When I talk about my relationship with my late father I often say that the only common ground we had when I was a kid was the New York Mets and The New York Jets but this isn’t entirely true. We had some other things in common. For instance, we shared a passion for the late night classic TV lineup on New York’s WPIX that aired throughout the 80’s featuring The Odd Couple and The Honeymooners. Through the years we saw each episode of both shows many times and on the occasions when we watched them together we would fill in our favorite bits of dialog. Like this bit from The Honeymooners episode “The Deciding Vote.”
Ralph Kramden: (Reading from a credit application referral form) “In your opinion, is the applicant of good character?”
(Ralph pauses and says aloud as he writes his answer)
"The applicant is a bum."
My father and I also liked to vote. One of the first things I did after turning 18 was register to vote. I graduated high school the same week as my 18th birthday but I was more excited about filling out my voter registration form than I was about getting my diploma.
Through the summer and fall of 1992 my father and I followed the campaign, watched the debates and on Election Day we went to the polls together. He let me get in line first and after showing my ID I found my name, right below his on the list of registered voters. I signed my name and cast my ballot.
My father and I also voted together in local elections over the next few years but by the time the 1996 election came around I had moved out of my father’s house. Since I hadn’t updated my voter registration I had to drive back to my old neighborhood to vote.
For the first time since I was a registered voter I went up to the polling place alone. I looked around for my father but I didn’t see him. After waiting in line I showed my ID and found my name on the voter roll, right below where my father had signed his name when he voted earlier in the day. When I went to sign my name I saw that there was already something written on the line where my signature belonged. Written in my father’s neat handwriting beneath my name were the words: “Is a Bum”