The Trouble With Spikol

So far our new mayor's no nightmare. That's a big improvement.

By Liz Spikol
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 9, 2008

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Illustration by Alex Fine

So far, our new mayor's no nightmare. That's a big improvement.

Last week a PW reader called me a "far-out lefty" after I wrote that the controversy surrounding Rev. Jeremiah Wright might be overblown. The email--for which the reader creatively employed the caps lock key--hit a nerve because that night I had a dream that only a far-out lefty could have.

In the dream Barack Obama came to live in my small town. One day he gave me a drawing he did with pastels on blue construction paper. It looked like a 5-year-old drew it, but I concealed my surprise. I decided it was cool--almost like outsider art.

The next day he started handing out puppies, little wriggling Springer Spaniels. Our town was beautified immediately. Pretty drawings and puppy dogs abounded.

In the dream, Obama smiled at everyone. He walked children to school in the early morning sunlight. Though Obama and I couldn't spend lots of quality time together--he was in high demand--when he saw me, he said, "Hi, Liz," in a way that suggested intimacy and meaning. Just seeing him on the street improved my posture.

When I woke up I felt well-rested but ridiculous.

I never dreamt about Michael Dukakis or John Kerry or Bill Clinton that way (though I had a weird sex dream about Tom Harkin once). I guess the dream represents how hopeful and perhaps naive I am about the political landscape these days.

After all, what holds more promise than a wriggling puppy?


But I've been hopeful before.

I remember going to the polls the first time around to vote for John Street. I pushed the button and got a voting contact high. I was ecstatic when he won. Finally, I thought, someone will attend to the people who don't have a voice in this city. Someone will fight for them--at last. I couldn't wait for that man to get into City Hall and start his workday.

That dream turned into a nightmare. I found it ironic that so much of Street's troubles turned on a listening device. All my bad dreams seem to feature bugs.

I never had a dream about Michael Nutter. He didn't loom large in my political subconscious. When I heard he was running for mayor, I thought it was sweet: Oh, how nice of him to offer himself to us, like a smart and very ethical piece of cake. Delicious yet impossible. I didn't get my hopes up. Then Nutter won.


I was at a mental health conference last week put on by the department of Behavioral Health and Mental Retardation Services. There were 1,000 people there, and Nutter was the keynote luncheon speaker. When he came in, it was like a rock star had entered the room. I'm embarrassed to say I stood up and whooped, albeit quietly and whitely, so it wasn't that noticeable.

Despite the fancy molded butters and multiple forks on the table, I was convinced someone was going to hold up a lighter. "I love you!" someone yelled. "I love you too," he said back, and then added, "It's gonna be a long afternoon."

We all laughed, and I had to catch myself because I realized I had tears in my eyes. The words actually came to me--and I know this because I wrote them down: I am living the dream.

I am living the dream of watching the politician I respect address the topic I'm most closely invested in. I am living the dream because he cared enough about this topic to come here. I am living the dream because he just promised the crowd this would be an annual event.

Nutter was inspiring. He talked about violence being endemic in our neighborhoods and respecting the psychological struggle of those who witness violence. They take the bodies, he said, but "the yellow tape never really goes away." He said, "Crime and violence will always grab more headlines than the stories of lives that are saved."

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