Aged Parm and I met the Big Cheese for lunch and politics on Friday. Our drive up to Saddlebrooke was quintessential Arizona - big blue sky, white puffy clouds and the mountains hugging the side of the road. I-77, Oracle Road here in Tucson and beyond, is built on the fault line. I like to imagine the earth pulling apart from itself, little by little, over deep time eons, as I cruise northward in The Schnozz. But I had little time for reverie on the drive, because Aged Parm was fired up and rarin' to go. I love the company of an active and engaged mind, especially when there's attitude attached. And let me tell you, the woman is nothing if not filled with attitude.
The Home has been sponsoring candidate forums as we approach Election Day, and Aged Parm has been on the aisle for each and every one of them. She's also, apparently, been the only one asking any questions. And hers are serious questions - how would you fund the tax breaks you propose? Unlike the woman who wondered if we were safe here at home with all our soldiers fighting wars across the globe, Aged Parm has read the position papers and the newspapers and watched and listened and sifted the facts and she's not just asking to hear herself talk. She really wants to know the answers. She is opinionated, and, like most of my friends, she knows that her beliefs are true and that she's right. Delightfully, that doesn't mean that she is close-minded. You'll see proof of that later on.
For now, we'll drive to the Clubhouse and dine with a view of the golf course which is closed for reseeding (Note to those who want to stay great and spend a little - come in September when the gardeners rule and the courses are closed. The rates are remarkable.) The Big Cheese was right behind us and we took a table with a view. We talked about the mountains and hiking and Uncle Gene and Congressman Mike Pence, he of the good hair and not much else. We drank a lot of ice tea, the better to stay awake during the upcoming forum, and then it was back up the hill to another Club House.
My parking karma held and we grabbed the first spot by the door. Aged Parm and her decorated cane are living proof that slow and steady wins the race. Fear of falling permeates every step but she still puts one foot in front of the other, unwilling to let aging get between her and a good fight. And this was going to be a good fight.
The League of Women Voters has been around since there have been women voters. Every LWV member I've known has looked tailored and harried and has spoken with an authoritative tone surrounding facts and figures and dates and issues until I succumbed to the onslaught and agreed. With whatever she wanted. Captain Al Melvin, incumbent State Senator for Legislative District 26, tried to bully our LWV Moderator and she just smiled and calmed the storm and moved the program along without missing a beat. It was admirable.
There were 5 candidates, 2 microphones, 2 minute opening and closing statements and 1 minute answers to questions submitted by the audience on 4x6 index card and asked by the LWV Moderator. The whole thing lasted about 2 hours, which was 30 minutes too long, but the space was lovely and the company was good. The performances were real and unmediated. The candidates couldn't hide behind makeup or lighting or speechwriters or handlers. The House incumbents were facile with the finances and the numbers rolled off their tongues with ease. Cap'n Al (seriously - the first signs I ever saw referred to him that way) mouthed tea party platitudes like secure our border roll back Obama-care but none of our questions addressed those issues. Education, the budget, business and job development and taxes were the major topics, but we spent a fair amount of time talking about privatizing rest stops "I support rest areas" -- Terri Proud wanted us to know that. Cheryl Cage is a capitalist and Cap'n Al was an Eagle Scout and Vic Williams volunteers in his son's classroom. This was politics up close and personal.
Captain Al sat with his chair angled just enough to show his opponent his back. Terri Proud says "We tax our businesses way too much" and Nancy Young Wright warns that "we can't bring young workers here when our schools are 50th in the nation" in spending per student. Senator Melvin reminded us that Arizona is "in the mid 30's academically and that's just fine" and I looked to my left to watch the smoke pour from Aged Parm's ears. Muttering about the triumph of mediocrity we almost missed Representative Vic Williams' admitting that compromise was a good thing. The more we paid attention to his answers the more impressed we became. We didn't agree with his political views, but his answers made sense and we have to vote for two of the three and we left the auditorium wondering if we were considering voting for a Republican. Had we learned something? Had our opinions been changed? Do we have more investigating to do? Yes, yes and yes.
The drive back home was punctuated with can you believe she said that's and look at those gorgeous mountains and, my favorites, coming from each of us and repeated more than a few times: I do like you!
It was a very nice day.