Monday, December 12, 2005


Flipping channels, I caught Laura Ingraham being interviewed by Brian Lamb on CSPAN last night. I watched it for a while in the same way that Trent Reznor hurt himself to know if he still feels. Turns out I do.

I've aways considered Ingraham more dangerous than someone like Ann Coulter, even though Ingraham is a little less known. Coulter lets you know within moments of opening her mouth that she is just bat-guano insane, and I doubt she's ever convinced anyone who wasn't already deep in the conservative bag of anything. Ingraham is more subtle, appears somewhat more rational, but with politics no less retrograde.

Much of the interview consisted of Ingraham's predictable complaining about "elites," that is, about a class to which she herself clearly belongs. She rhapsodized about the "real" Americans she's met during her book and speaking tours, hauling out the old Tom Wolfe chestnut about the coasts being mere "parentheses" to what was really America. Needless to say, as a resident of a coast, this kind of lazy, fake populist horseshit always bugs me. I mean, I'm glad that Laura finds America so delightful through the tinted window of her chauffered Lincoln Town Car as she shuttles between hotel and bookstore, hotel and campus speaking engagement, hotel and bookstore, but it's always struck me as baldly ridiculous to claim that middle America is more, or less, "American" than the urban coasts of, you know, America.

I have a story, but it needs this set-up: David Halberstam wrote (I think it was the prologue to The Next Century) about a group of U.S. state governors meeting Henry Kissinger, and of the interesting differences in their particular views and concerns, the former with job growth and balancing state budgets, the latter with the growth of nuclear weapons and the balancing of geopolitical power. "America," Halberstam wrote, "meet America."


I had just returned to Seattle after living in DC for a little over year. I was looking for work, my friend Tim was the head bouncer at a downtown club and hired me on for a few shifts a week. Mostly it was easy work, milling about the club, scolding trucker-capped hipsters for snorting coke in the bathrooms, and dealing with the occasional drunken bad attitude.

The club had two floors, the downstairs was a big room with a stage and dance floor, upstairs was a restaurant and bar. On this particular night, a midwestern storm window company was holding its convention at the Westin Hotel right across 5th Avenue from the club, and the company had rented out the upstairs room for their attendees to party. I got assigned to check their IDs at the front entrance to make sure everyone was of drinking age, so I got to see where everyone was coming from: Colorado, Ohio, Oklahoma, Kansas. They were all pretty friendly and well-behaved, a few loudmouths, nothing serious. They ranged between about thirty and fifty years old, certainly not dressed in what one might call "club fashion," but that was okay, we'd take their money and show them a good time all the same. One forty-ish fellow in a pair of chinos, top-siders, and golf shirt, the "stud" of the group, asked me what was going on downstairs in the club that night.

"Ladies' night." All the DJs on the bill that night were women, it was a semi-regular event that usually got a very big lesbian turnout.

"Awesome!" he said, in a way that told me he hadn't quite understood.

The conventioneers stayed upstairs for about an hour, nearly exhausting the club's stores of Budweiser, then a few women ventured downstairs to check out the scene. They returned moments later with eyes the size of manhole covers, like the women returning from the empty tomb, ready to share what they had seen. As such news often does, the information that there was a roomful of lesbians hugging up with each other downstairs travelled extremely fast, and I thought there was going to be a riot as the men leapt from their chairs and charged for the stairs as if the world's very last barbecued rib was being auctioned off.

"This is gonna be hilarious," said Quinn, one of the other bouncers.

At first the visitors stayed together, clumped in groups as if they were on a school trip to the zoo, but within about thirty minutes they were fully engaged, feeling the bass, bumping the decks, liking the nightlife, liking the boogie, and committing some of the most godawful dancing I've ever seen. Lord, it was beautiful.

The regular attendees were a little surprised and perhaps annoyed at first by the invasion of these hinterland squares, but after a while everybody was just dancing and drinking and sweating and dancing, and it sure didn't seem to matter at that moment who voted for whom or who supported abortion rights or who had a collection of automatic weapons and a den full of beast's heads or who was going to be desperately hung over in church tomorrow. There was only the music. And the dancing. And the drugs and alcohol.

That night America met America. I think, at root, this is what what fundamentalists and demogogues of all stripes either don't like or don't get about people in general. However potent various political issues and ideas might be to us, however different we are from each other, many of us, I'd venture the majority, can put differences aside in the interest of drunken revelry. The Delta House Bloc. When will the sleeper awake?

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