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2008-11-03 - 4:10 p.m.

I'm reading Fever Pitch, which is entirely and totally about how the writer (Nick Hornby) and the team (Arsenal) intersect, and so in that vein, here is how I and past presidential elections do the same:

1984: I may have been sick, because I spent a lot of time lying on my back on our old couch in our giant basement in the Cresaptown house. The basement was just gigantic, and cold most of the time. It was a seventies-style rec room, with a shiny tile floor, a fireplace, and a built-in bar that we used for displaying sports tropies. It was just my dad and me in the basement, and I'm not sure where everyone else was. Probably they weren't there because the election was not close at all. I remember looking up at one point and seeing, on the TV, the big blue map of the US, with Minnesota being the only red state, plus a little speck for DC (this was before red always equaled Republican and blue always equaled Democratic). I asked my dad why those two states didn't vote for Reagan and he said because Mondale was from Minnesota and because everyone in DC was black and that black people always voted for Democrats.

1988: In sixth-grade social studies class, our teacher had us study up on the issues of that election: the economy, taxes, other stuff I can't remember. Japan was one. There was a big fear then, if I recall, that Japan was going to swallow America whole and, like, buy up Times Square and downtown Chicago and all the farms and just generally make everyone speak Japanese. Anyway, the class was mostly for Bush and so when Mrs. Riggleman asked who would like to play the two candidates in a mock debate, there weren't many volunteers for Dukakis. I raised my hand and got it. A nerdy kid deeply into comic books whose mom ran a catering company volunteered to be Bush. A few weeks later, when we did the fake debate, I remember this other kid shaking his head a lot and getting very red in the face. It was probably a draw, though Dukakis got killed. I remember being really impressed that his running mate, Lloyd Bentsen, could lose the Vice Presidency but hang on to his senate seat. I thought that was pretty slick.

1992: Dad, I remember, put a "Sportsmen for Clinton/Gore" sticker on the back of his Grand Am. At the time, being in early high school and generally concerned one-hundred-and-eight-percent with girls I didn't, really, know what to do with, I didn't think much of it. But Dad's a hunter and a fisherman and the guys he hangs out with are not, in any way, liberal or pro-Democrat or anything. They just want their guns and to bring up gun control makes them totally crazy and they don't like gays very much and don't know any Jews, and so on. Anyway, no one seemed to care much for the older Bush and Clinton was new and smart and his daughter had braces on her teeth and so did I.

1996: I was in college and even more concerned with girls in an even more acute way and had even had sex with one. And I was away from home and was nineteen and though I should have gone through the trouble of getting an absentee ballot, and though I was taking a lot of history and political science classes, I didn't, mainly because of the girls and also because it looked like Dole wasn't going to trouble Clinton much. And he didn't, and my college roommates and I made fun of Dole and his clenched hand that always had the Bic pen in it. I remember that term "soccer mom" was used a lot.

2000: I got the bug again and stayed up all night, by myself, in the post-college townhouse in Arbutus I shared with four other guys. Dave was interested, and so I don't know why he wasn't there, but he wasn't. My girlfriend wasn't there, and I don't know where she was. We were still four or five months away from breaking up. This was the first one I voted in, at Arbutus Middle School, a dingy brick two-story imposing motherfucker from the fifties on Sulphur Spring Road. I lay on my back, with a pillow behind my head, and flipped through the channels. The election wasn't decided when I went to bed at two in the morning and such was my isolation that night that I didn't talk to a single person the whole night, I don't think. I loved that girl, it's true, but we did break up five months later. In the year and a half we were together, we slept in the same bed maybe twice. She had a thing about sleeping together.

2004: In Norfolk, I followed it like a crazy person, talked about it with my just-as-broke-as-me neighbor Rutledge, and though I thought everyone might get their shit together and vote Bush out of office, he did better in this election than he did in the previous one. I was sad for a while. It doesn't feel like four years ago. I can remember sitting in that bedroom on Warren Crescent, with the wind making those shoddy windows whistle, and checking online to see which states the New York Times had made change colors.

And now we're here. I like voting. It makes me feel like an American. I pay my taxes (mostly) and I get my car's tags renewed (mostly) and I do all of that but voting's the only official thing that makes me feel good.

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