Strip Mall Politics

I was cruising down Homestead Street in Cupertino on Thursday, just 5 days before the election. Like most post-1950s suburban streets, Homestead presents distractible motorists with a dizzying pastiche of storefronts, parking lots, and strip malls. Everyone seems to be turning left. Or turning right. Or talking on their cell phones and fooling with their CD players. Are you changing lanes, mister? It requires all the attention I can muster.

Now that it's election time, there's the additional visual cacophony of political signs. Their messages are simple -- a name, an office, a yes, a no, the number of a ballot measure. Zlotnick. Should I recognize that name? Am I in the same district as these people? In the same country? On the same planet? It's a confusing time for all but the best informed.

Even if the names don't ring a bell, there's something vaguely familiar about that man adding a third sign to telephone pole. I can't read the sign -- he's obscuring it as he drives another nail into the wood and steps back to admire his work. Long fuzzy hair. A big dude wearing sandals on this cool fall afternoon. Unmistakable. It's my old pal Len. I swing hard into the driveway of the strip mall.

"Lennox! Hey! Len!" I yell at him as I pull in to the parking spot next to his car, a faded yellow Reliant. He's really got the bumperstickers these days. They're affixed right to the paint. Free Tibet. Yes on 215. More messages than I can call to mind. But here's a new one that catches my eye:

Bill and Bob make me want to Ralph.

Why does it take me a minute to parse this sentence? I guess it's the first names. I'm not on a first name basis with any of these guys. But it's the best bumpersticker I've seen in this election year. Len offers me one after I tell him so. I look over his list telling the Green Party stand on the California ballot measures and walk over to Kinko's with him so he can pick up more Nader '96 signs to tack onto more telephone poles.

Here in the Silicon Valley, I haven't seen many bumperstickers -- either Clinton/Gore or Dole/Kemp, or even the more ironic Clinton/Dole (espied on a t-shirt recently) -- during these final days before the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. No-one is pasting a thing on the backsides of their Volvos besides the usual KQED or Visualize Whirled Peas.

Bill and Bob make me want to Ralph. Oust the corporate shills!

It's heartening that someone I know well is paying attention.

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