Monday, November 29, 2010

How I Spent My Holiday

I am including, for the first time since I started blogging, a non-musical video. I will apologize in advance for the fact that the footage is sideways; I shot it with my digital camera and have not been able to figure out how to rotate it. The video will give you a feel for the atmosphere at my Aunt Crazy's recent Thanksgiving get-together. At one point you can hear Cool Cousin advise, "Mom, lean your weight."

I thought I could not bear to be with my parents for Thanksgiving.

So I didn't.

Instead, I packed my bags and headed off to visit the one adult who has consistently acted in my best interests: Grand Ma Normal Family.

My father's mother has her faults, but I've learned to navigate around them. When she brings up, in the middle of casual conversation, some falling out that happened ten years ago, I remark on the unseasonable warmth of the weather. When the current of our discussion steers anywhere near the poisonous reservoir of hate she feels toward my parents, I ask for more cheesecake.

She either takes the hint or is successfully driven off course, and we're able to proceed on in tranquility.

It's easy for me, when the world seems chaotic and unfeeling, to yearn for the comfort of my grandmother's home. She and my late grandfather moved there in 1985, a full three years before I was even born, and she has remained ever since.

I attended four different elementary schools, three different middle schools, and three different high schools and have lived under seven roofs since 2001, but her tastefully decorated house has been a stalwart constant. It has also, just as constantly, been a refuge from the evils that exist outside of its walls.

When I was a child, those evils were all too manifest.

Everywhere offered me more demons and more pain, but my grandmother offered, for the most part at least, love, acceptance, a shoulder to cry on, and a whole lot of homemade cookies.

"This is my favorite place in the world," I once told my father when he came to pick me up.

"Really?" he asked, his face quizzical. "Why?"

He can't see through my eyes, of course.

As I've gotten older, my attitude toward the house at the end of a suburban lane has changed, albeit very slightly.

Now no longer my only salvation from unrelenting cruelty, visits to see my grandmother have become exercises in relaxation, occasions to remove myself from the world and gain perspective. The fact that her residence sits in the epicenter of my tormentors' plastic and rubbish kingdom, a region once so violently hostile to me that I am still afraid to venture out in public there, only adds to the appeal.

When I at last arrive safely in her driveway and drag my luggage inside, I feel I've entered a well-apportioned island of luxury and security in the middle of a boiling ocean.

That sea fortress is a particularly happy one to inhabit.

Its walls and doors are thick and sturdy, its cupboards and refrigerators stocked with delicious treats, its prosperous adornments the only ones that I have known uninterrupted for all my life.

I got there on Monday, November 22nd, and was treated my very first evening to homemade lasagna, which of course was delicious.

After a night of snacking and intimate talks, Grand Ma Normal Family and I were joined Tuesday afternoon by Tall Cousin, the seventeen-year-old son of my father's brother, Tall Uncle.

I don't see very much of Tall Cousin (his father and mine experienced a major fraying in relations when I was young and have not spoken in about ten years), but what I do concerns me, chiefly because it reminds me so much of myself.

An interesting contrast can be made with Rowdy Cousin, the son of my father's sister (Sweet Aunt) and also seventeen.

Rowdy Cousin, like Tall Cousin, is a Senior in high school. Rowdy Cousin also has parents who divorced and remarried and is also planning on attending college next year, but the similarities basically end there.

Rowdy Cousin is an only child, a young man doted upon by a loving father, an affectionate stepfather, and a mother who is fiercely protective but has been wise enough to give her son space and latitude. He is well adjusted, juggling a part-time job, a full social calendar, a vigorous athletic life, and all the mundane demands of high school with concerted efforts to win admission to one of Native State's best universities, where he hopes to study criminal justice.

He has this unnerving calm, in my view borne of exceptional parenting, that I've never seen in someone so young. If you ask him about his life or where he wants to go, he will look you in the eye without a hint of nervousness and tell you his goals. He is confident without being proud, firm without being forceful, a social butterfly without being insincere. I don't imagine that he's ever once doubted himself in his life.

