In the late autumn, the yellowing leaves don’t always stop falling just because it’s night time; that’s why even in the dark and strange cold of Amsterdam in November, the canals will still fill up with leaves and other trash no matter what the streets are stirring up, no matter what the sweeps are sweeping up.
People bumble slowly down the narrow walkways and the city glows with an eerie darkness that lets through a fraction of the light scattered by the soft haze. A dead leaf floats gently on the cushion of the thick air that hangs between buildings and eventually lands softly onto the liquid below. An alerting cold started at my toes and threatens to crawl up my ankle. I am tense tonight and I know exactly why.
Tuesday is coming, and with it, November 4th. On three quarters of any other year this day would pass by with the meaninglessness of all of those fallen leaves resting on the surface tension of the waterways of Amsterdam, but not this year. This is Election Year.
There is a bad noise coming from the birds that occasionally swoop over the canals but not tonight. People who know Seagulls tell me that the birds always go out to sea to die but I suspect this is not always the case. No sir. The various alleyways and narrow canals of Central Amsterdam are crawling with things that are ready to die but seem to want one more fix of whatever it is for which they yearn. And a quick glance outside tells me that this is Seagull country. These birds are waiting for something too or they’d be long gone.
The mansion across the water continues to shine its bright light in my face and will until 2008 is over. That’s when the city will take the celebratory thing down off of the Tripp Family building and things will change then. It won’t, of course, be just this bright white box hanging on the building I see from my Dutch window that I won’t have to deal with anymore. Indeed, 2008 will die and will take with it a very dark stain on the American Way of Life.
But first, Barack Obama must defeat John McCain. Until then, I will have to put up with these goddamn birds.
Make no mistake about it; we are headed into a dark week and things are only going to get weirder from here. John McCain and Sarah Palin may indeed go silently into the good night but I wouldn’t count on it. I have put my money on getting more laughable sound bites from that jackass pimp, Tucker Bounds, to aggravate anything with a functioning cerebellum and at the same time energize the republican base to show up and vote their black little hearts out. What a fun night Monday will be.
I’ve also doubled down on some more absurd rhetoric in Pennsylvania and Florida, even though it’s Nevada, Ohio, Missouri and Virginia that are flippable at this point. Pennsylvania and Florida are just the ones that would cause damage to some very big Egos if they started going Red right now. And no one is ready to talk about that, so we here won’t either. Call it “solidarity”.
You betcha. The politics will get heavy this week, and don’t lose sight of that because other things will be happening as well. This will be a very good week for ugly things to come out of the closet. No one will notice anything – from illegitimate babies aborted on the supreme court bench to corrupt senators being ousted from their states like feculent rats, straight into federal prison for 35 years. Except you and me because, well, we’re here, taking note to not be duped, right?
Indeed. The only way to miss the main event this week will be to bury your head in the sand like a blind animal or a Raiders fan living in a fairy tale. It’s possible, of course, to overdo it and lose yourself in the quagmire of whiskey and despair, a phenomenon that CNN is calling “Election Obsession”. There are many people in the continental US that are affected by this horrible psychosis and flee to the woods for days at a time in order to escape stimuli. Imagine that. Regular fathers, mothers, doctors and plumbers, suddenly realizing that they’re struck/stricken with an uncontrolled obsession with election year politics and can’t get away from any media that won’t shower them with the same information in a dozen different formats. Foaming at the mouth and snapping at strangers, they get a grip just long enough to make a lucid decision to make for whatever back country woods they can find in their home state, searching for shelter and an absence of an internet connection to calm their woes. The symptoms for Election Obsession include spending hours in internet chat room discussions that go nowhere and nervous ticks, primarily in the corners of the eyes that are strained from trying to read into the vague statements made by campaign staffers. Foaming at the mouth occurs in rare instances and may be more linked to babbling than anything else.
But that’s not me, folks, and I have different plans. Though I haven’t yet decided if I’ll be on a flight between here and Norway or perhaps Eastern Europe, I will certainly be connected once I land. And god help the stewardess that tells me I can’t turn on my laptop during landing. A night like next Tuesday only comes every 4 years and I hope to avoid a repeat of 2004 and 2000 this time around. I will be prepared for the worst, and expect Nothing. This will take Concentration, of course.
