I imagine that I am not different from most married men in this country, and that the same goes for my wife.

We’re typical, settled, and probably predictably boring.

Like most people who have been married for a number of years, we know each other well enough that we try to proactively address each other’s quirky habits and shortcomings.

This is seldom more evident than any time we are in the process of leaving the house for any length of time; we have a checklist of items that we run down.

Me – Do you need to use the restroom?

She – Do you have your wallet?

Me – Did you let the dog out?

She – Did you take your pills?

Me – Do you have the restaurant’s address?

She – Please don’t talk about politics, you know how you get.

That one may be a bit out of the ordinary for typically settled and probably predictably boring people, but in my defense, I will unequivocally state that I do get the last word:

Me – Yes honey.

I think something happened, sometime between the Elián Gonzalez debacle and the Gore-Bush recount wars, that changed me forever.

If you ask my wife, not in a good way, but I’m OK with it.

I seem to transform into a loud, unyielding, opinionated, aggressive, gesticulating something-just-shy-of-a-Tasmanian-Monster lookalike every time someone doesn’t agree with me on politics.

In short, I become Cuban.

As I stated elsewhere, this year has been a rather unusual one for me, I am eerily calm about the upcoming election.

In fact, I am beyond calm…I am Zen.

My wife is so proud of me.

This past weekend we went through our usual pre-dinner checklist…restroom, wallet, dog, directions, “no politics”, as we readied ourselves for a night out with some friends.

It was a good dinner, at a good Italian restaurant, with all the good Italian dishes that we love, the perfect garlic rolls, that Chianti we like, and a new 55″ Samsung LCD TV hanging from a wall behind the bar. It wasn’t there the last time we patronized the joint.

Out of common courtesy to the patrons, the sound was turned off, but it was tuned to MSNBC.

So here I am, sitting in this restaurant on a good Friday night, working on our second bottle of Chianti, with the distant sounds of my wife and our friends talking about the same stuff they always talk about, trying to read Keith Olbermann’s lips.

“Waiter!”

“Yes sir!”

“Could you do something for me?”

“More wine sir?”

“No, not yet anyway.”

“What then sir.”

“Could you ask the bartender to turn on the closed captions on that TV?”

“Right away sir!”

“And you know what? Go ahead and bring another bottle of that Chianti.”

It’s September, it’s a Presidential election year.

Three bottles of Chianti and Keith Olbermann.

Someone should have caught on.

We left.

I was still holding on, chanting under my breath.

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

We got ice cream after dinner, we always do.

Carvel this time.

Nice store, with clean-cut, smiling young people working behind the counter. They had all my favorite flavors, and a 32″ LG flat screen behind the counter. Rachel Maddow was on…with subtitles.

I am trapped in the liberal Hell that is the People’s Republic of North Broward/South Palm Beach.

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“I am going to be OK”, I tell myself. “Just finish the ice cream, and drop them off.”

Zen Luis…ZEN!

Then for some inexplicable reason, a picture of Mitt Romney pops up on the screen, and the only word I see clearly through the sugar, Chianti, and high blood pressure haze that’s shrouding my head is “extremist.”

And that’s when it happened.

One solitary lapse in my ever-so-controlled, I-so-want-to-be-a-good-husband-to-my-wife, carefully crafted façade.

One whispered word:

“Moron.”

And everyone in my little, happy group of Chianti-buzzed, overfed, reeking of garlic and scungilli, Carvel-eating revelers turn to face the TV, ice cream in hand.

“Yeah…that guy scares me.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“Yeah, how come?” I reply, and my wife’s eyes suddenly lose a degree or two of their Chianti and ice cream induced smiling dreaminess.

“Well, you know…he’s scary.”

“Yeah, you said that already. What’s so scary about him?”

His wife pipes in, “he’s anti-abortion you know, probably going to stop women from having that choice.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

“Tuna sandwich, Ommm.”

I can feel my wife’s nails beginning to dig into my forearm.

“H____ (name withheld), you’re 48 years old, you thinking you’re going to need an abortion sometime soon?”

My wife comes awfully close to ripping a layer of skin from my arm. She tries to change the conversation.

“Does anyone know who is replacing Randy in American Idol this season? That show is not going to last past this season.”

“They could put up a tuna sandwich for all I care.”

I turn to my friend.

“You were saying?”

“You know…he’s scary. It’s all that religious stuff.”

My wife jumps up...”Well, it’s late, we should go.”

“I haven’t finished my ice cream dear”, I say, with a smile closely resembling Jack Nicholson sticking his head through a door à la Jack Torrance.

“So then J___(name withheld), you were saying…?”

“I’m not happy with Obama, but I am scared of Romney and that Ryan guy, they are so damned radical with all that extremist religious stuff. I’m scared of what they would do to the country.”

~~~~~~~~~

Of all the bad movies that I love from back in the 1970’s, “Billy Jack”  is my uncontested favorite.

I must have watched Tom Laughlin’s entire “B” Grade tour de force (Born Losers, Billy Jack, The Trial of Billy Jack, and Billy Jack Goes to Washington)  a dozen times. In theaters with my buddies, in drive-ins with my dates, and even on a fledgling pay-for-play network called Home Box Office.

The absurdity about a movie about peace, love, mostly made up of title-to-credit ass kicking got by us. We just liked the cute hippie chicks, and the ass kicking.

My friends and I would jokingly threaten one another…”I’ll go Billy Jack on your sorry ass!”

Then we’d scream and start kicking like we really knew hapkido.

It was a lot of fun.

To our credit, we never actually hurt anyone.

To my credit, I didn’t actively try to kick anyone in that Carvel Friday night, and we eventually made it back to our corresponding homes.

My wife is talking to me again, which is good, and I’ll probably get around to sending J___(name withheld) and H___(name withheld) that email apology I promised my wife I would send.

I may have to buy everyone dinner too.

But not until after November 7th…2012 if Obama loses, 2016 if he wins.

I just don’t know that I can maintain my Zen any more…it’s too important this year.

This is a fight of our lives. Some knuckles will have to be scrapped, some noses (figuratively) bloodied, and some friendships lost.

Our people, nuestra gente, have far too many regrets about not having fought harder back in 1958.

That can’t be the case here, with us, this time.

They’re playing for keeps, and so must we. Zen is for some other day, after we win this war.

I’m embracing my inner Billy Jack, and I am taking no prisoners.

So be warned, if you think Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are scary…wait ’til you get a load of me.

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