Tall Cousin is a fitting counterpoint, a figure so opposite Rowdy Cousin that it seems the two were made just to be juxtaposed beside one another.

Tall Cousin, by all accounts an innocent teenager, has endured the double misfortune of a stepmother who treats him badly and a father too weak to intervene. Combine this with a mother as suffocatingly protective as she is religious and you get a boy whose personal growth has been seriously stunted.

All of this scares me to death for him because it mirrors so closely what I was, follows so exactly a story whose progress I know very well.

I, like him, was shockingly innocent at seventeen; I, like him, came from a background of abuse (though his seems to lack the physical component that made mine so terrifying); and I, like him, did not have many friends.

Whether through chance or design (it is more, I suspect, design), Tall Cousin has very few mates and rarely goes out. That doesn't bother him, for now. He's got his home and his computer games that are incessantly on, and at present that's enough. Soon, though, it won't be.

When the warm surroundings of childhood are replaced with what initially seem to be the cold ones of university, he will, if he is anything like me, desperately crave companionship. He will also, if he is anything like me, find that eighteen years of failing to lay any groundwork leaves you with a poor foundation on which to build a life.

I really hope I'm wrong about this awkward young man, this boy who seems so standoffish to those unfamiliar with him.

For if I'm not, I know exactly what is about to happen to him, and it breaks my heart to think of how awful it will be.

I have tried to do what I can, encouraging him to assert his independence from his domineering mother and showing him the school clubs for the community college where he is thinking of going, but the whole time I couldn't help but wonder if I was staring at a 6'3" version of myself.

"So BB," he asked in a moment that revealed more than I think he realized. "How do you make friends in college?"

"Oh, it's easy," I lied. "You hang out with your roommates and go to clubs and before long you'll know tons of people."

For many, that would be true.

But for a seventeen-year-old boy with almost no friends, confidence-crushing parents, a narrow worldview informed by religious dogma, and painful shyness, I fear things will be a lot more complicated.

I pray that I am mistaken.

In the meantime, Tall Cousin remains ensconced in an insulated cocoon of church and video games and visits to his grandmother's house. Only time will tell how he emerges from it.

He accompanied my grandmother and me Thanksgiving day on our much anticipated trip to Aunt Crazy's house.

Aunt Crazy, as her name suggests, has quite a bit of personal flair.

The same woman whose chronic forgetfulness has resulted in hysterical social gaffes and joking accusations of dementia is famous for her gusty declarations of "It's hard out here to be a pimp!" and her willingness to do almost anything, no matter how ridiculous, in the name of a good time.

"You know, your Aunt Crazy was always the life of the party," my grandmother has told me on countless occasions. "When we were younger she'd be the one dancing on a table or leading the mambo line. And boy could she wail. She sang just like Janis Joplin."

It's good to see that some things never change.

Aunt Crazy is refreshing to me, and not just because of her profligate insanity.

She, and most of the rest of my father's family, stand as an ideal that I have always found comforting, especially in contrast to the violence and lunacy that abound in the families of my mother and birth-mother.

Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible never hit their two daughters (Cool Cousin and Liberal Cousin), and when those daughters graduated high school their middle-class parents ate less and leveraged more to ensure that the girls were put through college.

"Your Aunt Crazy and Uncle Responsible went into debt to pay for their school," my grandmother said. "They did without for years. They felt like it was worth it, though."

That verdict seems to be correct.

Today Liberal Cousin is happily married to her high school sweetheart, is a doting mother to her intelligent and courteous ten-year-old son, and occupies a position as the president of a wildly successful communication services company that counts among its clients some of the biggest corporations in the world.

Cool Cousin is an established chiropractor who hasn't slowed down enough to start a family; when she isn't at her office she's out on the town with friends, or hiking through the Costa Rican rain forest, or volunteering on the ground in Haiti to provide crucial relief, as she did in March.

Sweet Aunt, my father's sister, is one of the most elegant and refined women I have ever met, and her husband, Uncle Mustache, matches her kindness with his gregariousness. Uncle Mustache and Sweet Aunt, like Uncle Responsible and Aunt Crazy, have applied discipline without contorting it into abuse, and their son is a singularly happy boy with a bright future because of their stewardship.

