Halloween Memories From a Lost America
Halloween gives President Bush a chance to pretend he's something he's not and frighten people - so it's a lot like every other day. I had two Halloween flashbacks lately that capture the rapid descent from a more idealistic time. One was when Candidate Bush appeared on the Tonight Show on or around Halloween and put on the Al Gore mask. Does anyone remember that? Anyway, I had two jokes on that night and one made direct fun of the Cheney half of the ticket. At the time Cheney's voting record was in the news - he barely voted at all. My joke was, "This election is going to be so close even Dick Cheney is thinking about voting."
When I look back on that, it's like another world. I remember marveling that a humble freelancer like me could take a verbal jab at a big political candidate's ticket while he was there as a guest. It actually is quite a statement about America that you can make fun of the leaders. Of course that was before the ticket was awarded office by the Supreme Court, and then went on a massive power drive such that the executive branch now has unchecked powers to arrest and torture any of us for the rest of our lives. That takes the steam out of the nostalgic reminiscing. And that was before light-hearted dissent was treated - not as an American way of life in the tradition of Will Rogers or Mark Twain - but as the unacceptable sniping of terrorist appeasers. Okay, that's a little strong, but I miss this country.
Who could have known that Dick Cheney's lack of interest in participatory democracy was a hint of a bleak future in which our system would be replaced by a de facto dictatorship? By the way, Dick Cheney enjoys picking a fun Halloween costume. It's the only time of year people don't think of him as Darth Vader. He also has a nasty surprise for trick-or-treaters who come to his house. He dunks them in water till they give up all of their candy.
My other Halloween memory was the night I got dressed down on the phone by Miss America's mother. I had written a front page story for the Portland Tribune about Donald Trump's refusal to let Miss America appear in the big Thanksgiving Parade because Miss Universe would be there. The details escape me but I sided with the hometown girl, Katie Harmon, and couldn't have been more generous in my support for her, and my disdain for the Donald. One thing about my Tribune columns - it seemed like someone was always upset - often the people you praised the most.
By the way, I always try and side with Portland in my jokes. I love the place so why not? My first joke I ever sold Leno made fun of Nancy Kerrigan, so I took Tonya's side early because she was the hometown girl. Later of course, I dumped on her as well, because it was good for business. But when a Portland State student wins Miss America, I'm not going to diss her in a local column and if I had they wouldn't have put it on the front page. So what was Katie's mom upset about?
As I remember, the Donald had come up with a counter offer that was demeaning and unacceptable and I wrote that Miss America had told him to stick it. I didn't quote her. I just described her reaction in those terms. Well, Miss America's Mom was not pleased and told me that she liked the article except for that one phrase and that Katie would never, ever say anything like that.
While she was talking the doorbell would ring in the background and she would go give candy to some trick or treaters. I could hear her talking to the kids, and this gave me time to notice how sweet a lady she was, but also to think about the weirdness of having Miss America's Mom upset at me.
That and making fun of Dick Cheney on the Tonight Show while George Bush was there are my two Halloween memories of the last 6 years that now seem so quaint and innocent that it might have been a Frank Capra film. Of course that was before we landed in the horror movie we're in right now.