Sunday, November 23, 2008

Christmas Decorations

There won’t be any long lines of cars wrapped around the block to see my Christmas decorations this year. This has never been the case anyway. My neighbor across the street is a big Christmas decorator with lots of lights, free standing Santas, reindeer, mangers and whatever. He IS missing a Menorah, though. My thoughts are that there should be something for everyone. Besides, anything I could display would easily be dwarfed by his JEA dream. This year I decided to “go green” and recycle my Halloween decorations. I hope the neighbors don’t think I'm strange, but then I wouldn’t have it any other way. Hope everyone enjoys Thanksgiving Day with little stress and great food. I have most of my Christmas shopping done, so I’m ready for the HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Bring 'em on!
THE BIRDS
Spooky Ravens Santa Crows

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The 2008 Election

Now that my stint as a "Poll Inspector" is over (for now), I feel a little freer to express myself and not jeopardize my valued position assisting people at the polls. I decided to apply for a job as Poll Inspector after I retired, for two reasons. I love to meet new people and the extra $10.00 an hour would give me a little mad money. Little did I know that the job (and this will sound really corny) would become much more to me than I thought. I have worked at four different polling places. Currently, the poll I am assigned to is at the Open Arms Baptist Church. The building doesn't have that warm, fuzzy churchy feeling since the building used to be the home of the General Motors Training Center at the corner of Beach and Southside Boulevards. The corridors of this church are painted fluorescent green and "highway worker" orange that send my brain off to Oz to see the Wizard, when I have to make the building length trek to the ladies room. The daycare that now occupies the building would probably have a calmer group of kids if the walls were painted a soothing blue or pale yellow (you’d think). The hallowed hallway still has ghosts of men learning about how to fix cars and counting the hours until 5 o'clock. I have two friends who had fathers who worked at this center. I can remember the building being on that corner most of my life. It's right across the street from the old Midway Drive-In where Cookie and I saw "Woodstock" and "Dawn of the Dead" way too many times. The training center in no way resembles a church, were it not for the images of Jesus all over the industrial concrete walls. Election Day was exciting to say the least. Voters were lined up when the poll opened and the voters trickled in steadily all day. I saw plenty of candidate’s tee-shirts, no drunks this time and plenty of babies and kids in tow to experience the voting ritual. It was great. I wasn't allowed to wear my Obama button on voting day, of course. Andy brought me a nice one from the Obama rally he attended. He said there was a big crowd that I probably would not have wanted to negotiate. I remember the day when I braved the crowd to hear Ronald Reagan speak at the Exhibition Hall at the Civic Auditorium. I was too young to hear John Kennedy speak in Hemming Park (my parents, who I depended on for transportation, said in no uncertain terms to, "Forget it". I only caught a glimpse of Gerald Ford's limo speeding down Baymeadows Road on his way to Epping Forest to meet with Anwar Sadat. The dark windows of his car in his small motorcade kept me from seeing him and also made me late for my evening shift at AT&T due the blocking off of all access to the two lane Baymeadows Road. No one was able to enter or exit the Wildwood Apartments for several hours. I was so glad Andy was able to see Obama and the button he brought me was a big surprise. That's my boy!
