Oct 24, 2010

Not a good day for canvassing. The rain, the 'who cares', the plutocracy of it all.

But you start off with high hopes. Before going to the party headquartes, you stop by Clooney's, a five-star dive on the corner of 25th and Valencia. Open from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. At that speed you have just enough time to get home, pass out, and crawl back.

As one reviewer puts it, whenever I stop by Clooney's someone is either yelling or crying. And there are reports that at the drop of a hat one of the crazy tenderettes will drop over the bar and throw your drink in your face.

It's just past 10 a.m. You walk in, it's pitch black, the Sunday games are kicking off and the bartender has a bowl of cheerios, right up to her face, which is from Fresno or the central valley, wizened and red-eyed. Four or five flat screens up high, along with relics from the era of Saint Joe and Lord Rice. Meanwhile, the men and a single woman sit around the horseshoe, in their 49er galore, and in their cups, their Buds, and in their angry-as-hell — even though the Giants got to the World Series last night, and even though the 49es score a touchdown on their first possession this morning.

Half an hour later you're on the 3100 block of 23rd Street. Just off Shotwell. You have your list, your map, your clapboard, your door hangers, your four-color mailbox material, in Spanish and English, your script, your pen and paper.

You're just down the street from where you lived for more than 10 years, yet you have no desire to see that apartment, to see what became of the garden you created in the backyard or what kind of people are living there now. The connection is completely broken. You feel like Ned in Cheever's Swimmer. You've come back to a place that's empty.

You ring at the first address on the printout. No one answers. You mark that as NH (not home). The mark runs like mascara in the rain. The second address and the third and all the way down the page, and no one is home or they're not answering. The truth is the people here are sick to death of the ringing and knocking. On Saturday, they get the Adventists and the Mormons. On Sunday, they get Move-On and OFA. During the week they get people that need a phone or a loan or the bathroom.

Finally, somebody comes to the gate: A young woman, mid 20s, pretty, blonde, barely dressed, looking sleepy and here it is 11:30. You explain. You're asking her to commit to vote. To vote for Dems is best, but to vote at all is good.

"I'm not interested in that," she says. She has a worried expression as though she cannot process the question, as though she cannot believe someone would come to her door with that request. There must be something else...

"Why not?" you say.

"Because I'll be traveling next weekend."

Absentee ballots you say.

"I'm really not interested in voting at this time."

She sounds automated. 'Are you hardcore,' you're thinking.

"Why aren't you interested in voting?"

"It's all stupid. I have other things to think about." She turns away and disappears. On the back of her underpants, across the ass: Go Cal Bears

You keep going. You walk up a driveway, past some white vans. A man appears. He's in his 50s, striding toward you, a sandwich in his left hand. "Whata ya need."

You go through your spiel.

"I don't give a shit."

So you won't vote at all.

He shakes his head. You ask why not.

"Who the fuck am I gonna vote for? I don't like the rich on the one hand or the lazy on the other. I hate 'em all. I'm what you might call one cynical, Darkness-At-Noon bastard. I don't see anything in it for me from any of these people."

Not even the Tea Party.

"No, not them either."

But what about the idea of a handful of people and large corporations running these elections....

"What's new?" He's opening the door to one of the vans. He's a contractor. He has to get back to Oakland. You're holding him up.

"Here's the truth." He's saying, and smiling, but it's a weird ironic smile. "I don't mind the oligarchy, so long as I'm in it. I'm not in it but I'd like to be...."

A little cynicism, a little truth.

The rain is speeding up. The enthusiasm gap is too great.

You go back to Clooney's. Without a George. That's what it needs. Or Looney's, you're thinking. The 49ers are tied (and they'll go on to lose). A man at the bar has got his dander up, spit flying every which way. "It was Clinton that got us in this mess," he's saying. "You know and when he went to Korea and got those people out. And look at Carter, look what he did. They're making this into socialism and one day they'll round us all up. They're workin' on it right now. Obama is. They don't want you to have a job. See, that's the secret. All you can feel good about these days is Uribe. The dumb wetback did good, didn't he?"

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