I pay attention to the coins I take out of my pocket each night. Usually I’m checking for old pennies. I get a kick out of finding the “wheat” pennies from pre-1960. Doesn’t happen very often.

I rarely look at the nickels and dimes, however, so imagine my surprise Wednesday night when I pulled out an “Indian head” nickel (aka a “Buffalo” nickel), by far, the best coins the U.S. ever minted, the most American of coins.

The profile image of the Indian is fabulous–dignified, world-weary, a little like the image on the Chicago Blackhawks jersey. The buffalo on the back is equally impressive. It echoes an era when we were still in touch with our roots. The best part is there’s no politician present on either side.

I’ve found coins in my pocket at the end of a day that go back as far as the 1940s. But this one went back even further–to the mid-1920s. It came out the year my mother was born. That’s a long time to be in circulation, and the coin is in remarkably good shape. You can still clearly read the year.

Imagine its travels and the stories of the lives of the people whose possession it passed through. I couldn’t help noting that it also came out just before this country’s last great economic meltdown. Hope it’s not an omen.

As it happens, I only broke bills at two places that day, so I know the coin came either from Cosi or Starbucks (on Lake Street, east of Oak Park Avenue). Maybe it came from a customer. Maybe it came from a bank.

But it’s staying put with me for awhile.

As for last night’s debate: It wasn’t the fact that she refused to answer any of the questions, launching instead into her pre-fab mini-speeches. It wasn’t the contrived folksiness or the phony Fargo accent. It wasn’t the lack of substance or her tortured, convoluted sentences. First and foremost, it was the fact that Sarah Palin can’t pronounce the word “noo-klee-er” that makes me conclude she isn’t qualified to be president. What is it with conservatives and “noo-kyu-ler”? The word is spelled n-u-c-l-e-a-r. Not every conservative pronounces it noo-kyu-ler, but in my experience, everyone who mispronounces it happens to be a conservative. They probably also say “kyu-pon” (notice there’s no “y” in the word “coupon”). In my humble opinion, anyone who pronounces nuclear as noo-kyu-ler should immediately be disqualified from running for elected office. Although it isn’t 100 percent, I believe the correlation between “noo-kyu-ler” and being a bonehead is very high.

Just look at our current president.

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