Apart from wondering where and how my father fell off of this bandwagon, seeing his relatives gives me hope for the future that can be.

They are financially stable, professionally successful, emotionally mature, and able to provide the love and support that parents should because they are actual adults with an actual sense of moral obligation. Not one of their number has ever shown me anything but respect and affection.

I want to be like them.

In particular, I may wish to emulate Aunt Crazy, whose every word and action make her the very definition of joviality.

Anyone who can hop on the Wii Fit in her mid-sixties, flail around like a discombobulated chicken, and still come out as the crowd favorite is a winner in my book.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the Move

I know that in my last entry I promised you a scorcher, but I just don't have the heart for it. It was bad. For now, though, let's just leave it at that. I'll write about it when I'm ready.

At present, I will content myself to discuss the more relevant (and decidedly more pleasant) subject of the packed schedule I have for the following week.

Living at home, particularly while being off from school, is an odd thing in many ways. I have no classes but have not graduated; I work two jobs, but together they add to only a few days a week; I have limitless time, but few social engagements.

The slow pace of things, and the knowledge that nothing in particular is expected or really needed of me, creates a set of circumstances wherein it would be easy to sink into sloth and boredom. To be honest, that can be rather dispiriting, so I've taken to creating my own tasks and deadlines.

The hardest thing for me has been the lack of social interaction.

At school I became accustomed to going out every weekend, meeting up with friends for casual dinners during the week, attending endless bashes across campus, and enjoying the serendipitous encoutners that are a constant occurrence on any university campus.

To be sure, there are many positive things about being in Mountain Town: there's no homework, and while everyone else is stressing over exams I'm reading five books at a time and enjoying spinach-and-bean soup.

Still, though, it can be tough. I'm a person who needs other people as an outlet for my own good cheer, and being in a small town where I have few friends has been lonely.

For that reason, my plans for the next week or so are rather exciting.

Tonight, I will send out e-mails to get information for a News Website story I'm writing. Tomorrow I'll work from eleven to four before heading out for a musical meetup at five, and then on Friday the real fun begins.

After working a full shift at Mountain Town Book Shop, I will leave around five o'clock for what promises to be a debauched weekend at Major University. Red-Haired Friend is turning twenty-two, and we're using the occasion as an opportunity for a reunion.

I made a similar trip last month and had great fun, and my visit this weekend promises to be even better.

Rather than bunking with Red-Haired Friend I'll be staying in Laquesha's dorm. For those of you who don't know, Laquesha is one of my closest friends, a fact that has come as something of a surprise to both of us given that we barely knew each other until last spring.

We met through Red-Haired friend and our initial interactions were actually a bit awkward. After a few immodest party incidents, though, and enough conversations to determine a shared penchant for ribaldry and weirdness, we started to get along rather well.

What up until then had been an unusually friendly casual acquaintance really blossomed this summer when Laquesha, a biology major, was assigned to a facility in a rural part of this state only about twenty minutes from my house.

Isolated from our peers at Major University and with all the issues common of young people trying to forge their place in the world, we provided each other with constant company and by the end of the holiday had grown very close.

"What the hell are they laughing at?" asked an attendee at Red-Haired Friend's October party.

Laquesha and I had been playing a crass and lowbrow game of my own invention, one that involves inferring sexual innuendo from unsuspecting bystanders' casual conversations.

"I have no idea," Red-Haired Friend said, casting a glance our way as our ill-concealed laughter grew more raucous. "But apparently they have their own language now. I'm not used to them being best buddies."

To lighten the hospitality load on Red-Haired Friend, who would have more difficulty accommodating me as all of her roommates are in town this weekend, I'll be staying on an air mattress at Laquesha's place.

This should work out well on several levels.

To begin with, Laquesha and I share a similarly demented sense of humor.

Using a display on her door, Laquesha divines the innermost thoughts of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Furthermore, Laquesha's building is nearly in the middle of campus while Red-Haired Friend's is more removed, which will make accessing the dining hall far easier.

