Something’s in the Air

October 11, 2008

At the Portland Farmers Market, roasting chilies perfume every cool breath. Autumn has thinned the crowds but not the produce. Along with poblanos, I buy what may be the year’s last peaches, several varieties of apples, shiitake mushrooms, and more.

The once-ubiquitous volunteers registering people to vote are nowhere to be seen beneath the canopy of blue sky and elms. A sign perhaps that the presidential race is over, except for the vile death rattle from the McCain-Palin attack machine.

People look happy to be here, more so than usual. And why not? We’re surrounded by nature’s bounty on a classic fall day. But I sense something else, something more uplifting, even with the economy gone to hell.

I’m suddenly experiencing a too-good-to-be true exuberance that Barack Obama is close to achieving what looked impossible. The market crowd, I’m sure, is typical of Portland — predominately Obama country. Like me, maybe others are beginning to have glimmers that the nation will be saved.

Then I see a rambunctious Obama supporter. Named after the famed German poet Rilke, the mixed-breed dog struts proudly in the warmth of her Obama shirt. Suzame and I show Rilke’s owner our little boy’s “Baby got Barack” shirt. (We’ve shamelessly brainwashed Atticus, even if he’s only three.)

Speaking for Rilke, the woman says: “Right on.” Others gather around and sing out more “right ons” at the sight of Obama dog and boy. I want to shout hallelujah but say nothing.

My exuberance, of course, is veneer masking fear and suspicion. What could go wrong fills a long list. The people and party that have done so much to claim unprecedented and unconstitutional power might do anything to retain it. Or watch unofficial surrogates, whipped into a hateful frenzy this week, do it for them.

Looking at faces in the crowd, I’m sure I’m not the only one harboring dark doubts. Hunter S. Thompson’s observation about the Nineties comes to mind: “there is no such thing as Paranoia. It’s all true.”

Minutes later, Atticus is climbing playground equipment, jacket zipped over his Obama shirt. Standing above me, he reaches down and with a smile offers a golden leaf.