#RockTheVote: A Deletion Poem

 

*Editor’s Note: Stories For Sunday is thankful to have a guest post from Joe Valentine. He put this poem together as his civic contribution to this great country. 

Deletion poems don’t usually make a lot of sense. Presidential elections usually make a little bit of sense. And yet this deletion poem from the third presidential debate is a pretty solid encapsulation of the 2016 election. Source material found here

 

Chris Wallace: Good evening from Las Vegas.

I’m Chris Wallace of Cheers. No noise

except Trump.

Secretary Clinton, Mr. Trump,

let’s get it on. First of all,

what’s your view on words?

 

Clinton: I talk. I stand up and basically say,

I would be great as President.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, same question.

 

Trump: First of all, it’s great to be so, so

very inappropriate

toward a tremendous number of people.

Many, many millions of people.

I am bent.

 

Wallace: We now have ten minutes

for an open discussion on

the arms of judge Antonin Scalia.

 

Clinton: The gun show. I respect the arms.

 

Trump: The toughest. Probably you could say

by far the toughest.

Tremendous. Very strong.

 

Wallace: Well, let’s pick on Mr. Trump. You’re pro-life.

 

Trump: I am pro-life.

 

Clinton: I strongly support regulations on

women that block them from Donald.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, your reaction.

 

Trump: Well I think If you go with what Hillary is saying,

you can say that that is okay and

Hillary can say that that is okay, but because

based on what she is saying and based

on where she’s going and

where she’s been, that’s not acceptable.

 

Clinton: Scare rhetoric.

 

Wallace: All right. Let’s move on.

The question is why are you right

and your opponent wrong?

 

Trump: Well first of all, she is just pouring

the blood of the youth.

 

Clinton: I rip apart children.

I want to see Donald rip apart any person.

 

Trump: We are a country of laws.

 

Clinton: There are some limited

places where that was appropriate.

 

Trump: Big league. Bigly.

 

Wallace: Secretary Clinton, you gave a

Brazilian for which you

were paid $225,000.

Is that your dream?

 

Clinton: That is private.

 

Wallace: Try to keep it quiet.

 

Trump: Now we can talk about Putin.

He said nice things about me.

He has tremendous

numbers of chicken.

 

Clinton: Well, he would rather have a puppet.

 

Trump: No puppet. You’re the puppet.

 

Clinton: I am not.

 

Trump: She doesn’t like Putin.

 

Wallace: I do get to ask some questions.

 

Trump: I don’t know Putin.

 

Wallace: I’m not asking you that.

 

Trump: I never met Putin.

 

Wallace: We are going to move on to

the next topic which

is growth.

 

Clinton: I think Bernie Sanders is on steroids.

 

Trump: Well, I’m a big massive husband.

 

Clinton: My husband has investments.

 

Trump: Her husband was one of the worst

things ever. They

actually fact checked

and they said I was right.

 

Clinton: Donald goes around

with crocodile tears, but he

brought Osama bin Laden to

The Celebrity Apprentice.

 

Wallace: The next segment is fitness.

 

Trump: I really want to just talk

about something different.

She is very sleazy.

 

Clinton: Well, I know I don’t have the AIDS.

 

Trump: You push gays off buildings.

 

Clinton: He can’t prove it.

What is really troubling is

that he has not paid

a penny in federal income tax.

 

Trump: You should have changed the

law if you don’t like it.

You should have changed the law,

but you won’t change the law.

I sat in my apartment today.

I will tell you I sat there. I sat there

watching ad after ad after ad, all ads.

And you should have changed

the laws. If you don’t like what I did,

you should have changed the laws.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Governor Pence on Sunday

is one of the prides of this country.

Are you saying you’re

not prepared to commit to that principle?

 

Trump: I’ll keep you in suspense, okay?

 

Clinton: Donald really is whining.

 

Wallace: Hold on, folks. This doesn’t do

any good for anyone. Let’s please move

onto the subject of the offensive to

take back Mosul. The question becomes,

whoever of you ends up as president,

will you vacuum ISIS?

 

Trump: Let me tell you, Mosul is so sad.

We had Mosul. But we lost Mosul.

