100 Days, 100 Nights

(with apologies to Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings)

Much is being written and said today about Barack Obama’s first 100 days in office. But no one ever talks about the nights, and they may be more important, because when you get right down to it Obama is a romantic figure. Most of us who supported him would admit, if we were being honest, that it wasn’t Obama’s policies or ideas that swayed us so much as the fact that we think he’s awesome.

I don’t mean that as criticism. In fact, I think a big part of a president’s job is to embody the things we aspire to be. The presidents we remember are all romantic (in the old-fashioned sense) and/or heroic figures of one kind or another: JFK, Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, Reagan (not a hero to me, but to many).

A piece I read yesterday called “David Brooks: How Obama Seduced Me” got me to thinking: That’s really what Barack did. He seduced us, as a nation, at a vulnerable time in our history. We were on the rebound. Our last long-term relationship had not gone so well: The guy had come from a prominent family, looked prosperous, and said he was “compassionate.” Then he turned out to be a dumb, lazy, abusive sumbitch addicted to invading random countries and with a penchant for giving unwanted backrubs to world leaders. We were hurt, and we were depressed, and then along comes this smooth-talking stranger with a thousand-watt smile. We fell hard and threw caution to the wind.

Some members of the family didn’t like it (especially that uncle from South Carolina). They wanted us to play it safe and marry the icky old guy. But we were in love, and ready to take a risk, so we went for it.

Now a few months have gone by, and it’s time for a bit of sober reflection. To stretch the metaphor a bit more, we married this guy after a very brief courtship. After the honeymoon you have to settle down to the daily reality of actual life, and naturally things aren’t going to be perfect. It’s hard to avoid having a tinge of disappointment creep into our evaluations, because we projected all our hopes and dreams of what a president could be onto Obama, and there’s no way he could have lived up to it all.

The real question is, are we happy with our choice? At the end of the day, would we sleep better knowing that McCain or Hillary were in the Oval Office? I don’t think so. Barack is our guy — he has his faults, and so do we, but I believe we can make this thing work.

They call him the breeze, and they know what they’re talking about

The “J.J.” stands for Jean-Jacques, did you know that?

Thanks to the magic of the Internet and a spot of good luck, I managed to get myself into the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz last night to see the great J.J. Cale. (Without conscious intent, I seem to be moving alphabetically through my list of Bands I’ve Not Yet Seen; a few weeks ago it was Cake at the Fox Theatre, next maybe it will be Calexico?) Since it was a will-call deal there is no ticket stub, and in a few days I’ll probably forget it ever happened; so I wanted to jot down a few impressions while I still have them.

J.J. Cale is low-key with a lowercase “l.” If you look up “mellow” in the dictionary, you see his picture, except he’s got his head down and you can’t really say for sure if it’s him. Onstage he looks like he’s putting out almost no effort at all, though clearly a lot of work has gone into his songs and a lot of skill goes into his playing. He spent most of the show half-sitting on a comfortable stool, coaxing lazy shuffles and tasty licks from his guitar and singing, sort of. He doesn’t sing the songs so much as insinuate them. There are blues singers, blues shouters, and blues talkers, but there aren’t many blues whisperers like J.J. Cale.