Monday, November 3, 2008

Battleground State Diary: O-H ... I-O!

"I said, A, O, Where'd you go, Ohio?" — My City Was Gone, The Pretenders

Our day one (officially) was full! We blockwalked until the sun went down -- with a brief respite of phonebanking in between and at the end of the day.

We began by making the drive to what would be our staging location: Canaan Community Center on Dayton's near northwest side. We met with our location organizers, Tucker Hutchinson, Leslie Keough from San Francisco, and Tim Flatman from Hampshire, UK!

Tim actually came over on his own dime to devote his time to electing a president in America! That was impressive, and actually depressing at the same time. We rarely concern ourselves with elections outside of the U.S, much less being volunteers on their campaigns. We have a tough enough time getting our own out to vote, much less volunteer, even more rarely involving ourselves as heavily as Tim. Yet here he was organizing us on our own elections there in Dayton!

Tim and another Brit, Bill Turner from London, were also reminders of how interwoven our global community has become. Our elections do affect them (and unfortunately were not beneficial effects these past eight years). They were as incented as we were for change of direction. Very telling.

During our break period back at our coordination location, we got a chance to visit with Mayor Adrian Fenty of Washington DC. He took a brief tour of the troops in action at the operations centers across the city. I got a nice chat with him, explained how I ended up being up in Dayton from Houston, and the mayor asked to grab a photo of myself and Michael Berger, the organizer for our part of Dayton and other suburbs north and west.

And shortly thereafter I dropped my digital camera and broke the lens! Seriously (the only down side of the day). However, the camera was still operable, so I broke out the cracked glass and kept going. Resourceful like a Cherokee!

The blockwalking went well for us all, with few incidents of any kind. Fortuitously enough on our first trip out, we sought to park in front of a house with an Obama sign on Dayton's near north side (near Triangle Park). Almost immediately the homeowner, Landon Crowell, came out to ask who we were and what we were doing (apparently something everyone in that section of town does). When we explained we were there to knock doors for Obama, he obliged us with use of his driveway and even brought me a bottle of water as I was blockwalking further down his street. As it turns out, Crowell was husband of Jolene, the neighborhood's Obama precinct organizer! We saw them later in the evening when they went to volunteer at Canaan.

We had great weather the entire time: cool, dry, crisp ... perfect for lots of walking!

Even later in the evening when they sent us further north, we had few if any problems. My blockwalking partner, Tuyen Nguyen, had a run in with a jealous spouse at a rather lively apartment complex. While she was explaining to a man sitting in his car in front of the apartment about the vote, the wife came out and wasn't too happy (I was across the parking lot). Apparently all the apartments we hit in that area of Harrison off of Riverside and Shoup Mill were notorious with locals from Dayton. Nevertheless, all turned out well even if Tuyen was a little unnerved.

Another neighborhood a bit north of the apartments, tucked away in a hollow, was a quintessential "Joe The Plumber" neighborhood. Over a third of the yards had McCain / Palin signs, and I got a couple of responses that were straight out of the FOX News talking points playbook.

Later, Tuyen and I teamed with Mike Faivor from Austin and hit another nearby apartment complex in the evening that was quite a bit more dicey. Both Mike and I encountered apartments with doors kicked in, I saw a couple burned out units and numerous ones with windows broken out. From the street, the apartments were deceptively normal looking (better than many from the street view in Houston, even!) But wandering through the complex, noting the unused pools and the tennis court which had caved in under one corner and was in disrepair, you could tell it was a once attractive complex that was in its last throes. Disrepair and vacancy were all it represented now.

At sunset a man residing there chatted with us from his balcony, curious about what we were doing there. After we answered and talked briefly, he cautioned us to "be careful" as it "isn't a safe place to be." His concern was kind, but it did confirm to us what we were thinking we were seeing.

It's time to cut this off for now -- blockwalking for the final day awaits! More later ....

"I went back to Ohio,
But my pretty countryside
Had been paved down the middle
By a government that had no pride.
The farms of Ohio
Had been replaced by shopping malls,
And Muzak filled the air...." — My City Was Gone, The Pretenders

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