Saturday, November 1, 2008

Absentee voter #1: the ancestors and the future

Barack Obama is one vote closer to victory in Missouri after yesterday.

I voted absentee at The St. Louis County Board of Elections. The wait was an hour and a half on a beautiful day.

There was a supernaturally hip, friendly and helpful uniformed County security guard making sure that infirm or elderly people had a place to sit while their place in line was saved for them.

People kept their cool and patience, for the most part, throughout the long delay, though it does beggar the understanding why it's so much harder to cast your vote for the president of the country than it is to buy a greasy bag of burgers and fries.

I thought it best to stay out of people's grills, so I rushed my sketches and mostly sketched people from behind. The County copper, supernaturally hip, helpful and friendly though he might have been, evidently did not appreciate being sketched. I felt pretty sure he was trying to think of a reason why he should be able to tell me I shouldn't be drawing his picture, but he couldn't.
I sketched one of three girls working the poll on behalf of Clint Zweifel, a "moderate Democrat" (as she said) running for state treasurer. Clint is a brilliant guy, a straight shooter and hard worker who also got my vote yesterday. I was glad to see he (or the Teamsters, or somebody) held back some campaign dinero to run a ground campaign in the last days.

The best visual was my immediate neighbor behind me in line. She had a wizened older librarian vibe and was reading this big fat paperback. There was no way to draw her picture without turning around in line to look at her with my sketchbook open, a pretty good indication that you are drawing somebody's picture, so I contented myself with simply enjoying the image of her jamming on that book.

Toward the end of our shuffle to the poll, I saw it was Emma by Jane Austen. She was looking like she needed a break after an hour of Austen on foot, so I chatted her up. She said she was refreshing her memory of the novel before she went to see The Rep's production of Emma. She nosed into the paperback I had in my back pocket, a tasty selection of post-War Russian poetry, of Soviets and discontents.

We small-talked about the classics and visting sites associated with the literary departed. We have both visited Shakespeare's birthplace and Emily Dickinson's grave, small odds on that connection in line at the polls. She's way ahead of me on Victorian authors' homes and seemed keenly impressed that I have been to Samuel Beckett's grave in Paris.

We turned a corner, and for the last stretch I had a view of a fiftysomething black man in a Harley-Davidson jacket and jeans. He was with a lady, his wife I guessed, and they looked so very at home in their skin and clothes on this glorious, sunny day.

After I had voted, as I was walking back to my car, I saw her climb behind him on the Harley. Both helmeted and, one must imagine, still pleasantly stunned that they just had the opportunity to vote for an African-American man as president of the United States, the man kicked the Harley into gear and quietly guided them down Sunnen, toward Big Bend Boulevard and the rest of their afternoon, which (I'll imagine) included a bottle of big red wine and a long, probing conversation about the ancestors and the future.

As I was admiring them cycling into the sun, a man called my name. It was a familiar voice. It was Steve Fitzpatrick Smith, proprietor of The Royale and amateur prizefighting impressario.

If, based on the way he operates his public house and conducts himself in general, you would take Steve to be the kind of guy who would drive his grandmother to the polls, then I can confidently report that this really is the kind of guy who would drive his grandmother to the polls.

Granny had just voted. I personally think it's a little rude to ask someone how they vote, but taking one look at Granny, an ancestor who evidently wants the best for the future, I'm pretty sure Obama is even one more vote closer to victory in Missouri.


Steven Fitzpatrick Smith said...

Grandma knows how to vote! She is the best.

Tomatohead said...

I always have the time, and I always have a look.

I'm that that MO is headed the same way we're headed in CA.

Now, just got to get our dearest friends hitchimitized on Monday.....

Best, your beer drinking buddies.

Confluence City said...

Great! Thanks!