And then we elected a new president. It was an exciting, rapturous Tuesday, but I'll get to that in a second.
Some of you may remember the election four years ago: The Democrats had yet again chosen an absolute, you know, winner as their candidate, and though we may have donated and even, Christ, spent a perfectly decent October afternoon ringing doorbells in shit-ass Pennsylvania for Kerry's cause, it was pretty obvious from the get-go that he was a monstrous, shambling pile of shit as a candidate -- whoever it was that dubbed him "Lurch Dukakis" was right on the money. But at the same time, it was hard to believe that America was going to re-elect George W. Bush. At least, it was hard for some people. Wyatt had an awful lot of faith in the electorate, so he and I made a bet about the outcome of the election, the consequence of which was that the loser had to shave his pubic hair off. (A bit trite, but what are you gonna do.) The day came, and the election happened, and ultimately I decided I wasn't going to claim victory, since it seemed like adding insult to injury.
So, given the track record of my party in every single election in which I've voted, and the fact that Tom is a person of potentially less guile and more naivete than even the Wy-Man, back when it looked like Barack Obama didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning the Democratic nomination (much less the general election) I thought this year presented an excellent opportunity to teach him a lesson about America. So we made a bet about it: If John McCain were to win, Tom would have to take his pants down and sit on a Dora The Explorer quinceañera cake (we'd just watched the HBO Real Sex episode about "sploshing"); if Barack Obama clinched it, I'd have to tonsure my hair off like some kind of goddamn Lutheran (less monk-diming; more monk-sand-dollaring).
The terms were unfair. They were settled on over whiskeys. And as history shows, the landscape has changed somewhat since January or whenever it was we shook on it, which, in my opinion, is also unfair. So as election day approached, I knew I was in a bit of a pickle. (In a fit of remorse, a couple of weeks earlier, Tom softened the consequences such that I could leave my dwindling hair supply up top and instead sport what he described as a "relief pitcher goatee" for six weeks. It's still pretty bad, I think.) Nonetheless, Tuesday was a sunny affair. The polling lines at 40th and 4th, where I vote, are never that long, but I actually had to wait, say, twenty minutes this time. And I'm glad that I did it in person and not ahead of time, because I got to see all these people from my neighbourhood voting, like the weird old man who has the apartment next door to mine and is always standing on the landing in his boxer shorts, and a bunch of surly-looking Hispanic twentysomethings wearing tougher, Spanish versions of The Black Mantle. I felt squirmy and distracted all day at the office, though, without a regular stream of news from Nate and Andrew.
I got to Tom and Colleen's around 8:00, after swinging by La Gran Via to pick up the cake, which I'd ordered in preparation a week in advance, selecting flavors off of an order form for all the different layers, as well as a message ("Feliz Cumpleaños Emma") in case it needed to serve a secondary, non-foodplay-related purpose. Upon inspection, the Dora design I'd picked out for the top of the cake was eerily perfect, as if it had been printed onto the surface of the cake with a high-end inkjet printer. Everyone was hanging out in the living room, pacing around, chain-drinking beers. We kept the TV mostly on Fox, since Brit Hume's sad eyes seemed to slide a little further down the sides of his face with each electoral vote called for Obama, and also since, as I like to think of it, watching their take on things is like prepping yourself for a dive into a swimming pool by taking a freezing shower: It just makes reality that much sweeter when you switch back to it.
CNN was doing this thing where, whenever a major set of states closed their polls, there'd be a countdown in the crawl and then they'd throw up a big "PREDICTION" graphic and Wolf Blitzer would call the states based on the exit polling that'd been done. They ran the countdown as the clock reached 11:00 EST, the closing time for the west coast, but instead of calling those states, Blitzer just said, "CNN is now predicting... that Barack Obama is the next president of the United States." It was a hot moment. We hooted and hollered and opened the windows so we could hear people on the street hooting and hollering and we did likewise back at them, and then we sang songs for a while: Tom had helpfully printed out the lyrics to both The Battle Hymn Of The Republic (which I'd been humming to myself all day) and God Save The Queen (for the benefit of Tom Hylton). And then we went outside and walked around for a while amidst the rapturous multitudes. It being Park Slope, the revels were more sedate than the ones I read about taking place in Union Square and Williamsburg, but we did manage to get told, as part of a crowd chanting "yes we can," by some cops in front of Union Hall. And we high-fived pretty much everyone we passed on the street. We wound up boozing it up 'til 4:00 AM at the Lakes, having loaded the jukebox up with patriotic songs as best we could.
The next morning was miserable and hung-over, and over a net hour of it was spent sitting on the toilet at work, rocking back and forth. I shaved my goatee into place as soon as the election was called; I think I look a lot like Josh Beckett. The cake got shelved Tuesday night, untouched, but we reconvened the following weekend and tucked into it. It was horrible.
More to the point: Like Sarah Silverman said, Barack Obama is probably one of the best guys who's ever run for the office. We've got copies of all the November 5th newspapers; I'm considering buying a nice, framed print of the Times' front page. I've read all sorts of editorials to the effect that "our" point of view has been vindicated and that this is the beginning of a new epoch of American politics. I have to admit an eerie, neutral feeling about the whole thing: Things change quickly but also frustratingly not-so-quickly. So I don't know what's going to happen next, but the coming year deserves, as Razor Lopez once wrote, a sweet ushering.