Long Time Gone

It's 2013 and my dad passed away at 9:20pm last night.


Mid-Blog Crisis

I haven't blogged regularly in so long, I hardly know what to do. I have all these political opinions buzzing through my mind as I watch MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and others.

I do think the GOP needs to re-brand itself, but on the inside, not as a superficial veneer. They need real values and principles that resonate with the real world, rather than the empty rhetoric that has become increasingly obsolete and skeletal.

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, given her father's recent political performance, Megan McCain has an interesting voice from the GOP side.



As my friend Jenny would say. I attended her beautiful wedding picnic today to celebrate her union with Khalid. It filled me with peace and happiness for her, and encouragement for my summer at the Qasid Institute in Amman. Khalid knows of the school and has wonderful things to say about the owners.

It was nostalgic to be back in the East Bay, driving through my old haunts and thinking how odd it is that college seems so far away, yet I hardly experienced it, it seems. I was in such a fog of re-entry that much of it feels like a halfway space between worlds.

I'm studying Arabic to prepare for the summer, which I know will be intensive and really hard. The more I can get under my belt now, the better off I'll be in June. I took a four-week crash course at Pacific Arabic Resources in SF, which I couldn't recommend more highly.


Cell Phonia

I think it's kind of obnoxious to have more than one personal electronic device at once, but since my campaign phone is still working, it makes sense to use it, even though my personal cell still works.

Definitely Detoxing

So I'm at the Good Karma Cafe, detoxing mentally and physically from my Ohio campaign experience with some good, clean, healthy food and a pleasant atmosphere. I like Philly, and have found a place to live on a month-to-month basis next door to an old friend, which makes the transition that much easier.

I have a job lead in mind, which I will pursue tomorrow, and I'm also applying for jobs in DC. That's the plan for now; if I run out of money before I find a job, I suppose I'll head back to California to at least drop my car off and come up with a Plan B.

The East Coast is definitely where the jobs are, though, so I'm leaning in this direction, def.

Other than that, I'm getting my head screwed on again, gaining my bearings, and looking for a good yoga class, as usual.

Hugs and love to everyone--


115 Cedar Street

Where we lay our scene. It has been more than three months since I've blogged, owing to a prohibitively busy schedule and the campaign's "no blogging" policy.

I'm sitting at a "Caribou Coffee" in Avon, Ohio, enjoying the rather abrupt holiday atmosphere. The last time I luxuriated at a coffee place was mid-summer, without a reindeer or tinsel in sight. I appreciate the fact that it's not a Starbuck's, but at the same time bemoan the telltale signs of a coffee franchise.

Emerging from the campaign feels like being deposited by a time machine into new circumstances and surroundings, like the steam escaping a pressure-cooker and a vise grip being relaxed. I feel like I've hit culture shock in a new county, and am slowly re-gaining my bearings.

I can hardly identify with three-dimensional space, after having spent interminable days and weeks perched at my desk, in front of a computer screen, looking up only to greet visitors or field questions from interns and volunteers. I don't know what to do with unstructured time. I can't contemplate the possibility of getting a haircut, seeing a movie, or even having the decision-making capability to do so. I can hardly identify with having control over my own schedule without conference calls every 12 hours for three months straight.


On Immigration

Dear Editor,

I support the day workers who congregate along El Camino Real daily, looking for odd jobs from passersby. And I support undocumented workers who risk their lives, take on the possibility of never seeing their families again, and risk exploitation for the possibility of a better life here in California. They are not here to feed off our system--they work their fingers to the bone with two or three jobs and send most of the money back home.

It's not that we need to stem the flow of immigrants, necessarily; we need to find a way to legitimize their presence here. Yes, the cost of their healthcare is an issue, but we need fundamental reform of that system anyway. Unemployment is low, so they're not taking our jobs. Racism has always been a factor toward new immigrant populations.

I'm glad to hear the day worker center is expanding its programs. Let's take this opportunity to welcome new Americans into our fold, as was done for all of our families when they first emigrated to America.

[published in the Mountain View Voice this week]


An End to Aging?

