I don't even know who I am today. There's this spiked ball of nerves wrapped in vein-red twine that seems to be teetering over the ledges of the Labyrinth board with every random unevening of the potholed foundation, sure, but where there's typically a tick — a nervous winking thing, or at least a heartbeat — there is nothing so measurable to depend upon today. The occasional rushes of blood don't seem to be shooting anywhere at all, just darting their disparate paths to places unknown, and if I were anybody, I wouldn't be trusting me with anything right now.
"Where the fuck are you?" I spit some venom through my iPhone and into Billman's. "This is supposed to be your party!"
A couple of weeks ago, wonkhead Billman blowharded out his blowhole that he had a great idea, one that would make the Weekly relevant on Election Day and ensure inebriation to whatever masses chose to make his acquaintance. Billman was going to spearhead the Weekly's first election results party, one replete with drinking games, number-crunching and pundit-mocking tomfoolery, all in the name of distracting us from the anxiety of awaiting Hopey's ascent to the presidency. "I might make an appearance at that," I thought out loud. And here I am, virtually in charge of it.
"I hate you guys!" Billman Cartmans back. "It's not my party!"
In fact, at 5 p.m., it's not much of a party at all, but rather a sports bar featuring free wings and quesadillas propped up on a pool table; there are flat-screens tuned into the silenced prattling of Matthews and Blitzer while the innocu-punk of Pink's "So What" plays out its apathy through the speakers. I may not know who I am, but I am not this.
"What are the drink specials you promised?" my willing sidekick Roy peers down his nose.
"Well there's dollar off blah blah and blah with blah-de-blah," I happy hour. "Oh, and $7 pitchers."
"I'll have the pitcher of happiness!" Roy is a portrait of contentment.
Thankfully, some of the more industrious folks from our staff — the ones who actually do things, and don't just shoot odorous ideas out their asses and wait for their farts to materialize — have intervened to infuse the downtown Clubhouse with helium balloons and some kind of raffle strategy. There are red tickets and there are blue tickets, meaning perhaps stereotypically that there are red prizes (country music!) and there are blue prizes (Blue Man Group tickets!), but none of them will matter until the giant TVs start to fill in the states with the colors. For now, it's a waiting game, a drunken jigsaw puzzle of self-discovery.
Let the process of elimination begin.
I'm not the rambling older woman who keeps approaching me with whispered reminiscences about her family members who might have died of AIDS in a tentative verbalization of a thought process brought on by her recent viewing of Philadelphia. I am not the bald, rather dirty homeless man who keeps pulling down his jeans right there on the sidewalk. I'm not the skinny waitress in hotpants. And I'm not the fuzzy college kid in sweats who keeps sneezing in seemingly ceaseless fits of repetition. At best, I am the hologram of Will.I.Am being beamed in on the CNN, but only because my name is actually William and I don't actually exist in matter.
Orange County Soil and Water candidate Jessy Hamilton — who looks 12 years old — is an early show (earlier than, say, Billman) and at least helps to pass the time with some overwrought topicality.
"For you, what would be tonight's biggest upset?" he pulls a Wolf Blitzer and lets rhetoric just hang there in the air.
The newly arrived, wet-haired Billman chimes in with something that resembles "Georgia." I stare blankly while quietly contemplating whether my whole life is just one "biggest upset." Sigh.
By 9 p.m. the party's officially kicked itself in, right in time with the liquor. Kentucky and Vermont are the first states to be called, and ad exec Angie (who is on crutches) and I are forced to scream over the din for the chance to give out Kelly Pickler and Sugarland tickets to sad Republicans and Blue Man Group tickets to gay Democrats. But when the next slate of states gets announced, the whole plan flies right out the window — along with the drinking games, on account of something called "liability." Somebody could wrap themselves around a tree and blame the Weekly. (I've tried it. It doesn't work.)
The rest of the night plays out like a kaleidoscopic blur — one frequently punctuated by repeated ass-grabs from my boss Bob Whitby, of course — and finds most of the crowd with one eye on the television results and the other one drunkenly crossing to meet it. There are luminaries — me, county commissioner Bill Segal — and there are homeless people (one of whom keeps threatening to kiss me or kill me, I can't be sure) — and there's the general conviviality of a coming upsurge.
Outside, just before it's all decided, one homeless man informs me that Blister is essential reading for indigents, so much so that they often quote my nonsense. I hug him and realize that maybe I'm starting to get an idea of exactly who I am.
And then it happens. Nuzzled in between Whitby's legs, I watch Barack Obama remind us all that we are everybody.
"It's the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled," he says, already the best president ever. "Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been just a collection of individuals or a collection of red states and blue states. We are, and always will be, the United States of America."
And my heart starts beating again.[email protected]