Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mission Accomplished sort of

Here it is the day after election day. I am writing this from New York City.

I've just checked the results and am pleased to say my birth state of Pennsylvania went for Obama in a big way. Somerset County, where I grew up and volunteered for Obama, went for the other guys. Tough nuts those folks back there. But at least whatever voters we managed to influence or encourage, their votes got counted in the state's overall state pool.

(Note. Cambria County, where I was actually born in the Memorial Hospital in Johnstown, went Democratic, I am happy to say.)

Rep. Murtha won, not by his usual large margin, but at least he won. It was touch and go after he called Western Penna "racist" and the people "rednecks."

Thanks to Lisa, our Obama Field Organizer back there in Somerset, and all her volunteers. Such energy and dedication. It was well worth it to go back and try to help out. Maybe next Presidential election again....

Monday, November 3, 2008

Last morning surprise

For those of you who have been following my interactions with the owners of our B&B, Joyce & Dan, I have one last event to report.

For background: When booking with them over the Internet and by phone, they kindly gave me a very nice discount, as I told them we were staying for 2 weeks. The room we had goes for about $85 per night, but she quoted me something in the low to mid 40s. I never could find where I had written that down. And since we booked in August, I was hoping that she remembered what she had quoted.

A few days prior to arriving I had sent them an email confirming that we were still planning to keep our reservation and received a nice response, though no price was mentioned. Joyce had initially taken my credit card number over the phone, but said that she wouldn't charge anything to the card prior to our arrival.

The day we were to arrive we were a bit late, so I called to let her know that we'd get in about 9 pm. She was surprised and said she didn't think we were coming that day(??), but not to worry our room would be ready. (I found out later that Dan had been in the hospital and just got out a couple days earlier, so I attributed this glitch to that distraction.)

While there, she made a big thing about how she didn't fuss over details of reservations. I kept hoping she remembered what we'd agreed on for our room, but as our relationship began to deteriorate due to our political differences (& personalities), I was afraid to bring it up. When we decided to leave a few days early (after 10 days), I wondered if that would affect the charges, but kept quiet.

The morning of our departure Joyce was busy busy with new guests, and we were standing around wondering when we were going to be able to pay her. No statement of charges was ever presented to me. Eventually she just took my card and disappeared. Then she came back with one of those rectangular slips for me to sign.

I figured that at $40 a day for 10 days the bill would be about $400 plus, particularly if taxes were added on. And if she insisted charging us for the full 14 days that we had reserved for, it would be even more.

Just as I was to sign the form, I looked at what was written. The tax was $27; that was clear. But the price of the room before tax: Was that $300 or $500? I couldn't make it out.

As a real Sarah Palin girl, her handwriting was all full of those curly cues, like calligraphy, that high school girls like to use. With all the little extraneous swirls, I couldn't tell if it was a 3 or a 5 preceding the two zeros.

A total of $500 could have been right, if tax was included; but tax was listed separately. And $300 was much too low. How would the credit card company read it? Better get this straightened out now.

"Is that a 3 or a 5?" I asked (I thought politely).

To which she responded in her terse way:
"A 3 !

And then reacting as though I had insulted her added:
"I got an A in penmanship!"

"Oh, it really is beautiful writing. I just wasn't sure," I said like dripping honey, as I tried to write over the number to make it look more like a 3.

$30 a night, with a full breakfast. Not bad. But she obviously thought I was accusing her of trying to cheat me.

However, I had learned on an earlier trip that prices back there in SW PA can really surprise you. Once when our '57 Oldsmobile was having some problems, Redjeb and I took it to a garage in Jennerstown. The guy put it on the lift, raised it way up, and went underneath to check it over. Grease from the old car dripped all over him. After about 45 minutes, he reemerged and let her down. Fearing the worst I asked,

"How much?"


"Twelve dollars and ninety-eight cents!" I exclaimed in disbelief,
as Redjeb gave me a shut-up-jab in the ribs.

So now in the B&B I applied what I had learned: don't give away your surprise; just act naturally and be glad.

We left shortly thereafter and began our long drive back to New York. Too bad it all went so badly with Joyce. It would have been a good place to stay on my next trip home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturday: Back to Meyersdale

After hearing Gov. Rendell speak early this afternoon, we took the country roads down to Meyersdale to canvass again.  The countryside is really pretty, although today was our only really gray day.  Naturally we got lost, despite being told by those giving directions along the way that : 
"It's easy."  
"You can't miss it."

However we drove across a high ridge and got right up close to the huge alternative fuel windmills that dot the horizon around here.  Then after being totally lost, our trusty GPS told us to turn left, and we ended up going down a long steep, narrow, unpaved road through corn fields and wilderness.  I kept thinking what if we broke down here miles from nowhere and maybe no cell phone service.... But we got to Meyersdale.