Now we’re fighting again to get Mosul.

The problem with Mosul

is in Mosul.

They want to attack Mosul.

We’re going after Mosul.

I’ve been reading about Mosul.

So we’re now fighting for Mosul.

But you know who the big winner in Mosul

is going to be.

But who is going to get Mosul really?

We’ll take Mosul eventually.

So Mosul is going to be a wonderful thing.

 

Clinton: I just want everybody to go Google it.

“Google Donald Trump Iraq” and you

can hear the audio of him

saying Mosul.

 

Trump: Bernie Sanders said Mosul.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump, Secretary Clinton, no.

We need to move on to our

final segment. It seems to me funny

that you haven’t prepared

closing statements. So,

tell the American people why

they should elect you.

 

Clinton: I’m awesome. I have made

children. I will do everything.

 

Wallace: Mr. Trump?

 

Trump: I have depleted the

Earth for ten lifetimes.

 

Wallace: That brings us to the end of this country.

-Compiled by Joe Valentine

 

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Cry Baby

office building

By Megan Jacob**

**Today, we’re thankful to have a guest post from upstart florist and meanderer of Portland, Oregon, Megan Jacob. Enjoy it. And don’t hesitate to pay her a compliment for this one. People who write things like compliments.  

 

My tears are different now. They’re sad, or melodramatic, or cheesy, or heartbreaking. They’re a lot like yours, probably. They serve a bodily function that my brain is in tune with, like a sneeze or a cough or, well, you get the point. But during that month, my tears were something else. They were like the drips of a leaky faucet, letting loose irrelevant splashes until something changed.

The cold, hard metal of the deserted bleachers had already imprinted lines into the back of my bare thighs, when I started sobbing into my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As far as multi-tasking goes, trying to eat thick peanut butter and open-mouth crying aren’t exactly conducive. I hardly noticed the homeless man that had migrated to my side of the baseball field. He approached, weary eyes trained on my blotchy, red tear-stained face offering a ratty handkerchief. I accepted and made contact with his eyes; as bleary as mine were bloodshot. All he had left to give was a half-hearted smile and a shoulder shrug before turning his back and moving on. I stared at the retreating silhouette of his shopping cart piled high with rattling glass bottles. My heart swelled at the stranger’s compassion and tenderness, but then he was gone.

I glanced at my watch – an hour had passed since I had collapsed on the bench in an unsuccessful attempt to compose myself. I gathered what was left of my soggy sandwich and walked into the sunlight. The homeless man’s smile restored my faith in humanity; maybe this day was worth giving another chance. I happily walked 20 yards reciting inspirational quotes and applying inherent goodness to even my least favorite people– all the bullshit they stick in iPhone commercials to keep us from murdering each other, and to keep us buying iPhones.

I glanced up at the approaching shadow I was about to enter. I shivered in the sweltering September heat, and pulled my work-appropriate cardigan a little closer around my shoulders. The temporary jolt of optimism never stood a chance. Was this building about to swallow me whole? No, it would chew me up first. Just like it always did. But I walked in anyway.

To work in an ad agency in your early twenties is to help people create a fake world, as your best attempt at entering the “real world.” The paradox would almost be funny if it weren’t so off-putting. It’d almost be interesting if it weren’t miserable.

Working on the fifth, and top, floor of the building, I was winded before each workday began. This was a rare day that I’d have time to catch my breath and compose myself before my manager, Heather, would advance on me, baring her lipstick stained teeth into a nasty grin and twisting her wrinkled hands as though they were longing to reach out and wrap tightly around my neck. I used to think that there was a special place in Hell for people like Heather, but with the three years of hindsight since I left the job, I’ve realized that her corner office was that place. Let’s just say the fifth floor certainly wasn’t heaven.

A late-twenty something in a corporate office, Heather thrived on catty cliques, pencil- skirt-and-high-heel combos that caused her to walk like a baby giraffe discovering its legs for the first time, and tossing her thin, bleached blonde hair over her shoulder. Basking in the incumbent glamor of a mid-to-lower level employee in the sales and marketing division, her daily routine included exaggerated sighs and talking loudly about how she could never possibly have the time to explain menial tasks to a dum-dum like me. On good days she chose to view me a younger, tag along sister. But most days I was like a piece of gum on the bottom of her cheap high heeled shoe.

