Takes a lot to make me say WTF, but had one of those experiences this afternoon at East 32nd Street and Avenue D. I had identified a family living in the neigborhood from the target period. I stopped by, introduced myself, and then the owner's son interrupted.
With an umbrella.
I had conspiracy bumps -- the gooseflesh that conspirologists all say arises, unbidden, in the presence of some numinous Object or Witness. But the kid was larking, and the father was a total jerkwad who blew me off. Told me to examine the umbrella (which I did; wrong number of ribs for either Dealey Plaza or the HSCA doppleganger) and laughed me off his porch.
But there was something about holding it that gave me pause.
Maybe I've been doing this for too long.
Another sweltering day, but one hard-won nugget. One elederly woman in a tiny apartment on Utica Ave remembered voting for Holtzman. She didn't remember anything odd about the campaign, didn't recall any particular advertising or literature that convinced her. But she had that puzzled expression as she was trying to recall, and, when probed, admitted that she just "had a feeling" that she should vote against the incumbent.
Feelings never just happen. It's not much to go on, but it's a clue.
Sometimes, the bear eats you. I woke up this morning and just couldn't get out the door. The prospect of another 90-degree day on the sidewalk just kicked my ***. I can rationalize with the best of them: a day with my feet up will make me more efficient, and I can refine my walk lists for the remaining areas based on the pattern I see emerging: only visit houses with Democratic voters who have a history of primary voting and skip those where nobody from 1972 is still alive, unless other family members display a similar voting pattern. And it has occurred to me now, too late, that I should have used the Social Security death database to eliminate houses where one member always votes Republican while the Democratic spouse is dead.
Too late for this round. Anyway. Turns out to be less houses, total, but more spread out. Sigh.
Get up and begin the long ride to Brooklyn, amid all the same commuters I see every day. They go to comfortable offices where they sit at desks and press buttons and talk on the phone. I get to hobble around Canarsie on bloody stumps and deal with blank stares.
I'm already sick of knocking on doors, and it's only Monday. This has been worse than I ever imagined it could be. I don't know what the hell I was thinking. The people who still live here are either elderly and inchoate or a younger generation which treats politicians with utter contempt and dismissal. Nobody I've talked to was even able to identify Elizabeth Holtzman as someone who once represented them in Congress; many could not place Watergate within a twenty-year time window, and a few didn't even know who Nixon was.
And on top of that, I have oozing wounds on both ankles that hurt with every step. Even gauze pads buffered with a layer of gaffers tape didn't help. Tonight, I feel the need for something stronger than ibuprofen. Back at it tomorrow.
Toward the end of the day yesterday, after knocking on two hundred doors in East New York, I realized that buying new shoes right before this effort was maybe not the smartest thing. Both my heels had been hurting for a while, and when I looked down, I saw blood on the back of both socks. So I did the best I could -- used a bit of the masking tape i have in the bag to put up fliers, and taped squares of McDonald's napkins over the ruptured blisters where the back of the shoes hit my ankles.
It was the culmination of a very frustrating first day, where the typical response was "what the *** are you talking about" when I could even get people to answer their doors. I'm running about 1 in 10 responses to doorbells. The rest I just stick fliers in the mail slots.
I did not anticipate the difficulty with apartment buildings. I tried buzzing randomly (even less printable responses) and following in people when they opened the doors (which earned me my first threatened 911 call).
And, let me tell you, it is a looooong ride back to Staten Island, B35 bus to the 2, to the Ferry, to SIRT to New Dorp, elapsed time about two hours if you make all the connections.
With bloody ankles, it feels like two weeks. Ibuprofen and bed.
Finally, my week of freedom is here, the one week a year where I get to do what I want. And I'm ready. Bought a new pair of shoes with cushioned insoles, SPF 50, and restocked my business cards from Vistaprint. (No endorsement is implied, nor should it be inferred; they're cheap and cheerful, and they get the job done.) Reviewed the walk lists for each day, the ingress and egress (Ferry as usual, then the 2 train, and one of several buses).
The mental prep is equally important. From long experience, I know that the mindset has to be equal parts certainty and resignation, like panning for gold. You need to work the plan with confidence, but not expect magic or be disappointed by hundreds of fruitless contacts. I imagine that those young political zealots who walk precincts for politicians must have the same attitude. Except, of course, that they are merely useful idiots maintaining the fiction of electoral democracy.
Corporate AmeriKa makes you pay for your "time off" with extra work. If you think you really get a week off, rest assured, they will take it out of your hide in extra hours. These last couple of weeks before my vacation, we suddenly had an extra-high-priority upgrade project to push out to all the workstations, then training and troubleshooting. And of couse, it's scheduled right before I'm supposed to take off. To get everything out the porthole before the ship goes down, I'm working 60 hours a a week and going in on weekends.
One of these days, I'm going to calculate my actual hourly take home pay. I think I could be doing better at Taco Bell.
I used to really like the Fourth of July. There is still the frisson of revolutionary delight, for those who know the words AND the music, and understand the true meaning of putting fireworks into the hands of The People. Even the dimmest must get something from that, some vague notion about distributed gunpowder not quite neutered by years of abraded Second Amendment rights. Setting off explosives in the street. How truly American.
And yet, it has all been turned into corndogs and car sales now. Patriotic parades with salutes to the troops. The Boston Pops, for crying out loud. Birthplace of the revolution, and they're listening to an overblown symphonic overture about Napoleon and the Tsar.
I will confess, I do like the cannons.