Saturday, January 30, 2010

Not so great neighbors


There are a lot of dogs in our neighborhood. You know what's coming next, don't you? With dogs comes dog owners who are less than responsible. The issue of dog shit on the sidewalks is one that plagues us wherever we live. It was a problem when we lived in Jersey Heights, a problem when we lived on Harrison Ave, a big problem when we lived in Harlem, and starting to be a pretty aggravating problem in Union City.

I'm not afraid to call out dog owners who don't pick up, but I chose carefully. If it's a kid or a lady, or an old guy - I'll usually just call out "do you need a bag?" which usually shames them into picking up. If it's the more common type - the huge tattooed dude with a massive pitbull, I usually say nothing. Our neighborhood has a fair share of the latter variety, and my husband got into it with one of them yesterday... I heard some yelling outside and went to look, and he was yelling at a guy across the street. Of course, when my husband asked if he was going to pick up after his dog, the guy said mind your own business. Jay wouldn't let it go, and kept asking if he was going to pick up. Of course, the guy countered with 'you pick it up' and 'why don't you call the police - you know what happens to snitches, right?' Ugh. I went to the door to call Jay in - he was by then in a rage and needed to be snapped out of his head. So like the fishwife I hoped never to be, I was yelling at him to get inside the house before it escalated to a physical altercation.

So now we're screwed, unless we want to live even more in fear. While I'm proud of my husband for standing up to this guy, I'm scared that this guy will take it further. Of course I don't want to call the police, as I'm sure that there will be retaliation. Now, if anyone else calls the police, he'll assume it's us. I feel like a total chicken being scared of this guy, but we've dealt with neighborhood bullies before, and it's no fun. I just want to live peacefully and not have tension around our home.

I was half expecting to open the door to a big pile of dog crap on our steps this morning, but no. Maybe I'm just too paranoid and the guy was embarressed and will simply do nothing more than walk his dog somewhere else where nobody will say anything.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Great Neighbors

Voter registration for the upcoming Mayoral race continues....

I was assigned to 24th St on Tuesday night, which is pretty sweet - only one block away from me. I've only met one person on this block so I was looking forward to see who lives behind us. I was out with Mili, a totally fun and energetic lady. We partnered with another team and they were assigned to 25th. The plan, as usual, was to meet back at the car in 45 minutes.

The first building we hit was right on the corner. It proved to be a bit more massive than we expected, so our entire 45 minutes was eaten up just in one location. Really nice building - well maintained and clean. We started on sixth floor and worked our way through the eight apartments and then continued down the floors. Some people are so great - they invite you in, clear chairs so that you can sit and offer you tea. In the few cases where this happened, it turned out that after going through the spiel, they either were already registered to vote, or weren't citizens.

It's interesting being able to sneak a peek into people's homes, and also to get a sense of how they live. People answer the door in everything from business suits (maybe just got home) to nothing more than a pair of boxers. I always wonder if we're waking people up from their naps.

We finally finished the building, and ran back to tell our partners we needed more time. They left, and we finished off the rest of the street. Most people were already registered, and we found a lot of strong support for Mayor Stack. It was great to knock on a door of someone I know (my neighbor Agatha, who lives directly behind me). I haven't seen her the entire winter, and had assumed that she'd gone to Italy. She hasn't, has just been visiting family, had family visiting her, and was staying indoors.

Mili and I came back to my house for a quick glass of water and washroom break, then I drove Mili back to HQ. Much to my disapointment, I'd filled out the voter registration forms in red ink (those pens they give out are so crappy), so I had to go back and get them filled out and signed in blue ink. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A broken umbrella and cold feet

Wow, the weather yesterday was terrible. Thankfully, the rain stopped in the afternoon, just around the time I was leaving for Mayor Stack's campaign office. Being from rainy Vancouver, I should know better, but I headed off without an umbrella. Mistake. The rain started back up as I was a few blocks away.

The group of volunteers was a bit thinner last night, as you can imagine with the crappy weather. People were organized into groups, and we headed out to distribute pamphlets about tax preparation. I actually received the flyer in my mailbox on Saturday - it's kind of cool to know that the person who put that flyer in my own mailbox might be someone I've met at headquarters.

I was assigned to cover 47th and 48th St with a group of men. Luckily, one of them had a van, so we got there quickly (and dryly). Bonus for me was an umbrella in the back, which the driver said I could borrow. We broke into two teams of three and covered our area pretty quickly. Our driver lived nearby, so he wasn't going back to HQ, so we headed back on our own. By then the wind had picked up again, and turned the umbrella inside out a couple of times. Thankfully only slightly broken but not completely destroyed. I'll bring the broken umbrella with me tonight in case the owner is there...if not, I guess I just adopted yet another black broken umbrella.

