Dear Uptight, So here it finally is, the Democratic Convention. What should we do?Anxious Annie
Dear Annie, I'm glad you brought this up, because I'd like to use this occasion to talk to some of you about those out-of-date election signs you still have up. Now before you get all defensive, let me assure you that I totally get it. There's some serious trauma involved here. Many bitter tears were spilled on that gray Wednesday morning after the last presidential election. I'm not ashamed to admit I myself shut the door to my office and sobbed at my desk for half an hour. In the stunned aftermath of that election, to have removed our signs would have been to surrender to despair. Through the subsequent dreary winter months, many of us warmed ourselves with the glow of defiance radiating from our Kerry/Edwards signs and buttons. We even went so far as to exchange pursed-lip smiles with other people wearing buttons. (The Dean signs, to me, were a little more problematic, if only because they signified a slightly less inclusive tribe.) But—and there's no way to point this out without sounding rude—it's now 2008. The old signs now symbolize a defensive crouch. They radiate not the warmth of defiance but the chill of defeat. And to answer your question, Annie, what we should be doing right now is casting off this defeatism. You know how during World War II people planted victory gardens in their backyards? They made the war effort part of their everyday mind-set. Well, here we are fighting for our country all over again, and we've got to do the same thing. Look, I'm as prone to gloomy thoughts as anyone else. But that's exactly why, whatever other action we take to support the Democrats, we should first take down the old signs and plant victory gardens in our minds. The good news, though, is that election-related clothing is exempt from this ban. That genuine 2004 Dennis Kucinich sweatshirt is as soulful as ever. Dear Uptight Seattleite, I'm at the funeral reception of a friend. As a way to feel his presence, we're listening to his iPod on shuffle. So far, so tender. But then this horrendous, squawking free-jazz thing comes on. A glance at the little progress bar tells me it's like 45 minutes long. Annoying, sure, but it was also giving a false impression of my friend as having pretentious taste in music. I knew Josh as well as anyone, and I can tell you that no matter how adventurous his downloading habits, he would have been the first to make fun of himself for playing this bad rehash of Ascension. So I hit forward on the iPod and the next song was "Blackbird" by the Beatles. Sad, beautiful, and everyone likes it. In other words, perfect for the occasion. So I should have been a hero, right? Why did everyone look at me with such disgust?Grieving Gregory
Dear Gregory, Small world! I was there, too. I knew Josh because I was a customer of his when he was waiting tables at that breakfast place on top of Queen Anne. I guess I was on his e-mail list—maybe from the time he invited me to a show of his drawings?—because I got the notice his girlfriend sent out after the accident. The reaction to what you did was indeed hostile. The collective judgment was that you were violating the spirit of Josh himself, as represented by his iPod's shuffle function. What you needed was a clearer communication strategy. A sheepish smile and the explanation that "he told me he hated this" would have done the trick. Your decision to instead celebrate your heroism with a series of fist pumps and a strutting rooster dance was what turned the crowd against you. Don't be too hard on yourself, though. Death affects everyone differently, and a lot of people aren't at their best at funerals. Dear Uptight Seattleite, My name is Sean, only I pronounce it like it's spelled: "seen." How can I tell everyone they're saying it wrong?Surly Sean
Dear Sean, Your solution is very near. In fact, I've Sean it myself! Can you picture yourself in this Sean? More important, are you catching the rhythm of this patter? It's like a playful little fishy wishy. Zig when it zigs, zag when it zags. Because when you can dish out corrections with a funky, friendly aplomb, your friends will get the picture, and a little smile, too. Blessings will flow in both directions. In all directions! Just like that crazy little fish. Sea? Have a question for the Uptight Seattleite? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.