On Friday night Red-Haired Friend, Laquesha, Asian Boy (Laquesha's new boyfriend), and I will go out to see Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream; while on Saturday we will direct ourselves to far less admirable amusements, throwing a raucous and drunken celebration for Red-Haired Friend's twenty-second birthday.

On Sunday it's back to Mountain Town, but only for one night.

I leave Monday morning for Native State, where I'll spend five nights with Grand Ma Normal Family. My grandmother had been wanting to hold a large Thanksgiving dinner, but Aunt Crazy expressed a desire to host this year so we'll be congregating there along with almost twenty other relatives for the holiday feast.

I'm greatly looking forward to a week of great friends, great family, and awesome food.

Even here, though, I've been keeping relatively busy.

I'm still working at Mountain Town Book Shop and have now added a second job writing news articles for News Website, which operates out of the Goldlands. Beyond those two occupations, I've devoted far more time to creative pursuits than I would ordinarily be able to.

Many of you will remember that after my unsatisfactory meeting with some high-profile record executives in September I resolved to come home and record my demo. Thus far, efforts in that direction have progressed more quickly than I would have imagined.

I contacted a local recording studio and found them willing to provide me with two hours of time plus mixing and mastering for only $200.00, whereupon I sought out qualified musicians to help me.

The man who responded to my online advertisement was, unexpectedly a drummer in an already-signed band.

When I asked as politely as possible why he was so interested in helping me, he replied that he was "looking for a fun side project."

Evidently my original song sounded quite fun indeed, as before long his band's guitarist had signed on to the effort as well. After a meeting at Starbucks during which both parties determined that neither was secretly hoping to kill and dismember the other, we reassembled at the drummer's house and got to work coming up with instrumental parts to go along with my lyrics.

Unfortunately for my readers (and really for me as well, as I find sharing such things endlessly gratifying) I will not be posting any audio of these numbers or even disclosing the tracks' names.

I've been fairly open about my music before, but it's recently dawned on me that on the off chance I actually succeed I should probably take greater pains to conceal my identity.

This wasn't something I'd really taken into account up until now, but following my audience with senior personalities in the recording industry I realized that I'd come within striking distance of actual fame. Had the record men decided they liked me I might be in a very different position right now, and my faith in my abilities is such that I'm not willing to dismiss outright the possibility that I could encounter a similar opportunity in the future.

The last thing I need is an errant reader to be driving down the road one day, hear a song they recognize as mine, and then exclaim, "My God, it's BB!" before crashing head-on into a tree.

The process behind the music, however, is still open to total disclosure, and I am very happy to report the results in that area.

My first jam session with the guitarist and drummer yielded a huge amount accomplished in only three hours.

The fundamentals of Cathartic Breakup Song are finished and all that's left to finalize are specific riffs.

Meanwhile, enough was written for Wounded Anger Song that the drummer suggested recording it as well.

"We can definitely knock out the first song in an hour," he said. "And if you're paying for two hours anyway, you might as well get your money's worth."

The refreshing modesty and enormous talent of the two musicians helped matters along very nicely; the guitarist picked up on my embryonic chord ideas by ear and within minutes had expanded them into expressive and catchy melodies.

Their enthusiasm for the project took me a little offguard.

"You're a really good vocalist," the guitarist said. "It's enjoyable."

So enjoyable, in fact, that the two musicians would like to write music for my entire catalogue. When I inquired why they would wish to do such a thing, given the brevity of our association, they said they were hoping I'd play out with them.

"You're way too mainstream for our label," one of them confided in me honestly. "They would never sign you. But the music is fun to play."

I've been giving time to another endeavor as well: my query letter for Captain Vanilla and the Great Adventure has now been submitted to three different literary agents.

That update should keep you and me sated for a while. I'll be sure to post more from Native State or soon after I return.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Captain Vanilla and the Great Adventure, Part III

Both because it's been too long since the last installment of this story, and because I know that many of you are going to be very, very angry when you read my next post, I am offering something happy.