The polling place I work at is determined by either the Supervisor of Elections Office or asking to work at a poll of my own choosing. The Supervisor of Elections makes no promises. The result seems to hinge on who you know you’d like to work for and whether they want you to work for them. This method of assigning polling locations to workers works for me. I have been lucky enough to work for one of my best friends. For most, this might generate hard feelings at times, but my friend and I try to put on our former Bellsouth hats. In other words, she’s the boss. She tells me what to do…I try to shut-up and do what she says. I have a lot of respect for the good job she does and the way she manages our polling site. Everything is done according to the rules. No exceptions. This means no photos of “Flat Stanley” voting in one of the privacy booths. In case you don't know who "Flat Stanley is, you can read about him in this TU article:
We don't allow undocumented assistance for voters who need someone to help them vote. No hovering parents are allowed to oversee their eighteen year olds’ first experience at shading in black circles on the ballot (something they’ve been doing on standardized tests since the third grade) and no poll watchers are allowed to overstep their pre-determined boundaries. The biggest no-no of all is “talking politics” with other poll workers and especially with the voters. Everyone at my poll is adamant that this rule is followed. All who want a special dispensation from the rules are turned away, escorted out or put on the right track and that is the way it should be. I love my friend for holding steady and I admire her for the job she does and the standard she holds us to. Every poll needs a Shirley. My experience at “Early Voting” was a real eye-opener as far as the turn-out predictions. Since actual Election Day turnout was down, I believe the buzz about long lines on November 4th scared everyone into voting early. This was a good thing. It kept me constantly busy for the seven days I had committed to work and then Election Day was a breeze with the lower than expected turnout. At Early Voting I was pleased to see the blind, the deaf, people who could hardly walk (much less own a driver’s license) and people who were on their way from just having been in the hospital. People from all walks of life turned out for this important election. I felt this was a profound statement of the value of a vote. There were people who had already received their absentee ballots but instead wanted to cast their vote in person due to lack of trust that their absentee vote would be counted. I was dismayed to see a group of about eight or so indigent men herded in by one woman. They appeared to not really know what was going on and they all needed assistance to vote (at least according to their tour guide). Each agreed to and signed the affidavits that were required and they certainly did have the right to vote, but on the outside it appeared that they all were not really “with it”. This was a sad picture. On the bright side, I did get to see many familiar faces and a few friends who were happy for the convenience of Early Voting and the expressions of gratitude from many who thanked us for volunteering (apparently thinking we were there for free.) All poll workers are paid and I expect to reap a little over $700.00 for working a week of Early Voting and Election Day. Not enough to buy a Rolex, but I would have worked the polls for nothing. I enjoyed several Kodak moments with elderly voters who embraced us after assisting them to a comfortable seated voting station, but the most gracious voter I encountered was a non-English speaking woman from Cuba who was able to view a ballot in Spanish on the AutoMark screen and cast her ballot successfully. We were rewarded for doing our job with a kiss and a hug. And you know me. I’m always looking for someone to speak Spanish with. I did have problems coming up with the words I needed and should have known, but was able to tell her “No te preocupes, la votación con la máquina es muy fácil." y "¡Usted puede utilizar la computadora y Usted hizo un trabajo perfecto! ¡Congtaulations! I plan on being better prepared and knowing mas fraces y palabras en la futuro. Most of you won’t be surprised that my favorite candidate won. I’ve been as emotional as the next person this time around. The country has done the right thing. I really don’t care what anyone else has to say about this. I've heard enough of that on TV to last me a lifetime. The woman at the checkout at Publix volunteered to me that she watched her hero McCain’s concession speech to Obama and then “prayed for our nation” before going to sleep.
Oh gees. I was disappointed that Jacksonville went for McCain. Jacksonville is a military town where First Baptist Church owns practically all of the real estate downtown not to mention the true to size parking lot lighthouse on the corner of Union and Pearl Streets complete with a beacon that they managed to impose upon the people of Springfield. I won’t get started on that. The parts of Florida that went for Obama were all of the state university towns like Tallahassee, Gainesville, Tampa, The Mouse and Daytona. The entire Gold Coast and The Keys went for Obama too. The student vote made the huge difference all over Florida eeking the state towards Obama. A lot of people believe it was the black for black vote that pulled it off but in Duval County it wasn't enough. It was close, but not enough to call Jacksonville Obama country. I believe it was because of the youth (and that includes my baby-bunkins, I'm proud to say) that Florida went for Obama. Here in Jacksonville, the black voters weren't quite able to pull it off from their neighborhoods on the north side and west side of Jacksonville. Unfortunately, my stomping grounds went the other way with the exception of a few pockets here and there of the enlightened. The precinct where I worked on Election Day went with Obama after their Early Voting and Absentee ballots were added to the Election day total. Click on the maps to enlarge them. The blue areas are the Northside and Westside.
I was so disappointed that the majority of people believe that the definition of a marriage should only be defined as a union between a man and a woman. What kind of problem is this going to cause anyone, anyway? It was of course a gay rights issue and I feel nothing but pity for those who want to run other peoples’ lives by getting the government involved in the bedroom or any room for that matter. (Brown area For Ammendment 2, Purple Against) .
