Connie Allenbury is an OffTheBus grassroots correspondent. Each week she contributes a campaign journal documenting her life out on the trail.
For more than eighteen months, I have been working what friends and colleagues refer to as the "greenest and grassiest" of rooted campaign efforts, i.e. the only time I am not working for Barack Obama's victory is when I am painting. Strange, for such an ornery and committed activist. The last time I painted politics was the Bosnian genocide, when I painted a market explosion and embedded the names of the sixty-three people who died that Saturday morning into the oil paint. I have been certainly inspired to make what has not yet been made: a decent poster and portrait of a smiling Barack Obama. Maybe next week.
Just doing my life, I cover a lot of ground in the course of a week. I may be picking up wood for stretchers on a cold day in February, and as I turn to get into my wagon, I put on my Obama stocking cap. The owner, who is helping me load up, sees the cap and asks: "Isn't that that Muslim guy? Isn't he with terrorists or something?"
"No, not at all. But that would be fine, no? It is, after all, a religion. But, if you have a few minutes I'd like to tell you who Barack Obama is and what his platform is." I roll down my window an inch or two for my Arctic breed dog to enjoy the air and then I launch. Ten minutes later, the fellow is stepping back into his building with both thumbs up saying "Barack Obama! Yes! Thank you!"
If I call the Times to report an undelivered paper, I'll ask the customer service rep, "So, are you following the election?" (This was months ago; who can ignore it now?) "No, it is all too disgusting. I never vote. It is just a joke." "Well, have you visited Barack Obama's website, because on it there is a comprehensive 'issues' tab: you can read exactly where he stands on the issues and some of what he plans to do. In the meantime, let me explain a few key points." Twenty minutes later, after he is really engaged, I wonder aloud if he will be getting fired. He insists not, but we agree to end the call. He thanks me for introducing him to Barack Obama, stating in such a serious tone that he had no idea. He also promises to go to the site. He says he has caught my enthusiasm right from the get-go.
This goes on all day, times 7. "How old are you? Are you registered?" To new neighbors: "Will you be watching the debate tonight?" To their son: "Here's 'Dreams From My Father' ...I think you'll like it." The day after the debate, my new Hispanic friend, a wonderful woman, a former Hillary supporter, met me at our fence at 7:00 A.M. "I watched the debate. I saw Obama, really for the first time. He is so smart, so strong. And, he touched my heart. I see now why you are so involved. I want to write to him. Will you help me? I will be voting for him." (She now greets me each time we meet with an embrace and "I love you from my heart!") Her son: "Everyone in my class wants to read the Obama book. Can I pass it on?"
Now, I know I gave Hill a hard time, what with those limericks, (rhyme: aabba, strictly a good-time form, and I did, after all, write them in the woods while I was walking the dog...) saying she was better than Meryl and all, when she wouldn't leave the race when she had no mathematical chance of winning and was just running up a debt she would later ask us to pay, and when those concession and unity speeches were anything but; I know I can be kinda vituperative in print and on my Obama blog that no one --except Mo, Frank and David-- seems to read, but in person, I represent Obama and I am my polite self. There are so many facts, such an enormous amount of information at the ready-about McCain, the "administration" the haters, the war; and Obama is qualified in so many tangible ways, (and, yeah, I read the Lizzi piece). There is no need to go about getting supporters, workers, contributors and votes with anything but the facts. And I've gotten quite a few of each.
Now, if you begin doing plies at a ballet barre when you are 5, and you continue the practice for a few decades--throw in 3-hour jazz routines every day or night @ Phil Black's studio, 50th and Broadway with Herb Wilson, (And Lola Wasserstein, I miss ya!), there comes a time when something in your body goes. In my case, it has been knee cartilage. I have been tooling around "bone on bone" -that is, with no cartilage whatsoever--for awhile now. Climbing up mountains in Maine, and then practically crawling down with pockets of water the size of full zip-locks under both knees. I've stubbornly covered every inch of the Metropolitan Museum visiting all of my beloveds as often as possible in total pain; walking the dog in zero degrees and having my knees freeze up...it's getting silly.
Anyway, since Paris is a large, walker's city, and since I'm 'on a jet plane' as soon as the dollar ever becomes a dollar again, (or with a 1-way ticket if the Repubs steal another presidential election...let them search me. At that point, will I give a fig?) I thought maybe I would get the most painful of my knees replaced. Which is how I ended up in the "Best of Boston's" surgeon's office. At the end of the 6 minutes...these guys want to slip a titanium appliance into a human body and expect the patient to fit into an assembly line of appointments: no explanations, no alternatives. ("In, out, let's not get crowded." Quick: which flick?)
At the end of the appointment, the doctor stood up in front of me, and as I moved my scarf, my large Obama button came into view. When I saw him glance at the button, I asked in an obviously facetious tone: "May I assume that this button will in no way compromise my surgical care?"
Suddenly this hitherto composed, 50-something professional reverted to boyhood somewhere south of my 9 and 10 year-old nephews. He stood still, his arms at his sides and began to bellow.
"I'm so confused! I'm so confused!" (And then once more, with feeling...)"I'm so confused! I was thinking it was O.K. to go with McCain, and then I got an email from a friend in Alaska who says Palin is a total nutcase!"
For once my voluble, wonk-ridden enthusiasm was dampened by such a display. "And you needed the email?" was all I could ask. After all this time on my passionate campaign trail, meeting every type of person, having a 98% success rate for Barack Obama, covering all the course Corsi books with Dr. Phil at every Wal Mart I pass, I know a total lost cause when I see one.
You know, I once heard Ralph Nader say (I think it was at the Coolidge Corner Cinema in 2000--Chomsky and Zinn were there in support of Ralph, and I got great shots of 3 of my 5 main men) "Anyone who smokes is too stupid to work for me." (And damn, don't I think of Nader every nite I light up that one Natural, 'cause Barack sure needs a smoke.)
That day, not too long ago, as I walked away from the surgeon's examination room, I thought: "Can you really imagine this guy cutting open your knee...and then actually removing it and inserting a metal replacement? Someone too stupid to recognize the strengths Obama brings to the (non-operating) table?"
I came to the reception room and stopped at his nurse's desk.
"May I have my x-rays, please?"
"Is there a problem?'
"Actually, there is. Any surgeon who thinks it's 'O.K.' to vote for John McCain?... is just too dumb to operate on my knee."
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