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The Adventures of Steve

Episode 25: Getting things done

Sunday, May 16, 2004

One of the strange mysteries of this year, is that I feel I've done so much when in fact, I have done very little. I've been in Ohio for almost three months and I've only registered one resident: myself. I haven't been to one Kerry meetup, I haven't made any phone calls, and none of the, um, one letters to the editor I've sent in have been published. Heck, even in Iowa I did very little: I never canvassed and I only made a handful of phone calls.

But the lesson keeps coming back to me: it's not what you do, it's who you are. Last week, I received a very inspiring gift from an unlikely source. Background: my last girlfriend's sister Fraeda has been highly involved in the lingering Kucinich campaign, working Washington, California and now Oregon, travelling with the Kucinich posse (see episode 9). It sounds like she's having the time of her life. So in an e-mail she sent me last week, she wrote, almost as a post-script, "Seeing you move for Dean really helped me to make the choice to give my time for Kucinich." Wow.

So it's one or two simple things like that tell me yes, it has all been worth it.

In less than 24 hours I should hear, yea or nay, whether I have a position with the 21st Century Democrats or not. My interviewer told me on Friday that he still hadn't called my references. Which actually I take as a good sign, because that means they got past my resume and my interview skills, my weak points. If the only thing left to go is to let my associates and friends gush about me, I'm in.

And it will be so good to be in. I have learned that I am not a "self-starter." Given the opportunity between sitting in my rental programming a Web site, or taking a long walk in the sun, the programming will lose every time. I need to work with people. I need to be part of a team. The shame about my time here in Columbus is that opportunities have not just "popped up." They need to be created, chiseled meticulously from stone, not something a generally shy guy stranded in strange suburbs without transportation feels extremely confident about.

It's been about all I can do to make it to a handful of "who-are-we-now" Dean meetings. Due to transportation captivity, I hardly see my Fort Dodge friends anymore. And I've stalled out on the two tasks that the local DFA chapter has given me to do, because when I'm actually home on free time, I'm more lonely than motivated.

So that's why I'm looking forward to this change. Of course, change is coming either way: either I get the job with 21st Century Democrats and move to where they tell me to move, or I move downtown, find a job there, and make some friends so that I'm not trying to do this all on my own.

So either I'm moving to Columbus (the real Columbus) or I'm moving away from Columbus. Either way, it seems like a fine time to describe this city that I live in to some degree.

First off, let me tell you that springtime in Ohio is not at all what I expected. It is fantastically lovely. I'm not sure if I've ever experienced a true, lush, verdant spring like this one. In Sacramento, spring is a three-day affair before things get really hot and dry. In Eugene, winter continues until the fourth of July. I have never felt so close to the eager reawakening of nature that springtime represents. It just seems that I have never seen the color green so thickly green.

There's something about the climate that lends one to live closer to it. It's temperate enough that the windows in my apartment have been open continuously for a month now, so I hear every breeze and every raindrop. I'm awakened at 4:30 every morning by the most amazing cacophony of birdsong. Often, there is humidity so dense that I feel I live in a tropical zone. It's on those days that you can count on the thunderstorms in mid-afternoon. Nature is just much less willing to be ignored here, and I feel much closer to it.

Last weekend I borrowed a car from my friend Pat Stover and used it to visit a state park in West Virginia. There's even more trees and hills over that way, and I spent a few hours hiking along a lake, occasionally upsetting a Canadian Goose family or startling a herd of white-tailed dear. It seems that there's more concern for conservation out here, probably because they've already cut it all down once and they want to keep encouraging the return of the woods.

In a few days, I understand, I will have a new component of nature to contend with: Brood X is coming. The largest infestation of the 17-year cicadas, Brood X is supposed to be climbing out of their underground holes and transforming into billions of noisy, clumsy flying bugs. From the maps, it looks like I'm in cicada land, but so far no sightings on my part.

About Columbus itself: on one hand, it's just another typical American city that's built the wrong way since the Interstates came through. On the other hand, while it's clear that Columbus suffered from the industrial depletion of the '80s, it's coming back strong.

The downtown area is attempting a revitalization that Northwest cities like Portland and Vancouver are famous for, but it's not there yet. To get people to be downtown, you need to get them out of their cars, but unfortunately (for urban renewal) the freeways still work well and there are next to no other transportation options. I have considered purchasing a bicycle on numerous occasions, but I have decided against it on the hunch that it would probably kill me. These roads look like they've actually been designed to discourage cycling.