Those living in the Riverside-Avondale, San Marco and Springfield areas were probably the only ones to fully understand the difficult, if not impossible wording of the amendment. I hope that’s the reason anyway. ‘No’ meant For and ‘Yes’ meant Against letting anyone marry who wants to be that dumb. (To get married, that is.)
Another "only you, Claire" encounter happened the day after the election after Joyce had already tried unsuccessfully tried to find the two of us some extra newspapers. The only papers she found in our neighborhood were located in a vending machine outside the door of Larry’s Giant Subs. The only problem was that no one had been able to retrieve the newspapers because the machine door wouldn’t open after depositing the required $.75. I've learned two things: 1) If you stand around long enough, someone will come along and ask if you are having a problem and 2) if you need to break into something, you need a kid. The woman who asked if I was having a problem was an employee in the salon next to Larry’s. She had also tried to get a newspaper out of the broken machine. After we both shimmied and shook the machine unsuccessfully together, we satisfied ourselves it was really broken she shared with me her amazement, gratitude and elation about the outcome of the election. I gave her an extra Obama button I had in the car that she said she would cherish forever. After blowing our noses and drying our eyes, a kid with particularly good newspaper machine entry skills and newspaper acquisition determination drove up and managed to have the entire cover off of the TU owned vending machine in less than 30 seconds exposing the coin box and door opening mechanism. Did you know that there is a 9-volt battery in these things? I didn’t. Thinking this was why the door wouldn’t open, he took the battery back to his car to coax his buddy into testing the battery by touching the terminals to his tongue. Some kids can be stupid and will do this for a friend…so no, the battery wasn’t the problem…. The “Ouch, why’d you do that to me?” coming from the passenger seat of the small beat up car indicated that we had a good battery. The kid and I pooled our quarters together and deposited $1.50 and then $1.75 just to make sure the TU wasn’t treating the post election paper as a collector’s edition. This didn’t work either. The kid was disappointed a lot more than I was (I still had a copy at home) because he had been driving around for more than an hour trying to score a paper. Not only was this the first election he had voted in, but his dream of an Obama win was beyond his belief. His mother had been skeptical, but he held hope and wanted to give her the paper as a gift. I told the kid I was not prepared to go to jail for vandalism, so he put the cover back on and we tried one more time to deposit coins and pull open the door. This time, with four hands pulling and jiggling the handle, the door opened. He deposited his $.75 and mine was already in the machine. The salon woman didn’t have $.75 for the third paper, and wanting to be a good “role model” (oh, gees) for the kid, I said we didn’t want to steal the third paper, so he went back to his car, dug under the seat and came up with another $.75 while I held the door open. He then gave it to the woman from the salon as a gift. After thanking us, he jumped off the curb heading for his car with the hard earned newspaper in his arms yelling, “YES WE CAN”.
I kid you not. -------------------------------------------------
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------------------------------------------------- My Favorite Obamanyms:
OBAMAPHORIA: The postelection rapture that swept over Obama's supporters worldwide.
OBAMARAMA: The celebrations around the Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration. OBAMANOS: A play on "Vamonos," or "Let's go," among Latino Obama fans. OBAMATOPIA: The political paradise that Obama's staunchest supporters hope he'll usher in. OBAMALUJAH: Exultation shouted by his fans. OBAMATRONS: The policy wonks who will occupy the West Wing of his White House.
OBAMANATOR: Hollywood-inspired nickname for the new president -- even if he's got what California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger contends are "skinny legs"
and "scrawny little arms." OBAMALICIOUS: Complimentary term used by those who like Obama's looks. OBAMALOHA: Goodbye, Obama-style, with a nod to Hawaii, his birthplace. OH-BAMA: Joyful exclamation, via headlines in the Kennebec, Maine, Journal, The Regisister Guard in Eugene, Ore., and The Namibian, from the southern African country of Namibia. BAMELOT: Description of his presidency, from a New York Post headline that played on the youth and freshness of John F. Kennedy's administration that came to be known as "Camelot." OBAMAMERIKA: Headline from the Croatian newspaper Slobodna Dalmacija. BARACKSTAR: Description from those who believe Obama is "the Mick Jagger of politics" (from Slate.com).