Madonna's face is looking increasingly the same over the years; rumor has it she has oxygen facials daily and has had other "work done." As these procedures become more affordable, will our faces eventually become frozen in time?



With all the descriptions that meterologists use to talk about climate, one would think they'd have a term for "yellow-colored air due to nearby forest fires." At least that's what I thought of today when I looked outside and the first word that came to mind about the day was "yellow," and the fact that there are about 800 forest fires state-wide.

The Inscrutable Clintons

It's annoying that even after Hilary Clinton conceded the nomination (sort of), the pundits spend half their time talking about the Senator and her husband and who will mend the damage they've caused the party with their millions of dollars of debt.

Someone pointed out that Bill probably wants his legacy to be as the best two-term Democratic president of modern political history, and that he probably feels threatened by Barack Obama, the young, charismatic upstart who is a bit like the similarly-talented Bill when he first ran for president.

I also think that Bill blows up at the media so often because he's venting the frustration he felt at eight years of [perceived] mistreated by the media. Whether he was treated unfairly or not is a different story, but I do think he feels slighted by several events, including the Republican Congressional landslide that made it difficult to get any of his stuff passed.

I think he's a very bitter, complicated, and smart man.

Nader Attacks

Ralph Nader went off the deep end today when addressing the racial dynamics of Barack's presidential bid. His racial discourse sounds about 30 years old, as he used phrases like "white guilt" and reduced Barack's value as a human to the color of his skin.

My new favorite New York Times reporter, Bob Herbert, managed to skewer Nader with language that didn't sound remotely one-sided, the way pundit-ese can sound. Chris Matthews invited Herbert and Joan somebody, managing editor of Salon or Slate, which I keep confusing, to discuss Nader's gaffe.

Maybe that's why they brought it up, since "gaffe" appears to be the buzzword of this news cycle, thanks to John McCain's advisor's remark about how another 9/11-like attack would help McCain's candidacy.



While we're on the subject (I've been volunteering/working with the Obama campaign since March and have heard about little else for some time), I know I've changed a lot in the months I've been away, and it's hard to find a writer's voice again.

Plus a lot of this stuff is personal and still shifting around inside, so this is a bit of forced writing, for now, at the behest of friends and family who remind me that this period of my life is particularly worth recording.

At the moment I'm thinking of Jiles, the African-American guy with the Irish name who said that when he's angry, he's a black man, but the rest of the time he's African-American. A native Indianan, he volunteered in our Indianapolis office.

Writer's Block?

It's been months since I've posted and I can't think of anything to say. It's a cliché, but I'm out of inspiration. There are too many experiences to digest, I think, and some perspective is needed before I can process much of what has happened.

I am reading about the Dust Bowl, however, which is interesting since it's more of a man-made environmental disaster than I realized. The Great Depression sounds rather nasty, too. No wonder my dad won't eat stewed tomatoes, 70 years later! I'm curious as to the effect Dust Bowl refugees to Southern California may or may not have had on the conservative political climate there.

I've just returned from South Dakota and do miss the silence. The lack of electro-magnetic energy is deafening, almost; at least noticeably absent. Felt a bit like a campground, as our housing was on the edge of town, with nothing but big sky and an even bigger landscape dominating. The weather, too, was always an event. Thunder and lightening storms abounded, which was exciting, and the climate was constantly in flux. A bit like Kauai in that sense.


No [Succumb]tion

I used to think that succumbing to bitterness was the logical response to certain events, and that furthermore, I was justified in being bitter.

As they say, though, you can be happy or you can be right. I'm not choosing between those options today, but I think it's time to let go of a bit of the "I've been wronged and therefore I'm justified being however angry or bitter I care to be."

While I may be justified, being bitter makes me lose twice, and I can't afford to lose any more.


"C" is for "Cameron"

My right-hand man (well, literally more than figuratively), Cameron, seated to my right in our office at headquarters, exemplifies the amusing phenomenon of trying to spell over a telephone. People like customer service representatives are used to this and generally have specific words, i.e. "'A' as in apple," etc, to make sure they are understood.

Those of us without such an occupation, however, are often left to improvise. I can identify with Cameron's imaginative way of coming up with words on the spot--many of his words sound like SAT vocabulary words or describe various objects around the office, "'I' as in intern," etc.

