Monday, March 22, 2010

Learning Something New Every Day

Hey y'all! Just got back from Union City First, and I can't wait to start campaigning.

Today we learned how to do door-to-door campaigning, and I again am impressed with Chris Irizarry. He's a great public speaker and knows how to make an information session fun and interesting. I felt bad making him repeat some of the volunteers questions in English even though I completely understood the Spanish answers, but I think it's important for everyone to hear both replies. Obviously the demographics here indicate a heavily Latino population, but I find most people have a pretty good grasp of the English language (even if they think differently) and I think it's important for them to hear the same vocabulary in both languages. You never know what little bit they are storing away that might be useful down the road. Chris Irizarry is an asset to Mayor Brian Stack. I haven't had too much exposure to the other Commissioners, although they all seem completely dedicated and beyond competent.

I was sitting with my new friend Oscar, the fellow I met at the Campaign kick-off. Hopefully we'll get to work a neighborhood together. I'm not at all afraid of doors being closed in my face, or people being rude. From what I've experienced so far, there is tremendous support for Mayor Stack and the Board of Commissioners, so I'm sure any instances of negativity will be few and far between. Maybe I'll get to meet the guy who thinks Mayor Stack tore down his billboards. That will be fun, I'll ask him if I can take a picture with him and post it here.

The only slight concern that I have is that I am totally new to an American election process of any kind, so I hope I don't get out of my depth. Hopefully nobody will quiz me on any unfamiliar points, but if they do, I'll just have to defer to someone with more info.

I quite like the irony of campaigning for an election that I can't participate in - but hey, I pay taxes just like the next guy (reminds me that I have only a few days left to appeal my property taxes) and while I don't have as much say as a bona-fide citizen, I still have some say.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weekend Edition New York Times

My Saturday morning routine:

  • Get up, brush teeth and wash face and put on ratty bathrobe
  • Go downstairs and make big pot of coffee
  • Get NY Times Saturday edition from stoop
  • Pour a cup of joe and sit down at kitchen island with paper.
Read paper in following order -
  • Remove Automobiles, Sports and Classified - straight into recycling bin.
  • Read through entire Real Estate section and wonder weekly why I haven't contacted Vivienne Tam about *our* own interesting real estate story.
  • Then move on to Arts & Leisure. Read interesting articles and ignore stories about topics of no interest to me, such as the future of modern dance. See what movies are taking out the very expensive full page ads. Wonder at whether content drives ads (see "How To Train A Dragon") or placement of ads drives content.
  • Take out flyers, coupon books and Times Magazine from Book Review section. Go to junk drawer and get out chicken cutting scissors for coupon clipping. Look for coupons under $1 so I can use them on coupon doubling days. Read through Times Magazine and attempt crossword puzzle.
  • Now I'm warmed up and limber and can attack the more serious sections, so I'll move to Business section, then Arts and finally the first section.
  • Leave papers laying scattered on kitchen island for a few hours in hopes of finishing off scanned articles, and taking another stab at crossword.
     Around 2pm, get tired of seeing papers lying around and take entire paper and throw into recycling bin. This week, however, I may actually use the paper to make seedling containers.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Mayor Brian Stack Officially Announces

    What a blast yesterday! I went to Schuetzen Hall for the official announcement yesterday, and had a great time. I had a feeling it would be more party than meeting, so I arrived a bit early. The parking lot was already packed and almost every table was full. The hall was set up like a banquet with flower arrangements on the tables, tons of balloons and a cash bar at the back. Each table had a tray of sandwiches and a tray of finger foods. There was also a band playing, and they were really good. I'm going to have to find out who they were.

    I wandered around looking for familiar faces, but didn't see many - it was actually a bit dark, and too crowded to do much walking around, so I made my way to a table of nice old ladies and asked if I could join them. They had all come in from North Bergen, and all of them knew Mayor Stack from when he was a kid.

