This morning we had the good fortune to meet with one of the true foot soldiers of gubernatorial candidate Mark Dayton’s campaign. As one of the many yard signs pressed into service these past few months we asked Paul, who has been stationed in a St. Louis Park yard since late August, what it’s like to be a sign, dealing with black sheep relatives, and the shame of being Minnesota’s worst designed campaign sign in over a decade.
365: Thanks for meeting us this morning. We know it’s been a difficult few months as well as a nerve-racking election day for you.
Paul the Sign: I know how my Uncle Rich felt — he was a Coleman sign two years ago. Doctors later said that he probably suffered three or four minor heart attacks during the campaign, recount, and subsequent lawsuit. And that was on the conservative side.
365: Sorry to hear that. Did he make it?
Paul: He’s soaking up oil on a carpeted garage floor in Crocus Hill.
365: You bring up an interesting point. Once an election is over, your fate is a precarious thing.
Paul: I suppose. From a sign’s point of view — which is the only one I truly know — it’s completely unfair. Here in Minnesota, statute 211B.045 posits that we can be up from 46 days before the primary until ten days after the general election. That’s a blink of an eye. One whole branch of our family were Kerry/Edwards signs. Kerry lost and Edwards is spreading his seed like Abraham yet they — as people — get to walk the streets. Most of my Kerry/Edwards sign cousins are currently spanning rafters in a Northeast garage to provide “temporary storage.” You know damn well they’re going to be there until those people move.
365: Do you ever get to see any of your sign friends and relatives?
Paul: Yeah, but they’re awkward situations. Signs typically feel a strong bond with whatever candidate is on them. I suppose it’s like being a professional athlete: you feel loyalty for your team. I’m wearing a Dayton jersey. It’s an ugly ass jersey…
365: …and we’ll address that…
Paul:…but there’s still that loyalty. There are exceptions. My grandfather was a Wellstone sign, but he was about as conservative as a sign could be. It was always the same thing. Grandpa has a couple of Old Fashioneds and he starts in on the self-loathing spiel, “I should have been a Boschwitz sign.” He starts crying. My uncle, who’s a soft-spoken Jesse Ventura sign, goes to comfort him and Grandpa lashes out with some completely out-of-left field homophobic rant. It’s weird, but to answer your question, yes: we get plenty of chances to see each other. My mom is a Betty McCollum sign, but she’s been in the same West Saint Paul yard for the past two elections. We used to joke with her that moss and mushrooms were going to start growing on her, but it’s a little too close to the truth to be funny now.
365: That’s one part about being a sign that we, as people, don’t think about too often: it’s hard work.
Paul: It’s damned hard work. That last wind storm we had a couple of weeks ago? I lost a couple of close friends thanks to that storm. One of my buddies was an Emmer sign two doors down from me. He was kind of a jack ass, but a really funny sign. Anyway a 50-foot tall Norway pine, torn up from the roots, tipped over right on top of him. Killed him instantly. Meanwhile, the Horner sign next door has gone completely batshit crazy from survivor’s guilt. You could hear him talking and singing to himself while the tree crew was out de-limbing and carting away that pine. It was awful.
365: You brushed on the ugly nature of your design, would you care to expand on that?
Paul: I’d love to. Our state has a history of ugly and poorly designed signs. There was the Ventura trainwreck — and believe me, we all give my uncle a bad time about it. He wouldn’t even look good in a dorm room equipped with black lights and a stash of hallucinogens. The Jerry Janezich sign from a few years back? I’ve never known anyone who was one of those signs, I’m sure they are genuinely nice signs, but they were that school bus yellow and they had a portrait of the candidate that made him look like an evil humanities professor. I realize that I shouldn’t say anything; everyday when the sun comes up, I feel shame about how poorly designed I am.
365: Isn’t that a little out of proportion?
Paul: You tell me: someone high on Word actually scaled up the “D” 22% to fake small caps. Sin. And how does one worsen auto kerning? “D” (122%), “A” and “Y” live in separate towns, “Y” and “T” are making babies while “O” is texting while driving. “N” is filing for divorce. IT’S JUST SIX LETTERS.
365: Yeah. It’s pretty bad.
Paul: When I heard that I was going to be a Dayton sign, I was so happy. I told my whole family and they had the same hopes that I did: “Here is a candidate with millions of dollars. Surely he will spend the extra couple of bucks to make sure that he has an awesome sign.”
365: No dice.
Paul: No dice.
365: So what’s next on your agenda?
Paul: Well. Mandatory recount, so I’ll be up for a little while — not so long that I’ll have to consult a physician, but still.
365: Nice. Then what?
Paul: I overheard that I might go up in the garage behind the rakes and snow shovel, which would be great. It’s cold, but at least it’s clean.
365: And that’s why we live here. Thanks for your time today and good luck.
Paul: Thank you.