Our Nation’s Capitol, one door at a time
I’ve mentioned that the great thing about door canvassing (aside from the constant rejection and mediocre pay) is getting to see the city’s everyday face. Not the charter bus tours or the top of the Monument, but staff assistants walking home on the Hill and the interiors of houses in John Kerry’s DC neighborhood. This city is hard to peg, and for good reason. Not in a state, but overflowing into two of them. Highly liberal, but the capitol of a highly conservative country. Its residents aren’t from here. They don’t even live here sometimes. This is home to the most powerful and richest people in the world, but also to scores of crackheads and welfare cases just around the corner. Washington DC houses the most powerful government in the history of the world, but it’s notoriously dull. It lacks the architectural wonders of Chicago, the money and fame of New York or the gilded facade of LA. It’s concrete, white block and columns; poverty and a terrible road system. But for those of us who are into politics, DC is electric. It’s where stuff happens. You walk down one street and casually notice the Capitol, where the people who decide our fates live – the lobbyists. Marines stroll by my office regularly. Black helicopters buzz the Potomac. Capitol Hill is packed with staffers, students and policymakers, all cramming into this overpriced, uncomfortable city just to get close to where the action is. This is Vegas, the Hollywood Hills and Amsterdam all rolled into one for those of us who are into politics. Stuff happens here.
Capitol Hill has been good to me. I can walk there from the office, see the cogs of the machine hoofing it home. Row houses like these line the streets, and cost more than your soul.
Northwest DC is big money. Tonight I was in Cleveland Park, where I can only imagine what these mansions cost. There was a house on a lot so big, that I thought it was a city park. I buzzed the call box outside the gate, where I was taped by at least two cameras and totally ignored. Below is the house where Tim Russert lived until just recently. Now there’s a TV correspondent for the German version of BBC living there. He gave me 30 bucks, and we talked for about 15 minutes about how European coverage of America differs. Nobody there gives a damn about John Roberts’ confirmation, but Guantanamo Bay is in the news almost daily. Posted on his door is a handwritten sign stating: “No mail for Russert.” A girl I work with canvassed Seymour Hersh last week. All day today, walking from house to house I tried to think of what kind of conversations I might have with Russert or Hersh. I started wondering who else lives around here, and if they get together and hang out, and if maybe I could hang out with them too.
Down Time: Don’t misunderstand, canvassing is hard fucking work. Talk to 50 people in a day, walk several miles to do so, and accept frequent, often rude rejection from almost all of those people, and you know what it’s like. But I’ve discovered that while five hours of canvassing is expected, it’s not uncommon to take some break time. I like to waste time at the beginning of the shift, when nobody’s home and it’s still pretty hot. Here’s me and some other do-gooders sitting in a park on Capitol Hill. Had there been a hackey sack, I would not have participated.
Friday’s weather and turf were so comparable to Portland that all day I was warm and fuzzy inside. It was misting rain, and my street was covered in thick foliage. It felt like the Northwest, and I was so happy to see that 70 degree sign that I took a picture. Just after, I was flagged down by another canvasser, who invited me to take a coffee break at the shop below the sign. I accepted.
My partner for today wanted to get an early start, and I didn’t. I sat in the grass and drank coffee for 15 minutes, then took a walk to what ended up being the National Cathedral, a block from my turf. It was gorgeous outside and inside. I went number two in its bathroom.