On the Day After Labor Day

Today is the day after Labor Day, and it’s supposed to be very different from last Tuesday. According to the authoritative folklore the lazy, hazy days of summers are now officially over, no matter what the thermometer might say, and all sorts of new rules are suddenly in place.
White shoes and straw hats, for instance, are now a fashion faux pas until Easter. The part about white shoes is of little consequence to us, as we switched to the black Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars as year-round footwear long ago, but the straw hat thing is going to be more problematic. Around here the thermometer is still reaching three digits, and this might yet prove one of those summers that stretches into the Kansas State Fair and the big acoustic music festival down in Winfield, in which case the wool driving cap we favor in the fall and winter months would surely fry our brain, and our good friend “Hatman” Jack Kellogg, proprietor of Hatman Jack’s Wichita Hat Works over in the nearby Delano neighborhood, gave us a great deal last spring on a very handsome Panama fedora that often fetches compliments from pretty young women, so we’ll probably defy the fashion rules for another few weeks or so. Nobody around here pays any attention to the fashion rules anyway, and at least we can console our conservative heart that we’ll continue to put on a coat and tie for any funerals or weddings we have to attend.
Another rule, more recently enacted, is that football season is now fully underway. There’s nothing we can do about that, but it won’t divert our attention from the more pressing matter of baseball. Our beloved Wichita Wignuts clinched an American Association division title and playoff spot even before they defeated the Grand Prairie Airhogs by a score of 4-2 on Labor Day, with us and our beloved Dad in attendance at the historic Lawrence-Dumont Ballpark, and a New York Yankees’ victory and a Toronto Blue Jays’ loss leave our beloved Yanks only a half-game out of their division lead and with a comfortable cushion in the wild card race, so until the Big 12 conference schedule gets underway our priorities will be unchanged by the calendar. We did take note and were bemused, though, about that unintentionally ribald and hilarious half-time marching band blooper¬†at the half-time of a gridiron contest between our Kansas State University Wildcats and the South Dakota State University Coyotes.
Another post-Labor Day rule is that we’re not supposed to take note of such frivolous things. On the day after Labor Day the kids are all back in school and their buses are once again slowing traffic, the recently tanking stock markets are back in business, business at large is back in business after all that laziness and haziness of summer, and the public’s attention is suddenly attuned to more serious matters. With an election year looming the Average American is now presumed to paying more sober attention to the presidential nomination campaigns, which we hope will lower front-running Republican candidate Donald Trump’s inexplicable numbers, and we can’t even guess what effect it might have on a Democratic race where formerly front-running Hillary Clinton now finds herself losing to self-described socialist and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. One can hope that this arbitrary seriousness will affect the meager chances of staving off the administration’s awful nuclear with Iran, and we’re pleased to note even on a Labor Day that our local congressman is still fighting it with a faint hope that those even more awful side deals between Iran an the International Atomic Energy Commission, and we’re glad that our congressman is on the job about it, but the mere turning of a calendar page doesn’t offer much hope.
The calendar does inevitably impose its will, however, in ways that even we and the added strength of popular opinion cannot resist. It’s a long, long way from May to December, as a favorite old song of ours notes, but the days grow short when you reach September. We couldn’t help noticing that the sky was already darkened to a Maxfield Parrish hue and the headlights were on by eight o’clock, and couldn’t help remembering back to that short time ago on the summer solstice night on this far western edge of the time zone when the sunshine lingered until a glorious 9:30 p.m. or so. We don’t have much to show for the intervening cycles of the universe, and yet hope to have done more before we reach that longest night, so we guess that now is as good a time as any to get back to business and be serious and acknowledge that football is actually happening. We’ll do our best at it, but so far today somehow seems a lot like last Tuesday.

— Bud Norman

Summer Gives Way to Campaign Season

Labor Day has come and gone, and by tradition Americans will now put away their white shoes and straw hats and start paying attention to politics. We have no idea where the white shoe rule comes from, but we haven’t owned any white shoes for the past several decades, what with the black Converse All-Stars being more dignified for our advanced age, and thus we pay it little heed. The straw hat rule was obviously concocted back in New England or some other northern clime where autumn weather arrives on a more fashion conscious schedule than it does here on the plains, so despite our ardent desire not to give offense to etiquette we’ll simply ignore that one for another couple of hot summer weeks or so. We’re the sorts who obsessively follow politics even through the summertime, so that rule also has little effect on us, but at least it makes some sense.
During the next two months there will be campaign commercials, soundbites, scandals, yard signs, billboards, fliers, barroom arguments, and all other forms of politics sufficient to sate the most unnatural appetite until the next round of elections in a couple of years or so. Our suspicion is that the adage about people not paying attention to politics until after Labor Day was coined by political professionals who didn’t want to begin the chore of campaigning until they had rested sufficiently on a full summer’s vacation, and wisely realized that an earlier start would be even more annoying to the amateurs. Besides, two months and a few days should be long enough a campaign for even the most low-information voter to figure out which candidate is the stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatic and which is the God-hating Marxist tax-and-spend lunatic, and to choose according to taste, so Labor Day seems as good an arbitrary date as any to start the campaign season.
We will be interested to see what those political Rip Van Winkles who have been blissfully sleeping through this mild summer will think when they awaken to the current mess. If they were roused from that enviable slumber by the shrill sound of Vice President Joe Biden shrieking to a Labor Day union gathering that “It’s time to take our country back” they might get the impression that it’s all because those stingy poor-people-hating anti-government Tea Party fanatics have had full of control of the country, but after a couple cups of coffee and two months of non-stop television spots juxtaposing your local Democratic candidate next to an unflattering picture of President Barack Obama they might regain a hazy memory of the last desultory election cycle. The more sober and less sanguine mindset that people have when wearing dark shoes and cloth hats might even lead many voters to consider how the Democratic party’s policies have contributed to the lingering economic malaise, all those unaccompanied minors crossing over to the southern border to a school and social welfare agency near you, all those invasions and beheadings and swimming pool take-overs on the international scene, as well as an alphabet soup of scandals in the federal bureaucracy, but we expect that a certain number will be more concerned about the Republicans’ mythical War on Women and the nefarious influence of the Koch Brothers and all that income inequality that the president keeps bringing up in between $32,000-a-plate fundraisers.
Our guess is that more people will be concerned about jobs, the invasions in Ukraine and Texas and Arizona and elsewhere, and all those scandals by a government the Democrats are promising more and more of, and that it will take some ingenuity on the part of the Republicans to blow this advantage. The Republicans have proved up to the challenge in the past, though, and those people who don’t pay attention until after Labor Day can be easily lulled into another midsummer’s night dream.

— Bud Norman