Hopefully we'll do voter registration tonight. I much prefer the human interaction rather than the mailbox interaction.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another week of voter registration

We've gotten through another week of voter registration. I'm getting into the groove of it, and even busted out the courage to try some Spanish. I'm sure I'm murdering the language, but nobody seems to mind at all. It's funny - I can understand 90% of what is being said in Spanish, but replying back is a whole different ball game. The phrases I was able to say where completely parroted from having heard them so often. It's a beginning.

There continued to be a lot of volunteers showing up to help. By 5:30, the room is pretty packed and everyone is very eager to get going. Of course, that eagerness translates into lots of jostling and pushing into the line, so no matter what time I get there, I end up being pushed to the back. No big deal really - it just feels like a shoe sale at Macy's.

On Friday I was paired up with a nice man who leaves near Mayor Stack. As with most of the other volunteers, he's known him for some time and has been a supporter all along. We went with another pair of volunteers down to 14th/Palisades. We split up with Jose (I think that was his name) and I doing 14th between Palisades and New York Ave, and Franklin and his partner doing 15th St. I don't go down to that section very often, and I was glad to see that it was mostly houses and only one apartment building. We'd made plans to meet back at the car in 45 minutes, so we were hoping to move as efficiently as possible. It was pretty cold out which is always a motivating factor.

We were lucky to register a pair of voters in the first house we went to. People seem to be pleased to see us, and for the most part, a lot of the people were already registered to vote. Many others, like myself, are residents but not citizens so those were pretty quick as well.

We were pretty close to meeting time by the time we got to the apartment building, so we kept an eye on the corner in case we had to run outside and ask Franklin for more time. What took the longest was actually getting in the building - I tried calling the Super, but he was not at home and told me to just keep buzzing. A nice lady on the ground floor let us in, and we were able to cover all three floors pretty quickly. One lady who answered her door was holding the cutest baby in the world. A little boy, probably around six months old. He was such a happy smiley baby and his mom was pretty happy too. I think we caught her in the middle of making dinner and whatever she was making smelled delicious. I was looking forward to getting home and making my own dinner.

We finished the apartment building and went out to the corner to wait for Franklin. We ended up waiting a bit out in the freezing cold. At least I thought it was freezing cold but some kid skateboarding on the corner didn't think so, he wasn't even wearing a jacket. Ah, youth.

I hope this week continues to go well. The weather this morning is awful. We had heavy winds last night, and lots of rain. If it continues like this all day, I'm sure the turnout tonight will be smaller. Maybe I can keep my place in line this time!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Only slightly dissapointed

I should have started this last week, just after the first volunteer meeting for the re-election campaign...I'll have to turn back time a bit, but let me start with today.

So it's nearing two pm, and I just got off the phone with the Mayor. I had left a message for him last night, letting him know that I was available for more volunteer work than just voter registration and leaflet distribution. I had also put together an online strategy proposal for the re-election, which I'm sure got shoved into someone's briefcase and immediately forgotten about. In my voice message last night, I asked him if he'd received the proposal, and if not, to let me know who his Chief of Staff is so that I can follow up directly.

Now we come to the disappointed part. He says "let's just concentrate on the door to door right now". I could tell he was in the midst of a few things at once, and so I let it go, thanked him for his return phone call and hung up. Sigh. I know that there are a bunch of other jobs that I can help with, and I realize that it must be so difficult for the Mayor to reply to everyone that wants to help - but I'm feeling a bit frustrated because as much as I love my town, it's politics as usual. It's who you know, not what you can do. Of course, if the shoe was on the other foot, I'm pretty sure I'd be happy. This is simply the reality of a town where the mayor is very supported, and even volunteer work is divvied up according to relationships. So nobody (but me, and maybe my husband) gets what I can offer, and if they *do* get it, they probably can't even stop to take a breath to think about the benefits. Right now it's one step at a time, and naturally the focus is on the most immediate concern of voter registration.

The volunteers have been out in full force all week, starting with last Wednesday for voter registration. The meeting was called for 5:30/6pm, and I was there a few minutes before 6pm. I stood in the middle of the crowd, but as soon as Izarry started speaking, the crowd surged to the front, leaving me in the dust. Of course, since I'm by myself it's much easier to get shoved to the back. Union City is friendly enough, and I love it here, but man it's hard to break in...everyone knows each other, and they seem leery of inviting a newcomer into the mix. Unlike previous towns I've lived in, this isn't a place where people extend the hand of friendship too easily. Maybe a language barrier? I think it's probably just a general attitude of "who is this newcomer", I'll say hi after seeing her around for a few years. So despite being teamed off with complete strangers, not one of them introduces themselves to me - they simply give an instruction and you are meant to follow it. I pointedly introduced myself and asked for their names, which they gave, but I was clearly operating out of the general comfort zone.

I guess I feel a bit better getting this frustration out of my head. Understanding the situation (I do) is definitely not the same as liking the situation (I don't).