I spent a lot of time staring at the gray felt of my cubicle wall. When my neighbor would stop chewing ice long enough, I had moments of quiet contemplation about the strange corporate environment I was (barely) trying to exist in. I often thought about the mirrors. Every employee in the company had one, of some size or shape. They would slip on the heels they had taken off because the blisters were growing to the size of large, unstable tomatoes. Lipstick was reapplied. Hair was combed…Perfume spritzed…. Noses were fresh and ready to be browned. They saw the same people at the same copiers, break rooms, and toilets every day, and yet they primped like they were getting ready for prom.

The mirrors weren’t all that put me in a stasis of unnerving insecurity during my one month temp position at this giant conglomerate. There was the cafeteria full of overpriced food where everyone got their limp, gray salads to eat at their desks, because lunch breaks were for the under motivated. Gossip was a routine and seemingly encouraged pastime. Worst of all was the inefficiency. God the inefficiency. It takes hundreds of people passing around various pieces of paper for several weeks to produce one advertisement. I worked there for one full month – that’s thirty days, give or take, on the average calendar that almost all humans use– and I honestly cannot tell you what people actually do there besides look in the mirror and hand off pieces of paper from cubicle to cubicle. Imagine Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls except no Bill Murray or Lindsay Lohan, just soul crushing Heather and 15 or so pudgy-faced, mousy haired, middle-aged women, who I want to say were all named Julie.

My only reprieve from all the miserable oddities of that place, was my weekly bag of Cheez-its from the vending machine. I slowly collected coins throughout the week to put forth toward my only friend, my sunshine in the bleak, wary life of wearing slacks and brushing my hair. One day, on the hour long bus ride to the temple of doom, I dropped my wallet and watched in horror as change rolled every which way throughout the moving bus. I can’t remember a lower time in my life than crawling around the floors of public transportation, reaching for change through the legs of strangers who probably needed it 10 percent more than I did, but had 20 percent more dignity.

Towards the end of my month there, I was being berated daily by an endless, faceless line of people sent my way by Heather, who had begun to use me as a scapegoat for each and every one of her own mistakes. After the third Julie of the day yelled in my face about memo fonts, I lost it. Publicly crying on my lunch break was a daily occurrence, but it took something really special to get me to ugly cry to the point of drawing the attention of the transient population.

I wish I could tell you that I quit in a blaze of glory – flipping the bird as I kicked through the glass door with my steel-toed motorbike boots, shards flying every which way. In reality, I found another job, let my boss know of my intentions to quit, and I quietly left at the end of the day, relieved to escape the unblinking gaze of the corporate monster that had longed to suck out my soul through every orifice in my body.

I still have the tears that come from living life, just like you. Probably more, because I’m a wimp. Tears from breakups or rejection or fear or injury or loss or nostalgia. God, they hurt. But they hurt the same way growing pains hurt or healing bones ache. Those tears are cleansing. It’s called having “a good cry” for a reason.

The tears that come in between the time you realize you need a change and the time you’re brave enough to make it are some of the worst tears imaginable, because they are so goddamn unnatural. Your rationality can’t tell you why you’re supposed to quit a job you hate or get out of a relationship you inexplicably lost passion for. And your body doesn’t know how to handle it either, so it just presses the ‘cry’ button for lack of a better idea.

Getting out didn’t get me anywhere. It just got me out. That was enough.

-Megan Jacob

Straight Outta Kauffman: How the Kansas City Royals Made Me a Cubs Fan

Stories For Sunday is lucky to have a guest post from Joe Valentine. Read it, share it, find him and tell him it’s good so that, maybe, you’ll see his stuff here again sooner than later. 

I knew my girlfriend, Linda, was a Kansas City Royals fan before we started dating; it’s one of the first things she tells people when she meets them for the first time. The George Brett pine tar incident and the ’85 playoff run were her bedtime stories, and she still complains about the decision not to re-sign Johnny Damon in 2000 (who even knew Johnny Damon played for the Royals?). So I knew even before she asked that we’d be taking the 10-hour overnight Megabus ride from Chicago to KC, to be there, amongst her people, when the Royals played Game 7 against the San Francisco Giants in 2014, even though we didn’t have tickets.