I had wanted to pick up some Somerset County maple syrup, so decided we had better look for some before starting our canvassing, as things close early in these parts.  For some reason it is hard to find the stuff nowadays, but I guess when you live here you know where to go, or you can't afford to buy it anyway.  In our driving in the country we were trying to find a maple sugar camp that we had heard about, but got on the wrong roads.

We had also been told there was a little store in Meyersdale, if we turned left at the main intersection, like a circle with a large statue of a soldier in the center.  In heading to where we were told to go, we got confused and ran over and broke a Do Not Enter sign....Don't ask......

Things popped out of the front of our car, so I ran around and picked up the plastic pieces and kicked them back into their slots as best I could.  Cars are made like children's plastic toys these days.  (Redjeb bought some strong Scotch tape later, and we hope not to lose any of the pieces on the way home.)

The sign was another matter.  For some reason the metal pole broke at the base, and the twisted sign was laying on it's side on the road.  Hum...  No one we spoke to knew whom to call or what to do, but all offered to call someone for us.  Very nice people.  A fire truck happened by on it's way from an accident, but the child firemen said it was not their concern, and they didn't know whom to call either.  The man who owned the liquor store on the corner came out with his cell phone.  He had tried to call the State Police, but they said it was not their jurisdiction.  

He and I decided that we shouldn't drive away because I could get in trouble for leaving the scene of an accident, so he called the state police again.  They had no interest in making a note that I had tried to call someone to report what happened.  Apparently there is no local cop???  Eventually it was determined that Penn DOT (Dept. of Transportation) would come by to check this out.

To make us feel better, the liquor store owner had said this was a crazy intersection, and there were accidents there all the time.  We waited in his store, and while there, the owner noticed my Obama pin and asked if I was canvassing.  I admitted such.  So he started telling me how he wasn't sure whom to vote for.  So many of these people down here are angry at the way money is thrown away by the politicians, but nothing to help them in this depressed part of the country. He said he was angered by the large bailout to the banks and the top folks at AIG going off on a junket at the same time they were getting bailed out.  

"Money always seems to come for them but not for us."

Yet this does not translate easily into voting for Obama.  

"They are all alike, and I don't' like any of them," is a refrain I heard often.

 When I mentioned Rendell, the store owner said he didn't like him either--that Rendell gets $185,000 a week for his meals.  I told him I found that hard to believe, but he said he "read it in the paper."  Maybe that is the Governor's expense account, who knows.  Some said Rendell didn't help them at all, but I wonder if it was Rendell or the fact that the State government is pretty much Republican.

Eventually, the Penn DOT guy arrived.  I took off my Obama pin, just in case and hid it in my pocket.  He was a youngish guy (aren't they all) and was very nice.  I tried to explain that we were on our way to buy maple syrup and tried to avoid a car that was coming down a one way street that we thought was the street we were supposed to go up.

The DOT guy just waved me off saying not to worry.  

"I'll just send one of my guys over to put up a new sign.  That's OK don't worry."  

No name, no nuthin' , so we left.  Later we would see a guy there with a yellow truck, and then voila a new sign like nothing had happened.

The store owner looked concerned when I told him the guy said to forget it.  But what to do?  We bought a bottle of wine from him to thank for helping us.

I called Lisa to report that we might not see the number of houses I had hoped to get to today.  When  told her why, she just laughed.  I think she thinks we are this funny older couple....isn't that quaint.

I might add that Meyersdale had more things going on than we had thought during our first visit and we ate dinner at a place called the White House Restaurant, a white building that looked like a Quonset hut hidden down a road on the outer part of town.  The food was really great.  They even had whipped jello, which I haven't had for ages and remember from my days living back there.  Redjeb even liked it, though he finds regular jello a bit funny.  

A family came in and sat at the large table next to us.  Before starting to eat I heard them saying a prayer....yes, we are in Somerset County.   (I remember the days when airplanes flying over Pennsylvania were not allowed to serve alcohol until they passed through our airspace.  You see, we Pennsylvanians have a direct contact with the Almighty and we don't want it interfered with by any drunks or sinners. That may only have been in effect on Sundays, but I don't remember for sure.)

The fellow who owned the restaurant told us where to go for maple syrup at that time, and while telling us his eyes kept going down to my pin and up.  He did not crack a smile, just a steely polite look.  I figured I knew who he was going to vote for, but he wasn't on my list, so I kept my mouth closed.  We got the syrup and it turned out to be from the camp that we had been looking for.  How about that?


