A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

A NOTE From the Editor:  Joseph Walker is one of our most enduring authors.  In fact, he’s one of SFPNN’s original authors!  He’s been writing his column for over 14 years, longer than we’ve even existed.  So I have a store-house of articles and stories from Joe.  All of them are great.  And sometimes it’s hard to choose which one to run.  Well, being true to my Gemini nature, I sometimes have to choose both.  So that’s what’s happening in today’s issue.  You’re getting a double delight with two articles from Joseph Walker.  Enjoy!

By Joseph Walker

My son Jon’s favorite day of the year is coming up.  Interestingly, so is mine.

On his favorite day of the year people dress up in crazy costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy.  My favorite day of the year also involves some craziness and door-to-door solicitation.  But by the time the Big Day arrives most of that stuff is pretty much out of the way.

Jon’s idea of a good time on his favorite day of the year is to eat candy, visit spook alleys and scare girls.  My idea of a good time on my favorite day of the year is to curl up in front of the ol’ Motorola with a few crackers and some Cheez Whiz and watch democracy in action.

With Jon’s favorite day of the year (Halloween) and my favorite day of the year (Election Day) coming so close together, it’s tempting to link them with jokes about their similarities: you know, skeletons in and out of closets, groveling for favors, the haunting specter of ghosts from the past and stuff like that.  But the more I think about it, the more uncomfortable I am with such a cynical approach to a day during which we exercise one of our most treasured rights.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m aware of some of the frightening realities of contemporary politics – especially this year, when rhetoric has run roughshod over an electorate searching for real answers during one of our nation’s most troubling eras.

Did I say “frightening”?  Don’t tell Jon.  He’ll think I’m cutting in on his holiday.

But the way I see it, there isn’t anything wrong with Election Day that can’t be fixed by the folks who are supposed to have all the power in the first place: the people.  If we have lost control of the political process, it’s only because we have abdicated our power to elected officials, special interest groups and the media.  And if we’re going to be re-empowered, then it is going to have to be because we make it so.

Thankfully, things haven’t regressed to the point that another revolution is required.  Three simple adjustments will pretty much do the trick.

First, we have to think.  The first obligation of citizens in a free society is to think for themselves.  That means we can’t let the media do our thinking for us.  And we can’t take everything the candidates say at face value.  We’ve got to do a little research.  Study the issues for ourselves.  And then make decisions based on what we honestly think is best.

Second, we have to vote.  Yeah, I know – that’s pretty self-evident.  But you’d be surprised at how many people never get around to taking advantage of this marvelous privilege.  Which means they miss one of the finest moments democracy has to offer: that moment when it’s just you and your ballot in the privacy of the voting booth.  On Election Day your opinion really matters, and your vote is just as important as any other vote.  It’s a great feeling.  Besides, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about your elected officials – and complaining about elected officials is probably America’s second most-treasured right.

And third, we have to serve.  At least, we have to be willing to serve – especially if we look on the ballot and can’t find any names we are excited about supporting.  If we’re serious about wanting to get the bugs out of the system, we’ve got to be willing to get involved in the process – either by running for office ourselves, or by encouraging other good people to run.

See what I mean?  It really isn’t that complicated.  All we have to do is spend a little more time thinking, voting and serving and “We, the People” (catchy phrase, huh?) can regain control of our political process.  Sure, it may require a little more energy than we’ve expended on such things in the past.  But I promise it will be worth the effort.

Whether or not Election Day is your favorite day of the year.

— © Joseph Walker

# # #


There’s a new hole in our hardwood kitchen floor.

And no, this didn’t result from that . . . um . . . well, you know . . . temper tantrum I threw during last weekend’s exercise in frustration that is known as college football.  No matter what anyone tells you, I’m not really a foot-stomping kind of a guy.  I’m more of a “throw the TV remote against the wall” kind of a guy.

Which reminds me: the blasted remote is acting up again.  Go figure.

The hole that I’m talking about was actually drilled into our floor intentionally.  Meticulously.  And, if I do say so myself, almost skillfully.

Here’s the deal: For the past several years we’ve had to run a telephone cable over the top of the kitchen cabinets and into the converted dining area that serves as our office.  It has been functional, but it isn’t especially pleasing aesthetically.  And if you could see me sitting here at my desk wearing my ratty old black sweats, a stained gray sweatshirt and white socks with holes in the heels, you’d know that I’m ALL about aesthetics.

So for some reason that still isn’t entirely clear, I decided that the time was right to run the wire UNDER the kitchen and back up into the office – which in my mind meant I would need to put a hole in the kitchen floor through which to push the cord.  I got out my trusty power drill, selected the most out-of-the-way place for the hole to be, and I started to drill – first a small hole with a small bit, then using larger bits to make the hole wider and wider until the hole was big enough to accommodate the phone jack.

I don’t know why I chose to do it that way.  It just seemed like the thing to do.  Plus, the hole I drilled wasn’t big enough at first.  Nor was it big enough after I used the second bit.  Nor the third.  Nor the . . . well, you get the idea.

To her everlasting credit, Anita didn’t freak out when she saw that I was drilling a hole through her beautiful hardwood kitchen floor.  But she was curious about what I was doing.

“I’m drilling a hole,” I said when she asked.

“I can see that,” she said patiently.  “But why?”

I explained the whole telephone cable thing, to which she responded with the same sort of cautious comprehension one usually reserves for 6-year-olds with hammers.

“And what’s on the other side of this hole?” she asked.

“The basement,” I said as I adjusted the drill for the next larger bit.

“Yes, I know that,” she said.  “But WHERE in the basement?  Are you sure it’s coming through in a location where you can get to it?  There are ducts and closets and stuff down there.”

I hesitated for a moment.  I probably should have thought about that.  But I was several bit sizes into my drilling.  If there was a problem . . . well, that’s why God gave us duct tape.

“I know,” I said with as much bravado as I could muster.  “I’ve got that all figured out.”

As soon Anita wasn’t watching I hurried downstairs to check out the damage . . . er, to see where I was coming through.  Thankfully, I had missed the closest duct by a good three centimeters.  Still, I had to use a mop handle and a reconfigured wire clothes hanger in order to hook the telephone cable and pull it through.  But we got it through.  And it actually worked.

For a couple of hours.  Then I started working on installing a new DSL line for the computer and . . . well, it turns out we’re going to have to install a new phone jack closer to the computer.  So we won’t need the long telephone cable we’ve been using – or the hole.

There’s a moral in all this, I’m sure of it.  But for the life of me, I just can’t see it.  I can only see one thing: that nice, neat, overly large hole in our hardwood kitchen floor.

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

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