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Adapting and Adjusting on Labor Day:

I’m writing this piece on Labor Day. It’s supposed to be a holiday from work, but there are situations that can’t be anticipated where we must adapt. And this past Labor Day weekend became a festival of adaptation and adjustment.

Consider all the forces convened quickly to assist with the evacuation and safety of the areas impacted by Hurricane Gustav. Thousands of workers, many of them volunteers, all laboring to ensure that there would not be a repeat of the Katrina Disaster. Then there was the army of TV news reporters who had to stand in wind and rain to help us all better visualize wind and rain. It made one very anxious, since the level of literal representation in TV news has now surpassed the Fisher-Price toy and game standard of “B is for Bee.” Let’s hope reporters are not soon asked to literally demonstrate the heartbreak of homicide and car accidents. Still, there they were… working hard for their money on Labor Day.

Even President Bush was at it, doing what he does best: Clogging up critically busy command centers with a photo op entourage and talking through his rain hat about weather and other technical areas he has no operating knowledge of. It took enormous patience for the FEMA people not to suggest that Bush go help Jerry Lewis with the telethon, and I for one deeply appreciated the way top officials nodded their heads when Bush spoke.

Then there were the Republicans, who had to quickly reconfigure their convention in Minneapolis so that they could properly reflect the deep concern for hurricane victims that is their hallmark. It was our loss, really, since we may never get to see many of the videotape presentations prepared for the convention, such as “Eight Years: Whew! Where Did It Go?!” There was also the pricey special equipment prepared for the convention, including the 10-foot titanium pole McCain had made in case Bush did try to endorse him.

The presidential candidates labored harder than ever over the holiday weekend. Having launched VP choice Sarah Palin out of a pink cannon just last Friday, McCain and Palin were hitting the campaign trail like a caffeinated Lewis and Clark. McCain would point out that Palin was a woman, then emphasize that she was a woman, then introduce his woman Palin. Palin would identify herself to the audience as a woman, talk about being a woman and her womanacity in pursuing the mayor’s job (as a woman) in a town the size of a Costco store, then cite the White House-level experience she’s acquired during 22 grueling months as (woman) governor of Alaska. It’s beautiful there, and Palin’s plans for more oil drilling on federal lands won’t mar that beauty a bit. Note to polar bears: Watch your six!

Palin and McCain’s exertions over Labor Day meant more labors for the Obama/Biden ticket. They both had to work on new lines for their speeches that embraced McCain’s choice of Palin without seeming disparaging or condescending. Phone conferences with Marlo Thomas and Ellen DeGeneres proved useful, but by Sunday the best the Dem ticket could muster was “Remember the episode of Star Trek where that guy looked like Spock, only he was evil? Okay, so, if there was a female Spock…”

The California Legislature labored over the “holiday” weekend to come up with a spending plan, and set some kind of record for not having one by August. The governor is standing firm on not borrowing the money, and the deficit is so far standing firm at $15.2 million. State-funded hospitals, community colleges, day care centers… people in those institutions also worked over the Labor Day weekend, with uncertainty about where the operating budgets for their facilities were going to come from.

And then there was my situation, which compares not at all to the more serious matters of last weekend. Still, I know you’re interested. What happened was I wrote a first draft of this column all about Sarah Palin. But it was so angry, it simply became wrong. At one point I claimed McCain’s desperate choice of Palin had something to do with Cher returning to Vegas: The logic was interesting, but shaky. The second draft focused on the theatrics of the political conventions. Then that was out when the Republicans changed gears in order to exploit—Whoa, excuse me, sorry!—support the hurricane efforts.

So, with the caveat that I deeply enjoy my work for the Mirror, I was working on Labor Day. It was nothing at all like the contributions made by others working in the wake of Hurricane Gustav, or those working diligently to ensure new leadership in November. It was just some musing shaped into a theme that would then become content. But maybe, at least a little, I could align myself with those who were out there last weekend getting it done.

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