This is the third part in the saga of Vanilla, a nineteen-year-old captain on a very strange voyage. For those of you who are new or have not been following along, and for those of you who are a little dusty on the details, you can find Part I here and Part II here

Illustrations have been provided by the talented Cheryl de los Reyes Cruz, who may soon be joined by another artist.

They retreated to below decks as the air grew cooler, then watched the enormous red sun go down across the edge of a foreign planet. With no land for it to hide behind, it descended into the dark blue ocean, leaving a cavalcade of glittering stars behind it.

They started as faint lights in the sky, like smooth white stones, and then matured into spectacular diamonds as the sun bade the world goodnight, leaving the heavens a beautiful spectacle of shattered celestial glass.

“The sky doesn’t look like this at home,” Michael said, smiling up at it.

“No,” Stephanie said. “It doesn’t.”

Her voice sounded strange, and when Vanilla looked over he saw a tear sliding down her cheek.

“Stephanie?” he asked.

She looked at him questioningly, and he pointed to her face.

She lifted her hand to her eye, then drew it back, as if startled by the moisture she found there.

“Oh!” she said with a sniff. “I’m sorry. It’s just that it reminds me of something, something I can’t quite remember. It’s just so beautiful.”

From the kitchen, James’s voice called, “I hope everyone likes their steak medium rare!”

Stephanie laughed and rose from her seat.

“I’ll light a fire,” she said, moving over to the fireplace that rested in the wall next to the stairs. After several minutes of fiddling with logs of wood and matches, she had a decent blaze going.

“This will be nice for dinner,” she remarked, staring into the flames. “I didn’t realize how cold it would be here at night.”

Michael put his hand to the pane of the wall-length window.

“It’s already chilly,” he said. When he drew his palm back, it left a fog on the glass.

James continued to cook, and the other three pulled up chairs in front of the fireplace, enjoying a silence unbroken by anything save the crackle of the wood and the quiet whistling from the kitchen.

When the chef was finished, he brought out a large plate heaped with pink steaks.

“I hope it’s alright,” he said. “I had a lot to work with, so it should be; this is filet mignon.”

“Wow,” Stephanie said. “Somebody left us well prepared.”

“There were some greens as well,” James said. “In an actual ice box, can you believe it? I made those, too. Help me with it, will you?”

Stephanie accompanied him to the kitchen, and they returned with asparagus, cauliflower, and a bottle of wine.

The vast chamber seemed naked; large enough to seat two or three families, the dining room table was bare except for the small space near the back of the room occupied by four people. Vanilla, as captain, sat at the end, a position which put his back directly to the fire.

He smiled with comfort as James parceled out steaks and vegetables and Stephanie passed round glasses and the wine bottle. When it came to him, Vanilla looked at the dried paper wrapped around the aged glass.

It read only: Vinum Aegypticus, 1323BC.

“1323BC?” Vanilla whispered. “It can’t be…”

James took the first sip of the wine, and his eyes closed in ecstasy.

The other three tipped their glasses to their mouths and let liquid gold pour down their throats. It was like grape juice and honey, incredibly sweet. Vanilla’s tongue lolled about, drinking in the rich taste.

“I hope your cooking can compare to that,” he joked to James.

“I hope so,” the boy replied, picking up his knife and fork and preparing to dig in. “I tried, at least.”

The meat was tender and juicy, raw enough to be succulent, well done enough that it did not sicken. The cut danced in the mouth, gently inviting one to have more.

By the time the meal was done, everyone had reached the conclusion that James was a truly remarkable cook.

He thanked the others for their lavish compliments, then suggested they move their chairs back to the fire again, which they did, taking the opportunity to have a relaxed discussion about their plans.

“So, Captain,” Stephanie said. “You’re the only one who can read the map. Where do you suggest we go?”

“Let me see it,” he replied.

She pulled it out of her pocket, and Vanilla examined it in firelight that glowed the exact same shade as his hair.

Abutting the dotted line on either side were clusters of clouds, on top of which were painted trees, rocks, waterfalls.