At a junction outside Meyersdale, Redjeb planted another Obama/Biden sign on the road amongst some other political signs.  I always fear that he'll get arrested for putting such on state property or get beaten up by some McCain supporter.  But he is fearless.

By the way the young woman with the backwards B scratched on her face, whom I mentioned in a previous blog, admitted, as I suspected, that she had carved the thing on herself.  Surprise, surprise.  I had some details wrong.  She was from Texas, but this happened in Pittsburgh while she was volunteering for McCain.  And naturally she blamed a black man for having done it.  In the olden days some arbitrary black guy would have been hung for this post haste.

But I digress...back to Meyersdale.

Interesting people live here in this working class town.  According to my list there are a number of Nader supporters (from the past I assume).  I find them interesting as you never know what they are going to say when you knock on the door. Independent thinkers they.  People are splitting votes, even the Democrats.  One older guy told me he was voting for Obama, because he didn't like the horrible things McCain was saying in his ads (Yippee!), yet he is supporting a local Republican in a State race.  

Some just don't want to say what they plan to do.  They get marked as REF (refused).  I used to think that was McCain vote for sure, but sometimes if you keep talking they tell you they are going to vote for Obama or really aren't sure.  Some I think they are just private like me.  I don't answer when pollsters phone nor when they knock on my door.  So why am I doing this...cause what else could I do?  And some people actually thank me for stopping by and for working in the campaign.  

One woman sticks in my mind:  She was about 30 something, a little plump.  Her porch was deocrated with everything you could think of for the coming Halloween.  I asked for her husband, as his name was on my list.  She informed me that he was not at home, and that he was away getting ready to be sent to Iraq.  She said she thought he was doing something about voting but didn't know what.  Then she told me:

"I'm not registered.  I've never voted. I haven't been following anything, so don't know what is going on."

I was dumbfounded.  I tried to encourage her to register for the next election, but all I could think of were those poor young folks going off to war, and many of them and their families not having a clue or the where-with-all to understand what it is all about.

Despite my feeling discouraged some days, this has been a very interesting experience, and you really get to see the diversity in this country.  I'm feeling a bit sad that we have decided to pack it up tomorrow morning and return to NYC.  Redjeb has been a good sport about driving me around and helping me find my houses and helping me keep all the paper work straight that is littering our car.  I don't want to push it with his good spirit. Also my tooth which acted up just as we were coming here, needs to be tended to before it is too late.
So am back here now in our room drinking some wine, chilling out from another day.  Not sure how much effect we had on the vote, but Lisa (our Obama contact) is actively recruiting people for a big push this coming weekend and election day.  I wish we could be here, but we are going back to NY for our own celebration--I hope.

Governor Rendell

Pennsylvania Governor Rendell is in town (Somerset).  We just came back from a rally in the VFW hall.  He is a good speaker.  The only thing that we didn't quite like (or agree with) is that he made some comment about the US being the only country in the world with Social Security or something like that.  The rest of his speech was so perfect that he must have misspoke or we misheard.

There were about 5 blacks there.  They are not interested in volunteering.  One woman said she would be afraid to knock on doors:  "This is Somerset County," she said.  Turns out that she is also a registered Republican (why I can't imagine), but she is voting for Obama.

Unfortunately I forgot my camera for the rally, so Redjeb was using my cell phone to take photos, but the phone went dead just before Rendell spoke.  Oh, well.
We're off again to Meyersdale in the southern part of the county, near Maryland.

Is a gray rainy day today.

Friday's canvassing

We went back to Republican Davidsville to canvass again.  On the way into Davidsville at a junction there were a lot of McCain and other Republican signs.  So we pulled over and Redjeb jumped out of the car and planted an Obama sign right in the midst of them.  Not sure how long that will last.

In town found a mix of Obama and McCain people, but what has been bothering me are the Democrats who don't want to vote for Obama.  As one said:  "I wish he'd of changed his name to Henry."  A couple laughing and giggling said that they thought Palin was "hot".  I reminded them about how people liked Bush because they thought he'd be good to have a drink with and look what we got.  

Others, sounding serious, said they didn't like either candidate, and one said he was going to flip a coin when he was inside the voting booth.  I tried to tell people that we needed a straight Democratic ticket or the Republican President would force Congress to water down anything good or would veto Democratic initiatives.  I was a little heartened when  I heard one woman say she'd never thought of it that way.

