Thursday, November 6, 2008

election day

There must be four dogs barking and clawing on the other side of the door, which isn't more than a piece of plywood installed in grooves to slide open.  I can hear the footsteps of someone coming to answer my knock, and I look down at the paper on the clipboard in my hand to double check the name.

With a little struggle from inside, the makeshift door opens just enough for a middle aged man to slip through.

"Hey there..." I say, raising my voice a little over the clamor of dog's feet and the rustling and squawking of a few dozen birds.

The man interrupts before I can say anything more, "We're going down to vote at four.

"Okay great. Well, can we count on you to--"

"--we're voting for your guy."

"Alright! thats great to hear.  You won't see me again. Have a nice day."

"You too..." says the man, and I start down the little steps of the porch.  He slides the door open again, and I turn back.

"Hey, what's the sheep's name?" I ask.


"The sheep..." I say, pointing out into the yard.

"Oh her name's Molly. Make sure to lock the gate on your way out."

"Molly. Okay. Have a nice day."

As I walk out of the yard I can see out over the little neighborhood of manufactured houses and shacks and trailers, across the railroad tracks that line the backyards, and the towering casinos and sprawling neighborhoods of Reno in the distance.  There are a hundred birdhouses lining the fence around the property, each painted and constructed with a different theme.  Molly looks me over skeptically as I pass by her, and locking the gate, I hear from behind me a long, "baah-ah-aaaah."

It is cold and snow flurries have been coming down around me from time to time as I walk the neighborhood, knocking on the doors of potential voters as I have the last couple days.  The polls will be closed in a few hours, and I will have spoken to nearly all of them in the area, some several times.  

I'll call it quits around 6:15pm in front of a long dark driveway, where according to my papers, a nineteen year old girl that the campaign has yet to identify as a supporter or not, resides in a little house the size of a bedroom, with old paint cans and furniture and baby toys spilling out. I'll be thinking of the uneasiness I felt hanging a "VOTE TOMORROW" flyer on her wide-open front door the previous morning while her giant black dog howled behind a chain-link fence, and the house lay empty and still.  

As I'm looking up at the yellow light coming through her windows beyond the trees, I'll be thinking of the toothless woman I had just spoken to, whose deceased father was on my list, who said to me when I apologized, "I voted for Obama, though. And thank you for what you're doing."

As I get back in the car, and head towards the precinct headquarters, I'll be thinking of how much the neighborhood changed as the sun set, and I'll be dumbfounded again and again by the manufactured houses and trailers on dirt roads with McCain signs outside of them, by the way that these people, the ones that need this change the most, are voting against themselves. I'll remind myself again and again, though, of the folks way out in the hills, on streets with no street signs, with rusting car parts scattered out in their yards, that told me they had already voted "Democrat across the board."

As I drive with my family to the casino, where the big democratic party election results party will be held, I'll be thinking of the last eight weeks, the first six of which, I took time off from music, and pushed back the release of my record, to help run the East Bay campaign headquarters. I'll think of the ten hour days setting people up to make phone calls to battleground states, the hoards of people, Black and White and Asian and Latino and Young and Old and Wealthy and Poor that flooded the place and asked me questions until my mind hurt. I'll think of the people above me there, that never seemed to leave, that gave their lives to the campaign, none of them seeing a dime.  It all will seem like it may not have happened.  At some point I'll hear on the radio that Ohio has gone blue, and I'll feel the knots in my back, that haven't gone away for months, relax just a bit.

Everyone will be cheering at the party, thousands of them that donated their days and nights to the cause, as screens projecting MSNBC and CNN on the walls of the big casino banquet room, show the results rolling in. I'll be standing on a chair cheering too, and while people are crying all around me as President Elect Barack Obama gives his speech, I'll be smiling wide, nearly in hysterics, and when it's over I will jump on my brother and hug him and text everyone in my phone that hasn't texted me, and when they call, I'll only be able to say "WE DID IT!!! WE DID IT!!!"

And my father will call us as I drive over the pass, back into California, the designated driver since my brother and his friend woke up at 4:30am and drove through eight inches of fresh snow that morning to get people to the polls and I slept until 8:30am, and my father will comment on the peaceful transfer of power, and praise the guys that set it up a couple hundred years back so we could fight with our vote and with our time and with our voices and our paychecks, but not have to shed any blood.  We'll all talk relentlessly in disbelief and sleep hard, knowing that it is over, and still not yet beginning.

And in the morning, I'll talk with my mother.  She'll tell me that some bitter republicans are saying that Obama bought the election, and she'll be laughing.

"No," she'll say, "WE bought this election."