Passing Over

I've encountered a number of apologetic Jewish folks who can't join us for volunteering this weekend b/of Passover. I don't think there's a need to apologize. In fact, we have enough Jewish supporters that we put Passover on our calendar as a reminder.


"We are ONE people, and our time for change has come!"

This is what I wanted to say to the hordes of angry and aggressive Hillary supporters at the rally outside the Constitution Center last night, that we are one people, and there's no need to be so bratty about it.

Although I'm going to say something terribly bratty, and that is that she has certainly cornered the angry, overweight, white, middle-aged woman vote.


Rittenhouse Dogs

Philadelphians are serious about their dogs. So serious that an afternoon spent in Rittenhouse Square almost feels like an amateur dog show, because of the number and variety of breeds.

I Spy

Campaign paraphernalia is becoming more visible; most Obama buttons but a couple of Hillary signs and stickers as well. I walked past a table today on Walnut Street full of Obama flyers and candy, accompanied by a smiling guy on a guitar and another volunteer.

The United Postal Service Union recently endorsed Obama and Unite Here is sending out many of its members to do canvassing this week.

There's also a "Bikers for Obama" contingent headed our way for some door-knocking. Wonders never cease!

Pretzel Logic

Seen and Heard

Boilermakers for Obama

Women for Obama

Brian for Obama

Armenians for Obama

An "Obama-que" BBQ event

The "O-Train"

Obama buttons in Hebrew and Arabic

Veterans for Obama

Students for Obama

Got Hope?

Amman, Jordan for Obama

Expats for Obama

French Speakers for Obama

SEIU for Obama



A possible stipend has opened up in Oregon, which might take me there instead of Indiana...stay tuned...


Weekend Update

I'm likely heading to neighboring state Kentucky after Indiana, and hopefully South Dakota after that. It depends on how long Hillary remains in the race, which she's vowed to do until the Denver convention. The campaign views Indiana as the next "battleground" state. Oregon is also key and a friend from Mills is working there with the campaign.

I spoke with a guy from the United Auto Workers union who said they're re-considering their endorsement of Hillary and many are now Obama supporters. He said that NAFTA was devastating for them and objects Hillary's support of it. Another union guy from the first union to endorse Barack (remember the casino workers in Nevada?) said that 9/10th of their members also support Barack and a number of them are canvassing for Barack this week. This same guy said they'll be recruiting people coming off the Obama campaign in the fall...

It is expected that Barack will carry Philadelphia, which he'll need in order to balance the support for Hillary in western Pennsylvania, which is partly attributed to racism. I'm working with a very eclectic bunch of staffers: 19-year old Cameron is remarkably mature for his age and barely a high school graduate; Ravi is in his second year of law school at Yale and originally from Staten Island; Beth is an outgoing young woman from Annapolis who went to Duke and does a remarkable job finding volunteer housing, and Rebecca works for the Arab American Institute in DC.

Haile Rivera is running for City Council in New York and runs a jack-of-all-trades type non-profit as well. He had dinner with Barack and said he's the kind of guy he'd like to have as a father. Joan, the staffer who is so competitive that she steals cell phone chargers for her own office is from LA and has been with the campaign since Iowa.

There are two guys from Japan who don't speak English volunteering at headquarters; a Canadian journalist; I met a Liberian supporter there and apparently one person in Antarctica voted for Barack. "The Daily Show" also came, and I may be in the very back of a segment with Samantha Bee on the April 22nd episode. That was fun. Stephen Colbert is broadcasting from Philly all next week and I'm determined to track him down somehow! I assume he'll be coming to headquarters...

I'm told that Caroline Kennedy and her kids come in to phonebank from time to time, and one of them made the beautiful calendar that we use as a countdown tool.

My job is to place volunteers coming from out-of-state with particular field offices within Philly. Barack is the first candidate to refuse to pay political operatives to "get out the vote" since 1982 so we're relying heavily on out of state volunteers.

I take weekends off, generally, but do some work from my laptop in wifi cafes. It's nice to feel useful and I've gotten some positive feedback from my 19-year old "supervisor."

