Posts Tagged ‘David Ackles’

Twelve Presidential Votes

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

It’s still early here on the East Side, and the fellow heading up the polling place at the city public works building says he expects a busy day. The Texas Gal and I got there about ten minutes after the doors opened at seven o’clock, and there were about ten people ahead of us. We checked in and marked our ballots, and I cast vote No. 15 in the precinct. Hers was either No. 16 or No. 17. (I didn’t notice; I was waiting in the lobby, chatting with the greeter.)

This is the twelfth presidential election in which I’ve cast a vote. In the previous eleven elections, I’ve voted for the winner five times. And yes, I’m a Democrat. Actually, here in Minnesota, I’m a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, a name that reminds us of a 1944 merger between Minnesota’s Democrats and the state’s Farmer-Labor party. That bit of historical resonance pleases me.

(As Wikipedia notes, Minnesota’s DFL is one of only two state Democratic party affiliates that has a different name; the other one is the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party. I wasn’t active in the DNPL when I lived in Minot, but I voted for its candidates in 1988.)

That 1988 election was the fifth presidential election I voted in, and my fifth voting location. As I’ve noted here other times, I’ve moved around a lot over the years. Here’s a synopsis of my residences for the twelve presidential elections in which I’ve voted.

1972: Folks’ place on Kilian Boulevard, St. Cloud
1976: Drafty house on St. Cloud’s North Side
1980: Mobile home just outside Monticello, Minn.
1984: Mobile home on south edge of Columbia, Mo.
1988: Apartment near downtown Minot, N.D.
1992: Apartment on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.
1996: Apartment on Pleasant Avenue in south Minneapolis.
2000: Apartment on Bossen Terrace in south Minneapolis.
2004: Apartment on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2008: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2012: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.
2016: House on Thirteenth Avenue Southeast in St. Cloud.

I’m not certain that listing proves anything except that my life has become far more stable since a certain February evening in 2000, when I met the Texas Gal. And the first half of that list reminds me of a remark my pal Rob made not long ago while we were sipping beers at the Lincoln Depot just down the road from here. We’d struck up conversations with a couple of other music fans, and I’d noted that until I’d moved back to St. Cloud in 2002, my life had been “somewhat nomadic.”

Rob snorted. “Take out the adjective,” he said. “You were just nomadic.”

I was. And this morning, I look back at that first presidential election, when I was a sophomore in college, before I did any of that wandering. I cast my ballot for George McGovern at the Faith Lutheran Church, about five blocks away from home, drove over to school for an afternoon class and came home looking forward to an evening of watching election returns.

There wasn’t much suspense, of course, although in my youthful optimism, I’d hoped for a competitive race. McGovern, as you might recall, carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, and Richard Nixon was elected to a second term as president (a term he did not complete). After a brief time, I turned off the television and went elsewhere for diversion, probably up to my room and the radio, an AM/FM model Mom had won in a drawing – something I’d not recalled until writing this sentence – that I had recently claimed as my own.

I probably had the radio tuned that evening to KVSC-FM, St. Cloud State’s student-run station. What did I hear? I have no idea. But during the evening of that quintessential American day, it might very well have been the odd and disturbing title track from David Ackles’ third album, American Gothic, released that summer on the equally quintessential American day of July 4:

Mrs. Molly Jenkins sells her wares in town
Saturdays in the evening when the farmhands come around
And she sews all their names in her gown
Ah, but is she happy?
No no no
She wants a better home and a better kind of life
But how is she going to get the things she wants,
The things she needs as some poor wretch of a farmer’s wife?
He trades the milk for booze
And Molly wants new shoes
And as she snuggles down
With a stranger in some back of the barroom bed
It’s much too dark to the see the stranger
So she thinks of shoes instead

Old Man Horace Jenkins stays at home to tend his schemes
Sends for pictures of black stockings on paper legs with paper seams
And he drinks ’til he drowns in his dreams
Ah, but is he happy?
No, no, no
He wants to be reborn to lead the pious life
But how’s he going to shed his boozy dreams
When he has to bear the cross of a wicked wife?
She claims to visit shows
And he pretends that’s where she goes
And as he snuggles down to his reading in a half-filled marriage bed
He’s so ashamed of what he’s reading that he gets blind drunk instead

Sunday breakfast with the Jenkins
They break the bread and cannot speak
She reads the rustling of his paper
He reads the way her new shoes squeak
And pray God to survive one more week
Ah, but are they happy?
You’d be surprised between the bed and the booze and the shoes
They suffer least who suffer what they choose