I voted

What I did: voted in the United States Presidential, Senate, and 18th Congressional district races; also voted for state senate, state assembly, and a bunch of judges.

What I did beforehand: got up early to give the Bacon Provider a ride to the train, drank tea and looked at Twitter, riding lesson, came home and got 19. 

What I wore: custom black Vogel tall field boots, brown full-seat Pikeur breeches, possibly-20-year-old brown leather Lucky belt which has become shiny with use, white long sleeve monogrammed pique cotton knit shirt, shiny black hooded North Face parka.

Who went with me: 19, who tried to register to vote in time for the primaries and had his application denied because his signature did not match his name (yes, really). 19 spent a number of days researching the candidates and grew frustrated that he couldn’t figure out what a truly trustworthy source of information would be. Add this to your post-election list of things to do.

How I registered: it took me two tries as well. It doesn’t seem to work if you try to change your voter registration when your change your address with the DMV. This is something the New York State Board of Elections should fix.

Why I voted: because when this country was founded, I was not considered a person, and when the 19th Amendment was ratified like 140 years later it was only due to the enormous and continuous efforts of a bunch of women who were willing to go to jail for the cause. And then it was only the white women who got to vote, right?

Where I voted: in the Bedhead Village Presbyterian Church, one of those gorgeous old white 1870s wood churches with all the nifty pointy architectural parts.

Things that were sad: they do not provide “I voted” stickers.

Things that were not funny: because it was 19’s first time voting, I asked the woman who gave us our giant ballots in their even more giant privacy sleeves if I could help him if he needed it. The woman unsmilingly responded, “As long as you are not his boss.”
I wasn’t sure if she was joking or not, but I decided to take her seriously. I told her I am not his boss.

Things that were funny: everyone there, from the workers to the voters, was just as serious and businesslike as 19. He would not pose for a selfie with me. 
Something I ate: Nature’s Path Organic Heritage Flakes cereal, with Bob’s Red Mill original granola and Horizon Organic 1% low-fat milk, right afterwards when I got home.

What it is: yeah, actually we live in a republic, but it’s our democratic principles that Americans like to think stand for us. 

Who should vote: as of this writing , the countries with mandatory voting are Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, Honduras, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Mexico, Nauru, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Singapore, Thailand, and Uruguay. I’ve been trying to remember which was the first election I voted in. The first election I would have been eligible to vote in was 1984, and I may have voted for the Mondale/Ferraro ticket, but I don’t remember. I was still an undergrad.  In 1988, I was done with grad school and lived in Burlington, Vermont, and while have a vague memory of voting for Dukakis, I can’t picture it. I know I voted in Vermont in 1990 because we sent our former mayor Bernie Sanders to the U.S. Congress that year, as an independent. I specifically remember voting for Clinton/Gore in 1992, with the two-year-old The Graduate in tow, and vividly recall standing in line outside the library in the scruffy northern California town where we lived then. I must have voted for president before because it was the first time I actually voted for the winner in the presidential race. 

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What I saw on the way home: signs and flaggers and traffic cones, warning us of the men working in the trees. It still seemed like everything was going to be ok.

Hot Sauce

There are two bottles. Hot sauce. Two bottles of hot sauce. One bottle is full. One bottle is empty. The empty bottle is your past. Your past is hot sauce you already ate. Or, someone else ate it. Hot sauce that is no more. Hot sauce that made the eggs ok. Hot sauce that made the burrito more awesome. Hot sauce that was essential to the tacos. The hot sauce of yesterday. It is gone.
The full bottle is full of hot sauce. Someone opened it already, so there won’t be any frustration with the little plastic seal if you need the new hot sauce. It is ready for you and your eggs. Or your burritos. Or tacos. You might even use the new bottle of hot sauce in a new way. You might put hot sauce on something you’ve never put it on before. You could eat outside. You might make a new friend, and invite her over, and serve her hot sauce. The full bottle of hot sauce is your future. It is filled with inspiration to do new things in spicier ways.
“Actually, it’s ‘Cholula.'”

There is something else: President’s Party. Properly punctuated. A sticker, on a water bottle. A label for a party that you were not invited to. A party that required stickers. And you weren’t invited, and you didn’t go. Do you wonder what they ate there? Do you think the music was good? You are pretty sure the wine wasn’t the cheapest wine, and the music might have been top-drawer, whatever that means. And the food was for the president’s guests, so the best this president had to offer. What partying president is this? A president of a nation? Of a club?

And whose water is that, anyway? And is there maybe a fly floating in that water?

