View from the fray

Liberal out of the closet

I spent a few hours this week duct-taped and Visqueened into my home office. It’s hard to move around in here, what with the water tank, camp stove, canned food and my cocker spaniel and all.

The hours are long, but I’ve a bit to read—the phone book and an obscure booklet titled “The Art of Fred Smith.” Smith is an artist from my dinky hometown in northern Wisconsin. Using cement, mink wire and broken beer bottles, Smith created a park full of “mythical and real characters encountered in his many years as a logger, farmer, tavern owner and musician.”

Ah, to walk in the paths of greatness.

So, I’ve been thinking here in the confines of crammedness. Women are good at thinking, I’m told, and I am one. A woman, that is, and a vast cogitator of cogitations. I’m plagued by simple questions: Who am I? How am I failing as a human being? Does this hairstyle make my face look fat?

I have no tolerance for pragmatic non-cogitators. They make no sense to me. “The unexamined life is not worth living,” said Socrates, as quoted by Plato. “I think therefore I am,” said Descartes as he sat and pondered near a toasty fire. “Think. Think and wonder. Wonder and think. How much water can 55 elephants drink?” wrote Dr. Seuss.

It seems somehow necessary to lose sleep over my teens’ real-world readiness. To consider upping our car insurance. To fret over whether I should force my kids to stay in band, respect their elders, trade in their PlayStation 2 Vice City game for something less, um, nasty.

I wonder if I should let them into my closet when the end comes. I count and recount my cans of Spam.

Thankfully, while I sat here faced with inner crisis this week, I caught a glimpse of revival. I made a Las Vegas weekly newspaper’s list of Nevada liberals.

The list was part of a story written by Las Vegas Mercury editor Geoff Schumacher. It was titled, “The Dirty Word.”

“There are some Nevadans who hold liberal views, who view the government as a potentially positive force and appreciate the various improvements and services that tax dollars provide,” Schumacher wrote. “These people want to help the homeless, improve the public schools, expand health care benefits, raise wages, protect the environment and eliminate racial, ethnic and gender bias in the workplace. Interestingly, these liberals may distrust the government, too, but for different reasons. They believe corporations—casinos, developers, mining companies, etc.—wield too much control over the government, to the detriment of the people and the state’s general welfare.”

Schumacher put himself at the top of the list. Holy mythological cement statue encrusted with glass shards.

I perused the story on the Mercury’s Web site ( Then, feeling uncharacteristically optimistic, I tore a corner of the duct tape down and peeked out into my spacious bathroom. The coast, as they say, looked clear. The kids were safe in the arms of the public schools. I took a tentative step forward.

After all, reading the phone book lasts only so long.