Hot flashes are usually a private matter. Alison Teal shares hers.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Today was our 25th wedding anniversary. We are in Paris. You’d think the café au laits, croissants, Lillets and vin rouge would make us mellow. But we are also constantly and rudely reminded of how bitterly divided America is and how strongly we feel about it. But I hover precariously between tears and explosive anger.

I have been wearing a Kerry jacket from the Pueblo rally. The jacket was given to Sam by an advance person who went to Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Buffs, Iowa and couldn't believe it when he met another Lynx (that is what he said) in the Kerry campaign. Yesterday, after a leisurely lunch at a totally French restaurant -- one filled with only French speakers and no menu in English -- I was walking on a residential street on the Left bank. An African American dressed in a tight black sweater, flamboyant purple scarf and even tighter black leather pants was unlocking his apartment. He spotted me and skipped (no really, SKIPPED) across the street to accost me. "I voted for Bush," he announced with petulant pride. "I'm sorry to hear that," I said. "It’s because he is on Jesus' side," he told me while adjusting the two ring piercings in his left nostril. “Wow! I didn’t know Jesus had endorsed either of the candidates,” I said. He then looked at me in disgust and shouted "Sinner! Sinner! Sinner!" as I walked away.

I was determined not to ruin our day. We decided to go to our favorite church: Saint-Chapelle. The light streaming through the blue and red stained glass windows was perfect and our nerves were soothed and we were filled with all the hopes and dreams - and some of the terror -- that first inspired those windows. Later we walked along the Seine and across to Centre Pompidou and then back to the islands. We stood in the twilight on the cobbled street in front of Notre Dame as the bells were tolling and people were streaming out from an evening mass and thought about how lucky we are.

We decided to go to dinner at a cozy neighborhood restaurant close to the apartment where we're staying on the Isle Saint Louis. We were seated at a small table opposite each other and next to a corner table. Two women, one rather brassy American and one quiet French, were seated at the corner table, with the American facing us. The American spoke loudly about Washington and the election through the entire meal. She talked about how the Democrats had twisted the issue of stem cell research -- she had a friend in Florida who was recovering from a very difficult disease because Bush had supported stem cell research, although the Democrats lied and said he didn't. She talked about how the election trouble was brought on by the Democrats. She went on about Kerry's terrible relationship with his children. She said she had many close friends who had told her stories about how rude John Kerry is.... It went on and on and on. There was no turning away. There was no talking without being overpowered with her voice. Everyone else was speaking French and was not bothered with the volume of her English. Finally she started talking about what a nasty, difficult, and dishonest person Teresa is — someone she had never met of course, but she’d heard it from reliable sources...

But before I tell you what happened next, I’d like to know what you would have done. I will only tell you we did not sit silently, we were not arrested, but we did have our after-dinner Calvados elsewhere.

Judith Martin, if you’re out there, we want to hear from you. Send your best thoughts.

Friday, November 05, 2004

One of our daughter Willa's best friends, Elliot Quick (sophomore at Brown), has the following as the away message on his computer. It's the firsts thing that's made me laugh in days.

"Go to your room, America, and think about what you did."
This is written by our son Nicholas who was one of Senator Kerry's advance staff and was in Boston for his concession speech.

Oof. Bad news always hits with the force of physical impact, and when you are right at the epicenter of that bad news, it feels like a cannonball. The only funeral I've been to in my adult life was my grandfather's, so my experience with the ceremonies of death is not extensive. But everyone I spoke to who was at Kerry's concession speech said it was like a eulogy. The five hundred or so people filling the room behaved like proper mourners -- even like Italian or Greek mourners, beating their breasts and weeping ferociously. My shoulders are sore from the ovation we gave Kerry, and while he couldn't - as he suggested in his speech - take everyone he had met in the past months into his arms, he was certainly liberal in dispensing hugs to his campaign staff.
I can't imagine it's easy to be overseas right now. Before you could look at this great boob we elected and at least say that he tricked us - that he snuck into office through deceit and legal weaselry. Now we have to look the world squarely in the face and say we wanted this man, we chose him.

Just after the concession I went to a restaurant filled with advance staffers. Their predictions for the next four years range from dire to catastrophic. "If he was a jackass to begin with, what do you think he'll be like with the mandate a 3,000,000 vote majority implies." The end of legal abortions? Probably; at least in some states. An anti-gay marriage amendment? Not unlikely. More tax cuts and the further poisoning of the federal government and the programs that have upheld the social contract between rich and poor for half a century? Almost certainly. We were picking between a buffoon and a statesman. No one has ever lost money betting against the good taste of the American people.

