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   world suddenly seemed populated by drooling idiots
Wednesday, November 6 2002

Today I was feeling so glum about what had happened in the election that I found myself no longer interested in listening to the news. To me, the world suddenly seemed populated by drooling idiots. I assumed every stranger to be an enemy - one easily outwitted, but an enemy all the same. Consequently, when an old man at the Stewart's station in Hurley took me to task for closing the hood of my truck too loudly after checking my oil (for the first time; it was fine), I looked at him with disdain and snarled the obvious, "Gravity." Moments later this same old man was chewing the fat with the Stewart's cashier, oblivious to the fact that I was standing impatiently behind him on line. During a span of time that seemed to stretch for several unnecessary minutes, I kept thinking that here was the prototype of the average American. This very man was the guy who had, through sheer ignorance and gullibility, given us a Republican Senate. When my turn finally came at the counter, the old man lingered on at my elbow, in pathetic need of continued attention when what he really needed was a prescription of viagra. The items I was buying included a litre of Pepsi for Ron (the flooring guy), 20 ounces of tonic water, and a six pack of Molsen Ice (lefties like me had better start getting used to Canadian products). I looked young, a particularly difficult accomplishment after staying up late chiseling an oak pillar and dining on a late night snack of depressing political data. I know this because the Stewart's cashier asked me for my ID. After looking at it for a moment, she gasped in disbelief, "You were born in 1968?" "Yeah," I sighed, imagining that she was one of the pillars of democracy supporting Dicks Armey and Cheney. At this point the old man at my elbow, the one who had been startled by the falling hood of my Toyota, made the cashier guess what his age was. She was polite and said "fifty" but of course he was much older than that. That motherfucker was born in 1918, and I wasn't the least bit surprised.
As I left the store, I glanced at the headlines of all the Newspapers. After seeing a line including the phrase "Republican Gains," I decided to forswear all news sources indefinitely. Indeed, public radio itself seemed to avoiding the presentation of news on this bleak day for all who sympathize with leftist views. I'd tuned in several times this morning and heard nothing but interviews with book authors and segments about various health topics.

All this hard work I've been doing has had an amazing effect on my body. I'm completely ripped. I have bulging pectoral muscles, incredible biceps, and little bumps and valleys all over my abdomen highlighting muscle groups whose names I'll never take the time to know. When I lay on my back, I'm amazed to see that my gut is now a deeply scooped-out hollow. My love handles, a frightening highlight of my summer, have vanished without a trace. This is in spite of the fact that I have an enormous appetite and have resumed eating icecream and drinking multiple beers each day.
Of course, with all that exercise, there is also plenty of pain. When I straighten up after a half hour of bending over, the resulting body-wide ache makes me feel old, as if I'm at the very limits of my physical capability. When I wake up in the morning, my hands are usually so sore that I cannot even form a fist.
I was talking to Ron about this, and he told me that he still gets aches after a day's work, even after years and years of it. He's as physically fit as he can possibly be, yet the work somehow demands more. He's had to stop doing most stoop work and concentrate on tasks (like swinging a floor mallet) that he can do while standing up.
One thing I notice about Ron and also Katie's boyfriend Louis is that they listen to nothing but classic rock. These are guys from my generation (more or less), but culturally, they seem to be stuck where I was in late high school. Nothing much appears to have changed in their preferences since 1986. How many times can one listen to Jimi Hendrix's "Hey Joe" or Pink Floyd's "Money" before never wanting to hear either of those songs again? At least to me, after awhile music wears out its welcome. But something in these blue collar professionals keeps them from moving on, assimilating new music, despite all the great stuff that has come along since their interests ossified. I have a feeling that their musical tastes reflect their broader responses to culture generally. They probably don't eat much sushi or do much surfing on the World Wide Web. I know for a fact that Louis has completely opted-out of the microbrew revolution. Mind you, such ossification of interests wasn't unknown to me before working with these guys. I considered my parents' continued consumption of instant coffee and Becks Dark to be a reflection of their age, one much greater than that of these contractors. But my parents responded well to my evangelism of contemporary cultural artifacts: Kurt Cobain, tempeh, Google, and Sam Adams. But somehow I don't get the feeling Ron is ever going to get sick of the Steve Miller Band or that Louis will ever abandon Heineken. Early-onset cultural ossification might be impossible to cure.
Mind you, today's election news has caused me to regress somewhat from my usual interest in non-classic, non-corporate rock. I've been listening to tunes I haven't heard much since, well, 1986. Back in those day, seemingly alone with my family, surrounded by bible-believing Redneckistani right wingers, I often turned to Pink Floyd's "anthems for the alienated." Today I've been listening to Pink Floyd's Animals, whose message seems perfectly suited to today's political news. It all comes down to this: everyone is some sort of selfish animal, either predator or prey. We're stuck in our miserable roles, unredeemable. The best we can do is watch out, pay attention to the movement of the dogs, and know when to run. But many of us are sheep, easily lead to our own demise.
As an aside, I'd like to point out that Radiohead sounds like an anemic modern substitute after going back to listen to old Pink Floyd. If you haven't had a chance to see it, download a copy of the video for "Astronomy Domine," one of Pink Floyd's early creations. Its virtues of both creepiness and coolness stand on their own as absolutely timeless, even after a third of a century.

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