After an especially wild wildcard comeback, the team had gone on a tear, demolishing better-on-paper teams with a Murderer’s Row-like batting order, fearless small ball base running, and a lights-out bullpen that genuinely believed it could hold any team scoreless in innings 7-9, and often did, all the way through Game 6 of the World Series. Linda, who had, in years past, proclaimed, “If the Royals win the World Series, I will burn my own house to the ground,” could not miss their coronation or the celebration to follow.

In a bar in Kansas City’s Westport district, I watched Linda and her brother shed unabashed tears after Salvador Perez took a clunky, uncommitted hack at a high fastball in the bottom of the ninth inning, resulting in a routine popup that ended the most entertaining playoff run I’d witnessed. The 2014 Royals created a compelling Cinderella story, only it ended with Cinderella getting caught in the rain, splashed with muddy gutter water from a passing car, and then mugged on her walk home because her carriage had turned back into a pumpkin before she could leave the ball.

“It was ours,” Linda said. She was in pieces, and she wasn’t alone; it felt like the entire bar was weeping into Boulevard beers.

And then, over the next few weeks, those same sad fans seemed to come together to form a citywide group hug, like Whos after the Grinch stole their Christmas, both grateful to have had a chance to win it all and universally willing to live and die by the immediately created “unfinished business” tagline, simultaneously licking their wounds and licking their collective chops for the start of the 2015 season.

The next month, locally-owned Boulevard Brewery released a limited edition beer–“Crown Town”–to commemorate the Royals’ playoff run, and it had officially ceased to matter that they hadn’t won. Linda’s dad waited in line for multiple hours multiple times to make sure each of his children had a bottle. Linda’s family is a microcosm of a community in which Royals baseball matters. Like, really matters. It’s annoying until it’s inspiring. It’s corny until it’s enviable.

I remember feeling impacted by that passion: a genuine, authentic love for a game and a team. It stood in stark contrast to my own depleted interest in my hometown team, the Chicago Cubs, who had, in two decades, provided me with precious few incentives to continue expending effort on fandom. Until very recently, existing as a Cubs fan required a skin of cynicism, a laugh-at-yourself mentality, and an obligatory sheepish smile after proclaiming, “Next year will be our year.”

Sure, there were signs of life during seasons leading up to 2015: an ownership and management change, planned renovations to the dilapidated (though admittedly still endearing) Wrigley Field, whispers of mythically talented prospects panning out, including now-superstars Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant. My dad, after a lifetime in want, finally became a season ticket holder while I was living just a few blocks from Wrigley Field.

Still, requiring an excuse for your loyalty is taxing and, for me, the inevitable result of so much laughably poor baseball was that I simply stopped caring. I stopped investing energy into hope and expectation. Over a series of annual closet cleanouts, I donated all my Cubs shirts to Goodwill. In two seasons spent living within spitting distance of the stadium, I didn’t attend a single game. I stopped being a baseball fan.

Writing this, I realize that Cubs purists do exist (including my own cousin, a golf course greenskeeper who spends full days on a riding a lawnmower dreaming about the champagne he’ll pop when the Commissioner’s Trophy is finally ours), diehards who would label me a bandwagon fan. To them, I’d simply contend that sports are pain. God forbid I opt out of voluntary sadness.

It wasn’t that I didn’t remember the sheet of loose leaf I’d pinned to my bedroom wall and used to keep a running tally of Sammy Sosa’s 1998 home run count (innocently oblivious to the 40+ pounds of pure muscle that differentiated that version of Sammy from the guy in the rookie card I kept in a protective case and mounted on the same bedroom wall). It wasn’t that I threw away the Cubs hat I’d slept in for weeks during the summer of 2003, sweating and itching and afraid to take it off and jinx a streak. It wasn’t that I didn’t miss having something to talk about on the phone with my dad. It was just that sports are pain, and after I stopped blaming Steve Bartman for all my problems, after several seasons without a pulse, after an increasingly snide, hip young demographic had successfully overrun the Lakeview neighborhood where I lived, I tapped out.