Davidsville, and particularly the new developments right outside, are so perfect that they remind me of the town in the movie The Stepford Wives.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Football game

It's after midnight and I'm too tired to do a real blog.  We went to my old high school's football game this eve (Conemaugh Township High School a.k.a. CTHS).  We did some campaigning around Davidsville first, and then stopped off at the home of Sarah Ruth Telenko (Zwick).  She is my old friend Janice's cousin.  We all lived in Jerome.  I wasn't all that close to Sarah Ruth cause she was a few years older, but she was extremely nice to us this eve.  We went to the game and sat with her and her various relatives.  For any of the CTHS folks reading this email those from my day I saw at the game:
Ron Telenko and Carolyn MacDaniel, Milt Green ( hero), Gib Davis (h.s. football almost hero), Pat Shaffer, Lois (I forget her "maiden" name) and her husband Barry Springer.  

I think that Redjeb had seen only one football game before, so I was disappointed that this game was a bit slow.  But CTHS was at least ahead when we left after the third quarter (to go back to Sarah Ruth's to get warm and for some wine and snacks).

I used to play the bells in the band.  In those days the band had over 100 members, and we marched all over the field doing formations.  Today the band looked like it had about 20 members (measly).  And the cheerleaders, instead of wearing little skits and flipping over and doing all those acrobatics, wore matching track suits and had pom poms.  They just swayed around and did some kind of cheers that you couldn't understand.  Even I could have been that kind of cheerleader.  No one joined in like we used to:  CTHS! CTHS! CTHS!

Redjeb was amazed that we sang the Star Spangled Banner before the game and then our Alma Mater.  I was amazed that I could remember all the words (though now they've fled from my head for another 50 years).   (I was of course embarrassed when he asked loudly:  "What's that silly little song you were all singing?"  Silly little song, indeed.)  

He was also intrigued by all the timing that went on during the game (this many minutes left in this quarter or that down.)--and all the ceremony of the entrance of the teams, and now they even have horses running on the field with the riders dressed like Indians on the warpath.  We were the Conemaugh Twp. Indians!  He somehow extrapolated all this to his now understanding why we were a great military power or something like that.  

When we get back, I'm going to let Redjeb do all the telling of our activities--like an anthropologist watching the natives and making weird interpretations.

Naturally we are still on our NYC schedule, so when we drove back, it was after 11 and we stopped at Eat N Park (the only 24 hour place in Somerset) and split a fish dinner--us and all the high school kids hanging out.

I'll write about the campaigning tomorrow morn, as it is almost 1 am and I'm really sleepy.

Socialism for the Conservatives

Funny, I just got a comment from Jeanie about a subject I was going to write about this morning: Welfare! Socialism!

Just came back from breakfast--which has become a bit of a stress each morning.

Today Joyce, (B&B owner) in talking again about how she is so good at budgeting, told me that she would be saving money next year, as she will be old enough to go on Medicare and would, thus, not have to pay for health insurance. Then in a few minutes her husband Dan came in from outside. He said he had to come back cause he had forgotten his papers for the partial disability benefits he gets since his stroke. On top of that, the other day she had informed me that they live off what they make from the B&B and save their Social Security checks; then they use these savings for SS for renovations on the B&B. I just love these conservatives who hate Socialism and the tax and spend liberals.

In making conversation I started to tell Joyce about how interesting it was to visit the Children's home yesterday. But she is one of these people that as soon as you bring up a subject, she has something better to say. So today she started telling about Sara and her baby. At first I thought it was a relative, but then realized that we were talking guessed it..Sarah Palin. Then we gravitated to a real relative who has a disabled child who goes to a special school in Pittsburgh.

"She takes the bus to school, and she gets along with the other kids so well. They are black. (Smile) All the other kids on the bus are black. They are so lovable. Those people really know how to be...just so enjoyable. (Smile)." 
Some of my best friends are Jews [blacks].  See I'm not racist, like Murtha said.

Redjeb has been doing his usual, walking to a cafe downtown in the morning to have his tea and read the NY Times. Except today they only had Earl Gray (don't get new teas until Mondays) and his NY Times is from my laptop, which he has started taking with him.  The local paper can be read in about 5 minutes cover to cover. 

One of the front page stories today, photo and all, was about the young woman in Texas, who was robbed at an ATM by a black guy with a six inch knife.  As story goes, after robbing her he noticed the McCain signs on her car (she was canvassing for McCain), so he beat her up, knocked her down and carved a backwards B on her check.    (Hope that doesn't give the opposition any ideas).

Now I ask you:  Why would he do a backwards B?  Perhaps he is a dyslexic mugger.   But I offer this explanation:  If you look in the mirror and carve (scratch, as it looked like from the photo) a B on your own face, it would come out backwards-- a mirror image.  

Why not a little attention for yourself and the campaign, or as an excuse to your mother for some unapproved of behavior (a.k.a. Tawana Brawley for those New Yorkers who remember that case)?   I suspect the B stands for Bitch.

Eveyln Raper