“Well,” Vanilla said, pointing to the drawings. “These mean something, along the sides here.”

The others all looked mystified, so he continued, “The map is telling us to go somewhere. I don’t know where, but it’s along the route of the line. Everything else is just sky.”

Everyone nodded.

“So…” he mused. “I say we head for what’s closest.”

He plunked his finger down on nearest part of the map.

“It’s a little bit northwest of here, but I’m not sure how big the distance is. It could be one mile or a thousand. There’s no scale here. It’s just endless.”

He looked down toward the bottom of the map, where a little roving X he hadn’t noticed before drifted about the page, with the miniscule words “You are here” following along beside it.

“We should go up and readjust course,” James said. “I’ll help you.”

“Thanks,” Vanilla replied.

The two boys got up and headed for the stairs, while Stephanie and Michael sat behind, warming their hands. Stephanie looked content, but there was a trace of anxiety on Michael’s face he was trying to hide. He leaned forward as if to talk to her as the other boys left the room, but the door closed behind them and Vanilla didn’t hear what he said.

Both he and James were shocked by how cold it was above decks.

James rubbed his hands over the goosebumps on his arms. His breath came out like smoke when he turned to Vanilla and asked, “Where are we now?”

“Headed south,” Vanilla smiled. “In the exact opposite direction from where we need to be going.”

James laughed and the two of them turned the wheel together, bringing the ship around.

“We’re on course now,” James said, patting Vanilla on the back. They walked down the stairs to the main deck, and James turned to continue down to the dining room.

“Are you coming?” he asked, for Vanilla had paused on the landing.

“No,” Vanilla replied. “I’ll be in in a minute. I just want to think.”

“Okay,” James said. He retreated through the doorway into the warm light of the cabin below.

Vanilla leaned on the railing and stared out into a black velvet sky pierced by the beams of a thousand heaven-bound gems.

What struck him most about the night scene was the silence, unnatural, ethereal, that fell across the whole of the shimmering sky and the encompassed the vast, motionless ocean beneath him, an ocean black but for the reflection of the hundreds of suns above it.

It was a silence that wasn’t silence, a hush; as if the stars themselves had gasped in astonishment at their own beauty. The icy air stung his nose and made it harder to fight the tears.

A pair of thin arms appeared on the railing next to his own. He didn’t have to look up to see whom they belonged to; a strand of golden hair rested atop one of the hands. The other person inhaled sharply, as if meaning to say something, then decided against it. A swish of blonde told Vanilla that the figure’s head had twisted away from him.

Then, slowly, the narrow neck turned left again, pointing its owner’s face out toward the interminable black where the ocean ended and the sky began.

Vanilla’s breath came out in billowy huffs, which he couldn’t disguise because the cold turned them into spouts of steam.

When he finally looked over, Michael’s blue eyes were squinted together, tears pouring down his fair face.

“I’m sorry,” he said without looking at Vanilla. “But it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. And I don’t know why it makes me so sad.”

He stopped to wipe his eyes.

“Maybe it’s because I realize for the first time that there’s more,” he continued. “And it’s awful that people never…”

“I’ve seen something much more beautiful,” Vanilla said.

He almost gasped aloud the moment the words left his mouth. He’d not meant to say them, not meant to stare at the other boy like that when he did, but something just brought them out. It was the night, and the air, and the way the sky twinkled at you.

He looked down and blushed furiously.

Michael gulped.

“I—I’ll see you in the morning,” he said.

“Yeah,” Vanilla breathed.

Michael walked to the staircase and turned, his face a portrait of pain and confusion. His instinctive happiness had bubbled over these feelings all his life, but neither emotion had been ripped to the surface with such visceral bluntness before. He opened his mouth, closed it, and went inside.

Vanilla stared out at the stars for half an hour.

He turned from that awesome sight, cast a glance at the beds lined up on the poop deck, and descended two flights of stairs to the sleeping quarters. There, he fell into a green four-poster and was asleep within minutes.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Character of a Nation

My last post warrants further elaboration and I will provide that in the near future. I obviously would not have put the entry on this website if I did not intend to discuss it.

