At the corner of Riverside Drive and 155th Street, we stopped to admire a sculpture called "Shipwreck 2015," by Monserrat Daubon and Pedro Villalta. According to the nearby sign, "Shipwreck is a symbol of human endeavor. The figurehead at the boat's prow represents grace, valor, and mobility facing the depths and unknowns of the waters." As much as I liked the artwork, I felt like the explanation was unnecessary: I would have preferred to stop at the artist and the title.
Admittedly, on my list of complaints, this one was very, very low. On Friday morning, a light snowfall brought into relief the branches of all the trees and made me appreciate winter, which despite being very mild this year was nevertheless beginning to wear out its welcome. It seemed like everyone in the city was in a bad mood, especially on the subways, which continued to break down constantly. Commutes that used to take thirty minutes now averaged four hours. With the price of oil at historic lows, President Obama proposed a $10 per barrel tax to fund a range of important initiatives, including mass transit; unfortunately Speaker of the House Paul Ryan immediately said that any such proposal would be 'dead on arrival.' It was difficult to understand how anyone could take Republicans seriously, yet they still had a 'stranglehold' on the legislative agenda of our country. On Friday night, we went to see an "The Alving Estate," an interactive play based on Henrik Ibsen's "Ghosts." Basically, the audience members -- each of us dressed in surgical masks and white gloves, after being informed that we were 'auditioning' to be hired as a servant of the estate -- were encouraged to wander through the mansion and watch a cast of characters -- maids, footmen, the mistress of the house, her children, and some guests -- enact small scenes, some of which were clearly scripted, others of which were improvised. At one point, a maid pulled me close to her, breathed on my eyeglasses (steaming them up, meow), and -- after showing me her tongue (on which lay some white pills) -- whispered 'nothing in this house is as it seems.' At another point I was invited to help set the table, which required me to put down a plate, a napkin, silverware, and a wine glass while performing a kind of pirouette between the placement of each item. I don't know if I would describe the experience as 'theatrically deep,' but it was fun to watch people watching other people watch people, etc. According to certain non-heterosexual members of the audience whom I overheard, the overall vibe was not dissimilar to a gay bathhouse, where there is a lot of this kind of posturing and observation in dimly lit corridors and shadowy rooms. I thought the price of admission was 'worth it' just to wander around the same house where George Washington had slept several hundred years ago; the house felt much more 'alive' -- and maybe haunted! -- than when I had previously visited during the day, with the rooms cordoned off like a museum. I know the theatrical run is sold out, which makes me hope that the mansion administrators will do more of this kind of thing in the future.
This morning I went running through Fort Tryon Park, which remained covered by a thin blanket of snow. As I ran, I thought about the presidential elections, which I had discussed the previous night with some friends who had attended the performance with me and Stephen. Like most non-heterosexuals, we were all solidly Democratic, but we were not yet unified behind one candidate. Fueled by a few drinks, I expressed some half-serious concerns about whether Hillary was 'chill enough' to be elected President. I outlined my arguments roughly as per the below: A few days ago, Hillary Clinton, when asked why she had accepted $675,000 from Goldman Sachs for giving three speeches, answered: 'That's what they offered,' which I would classify as a seriously unchill comment that has done nothing to quell doubts about Clinton's relationship with Wall Street. People are now calling on Clinton to release the transcripts from those speeches, a demand that Clinton said she would 'look into,' which comment seemed only slightly less unchill than her earlier one.
Historically, unchill Democrats have not won general elections. Let's take a look at the record in reverse chronological order.
- Obama 2012. In this election, Obama, despite a mixed record in his first term, managed to seem relatively chill while running against Mitt Romney, objectively one of most unchill people to ever walk the earth
- Obama 2008. Here we saw Obama at his most chill, promising 'change' and giving great speeches that made you feel like you were going to be part of Something Big instead of Politics as Usual. Everyone wanted to bask in Obama's chill vibes and he made McCain by contrast seem like a 'bitter old man.' Joe Biden also exuded chill 'vice-presidential' vibes that made Sarah Palin seem like she was 'batshit insane' and not a very chill person. 'Drill baby drill' also seemed like an unchill slogan to attach to a personal brand.
- Bush 2004. Bush, like all Republicans, was seriously unchill and moreover was in the middle of orchestrating one of the worst (and most unchill) political nightmares in modern civilization -- effectively dismantling government at every level and allowing big corporations to indulge in a feeding frenzy at the expense of the American lower and middle classes -- but his 'shit-eating grin' conveyed an acceptance of his status. Bush reveled in his unchillness, which made him seem authentic. Meanwhile, the Democrats picked John Kerry, who probably would have been a great President (much the way we talk about Hillary), but whose long face and sad eyes -- combined with pictures of him exercising in bike shorts -- made him seem unchill and 'elitist'.