    After sitting and getting my bearings and meeting my tablemates, I walked around again to take some photos. Of course, battery failure right then so I only took a few shots, none of them great. While I was walking around, I saw a woman standing around the bar looking lost, so I went up and introduced myself. Turns out she was feeling a bit lost, not having anticipated a party, expecting more of a town-hall meeting. She stood out a bit in the mostly Latino crowd, being quite tall, thin and very blond. She came over and joined us at our table and we had a chance to chat. The funny coincidence is that I had noticed her on the street a week before. I was standing at the bus stop and saw her taking her kids to the car, and said to my husband - look! Another Manhattanite has just moved in. I was wrong, she's from Hoboken, but close enough.

    We were also joined at our table by a nice man. I didn't catch his name, but I think I've seen him at Union City First. He's a radiologist, and he works in Hoboken. He's also involved with St. Augestine's Church in Union City.

    By this time, the band was done and the procession music started. A bit corny, but fun. They played the theme from Rocky, and everyone stood up and starting cheering. A bit of a let down when nothing further happened, but the crowd didn't care. Every stayed on their feet for the next song - We Will Rock You by Queen. At this point, the mayor and his entourage started making their way in, but it was slow progress. I wonder if he felt like Lady Gaga? He couldn't walk with the cameras in his face and everyone reaching out to him. More cheering and thunderous applause as Mayor Stack and the Board of Commissioners made their way down the carpet. The balloons didn't quite release, and the carpet was a bit too crowded to let everyone get through well, but small details slightly grating to my production background.

    The panel of dignitaries was introduced and I can't remember everyone. I know that the Hoboken Mayor was there, the North Bergen Mayor, Police Chief Everett, the first Latino state Senator, and a bunch more. Everyone had very good things to say about Mayor Brian Stack. After the dignitaries came the Commissioners and I saw not just a rising star, but someone who will be a force. Chris Irizarry is headed for big things. That guy is such a great public speaker and so charismatic. He is also funny, especially when he's speaking in Spanish rather than English. From what my tablemates told me (the North Bergen ladies posse) he comes from humble beginnings, and has been mentored by Mayor Brian Stack. Good for him, I'm excited to follow his political career.

    Mayor Brian Stack finally took the stage, and I thought the roof might come off the hall. The only reason that it didn't is that his mic gave out a few minutes in, and there was a delay while a working mic was found. Again, the kind of detail that would make me crazy. I would have tested and prepped a round of backups. Mayor Stack spoke very well, and had the crowd totally behind me.

    By this time, I was starting to get a bit claustrophobic and hot, so I invited my new friend Rachel to stop by for a drink on our way home. She only lives two blocks away, so we made our way out of the hall and back to real life.

    I'm really proud to live in Union City, and I'm really proud of Mayor Brian Stack and the commissioners. They work very hard, and you can't deny their enthusiasm for the tough job at hand. I'm already anticipating crap posts from the Hasta La Vista blog. I wish I could meet that dude and say - if you have a problem with Mayor Stack, give him a call and talk it out. I'll even dial the number for you! No city is perfect, and politics is a messy business. But I say you either put up by running yourself, or jump in and try and make differences where you can.

    But then, as the theme of this blog says - I'm a Canuck living in the US. Canadians have a different sensibility when it comes to opposition. We oppose, but we don't have the mindset of smear. We have the mindset of 'if you think you can do it better, have at 'er!'

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Rainy, Windy Saturday

    It's an awful day today. Heavy rains, crazy winds and chilly.

    Earlier this week was much better, so I'm going to focus on the beautiful days we had this week.

    I did some clean up in the yard and was happy to see new growth. Here's the aster bush with new buds on it:
    And a picture of new growth on the chives:

    And finally, a daffodil shoot trying to come up through the dirt:

    You can see how badly we need to fertilize and mulch....

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Today is Thursday

    And it will be Thursday all day, no matter what those Friday lovers and Wednesday hopefuls want.

    Yesterday was a GREAT campaigning day. I'm much better at waiting patiently for assignments now that I'm bringing my knitting along. I was knitting while standing on Tuesday, and yesterday I was early enough to find a seat, so I knit for half hour while everything was getting underway.

