If you recognize that headline, congratulations, you are a dweeby music nerd. If you aren’t then here’s something that maybe you do recognize: This last week we all went out and voted. And if you’re like me, you felt like you did your civic duty and then you walked away feeling more than a little bit disappointed that they didn’t have food there. And that’s when you realize that you were actually getting voting confused with giving blood. Not an impossible thing to do when you think about it; they both often take place in churches and community centers, involve you having to sign something, you leave feeling like you did something great for the world and by the end of the evening you feel kind of queasy and need to lie down. Except when you give blood, you get a cookie.
For the life of me I can’t remember a thing about the first time I voted. Boy, isn’t that sad? Those who have been with this column for a while now have had to put up with me going into the most minute details about the old top-loading General Electric VCR my family used to have or what video game I happened to have been playing the year to the day while sitting cross-legged on the floor shoveling cheese waffles into my gob and making maps for “Swords and Serpents” on graph paper. And yet, I can’t recall something as simple and something technically as meaningful as voting.
Alright, I’ll try real hard (furrowing my brow and concentrating). Um, yeah, I got nothing. I wonder why that is. If I had to guess it would have probably been Bush V. Kerry in 2004 but wow, it seems real strange that I would have waited that long to vote, considering I would have been eligible before then, but you know us teens of the ‘90s…what with our flannel and grunge and general apathy toward all things of a responsible nature. I was probably too busy at the time trying to figure out how low I could get my guitar to hang without causing back pain while “yarl-ling” like a wounded animal into a microphone about the cold, cruel injustice of the world and the black sheets of rain coming down.
Ahh, but if only there was a way to really get your voice heard beyond annoying the neighbors with the one badly written song you managed to cobble together out of the two chords you can play about the redhead who kept you from flunking college-level French 1001 by graciously feeding you some answers on the sly (ahh, “Rheagina,” where are you today?) before you un-graciously dropped the class anyway in favor of Spanish where you had the exact same problem.
Turns out there is! After a registration process I don’t remember a thing about, I got my first voter card and found myself at a church near my house that I never even knew was there before taking part in the great experiment called Democracy. Wish I could tell you more about that day, but I’m afraid the only detail I can really remember is going up to the kindly ladies behind a card table and as I was fishing my card out of my wallet one of them just waved her hand and said…”Oh…I know his mom, he’s good…” leading me to realize that if you grew up in a small town, your chubby cheeks and dimple are always going to get you recognized by folks who know one of your parents.
In considering what, if anything, voting-related that wasn’t connected to politics I could find in the archives, I was lead pipe cinch certain that at some point in the ‘70s or ‘80s we were called upon as a nation to vote on something really important like say, if we wanted to save the “McD.L.T.” You remember, that sandwich with the “hot parts” on one side of the package and the “cold parts” on the other and you’d “assemble” them yourself…a process which just involved folding the halves of the cardboard tray together? Either such a vote never occurred or we didn’t cover it because I couldn’t find a thing about it, leaving me to break glass on my back-up option, an ad about some local winners of the “Pepsi Challenge” promotion, which involved people collecting bottle caps that spelled out a winning phrase and then boom, off you went to WILB Walker’s to have a picture taken of you looking very much like you don’t want your picture taken. Ok…that’s not really “voting” in the classical sense; I suppose at best you could call the hoarding of bottle caps “collecting” but hey, it’s still a choice over something else, right?
Then at the last second I found this 2008 story about the kids at Jefferson Elementary taking part in a “mock voting day,” where voting for “Coke vs. Pepsi” (Coke won), “Dogs vs. Cats” (Dogs won, tragic) and “Cubs vs. Cardinals” (who cares) were all broken down into National, State and Local categories and even with Electoral votes factored into the process. By gum, student workers even gave up their recess and lunch hours to tabulate votes correctly. Geez, can we get these kids to run our election system from now on?
But these kids aren’t kids anymore. It’s 10 years later and I wonder if they’re registered, engaged and ready for the “real thing.” Not like “Ol’ Uncle Clint,” who isn’t a cynical man by any means but who ended Tuesday on his couch, angry at both sides for saying they won, angry at both sides for saying the other side actually lost, angry the next morning that the news cycle had already turned to the next “make it stop, please” event, and am now numb at the deluge of glib think-pieces about how it was just a big stalemate and nothing ever changes…which I suppose is the same argument you could level against me, but hey, (pops collar) I told you…I’m a Generation X’er through and through, and who said we ever had to be mature about the ways you old folks are fouling up my world? (turns up stereo)…”Laugh about it…when you’ve got to choose. Every way you look at it you lose.” OK…I don’t normally have Simon and Garfunkel around the house…um…someone must have left that here. (Tosses CD across the room.)
Wait! Don’t cut me off yet! I remember I got jury duty after I voted that first time...and that was when…(hits word limit).