The bus system is the worst I've seen, and I've been watching it get worse. I live in a major population center, seven miles out from the downtown area. Bus service to this area ceases in the late afternoon on weekdays and even sooner on weekends. One entire route that went between here and Worthington (where my dentist is) was eliminated earlier this month.

So what this means that nearly everyone has a car. Or, I should say, everyone who can afford to get around has a car. There are large poor (mostly black) neighborhoods where bus service is utilized much more, but they are closer to downtown. Beyond the beltline, it's mostly white auto-driving folks.

I live in one of the border zones. I'm close to the next town up, Westerville, a fairly exclusive well-kept yuppie suburb, but on the other side, I'm also in walking distance to Upper Lindon, probably the largest run-down black neighborhood. So my particular neighborhood seems to be rather harmoniously integrated. There's a lot of Somalians here too, running food and fabric stores that would've made my last girlfriend drool. Then there's decent Hispanic and Indian populations too.

I keep getting asked if people in Ohio are different than those in Oregon. The answer is most certainly yes, but I am still fuzzy on the distinctions. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of interactions to draw upon to make conclusions, but here are some rough ideas. I think people are more satisfied with themselves here. They're also more private and independent. Ease of life seems to be a driving factor, more so than looking good. I've noticed less need to protect others from imaginary offenses, but a fast apology when something really does go amiss. If anyone has felt impatience or animosity towards me, they haven't shown it. There are quite a few fat people here.

One thing that's clear about Ohio is that it appears to be about as all-American as you can get. I think in both California and Oregon, they know they're different. Their Oregonians first, Americans second. Here it's the other way around. Ohio IS America, it seems. If you told someone here that "America was under attack," they'd look over their shoulder to see who was coming. In a certain way, you can still feel that the spirit of the West is still alive here--perhaps more so than on the West Coast.

I guess that's all for now. Hopefully I'll have an update tomorrow night.


All of the Adventures of Steve

   Episode 1: In which Steve leaves Eugene and arrives in Rancho Cordova.
   Episode 2: In which Steve visits the Jelly Belly factory and gets a haircut.
   Episode 3: In which Steve gets a cold, a big box, and a seat on a train.
   Episode 4: In which Steve receives shiny new toys and loyal old friends.
   Episode 5: In which Steve departs for Iowa and rants a bit about why.
   Episode 6: In which Steve takes a trip to Des Moines.
   Episode 7: In which Steve gets really involved.
   Episode 8: In which Steve starts hobnobbing but is haunted by Arne Baker.
   Episode 9: In which Steve becomes a groupie and is informed that we all have love in our hearts.
   Episode 10: In which Steve becomes a media whore.
   Episode 11: In which Steve takes on Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine and Michigan.
   Episode 12: In which Steve is pitted against Fort Dodge, Iowa and seven vans of unruly Texans.
   Episode 13: In which Steve learns that all his hard work wasn't enough to put the candidate back together again.
   Episode 14: In which Steve does nothing.
   Episode 15: In which Steve reaches a decision and attempts to get virtually hired.
   Episode 16: In which we thank the good doctor for all he did.
   Episode 17: In which Steve suits up for a new life in the Cap City!
   Episode 18: In which Steve starts to realize he’s not in Eugene anymore.
   Episode 19: In which Steve switches from job seeking to home seeking.
   Episode 20: In which Steve starts to learn some things via the error side of trial and error.
   Episode 21: In which Steve experiences his first blizzard.
   Episode 22: In which Steve contemplates his next move.
   Episode 23: In which Steve prepares to switch gears... again.
   Episode 24: In which Steve spends a week in a hotel with four thousand teenagers and then gives his 30-day notice.
   Episode 25: In which Steve reminisces about his 10 weeks in Columbus while waiting in the wings.
   Episode 26: In which the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
   Episode 27: In which Steve changes everything.
   Episode 28: In which Steve finds Brood X, gets a teeny crush on a fellow trainee and learns where he's going, approximately.
   Episode 29: In which Steve starts to see how politics really works.
   Episode 30: In which Steve writes a letter to Kelly, executive director of the group that fired me.
   Episode 31: In which Steve spends a tentative week commuting to work in Maine.
   Episode 32: In which Steve learns he's just one piece on the board.
   Episode 33: In which Steve settles in for three months of intense campaigning.
   Episode 34: In which Steve is deep into the final countdown.
   Episode 35: In which Maine wins, the nation loses and Steve heads home.
   Episode 36: In which Steve doesn’t do much more than comb the classifieds and update his Web site.
   Episode 37: In which Steve slips into a normal life.

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