Vote here with beer," it says in shoe polish on the window of the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium downtown. It's a promotion being put on by the beer hall in conjunction with Samuel Adams. Buy a pint glass with a caricature of one of the candidates, and that's your vote. It's put on a tote board hanging from the railing of the staircase leading to the Flying Saucer's billiard room.
Currently Bush leads Kerry 570 to 361. I'm sitting next to Jason, a regular here at the bar. I ask him how accurate he thinks the count is. They don't really keep track of every glass ordered, do they? How do they keep people from running it up for their guy?
"I think they are keeping a fairly accurate count. I remember when they started the tote board, when it was at double digits. As for running it up, that would be un-American," he says sarcastically.
"Has Kerry ever been in front?"
"No," he says. "This is pretty much a Republican place. I'm sure if they did the same thing at [Montrose dive bar] Lola's, it would be another story."
"True," I say. "How about you? Have you bought a glass?"
"No. I have no interest in buying a glass with no beer in it."
I tell him his longish hair and Black Flag tattoo don't seem to fit in with a place where Bush leads by more than 200 votes. Why does he drink here?
"I work right up the street. Also, the waitresses are hot," he says in a do you really have to ask? tone.
He's right about that. The waitresses all wear T-shirts with Flying Saucer phrases on them. One says "Beer Goddess," another, "Tap this." Along with the shirts, they don plaid Catholic-girl miniskirts and kneesocks. They look like naughtier, smarter Hooters waitresses. It makes me think of Clinton, for some reason. All right, the reason is obvious.
I start looking around for people with candidate pints. I come across a young lady in an Astros hat sitting with a group of friends. I can see the logo on one side of her glass -- an elephant riding a donkey with the phrase "Get off your ass and vote!" But I struggle to see which candidate's on the glass.
Her name is Megan, and she's voted for Kerry. I ask her why she bought the glass.
"I want him to win," she says, "and I feel so terrible that he's so far behind."
I try to show her encouragement by offering, "Yeah, but this is a bar downtown with sports on the big screen. I think your guy is doing all right."
Megan agrees. She thinks Kerry's being down only 200 is a bad sign for Bush.
"This is his state, after all. His dad lives here. I would figure he'd be in front by 500, especially at a place like this, filled with businessmen," she says, reassuring herself.
I ask her what beer she thinks the candidates would drink if they were here.
"Kerry would probably have a very sophisticated beer. Maybe an India pale ale or something. Bush wouldn't have any because he's a recovering alcoholic," she chuckles.
"Do you think anyone here at the Saucer is responsible for any Florida-style voter fraud?" I ask.
"I'm sure they are. I have to be honest. This is the third Kerry glass I've bought."
I make my way back over to Jason. I point out Megan across the room and tell him about her felony. He laughs and reaches into his bag.
"Look what someone left," he says, holding a W. glass to the light.
I study the cartoon sketch of our present leader. The caricature looks like Ross Perot with donkey ears and a pointed witch's snout. It's much less flattering than the Kerry pint. He got the Doonesbury treatment with a big mop of hair and Jay Leno-size chin. His wrinkles have been Botoxed out, while Bush sports some pretty wicked crow's feet.
A closer look at the logo on the other side of where the beer sits reveals that the elephant is actually an elephant's head on a human body whose human legs seem to be wearing pleated pants and loafers. The donkey is all donkey. Its face shows stress -- the type of stress that would naturally accompany a Dockers-wearing half-man/half-elephant climbing onto your back. It's cute. I ask Jason if I can keep it.
"Sure," he says. "Just make sure you keep it out of sight just in case its rightful owner tries to reclaim it."
Good point. In fact, I think I'll just leave, but not before sauntering over to the other side of the bar and showing it to Megan.
"I bought a glass to counteract your cheating."
She laughs dryly, "I'm going to get my friends here to buy me three more before I leave."
"Fine," I say, "I'll see you in court Supreme Court!"
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.