"W is for Wish list" 


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President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

I know the last thing you've been expecting is a fan letter from me. But I'd feel like a hypocrite if I didn't offer a hearty "Well done!" for the great job you've done helping us Floridians get through the nightmare of Hurricane Charley.

Last weekend, while I was crawling through the waist-deep detritus that littered my darkened neighborhood, I took great comfort in knowing that you had already declared the Sunshine State a disaster area. I was so inspired by your bold decisiveness, in fact, that I barely stopped to wonder why it had taken you three and a half years in office to come to that conclusion. (Maybe you don't talk to your brother that often, after all.) Still, I was moved to tears when I heard you explain your lightning-quick visit to the scene: "`I`f I didn't come, they would have said, 'He should have been here more rapidly.'" Not since the Coasters sang, "Why is everybody always pickin' on me?" in the classic "Charlie Brown" have I heard personal responsibility expressed with such moral force.

As a free-market conservative, though, I'm sure you'll agree that no other goodwill gesture can compete with the financial aid you've pledged to our rebuilding efforts. That money is absolutely crucial, particularly here in the I-4 corridor – which, when last I checked, just happened to be one of the geographical regions likely to determine the outcome of the November election. Not that I'm implying some kind of quid pro quo. Oh, heavens, no. Perish the thought. But if you don't have a problem with the idea, I've worked up a list of donation items I myself could use to get me back up to speed as a Florida resident and potential swing voter.

A portable generator – Like a lot of people, I never knew I needed one until it was too late. If you can shoot me one before the next squall takes a bite out of Cuba, I promise I won't use it indoors. (If you're not sure why that's bad, your pals at GE will be happy to explain it you. They may even have pictures.) I'm most interested in one of the swanky, top-of-the-line generators that will enable me to ride out the next storm in maximum luxury. A model with a built-in latte maker, for example, would do wonders to preserve the devil-may-care flow of my daily routine. Another point to consider: Is there a version out there with waffle-iron compatibility? It might be worth a call to Costco to find out.

A complete counterfeiting lab – The experts always tell you to prepare for a storm by withdrawing a week's worth of funds from the bank. But few of us bother, especially if we can secure an equivalent amount by fishing around in the sofa for change. The next time Orlando's ATMs go down for the count, it'll be absolutely necessary for me to be able to issue my own currency. To that end, I will require a state-of-the-art printing press, several hundred reams of paper stock and a few gallons of colored ink, including that special pigment that makes the new twenties look like props from a Fire Island Bingo night.

A pony – This one's a leftover from childhood, but it has a grown-up application, too. Since the nuisance power of a hurricane is measured in gasoline shortages and decimated bus service, it behooves each and every one of us to explore a more traditional approach to personal transportation. When I force myself to envision another storm, no mental image seems sweeter than that of me on horseback, leaping Zorro-style over fallen tree limbs on my way to deliver bags of ice to those in need. Oh, and that reminds me of something else I could use: Four pairs of black bandito pants, all in size 32/30. On second thought, better make it 30/30. I think I've lost some weight this week.

Ultimate Spider-Man issues 62-64 – There's nothing like a natural disaster to put you behind in your reading. And right now, I'm so out of the fine-literature loop that I feel as if I've been set adrift from my own culture. Just what is the nefarious Carnage up to these days, anyway? No good, I'll wager.

An exclusive, no-bid contract for the rebuilding of Punta Gorda – I'm taking a leaf from Cheney's book on this one. Bringing hope to the lives of a downtrodden people is the Lord's work – especially when you can feather your own nest in the process. God helps those who help themselves, right? As accessories, I'll need a gross of Kevlar vests and a fleet of bomb-sniffing dogs, in case the Punta Gordans prove less than enthusiastic when I commandeer their radio stations for their own safety's sake.

A knapsack full of peyote, a snub-nosed revolver and a Mexican ID in the name "Taser Bandolero" – What, you need an explanation for everything?

I think I'll stop there, lest you think I've grown gruesome in my greed. While I still have your attention, however, I should clarify that delivering one or all of the above items does not guarantee that I will be voting for you when I enter the booth this fall. That sort of naked trade-off would be highly unethical, don't you think? Still, if you can steer your way clear to hooking me up with at least three of the treasures I've mentioned, I can promise that I'll respond to the call of civic duty by simply staying home on Nov. 2. And the way things look at the moment, sir, that may be the only prayer you have.

Sincerely,

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Steve Schneider

Hurricane survivor/member of the Great Undecided

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