Saturday, September 29, 2012

Black Prez

The first time I voted for an African-American for president was 32 years ago.

In the fall of 1980 I was in graduate school in Bowling Green, Ohio, earning a small stipend as an assistant in the German Department. I roomed alone in a small apartment in a private house a mile or so off campus.

I had three rooms in the modest structure, the rest of which was vacant. Behind the house was a large fenced-in yard that I never used.

At one point a 30-something divorcee bought the house and moved in. She was beautiful, blond and buxom. I thought I had won the trifecta. She also owned a huge, slobbering St. Bernhard who was given the run of the yard.

As the presidential election drew near, I decorated a wall of my apartment with campaign posters — I no longer remember how I got them — of Andrew Pulley for president, and his female running mate, Matilde Zimmerman for vice president. Their party affiliation was Socialist Workers of America. Pulley was a black man.

At the time my thinking was why vote for a major party candidate when they both appeared to be different sides of the same coin and both primarily represented moneyed interests. I owned no capital, didn't have a car or TV. My most impressive possessions were an old 10-speed bike and a bunch of books in different languages.

But I also was not afraid of the s-word. I knew socialism was not totalitarianism, and that it could never lead to communism in America. In addition, I had lived in Western Europe and had observed that social democracy does not destroy such shared ideals like individualism and liberty.

I also completely failed to understand the thinking of so many of my fellow grad students, who used to say they were going to vote for Ronald Reagan "because he was sure to win." Did they care only about post-election bragging rights? Did voting for the eventual winner somehow make the voter right, smart, or a winner, too?

One day around election time my hottie of a landlady came into my apartment. Our living quarters were separated by an inside door that only locked from her side. She saw the posters and it made her laugh. She couldn’t believe I would really vote for a -- and here she used the n-word. She did not comment on the veep but returned to her side of the house.

After that I don't remember her coming by to hang out much. Mostly I saw my landlady when she had work around the house for me to do in return for reduced rent. I am sure I pined all winter for my fantasy trifecta.

The following Spring, returning from campus one unseasonably hot afternoon I found my lovely landlady lying on a towel behind her house catching rays. She was wearing a small white bikini and large dark sunglasses. She called me over, and as I made my way for the first time through the backyard I realized the entire lawn was covered with dog feces, much of it weeks and months old. There wasn't a square foot of sod that did not boast at least one pile of St. Bernhard poop. Obviously, she had never scooped up after her dog since moving in. And, in the midst of all that manure, my nearly naked landlady was tanning.

She propped herself on an elbow and said she would pay me to clean up the yard. Staring down at all that fair skin, I agreed to take on that disgusting job. It was the moment my beautiful and bigoted landlady ceased being an object of desire.

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