Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hello dear heart. Thinking of you in your new home. Is it a new home for you? I imagine it is, that you moved for your work. Or perhaps it's a return home, who knows. At any rate, whichever the case, I hope you are doing well and are happy. It is very cold up here today despite bright sun. Holding off on turning on the oil heat - or even getting oil, for that matter, beyond small supplies of kerosene D seems to run out for once a week. Whatever. I don't mind bundling up. I hate spending money on boring things such as oil or Q-tips or plastic wrap. I would rather go without - but have my occasional artisanal camembert. A great many people I've ever encountered in my life have disapproved of me for this attitude towards life. I may have inherited it from my maternal grandfather whom I never met. After the war, in London, he and the family were completely wiped out, had emigrated not quite sure how to London (he landed at the BBC) - anyway, there wasn't enough money, so if he came by some - say, on payday - and there wasn't enough to cover some essential, say rent - he was inclined to suggest going out to dinner, or to the theatre. Or so family lore went. I like that attitude - to a point, of course. There comes another point where it ceases to be funny. But if truly one can go without some boring conventionalities, in favor of the extraordinary and rich and beautiful and special and memorable - to create special memories - oh, then surely that is the way to live.

I walked down to the firehouse this afternoon and cast my votes (circled bubbles standardized-test style) across the top line. We could use your vote up here, you - I doubt it goes as far where you are now - unless, don't tell me you feel more politically congenial down there. I'll refuse to believe it. I don't see how you could like my blog and vote for Them too. (Have I alienated you yet? Not that I'm trying. Which reminds me, did you ever get my message? I assume you did, but in case you've forgotten to check. Not that I expect a response.)

So I stood in line to get signed in to vote and got the same Republican "poll watcher" who had signed me in in early September on Primary election day. What's your name? I give her the first four letters of my surname, which is enough to singularly call up my name. She pages through the book, and standing over the table glancing at her registry book I spy, upside down, my signature next to my name and I indicate - that's me. Oh, she says looking up at me brightly, how do you pronounce that? I tell her, and she makes a to-do about it - oh what a lovely name. Afterward, after I cast my vote, I feel really annoyed that I had to answer in any way to this purselipped narrowminded type, who comments on my name simply because it is Foreign and Unpronounceable. But I suppose she finds it Acceptable and "Pretty" - in other words, I pass - because I'm white and I look (enough) like a whitebread soccer mom. (Someone once said to me, when she began to get to know me and realized that I'm a bit unconventional - wow: you pass. Which maybe bears thinking about - at times it is useful to have that camouflage, I suppose - when you're a bit different.

So I left the house around noon to go vote and was already rehearsing in my mind what I might say if I had to go through the same shpiel with the Republican poll-watcher. Which sure enough I did - same woman, exact same drill, what's your name, blah blah blah, page through book, there I am, how do you pronounce that?

I said, it doesn't matter.

But how do you say it?

I shook my head. I didn't answer.

But it's such a pretty name!

It's not relevant, I said.

Because the thing is, maybe she thought on some shallow, thoughtless level that she was being "nice" (and she could instantly retreat behind that cover if she wished to) - but the fact of the matter is that immigration is an issue in our country, and I'm familiar with xenophobic attitudes - I've had decades of experience starting when I was knee-high "explaining" my name - and so it is simply not innocent whatsoever, in my view, for an official to query one's name at a polling place, particularly if she's wearing the stupid nametag "Republican poll watcher" which I (given the tone of rhetoric these years) assume bespeaks entrenched attitudes that are anathema to me.

(On an unrelated note, I felt a little bad being barraged with emails the last couple of weeks that I didn't go to phone banks in a get-out-the-vote drive. I found I simply couldn't, it just runs against my energies... But certainly - I did cast my vote, with all well-wishes and fingers crossed.)

Anyway, I'm glad I spoke up to the woman about my name. She didn't respond to me, seemed to get the message and respect my brief, quiet response. It's possible that she had never thought about her kneejerk way of coming upon an unfamiliar name. But here we are in the United States, with the right to vote, and I'm enrolled, and I'm listed in the book, and that's all that ever has to matter - I don't have to belong to the "right" ethnic group, or look a certain way, or have a "pretty" name, or a plain name, or a completely befuddling name. My name doesn't need to be uttered by me or by a poll watcher at all. It's irrelevant.

My dear Dmitri or Robert or - ? (because I do try to divine your first name, imaginatively) - I would tell you my name any day a million times over -

XOXO and hope you're having a wonderful afternoon

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