opposed Trump as a legitimate Republican candidate before it became necessary for many to seriously consider whether Trump is a legitimate Republican candidate. As I see it, he could have as easily run as a Democrat or an Independent as a Republican---he just sought the most propitious platform at the time. I find the Hitler/Mussolini comparisons utterly fatuous, recalling from "The Big Lebowski" the John Goodman character conceding, "Say what you want about National Socialism, at least it's an ethos". For better or worse, Hitler had principles beyond Hitler. Trump is far closer to a true '30s populist power-for-power's-sake demagogue, Huey Long, who liked adulation, bread and circuses, and erecting big buildings "for" the People. Trump's also a petulant diva, like Nero or Commodus, and I think that's more dangerous than True Believer Right or Left. He's astute to an extent, sensing from the get-go that most Americans of any party stripe are in 2016 sick of reflexive "Bad America, Bad West" sanctimony from government, media and academia, and the concomitant elevation of complaints and demands from various puling Woe Is Us identity-politics victim-constituencies, home and abroad, as stalking horses for familiar, lowest-common-denominator global equalitarian collectivism. Trouble is, Trump could as easily develop a butt polyp or desire a Melania doll replacement and join the Left.

Keifus said...

If I ever get the chance, I am looking for the opportunity to show my erudite cleverness by pointing out that "Ted Cruz" is actually an anagram for "Buzz Windrip." Or, you know, close enough. But to your question, I admit I don't quite get the guy. I don't know if he's cynical and scheming, or if he's convinced enough of his own intellect and right(eous)ness to feel he's above petty argument.

(I also think he comes off as a real dick, and a person missing some relatable human attributes. But safe to say he's not my type.)

I will grant you that Trump's a man without discernible principles. Sham principles or otherwise. I thought he might reflexively steer in similar directions on the topics you mentioned though.

Inkberrow said...

The funny thing about Sinclair Lewis' title is that he was correct the first time, where a Christianist strongman like Windrip was concerned anyway. No way, even if the socialist and atheist Lewis had nightmares like that. Absent a bullet, though, it actually could have happened to some extent anyway with a populist, nominally progressive chicken-in-every-pot handout-artist like Huey Long, who resembled those small "d" democrats who won the early agora runoffs by promising the most bread and wine to those who'd bonk the opposition on the head. Lewis is one of my all-time faves--I even own a first edition "Gideon Planish"--and he has no rival in sending up American bourgeois self-satisfaction, anti-intellectualism and moral hypocrisy. But he missed the mark entirely with his wishful, perfervid dystopia, just as Huxley wrong-footed himself with "Island". Rewrite Windrip as a brash honeytrap like Long or Trump and you got something. But federal guns and Puritanism like Lewis floated would have had Americans at war in the streets.

I don't know much about Cruz personally, behind closed doors, unplugged as it were. Maybe he is a real dick, despite what appears to be a stable, "normal" family with a wife who is an equal not a Stepford Church doormat. I'd wager that a solid percentage of U.S. presidents (Wilson? Nixon) and legitimate aspirants (Seward? Kerry?) historically have richly earned the title of pompous dick or its contemporaneous equivalent. He has excited much animus going from way back, it's true, and in Congress. Forgive if I decline to make much of the sudden credibility liberals now are willing to repose in heretofore hated and despised establishment GOPers in Congress who say Cruz is unlikeable. To a Gridlock Gang which adds insult to injury by being made up of feckless moderates? It doesn't get any lower than that. Washington's got to get worse, or at least the division must get worse, before it can get better. Let me and mine die on my feet with the Teddy Bear than on our knees again with Beltway or establishment feebs like McCain and Romney.

Keifus said...

I don't know what to say here: the American conservative movement has been explicitly Christianist for the entirety of my political lifetime. It seems a likely source of some kind of reactionary power grab now, however it could or couldn't have happened here in the 30s.

I would argue that the conservative movement itself has some cynical contradictions baked right in (for example, how can you be about enforcing values, against immigration, and being pro-defense while crowing about Small Government?). And my growing impression of Cruz is that he's some kind of true believer just the same--sure and smug in his views in the way a newly politicized teenager--whereas any other intelligent person his age (you, f'rinstance) has learned to take the bad with the good, or to make some rationalizations by now.

But whatever. I'm not really willing to go down further on the personal character of someone I've never met. One of the reason I ever wanted to do these in the first place is that "a guy I could have a beer with" is a remarkably stupid criterion for electing anyone for office, and is probably unknowable based on their public personas. (But it's fun to speculate and fictionalize.)

(I wasn't crazy about It Can't Happen Here--it was very good in flashes, but a bit inconsistent--I think you referred me to other Lewis at that time.)

Inkberrow said...

Understood, and largely agree, especially on the creative auspices for the piece. I'm not complaining, just enjoying myself. I hope I didn't leave a mess, or a lingering, unpleasant smell, like the one at my house. I'm not a conventional conservative myself in many ways. I do think that more and more "evangelicals" are prepared to Render Unto Caesar and move on to steer what they yet believe they can steer. "Small" government and "limited" government are not synonymous.

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