Monday, November 11, 2002

The Importance of Eating a Sandwich

The last time I cared in both my heart and my mind about the outcome of an election was in 1980, which ironically was the last election before I was first eligible to vote. I was following the presidential race quite closely. My man was John Anderson who was running as an independent against challenger Ronald Reagan and then President Jimmy Carter. I liked Anderson's straightforward intellectualism but even more I liked the notion of a viable third party candidate changing the way we elect our leaders.

I was convinced that if Reagan won it would pretty much mean the end of the world what with that empty actor, reading his fed lines look, spouting off about the evil empire Soviet Union. I cried as the results came rolling in and Anderson got about 10 percent of the vote and Carter was sent home packing. Maybe it was the end of the world but here we are 22 years later and from what happened last Tuesday it appears the majority of us want to return to the glory days of Reaganism. Friends have expressed shock and concern at who got elected and the overwhelming results of the election and I even heard a few who thought that yes indeed, this again might just be the end.

I gotta admit, with some trepidation, that I don't really give a kabootie about who got elected. Let 'em do whatever they want. The people have spoken. Having fallen far past the point of exhaustion (oh yes I remember the good old days when I was merely exhausted) helping in preparation of the election and then helping try to make things run smoothly in the precincts on election day, and with things on my mind, I'm just glad nothing visibly exploded that day. I was worried that it might. I have come to a point where I have seen it all. I've seen relationships crumble and wise men fall. I've been in love with an image, an idea, and a concept and all three broke my heart.

I'm not an insightful guy but I do play one on TV. For the past several years I have crammed two diverse jobs into something resembling a life. One has to do with politics and the other has to do with entertainment. For a long while I thought they were different enough where I could balance my sanity between the two. I don't know what lessons will ultimately be drawn from last Tuesday night. Maybe it will result in World War III. Maybe we will all have that extra dollar or two in our pockets from paying less taxes. Maybe we all will be able to carry our concealed weapons just a little bit easier. Maybe none of it matters. And while I don't align myself with any particular political party I must admit absolute confusion about who the 60+ percent of people out there are who believe GW is truly a visionary leader. But then again the week of the election the number one movie at the box office was Jackass. There's a message or a link or something in there somewhere.

I've become a firm believer that the best thing you can do for another (and after all isn't that why we are here?) is to inspire them. Thus it's been a tad difficult to digest because it has never happened to me before but there have been events the last few years so overwhelming and stunning that not even the greatest piece of art can make any of it make any kind of sense. Fortunately Tuesday night wasn't one of these events. I don't know how many of you were lucky enough to see a few nights before, a rare and special jewel of a moment where a beacon of light shone brightly even as its originator's life was/is slowly dimming. Politics can kill you slowly long term over many years. Life can kill you in an instant. Television isn't usually the place (thankfully) where we get to see in such clear terms the connection between this breath and our very last.

Warren Zevon's appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman was heartbreaking but soul affirming stuff. When the news first came out a few months back that Zevon had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer it didn't have the national impact of the sudden tragic death of Sen. Paul Wellstone but in its own way it was just as terribly sad for those of us who appreciate the wisdom from a superlative wit and acerbic humor of a great writer. A few weeks later when it was announced that Zevon was going to appear on the Late Show (a show he has been on many times in the past even filling in for bandleader Paul Schaffer) it really was no surprise as Letterman has clearly been a big fan over the years.

Zevon performed three songs including a heart stopping "Mutineer" in which he struggled with shortness of breath to hit the high notes. But it was more than just a poignant moment from a man probably making his final public appearance. It was a graceful human showing his heart, reaching out, comforting both himself and his audience. "I was born to rock the boat/Some may sink but we will float/Grab your coat - let's get out of here/You're my witness/ I'm your mutineer..."

During the interview Letterman asked a self depreciating but keenly aware of weight of the moment Zevon if in facing his imminent death "is there anything about life that I don't know?" And Zevon raised his eyebrow and gave the best answer ever, "Well, no, not unless you count the importance of eating a sandwich."

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