Other Vacationers

Some of the other vacationers
We had been here just long enough that we’d grown restless from eating in the hotel for breakfast and dinner, and last night made plans to try the bigger resort next door. Our hotel is a small, quiet, boutique affair on a broad crescent of Caribbean beach, where all the neighboring properties seem larger and louder. Some are teeming with tourists, their stew of folks from all over seasoned with drawling, boisterous, hard-drinking Americans, like that one who tells the waiter, “It don’t matter,” and then makes him explain every item on the menu, because she, “don’t want nothing fishy.”
At the encouragement of several members of hotel staff and cab drivers, we walked down to the community Thursday fish fry, in the park. Nothing is especially cheap on this island, and when we bought two bottles of local beer, it came in big, milky plastic cups and was $10. There were many food vendors, so I guessed the best was the one with the longest line. Even the grilled corn was going to be $3 an ear. We lined up and drank our beer.
“Hey, it’s Missouri!” shouts the big pink fellow ahead of us in line for conch fritters.
He elbows his wife. She’s distractedly humping the air, dancing to the reggaeton blasting from the stage. Her eyes don’t focus on his face, but she peels her lips away from her teeth in a grimace of recognition. Is that a drunken smile? “You know,” she continues, speaking upward into the direction of the other couple in line with them, “Those Canadians are traveling with their kids.”
“Who wants to pay for all that!?” hoots her husband with a vote of support.
She jabs him back with an elbow of agreement, missing his belly and tipping not imperceptibly off balance.
Our hotel is full of people traveling with their kids. There was the tiny gent at dinner the other night in tiny navy topsiders without socks and tiny pressed khakis and a tiny white polo shirt and tiny suspenders. I was really looking forward to seeing him entertain himself with a parent’s pocket full of tiny cars, or a bunch of stickers and a new coloring book, but, no, his mom hauled out an iPad and set him up watching the glowing screen like a zombie, and the parents spoke in hushed tones in Russian without even glancing at him in his stupor. Do they even give out crayons in restaurants anymore?
Then there is what I call the Chas Tenenbaum family: with the nerdy dad in white tube socks and tightly belted, high-waisted khaki pants, the trim looker of a dark blond wife an obvious emblem of his financial success, and his matched set of curly-black-haired boys, the spitting images of dad, never out of arm’s reach, despite being on the verge of properly rambunctious Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sort of ready-for-adventure age.
Contrast these to the French Canadians we hear thundering in circles upstairs whose arrival in the restaurant is announced by their three squealing miniature ruffians. They appear to be five year old brother and sister twins, with a bonus 4 year old brother who can’t quite always keep up but will fling himself forward and over and around and through in every effort to. The father doesn’t stop talking, and the mother doesn’t even glance down to see them kick off and deposit their shoes under her chair at breakfast so they can run tight laps on the patio, tagging each other with wadded napkins clasped in their unsupervised and undisciplined fingers screaming in their own unintelligible blend of French and English. Their breakfast ended in tears as the youngest slipped the room key into a crack in the table and couldn’t get it out.
It’s not just families with small children here. There are a number of older couples, and I am as charmed by the careful escort of the frail wife to the water as I was the young mother with sleeping infant on her chest under a beach umbrella. There is a moment at the water’s edge, where the surf rolls in and out and the footing is rough and loose, where a couple of the unsteadier guests have needed an arm to hold and a word of encouragement.
The day before yesterday, Chas Tenenbaum and the boys took a football to the sand and stood not far enough apart in a triangle tossing it. None of them seemed to have ever tossed a football before, and the younger boy missed every catch. The mother puttered about the loungers and joined them, making a square. The figure formed by the bodies constantly reformed as the ball dropped, the only sound that carried to me was the mother’s apologies.
And then yesterday, at the beach, the Chas Tenenbaums commandeered a stand-up paddleboard as a family and were taking turns balancing on it, mom at the tail and dad at the nose. When the dad took his turn on the thing, the little one pressed on the board near his mother, at the nose, insisting, “I’ll stabilize it.”
“No,” the father shouted. “Get off.”
Soon enough, he lost his balance and fell in again. The parents dragged the board back to its spot on the sand and retreated to their lounge chairs, and the kids swam, bobbing in the swells. In the end, there was just the younger boy left, only his nose and forehead visible, floating purposelessly in the water. Finally, a moment of entertaining himself.

On our way to dinner, we saw the older couple with the fragile wife, trying to take selfies in the pastel light of a beach sunset. She was unhesitant in asking me to take a picture of them, with her iPhone. It’s still one of my favorite things to do: take pictures of strangers for them. We promised her a full report on the restaurant next door.