    I was assigned to a team with someone I've seen at headquarters a few times, but never spoken to. His name is Fritz, and he's been in Union City, NJ since 9/11. He may very well be the first person I've met that was directly and immediately effected by the tragedy. Fritz is a Haitian guy, as I learned later that evening, and he speaks French, Spanish and English. Three languages close to my heart.

    We were assigned 22nd St, between New York and Bergernline. I love when I'm working in a familiar neighborhood. We had success on our very first door, and our streak held around the whole block. We made a very good team, and met some really great people. I think I've admitted this before - I'm nosy. I love having a chance to peek into people's lives, and I love getting a glimpse into their world from a half open door. I'm so interested in everything from the curtains on the windows to the size of their TV, the smells coming from their kitchen, the babies running around and screaming, etc. Almost every single person we came across last night was nice, and there was again, great support for Mayor Brian Stack and the board of commissioners.

    We went into one building that looked pretty small, but had 6 mailboxes in the front hallway. The building didn't look any bigger than my house, so I wondered if it was much bigger inside than it appeared from outside. Nope. And there wasn't six units in the building, there was eight! Each apartment was tiny. Tiny like NYC "studio" tiny where the bathtub is in the kitchen. Only in this case, there was no bathtub in the kitchen because there was no bathtub. Each unit (we saw three) was no bigger than 400 sq feet. One poor couple, both quite elderly, had their bed pushed up against one wall, two kitchen chairs in the hallway, a small couch opposite the chairs, and a micro kitchen table and tiny stools in the kitchen. I couldn't figure out what was so odd about the kitchen until I realized that there was no real fridge, just a tiny countertop one, and no stove, only a hotplate and a microwave. The couple seemed happy enough, and were so gracious with their hospitality, that maybe it was just the right size for them. Another gentleman asked us in, and he most definitely was not happy with the space. This gentleman was dapper with a capital D. He had on sharply creased pants, a perfectly matched shirt, was well groomed and wearing very polished shoes. I could see that he took a great deal of pride in his appearance and in his home - very well organized and put together, but TINY! He had himself put in a full size fridge, which meant that he had to squeeze into the kitchen sideways. I wonder how he even opened the fridge door.

    He asked if we knew of any place to find better senior living conditions, so I told him to call the Mayor for help. Going back to the nosy part? I asked him how much he paid in rent. He is paying $750 per month for this third floor tiny walkup. I haven't done a ton of research into rental units in Union City, but I'm pretty sure he can get a lot more space for that money....

    Anyhoo, that was Fedex at the door delivering my new closet organizing unit, so it's time to get hustlin'.

    Tuesday, March 9, 2010

    Union City, NJ Mayoral Re-election

    So last night was the first night in a while on the re-election campaign. We're working on Petition for Nominations, as well as some voter registration.

    I arrived at Union City First just before 5pm. Since I hadn't been there in a while, I wanted to have a minute to catch up on what's been happening, and to make sure that they still needed help. We're less than 50 days from election! The show got started a bit late, so I was getting a bit cranky in a super crowded room. As I've mentioned before, no matter how early I get there, I always seem to be shoved to the very back. Maybe it's my Canadian modesty, but I just can't bear to do the same pushing and shoving to the front as others do. Between the crowds, the constant ringing of cellphones, the cellophane wrappers as people snacked, and the endless chatter, I was ready to leave. I'm about to sound like an old grouch, but here goes. I totally get that people are enthusiastic. I am very happy that Mayor Stack has such staunch supporters. I'm sure that he, and the Board of Commissioners are thrilled with volunteer turnout. But I think they'll need to invest in a megaphone so that people at the back of the room can hear. I also think they'll need to invest in a sign, or run something like a movie trailer that goes "please silence your pagers, cellphones, pocket games, etc. Please also help us get through all of the instructions easily by not chatting to your neighbor, not making dinner plans on the phone, not sifting through your handbag looking for a candy, not crumpling papers, and not interrupting. There will be a question and answer period at the end."

    I finally couldn't take it anymore and waited outside until the room cleared a little. I'm confident enough that whatever paperwork was required wouldn't prove too challenging, and since I was ready to wring some necks (Lady with the red hair talking on phone, I mean you), I thought I'd calm down a little. Standing outside was the best thing as I was spotted by Alicia who was putting together groups of the more experienced volunteers. She quickly assigned me to a team, and off we went.