Linda and I moved from Chicago to Kansas City in July, a change that coincided with a lot of really good baseball. Shortly after we moved, we bought $10 tickets (ludicrously inexpensive relative to the cost of living to which I’d been accustomed) to a packed Friday night game and, even in 95-degree heat, the energy of the Kauffman Stadium crowd was palpable. That night’s win saw the Royals extend their division lead to a comfortable 12 games.

Back in Chicago, a buzz was beginning to burgeon about the way that Brawny Man/Yukon Cornelius-hybrid Jake Arrieta was routinely making the NL’s best hitters look like beer league softball dads in the batter’s box, and about how the North Side had its own lights-out bullpen and a succession of swingers who were putting bat to ball seemingly on command.

Still, I maintained a practiced degree of ironic distance from the suddenly-fun-to-watch Cubs. Fandom requires vulnerability––as I’d witnessed firsthand after last year’s World Series––and I wasn’t ready to put myself back out there following the slow, miserable decline into irrelevance I’d experienced over the previous half-decade. Now that I lived in the Kansas City, a town so fully committed to its baseball team that it supports an entire industry of clever custom Royals-related t-shirt printers, I felt that if I were to commit myself to the Cubs and mean it, they’d better not embarrass me. If I were going to talk the talk, Kyle Schwarber had better walk the walk.

Then, on September 28th the Cubs played the Royals. As a result of my fringe fandom, I was unaware that the Giants’ loss two days prior had helped the Cubs secure a spot in the NL wildcard game and was still under the impression that a win mattered. I’d never taken so much as a controversial step onto Linda’s sacred turf before, and so after a routine groundout resulted in my yelling “Suck it, Lorenzo Cain!” and her throwing the remote at me, we finished watching the game from separate rooms. I couldn’t lose my Joker grin after Chris Denorfia’s pinch-hit homer in the 11th inning sealed the game, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time Cubs baseball had made me smile. It made Linda miserable, and that in and of itself made me happy, not because I find joy in my girlfriend’s sadness, but because she actually feels this stuff. The Cubs made her feel something, and I know that’s real.

The next day, my barber said to me, “The Cubs are the Royals of 2015.” Linda’s dad asked whether my dad could secure any extra tickets at Wrigley in the event of a Cubs/Royals World Series. A co-worker came by my desk to tell me, “Your Cubbies are looking good this year.” My Cubbies? In a town where baseball is talked about seriously, people were seriously talking about the Cubs, who finished the regular season with a better record than the Royals.

Jake Arrieta was terrifying and unstoppable in the wild card win over the Pirates. In a particularly satisfying Division Series, my Cubbies laid waste to a Cardinals team whose fans never resist an opportunity to stick up their noses at any mention of their division rivals to the north (If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Oh, you’re a Cubs fan? Why?” in my four years at Saint Louis University, I’d be losing a lot less sleep over student loan debt). “The Royals of 2015” was looking more and more like an accurate prediction.

Inevitably, the Royals were the Royals of 2015. I mourned the sweep and elicited extra boo’s toward a Mets team onto whom I’d projected a totally unwarranted villainous persona as I sat in right field for all 14 innings of the Royals’ victory in Game 1 of the World Series. And on Sunday night, I put on a clever custom Kansas City t-shirt (the impeccably classy “Turn Your Head and Kauffman”) and jumped around amidst a champagne shower in the streets of Westport, showing up to work two full hours late the following morning wearing sunglasses and chugging Alka-Seltzer from a travel coffee mug.

In 2015, I enjoyed the MLB playoffs for the first time in a long time, maybe ever.

It felt good to watch every game, to have an opinion on every player. It felt good to realize that I still remember the rules, the strategies. It felt good to achieve what I’d recognized in Linda’s family, and perhaps what I’d coveted all along: a comfort in saying, “Next year will be our year,” totally non-ironically. It felt good to celebrate in a city that was so ready to celebrate, to take care of unfinished business. And it felt good to watch the Kansas City Royals absolutely dismantle the New York Mets, whom I’d grown to despise, because there’s only one kind of person who vilifies an opposing team: a fan.

Joe Valentine