Weldon was supposed to visit this weekend but got food poisoning; I'm hoping to find my dad's childhood home in Germantown and photograph it tomorrow, I haven't gotten in touch with his fraternity brothers yet and kind of have mixed feelings about it; I met with a childhood friend who is in med school at Temple and has terrible stories about the violence and poverty in North Philly.

Tuberculosis and diabetes-related amputations are not uncommon, apparently, and the homicide rate is considerably higher than Oakland's. Inexcusable! The love for Obama is tangible here and it's so gratifying to see the buzz of activity at headquarters. There's a nearly steady stream of people taking out yard signs, buttons, bumper stickers, etc., and such a positive vibe.

We must be the most well-fed campaign in town as the refreshments table is almost always full of donated food from supporters and local restaurants. The soft pretzel store next door keeps us stocked with a minimum of one big box of fresh pretzels each day, much to the chagrin of my waistline!

Samantha [Bee] Good

Samantha Bee and the "Senior Black Correspondant" from "The Daily Show" were at headquarters this week, filming a segment to be shown April 22nd. I wandered into one of the segments and may be in the segment!

Stephen Colbert will be here this week and I would LOVE to meet him!

Strollers, Strollers Everywhere


The Out-of-Staters

I've fallen in with a nice group of staffers at HQ who are working to bring as many volunteers into Philadelphia from other states as possible to canvass on the weekends and do phonebanking and other office stuff during the week. My role is to answer emails from volunteers, assign them to particular offices around Philly (some of which are still in the somewhat hairy process of being set up and staffed) on certain dates with specific organizers.

All of us participate in making phone calls to identified willing volunteers. Most of them are from NY and DC, but some are traveling from California, Texas, and other locales. A group of 35 from Palo Alto, CA will be arriving shortly.

There are two Japanese guys in the office who don't speak English and I'm not quite sure why they're here (other than to help Barack get elected as best they can). Some Canadians arrived to help and were sent to the "smoking hotel," which is a Holiday Inn of some sort that still allows smoking in the guest rooms.

CNN was in the office yesterday, and I'm told that Caroline Kennedy and her kids have stopped in to do some phonebanking. One of her kids made the beautiful "countdown-to-primary day" calendar that hangs in our new office that was rapidly procured before most people knew it was vacant.

I'm learning that one really doesn't acquire any material goods in the office honestly--they're either usurped from someone before others can elbow their way in, outright stolen, or bargained for. One staffer has even been accused of stealing phone chargers, which are always in short supply, and even of taking air mattresses from the person in charge of finding housing for volunteers!

I overhead another staffer lamenting about the three hours she spent arbitrating between bickering staffers in field offices around Philly. I'm told that campaigns are like large dysfunctional families who spend too much time together under very intense circumstances.

I was saying to no one in particular this afternoon that the atmosphere is like finals week in school, but all the time. Ravi, the guy next to me, said that finals week for him is more like a vacation, compared to the campaign. He's a second year law student at Yale.

Dog Days of Philadelphia

There are so many interesting dogs and dog owners here in Philly out at all hours that I may start asking them if I can photograph them for an informal blog album.


Union, Schmunion

My first experience with unions! This Obama movement is really opening my eyes. I'm meeting people from all walks of life. This is an exciting time to be campaigning. I've been talking with a union member about their involvement in the campaign. They were the first union to endorse Obama; they're casino workers and food service people and stuff.


States, not Dates

It's funny how campaign folk refer to time in terms of states, not dates. Someone has been with the campaign "since New Hampshire," for example, not "since January." Someone else is heading home "after Indiana" rather than "in mid-May."

My time frame (and geographical plans) have shifted as well; I've cancelled the housing-resistant Puerto Rico and decided to follow the campaign directly to Indianapolis after the PA primary, and from then hopefully on to Kentucky, if Mrs. Clinton continues with her scorched-earth policy.



Anonymous, if not Eponymous

If anyone is interested in more information about this movement, google "Chanology" or look up "anonymous" on youtube. It only gets stranger. There was even a demonstration by "Anonymous" in Mountain View, CA, as well as around the world.