High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

November 4, 2008, Chicago

Spring here is really little more than a rumor. In some ways, though, it's all the more impressive watching taut bundles of life cling to their branches through the frost, ice storms, and of course wind for which we are famous. (In Peru, revealing that I am from Chicago is always met with a grave, knowing nod, "Mucho viento.")

Spring here is muddy and often grey. And cold, although most of us are prone to sartorial denial about this. We move, heads down, necks pulled into the inadequate collars of our useless spring jackets, declaring the weather "Brisk!" to one another through chattering teeth.

I'm not a fan of spring, or of summer for that matter, but I can't help but get a little rush of excitement the first time we have that distinctive chalkboard smell after a rain. I can't help admiring that bonnie blue spring sky. And when those stubborn little buds eventually uncoil and leaves stretch out to one another, when there's a solid canopy of green interrupted only by a road map of veins, it's beautiful.

But honestly, even I—I who have so much green in my wardrobe that I try not to leave the house without performing what I call the "cabbage check"—get tired of all that uniformity. I love fall for its short days. I love it for its dry, crackling smells. I love its overcast afternoons and howling wind. But what I really love is how the relentless green gives way to an incredibly diverse palette as each species, each tree makes a separate peace wth its own cyclical death.

November 4, 2008, was a beautiful day in Chicago. And I took pictures. Partly to keep from going insane, of course, but partly because I really wasn't convinced that Wednesday wouldn't bring another disappointment, and I felt an urgent need to preserve that beauty and have something that would remind me of that feeling of hope, of possibility, of progress.

November 4, 2008, was a beautiful day in Chicago, but it was also a day that brought disappointments—terrible and important disappointments in California, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida. I think those losses are attributable in part to ambitions for what we can be that withered as we watched ourselves become something terrible. But there is beauty, there is possibility, there can be progress. And I have pretty pictures of trees to prove it.

More here, including Hound Pr0n for those not into fall foliage pr0n.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008


We don't get fancy stickers here.

I suspect a certain editrix of paying off the election judge to tell me that I have excellent penmanship.

The soundtrack to my voting:
"Rock and Roll," Velvet Underground
"Once in a Lifetime," Talking Heads
"Heavy Metal Drummer," Wilco
"Long Snake Moan," Flatlanders

(No, I don't have any explanation for that last one either.)

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I'm going to head out to vote in a few minutes. I have all day, so I don't want to be part of the heavy traffic that might mess with folks who have to be in to work at a specific time. M reports that at 6:22, the line at our polling place was out to the sidewalk and people had begun lining up at 5:30. He voted by 7, though, and generally speaking, we probably won't be plagued by long waits here. Still, I'll bring my skull bag full of grading, and I'll toss some knitting in there as well. But the act of voting is probably going to be pretty uneventful. I'm good with that.

I remember casting my first vote for President in 1992. A and I fought the wind and rain that tried to drive us back away from the lake. One of us was wearing what we called "the Domino's Pizza coat," but I don't remember which. (It was technically the property of M v1.0, but like good communists, we treated as a doobie to be passed around.)

The signs pointing to the voting area in the basement of the Ray school were barely legible, thanks to the wind and rain. As we stepped inside, that kind of hot, wooly, muffled air that you only find in grammar schools on gloomy fall days surrounded us. We laughed and stumbled around, struggling out of our coats, trying to figure out where to go.

Some poll volunteer secured us and led us into the gym. We went our separate ways to the rickety, unstable booths. I remember being absolutely paranoid about lining up my ballot correctly. Even after I was pretty sure I had done so, I stood there for a while with my little eyeglass screwdriver in my hand before I could make myself start punching in the votes. Once I started, though, I punched so forcefully that three of the legs of my booth came off the floor each time I yanked the stylus back out.

After pulling the ballot out, I had a momentary resurgence of fear: What if all my hole punches were off by just a little? When I walked the ballot over, though, and felt the machine grab it from my fingers, the anxiety left me. It felt important to be voting, and I teared up a little. I still do whenever I vote, because I am a giant nerd.

I've got a student who is a brand new citizen who cannot wait to vote today. I've got a student who has been trying to get out of a housing contract that placed her with "two crazy African women" who was in tears yesterday because a friend sent her a text message saying "they" were going to assassinate Obama in Grant Park.

I've got students who have been canvassing for Obama in Indiana. I've got others who (belatedly, but because of discussions in class) have gotten involved with remote efforts to defeat Prop 8 in California. I've got students who have carefully weighed casting absentee ballots at home or voting here.

As a Chicagoan, can I say how appropriate it feels that Obama's grandmother will be able to vote for him from Beyond?

Ok, time to decide between my Eleanor, Franklin, and Marxist-Feminist dialectic shirts and head out.