Which is why I’ll be in midair for a large part of it. Matters are different this time and that could complicate things. 2000 caught millions off-guard and we couldn’t even articulate what happened before our very eyes. In 2004 we overestimated the intelligence of the average American in time of war (or at least, in a time when war rhetoric is spewed from every orifice of government) and we watched in many different ways and with many different eyes as the tragedy unfolded itself from the weirdest corners of idle minds somewhere in a strange place called Ohio.
Sure, there were some of us that didn’t even know it was happening and went on with our midterms and our Christmas shopping and our reality TV. But some of us sat glued to the tube counting counties in abject disbelief and struggled to accept it. Others perched on their rooftops, howling at the moon and throwing half-empty bottles of Tecate at their neighbors and passers-by, climbing down briefly every 10 or 15 minutes to refresh their browsers for updates. Others couldn’t handle the crisis and did horrible things like dig holes in the sand on a dark beach, or sit on tall bridges over places like the Golden Gate and ponder horrible actions. Meanwhile the CNN logo flashed on a screen flickering in the empty dark of their distant living rooms filled only with the gnarly sounds of Wolf Blitzer’s mouth.
Yes. This time it will not go unnoticed by anyone. The ratings for CNN are as high as the market is low and the prices of ad space for Tuesday Night is starting to look like the Superbowl. If you miss out on the fun this year it will be not just by choice but by active effort. Some people will still perch on their rooftops and hurl bottles and others will dig holes, as always. Most people will have a 24-hour news channel on mute as they go about domestic chores. There are those that will try to have a normal night, maybe go to the movies, maybe hit the bars. But the only consistent topic of conversation will be The Outcome.
Even the traditional pornography sites will have political leanings on Tuesday night for those who think they can get away from it by dodgier avenues, like non-stop masturbation or else by watching Fox News. Certain prostitutes in the red light district of Amsterdam have been investing in costumes and paraphernalia for the event. Bill Clinton dick sheathes and American flags with sperm instead of stars were popular a few years back but shop owners in Amsterdam have been mum on what’s popular this year.
“The girls have been asking us to keep it a surprise for their patrons, and we respect that,” said the floor manager at the Casa Rossi sex shop. Well, ‘said’ is a strong word, but it was heavily implied by his demeanor.
But not everyone is so keen to produce an opinion on the touchy matter, even in a place like The Red Light District of Amsterdam. Bouncers at strip clubs claim to have no events or gimmicks planned for election night, insisting it’s business as usual.
“Just another Tuesday night here,” said a large, bald Russian who then quickly shooed me away with his stare. I asked some of the regular girls in the windows if they’d bought any costumes or fun toys for election night to get the crowds excited on but they were, surprisingly, very shy about the topic.
“I don’t really care about any of those guys,” said ‘Sasha’, squirming in that thin and cold air, asking me to “come in and have some fun for 25 minutes.” All it would take was €50.
“Oh, come on,” I pressed. “You’ve got to have SOME kind of opinion…who would you rather have visit you here?” She thought about it for a little longer.
“Obama,” she said, “because he’s younger and pretty tall.” No denying that, I thought.
But ‘You’re not much if you ain’t Dutch’, they say around here, which is strange because it might turn out to be the other way around. The Dutch ways of discretion and moderation owned the situation with the hosts of “The District”. But the patrons were something else entirely. A stroll through The District quickly illustrates that discretion is a concept wasted on anyone in the red-light district of Amsterdam. No one wore their colors on their shoulders, but opinions here are as pervasive as the natural sexual desires and perversions that often only see the light of day in this alleyway of narrow boats and bimbos and decked out pimps that walk with the gait of a clown or a goose out of water. Or Tucker Bounds.
With the lines between locals and tourists, hosts and patrons and winners and losers continuously blurred by a tenancy towards anonymity in those dank streets, it seems that even the direct approach may be too dangerous an endeavor for this election.
So pollsters, go home. Sit back and wait for the real numbers. That’s about the only thing we can count on now.