In which Steve finds Brood X, gets a teeny crush on a fellow trainee and learns where he's going, approximately.
I'm looking back on six of the craziest days of my life. Honestly, this isn't my life. It's somebody else's. I'm just borrowing it for a while.
First off, let's take a look at this fact: I own a car. Not only that, but I have put hundreds of miles on it already, spent more than $60 on gas already, and put my own bumper stickers on it. The backseat floor is littered with water bottles and snack food wrappers: you would think I've had this thing for a year or more, not just six days.
Next, let's look at what I'm doing. For the second time in my life, I'm homeless (the first was when I was staying with Gary and Lisa). So I go into D.C. during the day, then drive out into the Virginia countryside looking for a cheap hotel. Tonight I'm in the Johnson hotel, and it's about as cheap and smarmy as you can get without being in an inner city.
All of this is just killing time before I report to my new job next Tuesday morning. I don't know who my employer is, I only know roughly where I'll find him or her, and of course I've never talked with said employer. I am not blindly trusting that I will have a place to stay, as promise, and there's a part of me that wonders if the job might just evaporate before I get there. One thing's for sure: I do have a fine job title.
The four-day workshop was probably the most intensive course I've ever taken. From 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. we were given one hefty injection of information after another, from political consultants and top-notch politicians. Paul Begala, one of Bill Clinton's top campaign advisors, gave us an excellent (and humorous) presentation on crafting a message. Regina Thomas, Secretary of State of New Jersey, scared the poo out of us with a thick list of all the things we need to research and do to succeed.
But that's not all! From 8 p.m. on, every night, we were given the task of designing, in teams, a complete field plan for a theoretical candidate. On Sunday night, we worked until 4 a.m. That is to say, I worked until 4 a.m. My team went on, maybe even staying up all night.
A word about my team. The class was filled with 21 to 28 year olds, and amongst them I was feeling my age. There were also some of the sharpest and brightest kids I've ever met. In my group was one girl, probably 23, who had just completed her Masters degree. She also ran circles around me when it came to calculating the vote goal numbers. Normally I'm the one with the Excel spreadsheet and the formula calculations, but in this case I was just out of my league. This girl was also moved very beautifully and had a fantastic laugh, and so I'm still dealing with a lingering crush which will hopefully fade out before I start work next week.
Whoa! Don't everybody start throwing things at once, let me explain! I'm sorry, but I am not shopping for romance right now. I am married to John Kerry and I need to focus on that relationship! I can't help it that I get a little crush now and then, but I have to stay focused on the task at hand until November 2. Do you want Bush in the White House or not? Trust me, I can work, or I can fall in love, but I can't do both at the same time. I know that won't satisfy you, Mom, but hopefully it will suffice for the rest of you.
Anyway, back to the training. The point of the course is that there are two proven ways to win campaigns, and when you don't have the money to buy all the television ads you want, you have to rely on a tightly-focused volunteer-driven field campaign. This means direct contact and includes but isn't limited to targeted mailings, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing. As a field director, it will be my responsibility to draft up the field plan, determine the vote goals, recruit and train the volunteers and then send them out in search of votes.
It's a big job, and honestly I think it's okay that I'm a little intimidated. It will also be more hours than are humanly possible, so come November 3, I'll be looking for an extremely part-time job. But I am making no predictions about my future, because there is no way I would have ever imagined I would be here.
Some tidbits. I have encountered the Brood X cicadas, which were supposed to be in Columbus but never showed. There in D.C. and Virginia is crawling with them. I mean it. You can't walk without stepping on a few and they love to zoom onto your face, confusing you for a tree. They make an amazing racket in the trees, sounding like an orchestra of weed whackers, so loud that you can hear them on the freeway over the sound of the traffic.
I have spent good portions of a couple of days running around the streets of Washington. My first destination was the Archives building. Easily the most religious experience I've had in a long time, I walked into the vaulted sepulchre where, directly across from me was the four-paneled glass case, a guard standing silently on either side. I felt like genuflecting. Slowly I stepped across the marbled floor, approaching with great reverence. I was lucky enough to have the place to myself in that moment. I read every word of the Constitution (even the awful and obsolete three-fifths persons bit) and tried to decipher every signature. It wasn't just the abstract concepts of government that choked me up, it was the enduring love that goes into preserving and protecting the parchment while, at the same time, making them available to anyone to see for free.
I scored a library card for the Library of Congress today, which was cool, and I also did the monument walk this afternoon: Washington, World War II, Korean, Viet Nam, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Jefferson. I did get a glimpse of the White House, but you have to work for it. The whole town is upgrading security everywhere, which means that even to get into the food court in the old post office, you have to go through the metal detector.
I'm planning on going back tomorrow and doing a few of the Smithsonian tours, but I have been warned that much of the city will be shut down to make way for the Reagan mourners. The commute in and out is quite bad, even on the off hours and I think one more trip in will be about all I can handle anyhow.
I am planning on going to REI in Alexandria and getting the last thing I need to be a truly independent road tripper: a tent. Then I'll be able to stop in campgrounds and national forests on my trip up north.
Yes, north. While I don't know with which campaign I'm going to be assigned, I do know which state I'm going to. I also know very little about it and I most certainly haven't been there.
Did you guess? Yes, I am going to Maine. I will be working on one of several state legislative races up there, helping to get the legislature back into Democratic hands.
There is of course much more to tell. These days have been quite thick and full of adventure. But there isn't enough time to go over all of it. I am taking pictures so I'll have something to upload once I've re-connected to the Internet. I apologize if you've tried to write me, I haven't scanned my e-mail at all lately.
All right, time to hit the rickety sack here in the Johnson motel. I can't believe it's my life, but here I am nonetheless.