    I was put with a nice couple - or at least I think they were a couple. My guess is that the woman (I can't believe I don't remember her name) is a teacher. She had a teacher-like handbag and three pens that worked. Her partner/husband/friend was Juan, and he drove. Nice ride btw, a 2010 Lincoln SUV. You'd think the economy wasn't in the toilet. I was supremely comfortable. We were assigned a block pretty close to home, so I was familiar with the landscape.

    We didn't have too much luck. We couldn't get anyone to let us in at a few buildings. Nobody even answered the doorbell, even after a few aggressive buzz-buzzes. We had more luck at the next building. A woman in one apartment looked pretty identical to my friend Liz Eustace. She was busy trying to keep her two dogs from escaping, but she was super nice, and signed our petition. We didn't have any more luck in that building - either not home, or not citizens.

    At the next building we encountered Grouchy McGrouch. After a few buzzes on the bells, he came out and stood at the door, but didn't open it. He said "you can't come in". We identified ourselves and asked him if he could tell us which apartment the super was in. He told us that he's not allowed to open the door, and we had better leave or else he'd call the super. Yes! call the super, that's exactly what we want! But he just scowled and walked away. Oh well, we'll try another day.

    We found another really nice person. A little old lady, probably 90, and as spry as I am at half her age (just freaked myself out to be reminded how close I am to 90). She insisted that she would only sign if we could guarantee that it was a petition for Brian Stack and his commissioners. She absolutely would not sign for any other candidates. How's that for support?

    The block wasn't very high density, so we made pretty quick time. We went back to the campaign office, and Juan and Ms. X drove me home, which was a treat. I'm totally buying a Lincoln SUV when I have too much money. Until then, it's foot power.

    Sunday, March 7, 2010

    Spring Is In The Air

    I can't believe it's been so long since my last confession. Where has the time gone? I've been very busy with out of town stuff and haven't been around. Union City, I'm back!

    I'm excited to know how Mayor Stack's campaigning is going. I haven't been to Union City First in a month, but will be back on Monday. I've had a few messages from campaign headquarters, and two from Brian Stack. I'm impressed with the diligence and follow up of volunteers.

    Spring is finally in the air, despite a back yard full of snow. I see some new buds on the aster bush, and some new growth on my plant out front. I'm feeling a bit motivated for a fresh start today, and will start with mass at St. Joseph and Michael parish. Jay and I went for a walk down Central Ave yesterday, and did a bit of church shopping along the way. We used to go to St. Nicholas in Jersey City, but we haven't found a regular church in UC yet. Ok, so the reality is that we haven't really looked - we attended mass at Holy Family a few times, but for some reason, I didn't love it. Maybe the lack of singing? United churches have the choirs down pat, but my Catholic family seems to pay less attention to the music which is the part I really love.

    In any case, we poked our heads into St. Joseph and Michael at 13th and Central, and it's such a beautiful church . A grotto! A baptismal font sunken into the floor! There was a nice old guy waiting for confession, and he told me a bit about the church. It used to be German, as is evidenced by the stained glass and interior. Of course now it's predominently Spanish, but we'll stick with the English mass. I may join the league of Maria. It would be fun to be in a group of all Maria's, no? Joke. My mother would have been horrified at the ripped lace in a tablecloth. If it's a good fit and we start going regularly, I'll have to offer to mend that, it would drive me nuts to look at that every time I went to church. It would be like a loose tooth that you can't stop poking with your tongue.

    We also took a quick look at St. Anthony's which is a bit further south. Also a gorgeous church and also looks like it has a German (more Bavarian) interior. Less vaulted ceilings and more beamy. I think St. Anthony's is where our neighbor Agathe goes. Maybe we'll run into her on the walk down.

    We saw another interesting church, but I'm not sure it's operational. Our Lady of Lourdes, a Syrian church. I'll have to investigate a bit more and see if it's still open. If it is, they could use some help with yard tending.