Tuesday, January 20, 2009

When presidential gets personal

Any presidential inaugural address that alludes to Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli is A-OK in my book.

I'm referring to the line in President Obama's speech today that called on Americans to "pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America."

Judy and Liza and Fred and Ginger and Frank all sang about the virtues of starting fresh following a stumble and starting anew, and now President Obama has joined their ranks.

I listened to the president while laying on my sofa built for a Munchkin, which forces me to dangle my legs over the side whenever I want to lay flat on my back.

I had grand ambitions of watching the inaugural address in a public space this morning, with the Jumbotron at CityWalk and the monitors outside of the CNN building in Hollywood being my two favorite options.

I went to Ralph's early this morning to get the newspapers and five bucks in quarters so I could launder the sheets that got soiled when my Foley catheter busted its gut on Sunday night. The self-serve check out line was down, so I had no choice but to stand in a long line of shoppers, behind a young mother cooing over her baby in the basket of her shopping cart.

Secretions building in my trach tube were causing me to emit Darth Vader-like wheezes, which caught the attention of the young mom. After one glimpse of me and my swollen tongue, mom shielded her baby by dropping a blanket over the bassinet.

Maybe it's too soon in my recovery from surgery to mingle with the masses, I figured. I decided to head back to the apartment to watch today's historic moment on line.

When 9 o'clock rolled around, I was too bushed (pun intended) to walk five paces from the sofa to the computer, so I listened to the speech on the radio. (KLOS-FM, too, made history this morning, by going an entire hour without playing a single Led Zeppelin tune, allowing for the presidential address.)

President Obama said exactly what I needed to hear, as an American and as a brand-new cancer patient. The challenges he described were both broad and personal, and the president made me believe that they can and will be conquered.

You surely heard President Obama, too. My hope is that he connected with you in a way that is just as profound.

In time, a phrase or two may emerge to define this inaugural address. For me, that phrase is the excerpt of the song President Obama chose as one of the vehicles to carry his message. Titled "Pick Yourself Up," it was popular during one of the worst years of the Great Depression. Liza first brought it to my attention, many years ago, following in her mom's footsteps.

Nothing's impossible I have found,
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up,
Dust myself off,
Start all over again.

Don't lose your confidence if you slip,
Be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
Start all over again.

Work like a soul inspired,
Till the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired,
But you'll be a man, my son!

Will you remember the famous men,
Who had to fall to rise again?
So take a deep breath,
Pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
Start all over again.


  1. Paul, you can make Darth Vader sounds for MY kids any time!!!

  2. The wheezy sounds creep me out when I make them in my sleep and wake up. In time, I am sure I will be having dreams of crossing over to the Dark Side!