I think we’re clear at this point that I’m not cut out to become a pundit. At least not this week. I’ve put my flaws out there and I’m clearly losing my mind. The trained professionals in this business don’t have intellectual meltdowns on slow news days and start alluding to their drinking problems and doing a meta turn and commenting on their inability to figure out anything worth reporting on.
But what am I supposed to do? Is this any kind of way to run a democracy? We’re at seven months and change until the November election, and, even with the tightest Democratic race in a generation, we’re out of news. I don’t know how to make sense of this campaign, and I don’t know how to talk about it for the next five weeks until Pennsylvania.
As a result, I find myself more transfixed by the detritus of the process, by the television commercials I have to endure when I’m trying to find out where the day’s best lead is buried. It’s a lobotomizing contact high, a confounding and stupefying exercise that becomes more fascinating the dirtier I get by it. Rather than really putting intellectual boots on the ground and trying to figure out what weakness or pressure point is going to be the opening of Senator Clinton’s superdelegate gambit, or using a random cross-section of central Pennsylvania counties to assess the racial bleed in the latest polling that is causing Ms. Clinton’s lead over Senator Obama to widen, I really wonder how a God-awful, sleep-inducing acoustic outfit like Hem landed three Liberty Mutual commercials, and if I saw a passing postal carrier hold a ladder for a homeowner cleaning his gutters if I’d really be inspired to help a tiny Asian woman prop up a seven-foot hoagie sandwich she’s trying to carry across the street, and what does that have to do with insurance?
I wonder whatever happened to the hapless fat man who lost another loan to Ditech in the campaign that ran for years before the subprime mortgage crisis hit.
I wonder why the FreeCreditReport.com commercials are like a knife in my soul with their stupid jingle and an ever-present reminder about how I prison-shower-raped my credit betting everything I had on the dot-com I worked for seven years ago and their revolutionary search engine technology that they were too hapless to get to market, and wound up being invented, released, and marketed by another dot-com a year later who wound up charging $500 a license for it.
I wonder if HeadOn really works, but I wonder more why the African-American man who hates their commercials but acknowledges that their product is amazing insists in talking in a McGruff the Crime Dog accent.
Does John McCain really understand the dynamics of terrorist infiltration in Iran? Meh. I don’t care. I’m more interested in the Geico lizard ad and why they changed his accent four years ago from effeminate Cockney to manly Australian. They clearly had to have had a meeting to talk about it. Who all was there, and did it get heated? Did it go for more than a few hours? Or days? Did someone quit in protest over the final decision?
I’m not sure how the so-called professional pundits do it. They don’t seem all that medicated (except Brit Hume), but there must be something that gets them through the day, that inspires, that sees them through to the next deadline.
Oh, I know what it is: It’s called a paycheck.
I don’t know such a luxury yet. I’m young and hungry and unpublished–not a place you should be at 41 years old. Especially since you’re not young anymore. I’m going to weather this storm and keep publishing, even if I occasionally publish something awful, as I’ve been in the process of doing for the last three days. This is where men are made, and with my 42nd birthday only a few months away, it’s high time I became a man.
I did what I had to do last night. I took myself out of the process for an evening. I watched naked women feeding live goldfish to hungry piranhas, and I drank light beer while doing so. I never drink light beer. Is this what Tim Russert does on an off day?
He should, actually. It’s a barbaric tableaux, but it’s fascinating. You’ve never seen mortality writ large until you’ve seen an orange goldfish cornered by a pack of piranhas, hiding in a corner of the tank hoping they don’t notice him. It’s a story in fortitude, in courage, in putting yourself out there against a vicious and hungry world. It’s about facing down impossible odds and surviving—well, for a few minutes, until you get your brain bitten in half and die in a grotesque spasm with your entrails pouring out. But up until that point, you’ve never been so touched and emboldened by anything as that brave albeit doomed little fish.
That little fellow was my inspiration before he was torn apart in a flurry of gills, scales, and eyeballs.
More importantly, though, I did what I had to do to get through this insanity-inducing process of following a Presidential campaign every day, when either nothing is happening, or, worse, the same thing is happening day after day. I have a tattoo on my left shoulder that reads “Titties and Beer” in Asian characters. I took a night off and went back to my bedrock principles, as I quite literally wear them on the sleeve of my flesh.
And it’s a better day. This blog is getting posted and it’s a new news cycle. We’ve salved my distress with mammaries and alcohol. And only a few dozen goldfish were devoured in the process.