Today is George Washington’s real birthday, and Mother Nature has intervened, along with Mayor Bloomberg, to arrange a snow day and make me feel both patriotic and prescient for sticking with my Tuesday-Friday spot earlier in the week. The news flash came last night, during the debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in Austin, Texas: “Alternate Side Parking Rules Suspended on Friday, February 22, 2008 for Snow Removal.” I did not watch the debate (for some reason, I couldn’t find it in the TV listings), but I did my civic duty by reading all about it in today’s Times, from seven-thirty to eight this morning, in the comfort of my living room instead of in the front seat of the unheated Eclair.
Already the Times reporters are filing stories from Cleveland, where next Tuesday’s climactic debate is scheduled to take place. There was a story today by Sean D. Hamill about a “peace palace” (here), where people can be trained in transcendental meditation, being built in Parma, a suburb of Cleveland. Building peace palaces all over the world was a project of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, whose death, earlier this month, I failed to register. As it happens, my family has its ancestral roots in Parma: my great-grandfather’s farm was there, on land that has long since been subdivided into a classic blue-collar suburb. (An official of Parma was quoted in the Times as saying, "What do you mean a 'Maharishi Peace Palace?' We're Parma, Ohio. We eat pirogis and drink draft beer.") Parmatown was my first mall, and in its parking lot I learned to drive, twice (once an automatic, with my father beside me in the Plymouth Fury II; later a stick shift, thanks to a very tolerant friend, in a crash course before auditioning for a job driving a milk truck—which I got!).
In another curious convergence of family and politics, my sibling Baby Dee is playing Austin tonight, in the wake of the Democratic debate. This is slightly better timing than her gig in Boston on the night of the Super Bowl. She is playing Cleveland a week from today, on February 29th—Leap Year Day—after the debate but before the all-important Ohio primary. Too bad Dennis Kucinich did not exploit the fact that he’s related to Baby Dee and lock up her celebrity endorsement. He might still be in the running. The peace candidate could have gone straight from a demonstration of yogic flying in Parma (also his ancestral land, of course) to Dee’s show in the Tavern of the Beachland Ballroom, in Cleveland Heights, where he could have requested Dee’s only overtly political song, “My Very Own Police Force,” about Rudy Giuliani. I think to myself (with apologies to Louis Armstrong), What a wonderful flaky world that would be.