- Bush 2000. This should have been the easiest election ever for the Democrats to win, but they lost and we have been suffering the consequences ever since. How did this happen? Because the Democratic Party nominated one of the most unchill Americans ever: Al Gore, who even before the election was notorious for saying unchill things like 'I invented the internet.' (Not his exact words, but close enough.) If you remember, there was also a 'pivotal moment' in this campaign in one of the debates when Al Gore was 'ripping apart' Bush's (objectively) horrible record as Governor of Texas and then rolling his eyes when Bush tried to defend himself, which basically ended up with Bush looking into the camera and saying to the American people, 'Can you believe how unchill this guy is?' Sadly for all of us, Bush was not wrong and the electorate responded accordingly.
- Clinton 1996. Even though he was the political equivalent of a Nixonian Republican, Clinton still seemed pretty chill, thanks to a good economy and running against another angry old white man Bob Dole.
- Clinton 1992. Clinton seemed very chill, especially when he went on Arsenio and played the saxophone, which generally speaking is not a very chill instrument but made Clinton seem very authentic, like he could 'vibe out' and was more than just a policy wonk. Meanwhile, Bush Senior -- like all Republicans -- did not seem chill at all, but we're really concentrating on the Democratic nominees.
- Bush 1988. Michael Dukakis was notoriously unchill -- especially when riding in tanks -- and the Republicans basically ate him for lunch.
- Reagan 1984. Walter Mondale? Ugh. So unchill that he could not even be saved by Geraldine Ferraro.
- Reagan 1980. Everything that once seemed chill about Jimmy Carter -- his Georgian folksiness, his crazy brother Billy, his cool daughter Amy, etc. -- began to seem unchill in the face of stagflation and the unchill hostage situation in Iran, even if it was orchestrated by Republicans #conspiracytheories.
- Carter 1976. Jimmy Carter was into jogging had a very chill daughter. His wife seemed like the 'brains in the outfit,' which made Jimmy seem more family-oriented and obedient but in a chill, Democratic way. He seemed very honest, which in the wake of Watergate made him seem very chill. Meanwhile, Ford was regularly mocked on SNL for falling down stairs and so forth, which made him seem very unchill. He was like your suburban uncle who thinks he's a big shot because he belongs to his town's country club.
- Nixon 1972. George McGovern won the nomination with some very chill anti-war vibes but made the mistake of choosing for his vice-presidential candidate a man who had recently had 'electro-shock' therapy, which allowed Republicans to paint McGovern as very unreliable and unchill.
- Nixon 1968. Hubert Humphrey seemed very unchill for serving as Vice President while the country languished in Vietnam and faced huge race riots at home. Nixon's law-and-order campaign was the essence of unchill, but he was honest about how unchill he would be. He promised a full plate of unchillness and delivered. (This is also Donald Trump's appeal.)
- Johnson 1964. Still riding JFK's chill.
- Kennedy 1960. Sort of like Obama, he seemed very chill and had fashion icon Jackie by his side to enhance his chillness.
- The chill-enough analysis doesn't apply to the pre-television era. It's not that Hillary hasn't had 'chill moments,' but it sometimes seems like her chillness maybe peaked during the 'Texts from Hillary' meme, whereas now -- desperate to appear as chill as Bernie, who's running like he has 'nothing to lose' and thus seems infinitely more authentic -- she's spiraling out of control, resorting to 'celebrity endorsements from Lena Dunham' and similarly empty gestures that only make her seem more unchill. Just to be clear, my concern is not whether Hillary beats or loses to Bernie -- obviously, either one would be 1000000000x better than any Republican (as Bernie very chillfully pointed out in the last debate) -- but who will do better in the general election. Right now, the 'Republican establishment' seems to be 'consolidating behind' Marco Rubio, who despite being an insane maniac from almost every political vantage point is somehow being touted in the mainstream media as a 'moderate' and 'pretty chill guy' who 'knows how to wear shoes' (via his past as a closeted homosexual and attending 'foam parties' in Miami). My fear, in other words, is that Rubio will beat Hillary if she continues to seem as unchill as she does right now. If I were advising Hillary, I would say, 'Look, you need to regain some chillness. Step One: Just come clean about the Goldman Sachs money -- say that it seemed like a 'sweet payoff' for all the bullshit you've been through over the years, but you now regret how it made you look beholden and as a result you are giving the money to a non-profit group that supports homeless LGBT youth or something similar that is 100 percent chillworthy. Step Two: Stop saying 'the Bible is your biggest influence,' because it aligns you with some of the seriously most unchill elements in the world and you can't afford that right now.' Nobody took me very seriously, of course. Let's hope that a year from now, the same can still be said.