In the spirit of the historic election concluded one night ago, however, I felt that a reflection on the current political and cultural climate of our nation was in order. I am relaying that critique from my unique perspective as a political journalist.

I was hired about two weeks ago to provide freelance news content of a political nature to a website operating out of the Goldlands. My third assignment was to head over to Rich Town on Tuesday afternoon and interview voters and poll workers, gauging their motivations and policy preferences.

What I found profoundly sickened me.

In my professional capacity I could never voice aloud the strong political views I hold, nor could I make known my opinion of those masses who yesterday evening headed to the ballot box and gave control of the House of Representatives to the GOP.

Here, however, I am free to speak my mind, and I will.

I am disgusted.

I am nauseated by the puerility, simple-mindedness, self-righteousness, and sheer unabated ignorance that seem to be the defining characteristics of a majority of American citizens.

I spoke last night with ten different people, three of them Democrats and seven Republicans, and expected at worst to hear from the conservatives a diatribe of ideological dogma whose tenets I disagreed with.

As it turns out, I'd given the people a bit too much credit.

Among the politicians, among the elected officials, there is certainly a binding set of ideals. Half of the Tea Party candidates may not be able to string together a coherent sentence expressing their policy positions, but the national Republican leaders are at least able to weave plausible-sounding lies as they grin at the unbelievable scam the American electorate is letting them pull.

Among the voters themselves, though, the rank and file who were the impetus of yesterday's wave, there is no such thing as ideology. There is no such thing as policy. There is just a vaguely-defined fear of "freedom" being taken away, a longing for a past that never existed, and an anger for its own sake that stubbornly disregards the tremendous benefits conferred on the country by many Democratic measures.

Of the seven different Republicans I spoke with, not one (with the single exception of a town councilman) could name for me an actual, factually-based issue that had roused their concern. Several claimed that the healthcare bill, which is almost exclusively an insurance-regulation law, created socialized medicine, and one young man seemed certain that President Obama had repealed the federal ban on partial-birth abortion, but of course neither of these things is true.

The reasons for their discontent, and thus for inaugurating a major political power shift in our country, never went beyond misconceptions, outright lies, and thinly-veiled racism.

Some of their statements were so outrageous that my editor would not print them. Here are some of the gems that never made it to the Web:

* "This is just the way we were raised, and in order to remain free it's important that we stay true to that."

* "I'm concerned about freedom of speech. There's been talk of trying to shut down people who have this belief in our country, this belief in freedom of speech." [The speaker was referring to Fox News pundit Glen Beck, who has evidently been the target of political persecution]

* "I haven't been given any kind of feeling that [President Obama] is a Christian at all. I don't think he is."

* "The government is looking to a certain type of religion and wants to make it the religion of government. There is an effort to incorporate that into the Constitution, and that would diminish our freedom."

* "The current administration is trying to point our country toward Marxism and a one-world order, step by step."

* "President Obama wants to impose Islam on America. If he had the chance I believe he would." [The fact that the President has failed to act thus far on his religious convictions despite spending the last two years as Chief Magistrate with a majority in the House of Representatives and a supermajority in the Senate did not strike the voter as strange]

* "I don't know anything about [the Democratic nominee for Congress]."

* "The Democrats are all for letting people run over our borders, because they think those people will vote for them." [The Latin horde will presumably be unhindered in its electoral takeover of the U.S. by the constitutional requirement that voters be citizens]

* "Nancy Pelosi--I can't put my finger on it, but she just makes my toes curl. Obama, too."

* "As a person who doesn't have healthcare, I always applaud efforts to get me healthcare." [A Republican voter, explaining why he is opposed to "big government" but conflicted over the healthcare bill]

This is not out in the blighted countryside. This is in a well-educated, prosperous suburb, in one of the wealthiest regions of the United States.

If the contagion of idiocy and fanaticism has spread even here, to this land of professionals and college graduates, then what must it be like elsewhere?

I don't know what to do or think.

I do know, however, that this country's voters have once again proven themselves to be imbecilic children with nothing to say and nothing to offer.