Sunday, August 31, 2008

Achas Shaalti meh-es Adonai, osah avakesh

I've had some great canvassing moments. I was floored by Obama's acceptance speech. Shocked by McCain's VP pick. And got to spend an incredible weekend with Knucklehead. But I can't think of any of that right now.

I can't, because 12 of the happiest days of my life were spent in New Orleans, Louisiana. 6 as a college senior with WA. And 6 with onmyway88 and mD this past May at Fess. And now, I watch in horror from hundreds of miles away, as Hurricane Gustav slowly makes its devastating way towards the Gulf Coast. Barely three years later, after herculean efforts by volunteers and non profit organizations to stand up do what our government was SUPPOSED to do, which is begin to rebuild a fallen region, and a fallen city, that work threatens to be washed away.

I'm terrified.

Terrified that this crossroads of history and culture will be so devastated. And terrified that we won't have the strength or resolve to rebuild this city. This American city. I say American because its history is that of America: African, English, French, Indigenous, Spanish all rolled into one. The birthplace of American music, of Jazz, R&B, and Funk. The home of one of the strongest African American labor unions in the first half of the 20th century.

Its home for a lot of people. For me, it's just a place I really love.

I'm terrified for the whole Gulf region, but I'm most worried for New Orleans because of my own attachments to it.

After Katrina, I saw New Orleans as a kindred city to New York in a new way. More could have been done to stop my city from being attacked. And more could have been done to help prepare New Orleans for Katrina and help rebuild in its aftermath. I saw in these moments, a government that did not respond to its capability.

I was on a City Council primary when Katrina hit. Several of us talked about leaving and heading straight for New Orleans to volunteer, constantly. We all stuck out the race, but sent money, resources, spread the word, and did what we could from afar. My first reaction is to find a plane that would fly me down there and go, right now. You can't catch a hurricane for a city like you could catch a bullet for another person. But if I could, I would.

It is Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, and the beginning of the spiritual buildup to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holidays. The title of tonight's post is from Psalm 27, said every day of Elul, and on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as well. The translation I have handy reads: One thing I ask of G-d, this I seek: to dwell in G-d's house all the days of my life, to behld G-d's beauty, and to frequent the Temple.

But today, the one thing I ask of G-d is this: to do Your best to lessen the strength of the storms, to help all of Your people get out safely, and to give us the strength, resources, and resolve to rebuild the right way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Please not again.

Holy shit. it's almost Katrina's third birthday, and the last thing New Orleans, the Gulf, the Southern US needs is to meet a brother of hers. So not good...

The mansions of Camelot Circle, Random Road, and Olde English (800) Lane...

Yesterday, we were in a very wealthy neighborhood. Extremely wealthy. Some of the biggest houses I've seen, and we were walking five minutes up a hill to get to a door. Some of the doors, to be honest, I had to stop and catch my breath before I rang the doorbell. But as I tell my canvassers, go to each door with an open mind. Sometimes, the nicest people in any given day are at the biggest house. Yesterday, my favorite door belonged to a local government official who's a Republican. This person, after telling me he couldn't answer any questions about who he was supporting, told me that I didn't have to worry about that household, and wished me luck as the person thought 'this might be a rough neighborhood, but we're rooting for you. go get em!"

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Live Free or Die Hard

Well, dear readers, I'm sure you've noticed a pattern where if crazy ish is going on, chances are I'm not blogging nearly as much. So, a week plus later finds me in a new state, with a new team and a new focus.

I wasn't happy to leave buckeye territory, and don't want to get into gory details on a blog, b/c at the end of the day, everyone's out trying to get the good Senator from Illinois elected. But I had a difficult time with some of the people out there; we had differences of opinion. The difference was they thought my opinions didn't really matter, even though I brought several campaigns worth of experience, and my canvass team was the most productive out there.

But G-d works in funny ways. After a crazy month, and having a hard time accepting that I would be missing it and not one but two incredible weddings, I found myself arriving in New Hampshire for the final days of the National Havurah Committee's Summer Institute. This is particularly fitting because next year, Knucklehead and I are co-chairs. WOO! But the amazing outpouring of love from the community was just what the doctor ordered. After several shabboses by myself, one hosted by Aschill's parents, to go from an hour drive from shul to many of my favorite yidden in the same place was just plain amazing. And Saturday evening, after an extremely rough two days of travel, Knucklehead beat Havdalah to Tute by about a half hour. It was so great to see her after a month apart and two weeks of nearly no communication. After a brief cameo at the closing program, and fielding several great requests and ideas about 2009, Knucklehead and I, along with a few friends, headed to a wedding! Incredible wonderful celebration! The loving partners were both so joyous and made a day that was truly their ownm from the thoughtful words in the ceremony to the fair trade chocolates on the tables. Outstanding, inspiring, life affirming. The loving partners even told Knucklehead and I that they were inspired by our use of Rachel Adler's Bris Ahuvim, so always nice to get props there. :-D The simcha dancing was absolutely amazing, and a little too much so as we had three injuries! i started telling this particular Jew-crew that we need mandatory stretching before the simcha dancing.

Knucklehead then worked it out so she could drive me to my new place in the Granite State. We had dinner and then, both of us totally exhausted, collapsed into bed. But the amazing thing about this transfer to NH is now I get to see Knucklehead three weekends in a row! Craziness! And, I also get to nag you beantown area readers to come volunteer with me. COME VOLUNTEER WITH ME! In fact, if you're in the northeast, come volunteer with me. Pennsylvania will be okay, and NH not only has the Presidency, but a critical challenge in the Senate if we want to get to 61 votes (Lieberman proof) and two first term House Dems that need a hand as well.

Alright, going to try to get some sleep. And one last thing about G-d working in funny ways. It wasn't my decision to leave Ohio. But I've got major downticket races, people that know how to use new technology, technology that makes canvassing easier, and a pool at my new long term hotel. Most importantly, I get to go to two weddings, see more friends and family that I love, and be closer to Knucklehead. Maybe this really is all for the best.

Day 2 in Granite is in a few hours. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

knock knock knockin on George Eliot's door...

Hey Dear readers,

so i know it's been a week or so since you last heard from me. And what a week it has been. Another training. Attempts at working together with the folks where we are. And communication breakdowns and little piddly things are adding up in a hurry.

I'd love to tell you stories about folks I met out here. Actually, let me try to tell you a few of today's, maybe that will help me focus on the good and the interesting.

Met an African American Korean war vet who doesn't vote. He seemed really angry about the Iraq war but wasn't sure about voting. Had a five minute conversation with him or so, and he seemed like he was thinking about voting. His friend was helping me work on him, but he wasn't convinced so i just left the registration. I feel like I maybe got a small child in trouble today, too. I knocked on one door, and a little African American kid, maybe 3, ran up to me on the outside, and said, "nobody's home!" i said "really little man, you're hear all by yourself?" and with this loud exasperated sigh, he said "i'm just playin, they home." He goes inside, and holds the door open for me to come in. I don't go in, though I do hold the screen door open. Large African American guy looks down at him and says, "Did you just let in this muthafucka you don't know?!?!" Needless to say, a woman and a young man in the house registered, and i'm not entirely clear how they were related to the baby, but man, i felt bad.

Just trying to stay positive. Seems that some people are really happy to have us there, and others like to make trouble for the folks who have given up everything and moved away for 4 months to do it. Let's see how this all goes.