Fair or Foul
Alameda County, California, has only got a few years left. Sometime in the next decade, its grand, inexorable transformation into one solid, eight hundred square-mile block of soulless, addled, self-absorbed, puke-inducing suburban wasteland will render it officially ineligible to refer to its big, annual, mid-summer festival as a "county fair."
A county fair, y'see, should have a decidedly rural feel and flavor and, well, aroma to it, and Alameda County is quickly running out of the necessary ingredients. Someday soon, all but the most self-deluded members of whatever status-inflated council or committee decides these things will realize that their county no longer has any cows in it, that none of the sheep nor the goats are worthy of show, that the few horses they have are really just tired, bored, sway-backed ponies and that anybody who, in this time and place, really thinks pig races are fun should probably be seeking professional help. Oh yes, sometime in the next few years these facts will hit home with the same suddenness and clarity and sinking feeling in the gut that you would get if you fumbled your brand new cellphone into the nether regions of a port-a-potty. When that time comes, the powers that be had darned-well better change the name of the event to something other than the "Alameda County Fair" --just out of simple courtesy and respect for honest-to-Cartwright county fairs everywhere-- or I, alas, shall be forced to hunt somebody down and kick them in the dairy-air.
I might suggest, however, that they steer clear of calling it "Sailfest."
"Sailfest" is the name of the big, flocking, mid-summer event in New London, Connecticut. It was there, on Saturday, that an eighty-nine year old gent in a Chevy Caprice staged his own personal version of the running of the bulls...
It happened at around 3:30 in the afternoon. The old boy and his date, along with several dozen other people, perhaps even hundreds, most of them on foot, were waiting while the badly tarnished silver-gray of an Amtrak train squeaked and screamed and rattled and clattered through a crossing. The moments and the rail-cars flashed by like a badly deteriorated film... one that will give you a vague sense of vertigo if you watch it for too long. Finally, the white-hot wash of sound panned hard-over to one ear and dopplered raggedly away. A breathless second and three-quarters passed. The atonal punk-band bell-clang of the crossing gate ceased without ceremony, leaving behind only its deafening notion, echoing around inside everyone's skull. The red lights stopped flashing, and the gate-arms lifted themselves with a slight jerk, and a wobble, and then that smooth, stately, climbing arc that always ends with another wobble-- like a drunken party-goer who stands too quickly and takes a sudden, shaky half-step followed by a brief, uncertain pause.
No doubt the old gent in the Chevy paused, briefly and uncertainly, and then took his foot off of the brake pedal. The car rolled forward, easing itself over the crossing with a rise and a dip and a rise and a sway that started to become a gentle corkscrewing motion just as the tires crossed the last rail. Our boy finished bumping slowly over the crossing... and... then... bumped slowly into one of the pedestrians that were streaming along toward Sailfest.
I will now pause while you absorb the, uh, impact of that last statement.
Yes, he hit a pedestrian. Yes, with his car.
So then what did he do? He hit another one.
And then another one.
And then another.
In all, he hit twenty-seven people. All of them at about five miles per hour.
Actually, if you want to get technical, he may well have hit (or bumped) more than that. Twenty-seven was the unofficial number of people who needed treatment of one kind or another-- for a rather wide variety of injuries, I might add.*
Twenty-seven! This was not, mind you, an incident where somebody lost control while doing sixty and screeched and swerved and careened and ploughed into a crowd of people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. No, this Bozo was just idling along at that dead-slow speed that boaters call "no wake" and --whoops!-- forgot, apparently, how to stop the [coitating] car!
Ah, but here's where it gets interesting...
About three or four of the people who were injured are on the Ned Lamont campaign staff. Lamont was at Sailfest, you see, shaking hands and kissing babies and calling Joe Lieberman every name in the proverbial book, except the Really, Really Off-Limit ones.
You remember ol' Joe, don't you? Six years ago, he was Al Gore's running mate. If the Supreme Court hadn't simply thrown up their hands in the Florida Recount Fiasco Case (as I like to call it) and thrown the election to the Smirking Marionette, Joe Lieberman might well be Vice President right now. Lieberman was, then, and is, now, a U.S. Senator. Often, when you see his name in print, it is followed by the notation "D-Conn." Obviously, "Conn" stands for Connecticut. And "D," of course, as everybody knows, means he is a member of the Disorganized Party. Ah, but Washington is a tricky sea to sail, with capricious, shifting, swirling political winds --yes, Washington really blows-- and lately Joe Lieberman has been tacking about as far to the right as one can with a "D" attached to their name.
Enter Ned Lamont, a man seeking to tack a "D-Conn" onto his own name. Lamont's entire platform can be summed up in one sentence. For all I know, it's his official campaign slogan: "Joe Lieberman is a Republican in sheep's clothing."
And that simple, straightforward message is working. According to the poll numbers, the upstart Lamont poses a Credible Threat** to the multi-term incumbent who is, perhaps, the only Democrat that the Blinkin' Administration wouldn't mind seeing re-elected.
Which brings us back to New London's Sailfest and the gouted geezer in the gas guzzler who turned a simple railroad crossing into a slow-motion, human bowling alley. As I read the article, and came to the part about how several of Lamont's staffers were among those injured, one glimmering thought stood out from the dun, roiling hubbub of my mind...
You know, this sort of thing has 'Dick Cheney' written all over it.
* No fatalities were reported.
** Lieberman has stated that if he loses in the primary, he will run as an independent in the general election.
Way to go, Joe. That's just what your party needs right now: More prolonged infighting, more Chinese fire drilling, more headless chickenesque political gyrations and --most importantly of all-- a good old-fashioned vote split that would kick the door wide open for one more Republican in the Senate. Well done.
Even if Lieberman's promise/threat is just a ploy, the bare fact that he made it shows just how strong Lamont's challenge is.
P.S... Bud "Let's All Stare at the All-Stars" Selig must go.