Saturday, December 06, 2008

Obama Goes to the Haight

What's the metric for determining how hard I have worked as chair this semester? Look no further than my bar bill. During the school year every month or so the colleagues and I walk out for an afternoon drink or two, hitting one bar or another but favoring the Aub Zam Zam, which specializes in martinis, and there are certain things you should attempt only in the presence of a specialist.

Last week one of my wife's bosses told her that she was making everyone else look bad -- because she had done a job so fast that now people would ask why every job wasn't done that rapidly. This is man talk, the positive framed as a negative, so that you have to step back, assess and work your way around before you arrive at the truth on the other side.

This is how many many (did I say many?) male animals do their business, and having a few drinks with male colleagues you sometimes get a fine flow of friendly insult, the equivalent of the 'pound hug,' where men embrace stiff-armed and then flail at one another's backs.

So that's pretty much it when we visit the Haight: increasingly loud and awkward code-talk, as we all try to get in touch with our inner Barney and cannot find him. And what happens when female colleagues come along, which they sometimes but not always do? Well, mostly they sip almost imperceptibly, like bees at tiny flowers. They watch, as if the male animal was more assignment than companion, and file it all away as they get in touch with their inner anthropologist.

You could write a book, they think. As so many women have.

But I have wandered off track. My point is that my clan and I went walkabout before classes started back in August and haven't since. I personally blame the emails, which breed like tribbles.

And, by the way, I am of course aware of Chaucer's Sergeant of the Law:

Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was

I do concede I don't always resist boasting about my devotion to duty and perhaps exaggerate it a bit. But the fact remains: We were dead to the Haight for more than three months. Now, as it happened an election intervened, and in its aftermath I acquired an Obama hat mostly because it felt so good to buy it on the street in Oakland from a young black woman to whom the handing over of the hat seemed like the giving of a gift, even though I paid her $15. I've worn it here and sometimes there, to the occasional approving nod.

But yesterday I thought: It's time to take my game into the belly of the beast, to show all those Naderites, Trotskyites, libertarians, vegetarians, Greens, connoisseurs of all things Kucinich, your protofascists, nanofascists, hypofascists and fascists manque, not to mention all those bedraggled and dispirited Republicans on the down low who so clutter up the thoroughfare you can hardly find a dry piece of sidewalk, I'm saying I'm going to show all of them just how proud a moderate Democrat can be in these days of half-a-loaf, which will certainly be better than none in the aftermath of Bush backing up the truck and dumping everything in the cesspool and then backing the damn truck into the cesspool and throwing in the keys and then *walking away*, the bastard.

It's a small hope we have about the future when looked at from one angle, about a hat's worth of hope. It's all been going to ruin for so long and so fast, so please just stop the slide, Mr. President.

And then we all take a deep breath. And then we link hands and start the long slow climb back, keeping our mouths *shut* just for the first little while.

And what actually *happened*? Our little tatooed waitress was not amused, though I don't think it was the hat, and a bum asked me for money by reciting political poetry. And you know I think I felt a slight wind at my back, though it may have only been the breathing of my companions, laboring up a slight incline.


david silver said...

michael robertson - you can write your ass off.

....J.Michael Robertson said...

It's how I work out.