Cold Fusion: Am I a Democrat?

saxman-headerAfter I graduated college from Washington and Lee University, I moved to Brooklyn to take a job with Lord and Taylor as an assistant buyer in…wait for it… women’s moderate blouses.

Yes, this conservative, color blind, fashion ignorant boy from the Valley of Virginia was going to the Big Apple.

While some of my classmates, and my roommate in particular, were zigging into the exciting world of Wall Street finance, I zagged into retail. Hey, it was a job with benefits and it was in New York City – so I figured “Why not?”

When I was assigned to Departments 13 and 94 in Moderate Sportswear, I was confronted with some life changing questions that required deep thought on my part.

What’s Moderate and what’s Sportswear? I begged off embarrassing myself by asking anyone in the training class for the answers in favor of waiting it out. Good call.

When the assignment cards were handed out, mine read plainly “Blouses.”

I was clueless. What the heck is a blouse? I tried to recall the times down in the laundry room looking at the drying line full of my mother’s and sister’s clothes trying to answer the command, “Christopher, bring up my blouse.” uhhhh…..

I would freeze looking at all the unfamiliar clothing and I just went male. Shirt – Skirt. Maybe they call their shirts, skirts. Blouse, bottom. Well, that makes sense. Shirt skirt, blouse bottom. I would grab one of each and ascend to the kitchen not knowing which article of clothing would satisfy the command. But I did know that one of each would.

When the response came, “I didn’t need the skirt” – I was already heading back down to my cave and I didn’t care.

So I took a job in an industry in which I was completely unprepared, but I went in eyes wide open and did my level best to keep my mouth shut. Most of the time, I was alone commuting on the F line of the NYC subway system, working in the office, or hanging out of the weekends trying to figure out what to do in a city that offered everything to do. Alone in New York – what could go wrong there?

Thankfully, New York City has two baseball teams – The Yankees and the Mets. Arriving as I did in the summer, I was able to go to any game I wanted. Tickets were cheap, the subway was $1, and I had nothing else to do.

Mom would call and ask “Did you go to any museums this week?”

“No.”

“Any shows?”

“No.”

“Christopher, what are you doing with all this time in New York City?”

“I saw the … play the …”

I could just FEEEEL the eye roll of my mom whose eye rolls were legendary.

“Well, that’s nice dear, I’m sure you had a good time.”

What I could tell mom was that in New York, one had to choose – You’re either a Yankees fan or a Mets fan. And I was conflicted. I went to both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium. I liked both. Okay, Shea was a dump, but I loved the games. Besides, Shea was in the flight line of LaGuardia airport and proximity to catastrophic death with commercial airliners that flew DIRECTLY overhead was at least thrice an inning!

But in New York, you have to choose – Yanks or Mets. I tried to slide by with a smart aleck Brooklyn Dodgers hat – h/t to Spike Lee. Wearing a Brooklyn hat then was trendy and while it neutered most of the crowd at the games, there were always a couple of increasingly drunk guys that just HAD to ring me up.

I knew eventually that I would have to come out. While I liked the Yankees and Mets and read the box scores, articles, and commentary daily neither of them were me. Just me. The search into inner self was complete when I realized that I was, in fact, a…a….a Pittsburgh Pirates fan.

The Yankee fans wouldn’t care, much, about the 1960 World Series, would they? I mean that was almost thirty years ago. Maybe I could tell them, but I really shouldn’t wear a Pirates hat to the game. NO WAY was I telling the Mets fans. We were in the same division!

Yeah, just keep it to myself. That would be best. No one in New York really cared, but they would give me some grief about it to test my allegiance and further refine their own.

I just liked the games, so I stuck with that. I was there for the game, not the teams.

Politics is much the same, but it’s no game. We are given a choice – them or us, us or them. R or D, D or R. Yet, over a third of the country chooses neither.

So when I meet with Democrats – have lunch with a statewide candidate, dinner with a former colleague from Northern Virginia – Alexandria no less (we all know that means ;)  or even meet with a campaign’s policy team, some of the folks on my side of the political aisle recall those phone conversations with my mom’s voiceless eye rolls.

You can sense the disappointment, the effort to understand, and the need to forgive all at once.

Mom went Republican in the 90s and conservative in the 00s,  I learned a blouse from a skirt, and that between Yankees and Mets, I pick the Pirates.

So, while I am no Democrat that doesn’t prohibit me from a healthy exchange of ideas, calling it as I see it, and having friends on both sides of the aisle.

Politics is no game, but I love it just the same – seeing it from both sides makes it all the more enjoyable.


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