A Straight Shot of Politics

A blog from a gentleman of the Liberal political persuasion dedicated to right reason, clear thinking, cogent argument, and the public good.

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Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

I have returned from darkness and quiet. I used to style myself as "Joe Claus", Santa Claus’ younger brother because that is what I still look like. I wrote my heart out about liberal politics until June of 2006, when all that could be said had been said. I wrote until I could write no more and I wrote what I best liked to read when I was young and hopeful: the short familiar essays in Engish and American periodicals of 50 to 100 years ago. The archetype of them were those of G.K. Chesterton, written in newspapers and gathered into numerous small books. I am ready to write them again. I am ready to write about life as seen by the impoverished, by the mentally ill, by the thirty years and more of American Buddhist converts, and by the sharp eyed people [so few now in number] with the watcher's disease, the people who watch and watch and watch. I am all of these.

Monday, January 03, 2005

The Contents of Joe Claus’ Pockets

When I sit drinking my morning coffee at 7:30 am in the fake sidewalk cafe under the roof of a grandiloquent building interior of black marble and stainless steel, a guard station with three plasma screen TV’s, and a pointless piece of one storey high public sculpture, I can watch the office workers of the building carrying their wearying loads through the revolving doors and down the small flight of three steps.

Lately there has also been a baroque fantasia of multiple wreaths, Christmas trees, garlands, and pots of red poinsettias strewn through this magnificent interior. The effect of these is at least as festive as the faces of the under-coffeed who pass by them trying not to be late for work--maybe even more festive than that--something rather along the lines of Christmas decoration in an expensive masoleum.

Often the well-dressed workingstiffs hurrying by are carrying not only one (or even two!) shoulder bags or briefcases, but, in addition, they are dragging wheeled airline carry-ons behind them! I wonder what on earth they must lug around wherever they go to need such things.

These, by the way, are the regulars, and they are hardly planning to catch a quick flight to NYC later that afternoon, for I see them in the same place, with the same carts, at the same time the next morning. One day last week, virtually everybody who came in the door was dragging one of these wheeled appendages.

You can split Americans into two types (no NOT Joe Claus’ usual idee fixee of Red and Blue this time!): those who carefully pick up their wheeled carry-ons when confronted with a small flight of stairs and those who simply drag them down the stairs with a cacophony of banging rubber wheels. The loud bangers outnumber the picker-uppers by about 4 to 1. So on the day when everybody brought their wheels, I could hardly help but notice them.

Now I, myself, have an obsessive fetish about being prepared for anything when I am abroad, but I merely carry a leather day planner, with handles, containing miscellaneous pockets and a three-ring 8 ½ x 11 binder. The color is a rich red cordovan, which complements well the bright purple carbiner watch that I have clipped to the handle.

I found the planner in a thrift store, at a magnificent price, with a brochure for funeral pre-planning in it, and the pungent aroma of Turkish tobacco (clearly from many Camel cigarettes) all through it. Once the brochure was shredded, and after three weeks of airing out the planner, I had a real bargain. In addition to the planner, I have, as well, like most men, four equally miscellaneous pockets in my pants, and a clip for my key ring on my belt.

When you consider what lives in all these pockets, I think a fair-minded person would say that I am well prepared. For one thing, in the binder itself is all the paper that is immediately relevant to my life in the world, including fresh stationary—a total thickness of perhaps an inch and 3/4 or, approximately, one ream. On the left side of the planner, in the pockets, are the following: two 3 ½ inch floppy disks, one 64k thumb drive, 15 tri-folded bus schedules, a calculator, a fine small lighted magnifying glass which can also function as a flashlight, two pencils, one calligraphy cartridge pen, and one Sharpie permanent marker.

Underneath these, in three Ziplock bags are the following: an emergency rain poncho, a small mirror, five finger bandages, six cotton swabs, four small boxes of safety matches, a yellow highlighting marker, a mechanical pencil wrapped with two feet of emergency duck tape, a tiny stapler, a scissors-style single hole paper punch, a small brass pencil sharpener, and extra pen cartridges.

In the left side of the planner are ten small binder clips, two four inch long spring clips for holding thick masses of paper, address labels, a map of the local bus system, a reporter’s notebook (spiral bound but longer and thinner than a regular steno pad), and a light and small, but well-made, clip knife. The knife itself is a beauty, with a wonderful blade lightened by cut-outs in the body of the blade itself, while still retaining strength.

Moving on to the pants pockets, in the right side lives my hobo knife. This is a fine tool for managing lunch, consisting of a foldable knife, fork, spoon, awl punch, corkscrew, bottle opener, and can opener. To this I have taped, with black electrician’s tape, a small sharpening steel coated with diamond grit. A sharp knife is far less likely to cut you badly than a dull one because you don’t have to force it through what you are cutting.

In this pocket also lives my mala of Buddhist counting beads in a silk draw string bag. Above this pocket, clipped to my belt is my identification badge (EVERYBODY has to have an identification badge! That’s how we tell ourselves from the terrorists.) and my key ring.

Besides keys, on my key ring are two small multi tools, a Leatherman Micra, whose finest feature is a good strong short scissors in place of the usual plier jaws, and a Swiss-Tech tool which is the best small combination of pliers, Phillips screwdriver, and flat screwdriver I have ever seen. Only 1 ½ by 1 by ¼ inches when folded, the tool surfaces are substantial and the design permits extraordinary leverage on the screwdrivers in close quarters, almost as much leverage as the typical long-handled screwdriver which lives in every toolbox.

In the billfold in the right rear pocket--in addition to what normally lives in a billfold--there is a Tool Logic credit card tool with a serrated knife blade, another small scissors, a double flat screwdriver the size of your thumbnail (no real leverage this time), a tweezers, and a small red LED flashlight. In the left rear pocket lives the card carrier, stuffed to the gills with dozens of business cards, and a small notebook with phone numbers whose width I trimmed down to 1 ½ inches from 2 ¼ inches so it would fit in the case.

Finally, there is my left front pocket with the tiny square leather change purse and the stuff I access most frequently: the bus pass, the bus pass ID, the driver’s license (No, I never carry the ID in the same place as the credit cards, and I encourage you not to, too!), and the five safety pins (I’m fat enough to pop buttons on my clothes with some regularity.)

In addition, this purse houses the marvelous hand held knife-and-scissor sharpener whose bright colored body, and ergonomic finger-filling form, makes it look like some gigantic tropical ant on Animal Planet, as well as the bottle of New Skin with applicator—an antibiotic liquid bandage which is the absolute berries for small cuts and scrapes--particularly on the hands, where bandage strips are so hard to get on straight and keep on.

I first discovered New Skin when I worked in wood shops making cabinets—most raw woods, and particularly red oak, react with indelible staining in the presence of hemoglobin from blood, so the slightest prick or scratch has to be attended to immediately when you work wood.

Am I well-prepared? I think so. The only things I don’t have (because I’m poor) are the traveling electronics: laptop, PDA, cell-phone, and I-pod. However, save for the laptop, I still have room for them in my planner, on my belt, and in my pockets. And the laptop would merely require a slightly larger, two-compartment briefcase.

So what DO they carry in all those shoulder and rolling bags? It is, perhaps, an unfathomable question, like that which arose today of where the pert secretary, heading into Starbuck’s, obtained her flat-crowned bucket hat with the narrow turned-down brim, not, as one would expect, in the usual Irish tweed, but in a rakish gold lame!


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