At around 2:00 am on election night most of the campaign staff left Copley square and went over to the Hilton bar. We all knew we had lost. Around 4:00 am, we knew Ohio was gone. I overheard another advance staffer say "If only I had used more bunting at that rally in Columbus." A further testament, as if one were needed, that staffers occasionally suffer from tunnel vision. A hotel security guy half-heartedly tried to quiet us down but eventually gave up. Around 6:00 am I went to sleep. Around 11:00 am we got word of the concession speech. I raced to the nearest T stop and headed downtown.

Advance staffers tend to be a big part of the clockwork that makes campaign events tick. For months about three-hundred-and-fifty of us have been traveling around, renting stages, sound systems, stanchions, bike rack, lights, generators, US flags, state flags, rope, recorders, bike rack, CD players, chairs, tables, mult boxes, balloons, drapes, dimmers, bunting, and yet more bike rack. We scurried about tracking down the guy who was supposed to be at the light board or searching for the stool, or podium, or even the governor who -- we are told two minutes before the Senator is supposed to start speaking -- needs to be on stage.

So when the word came that the senator was about to give his concession speech, three-hundred-and-fifty exhausted and embittered advance staffers raced to join the crowd outside Thaniel Hall Wednesday morning - many of us with substantial hangovers. About three hundred of us tried to take control of the crowd. It's what we've been doing for past eleven months. It was about as organized as a riot. It took an hour-and-a-half to fill five hundred seats. By 1:00, we were just waiting.

My ex-roommate Josi has pointed out to me the degree that we get attached to the candidates we work for. Everyone starts volunteering or working for the campaign with the notion that he is there to help solve some great crisis in the country, and he usually is. But within a few hours of making phone calls and canvassing and then traveling for a candidate, you start supporting him for himself, separate from any beliefs you share. So it shouldn't be surprising that it feels so personal when your guy loses or wins -- but it is. Kerry was my guy. In one way or another I have been working or volunteering for his presidential campaign for two years, and while my predictions for the next four years are not nearly as dire as most of the people I talked to after the speech, I can't help feeling a deep, overwhelming, hollowness. And, as with the death of a grandfather - where despite your best efforts to achieve some sort of closure through the ceremony and circumstance of a funeral, you still only begin to heal when you feel his absence at the beginning of a big family dinner when no one jumps to say grace and no one laughs too loud about old stories that are not really that funny - so, I predict, will we supporters not begin to feel the full impact of Kerry's absence and begin healing until we once again frantically seek a voice of opposition to the harebrained schemes and profound, reckless arrogance of this administration. Sadly, that probably won't take very long.

We felt the first touch of absence yesterday morning. There was none of the acid and fury of the campaign in Senator Kerry when he spoke on Wednesday. He looked tired and grim while John Edwards spoke, then he stepped to the podium, took a deep breath and talked to the cameras.

My only real memory of the speech is near the beginning. Kerry paused. His voice caught and he had to look down and away for a moment before continuing. "I wish things could have turned out differently,” he said.

Me too.

Nick Brown

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

At the risk of being seen as a whacko conspiracy theorist I want to suggest that something is very amiss. Two things don't add up: One, how could the exit polls be so off? Two, all those Republican challengers challenged almost nothing. Why would they do that if they didn't already know they were going to win?

Right now I think it is worth reviewing several precincts that had the Diebold machines and get signed affidavits of how each voter voted (if they will give it) and compare that to the actual reported vote in that precinct. This may be fruitless but I am baffled to find another explanation for the disparity between the exit polling data (and earlier polling) and the actual results particularly in Florida. Yes, I know about sampling errors and over sampling women and so on but the differences are simply too big to be explained away. Twenty or thirty lawyers and a couple of days could at
least lay the issue to rest. Without that it will have legs - particularly on the internet -- for years.

We are all innocents compared to Karl Rove. We talk about grass roots and democracy while he is probably having a really good laugh.

Now they're coming to have me committed.
I weep for my country.

Monday, November 01, 2004

As I write this I'm in snow flurries in New Mexico, where Teresa Heinz Kerry and President Clinton dazzled an enormous crowd on Saturday evening.

I am way more than cautiously optimistic.

“Battle in Brewtown. Clash in Cream City. Milwaukee: the final conflict.” So read the headlines today in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The candidates are campaigning in the same city for only the second time (not counting the debates). The last time was on August 4th when Iowa hosted its "Duel in Davenport". And guess who wins when the candidates are head to head?

Young people are turning out in droves - including in early voting. And they are a lot more passionate than even - yes! -- the religious right.

In the last two days bus loads of volunteers from the west coast have been pouring into Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

Kerry leads by ten points in Minnesota and Nader has collapsed entirely. Even the weird former Governor Jesse Ventura gave a head nod of endorsement.

In Iowa about 27 percent of likely voters have already voted. According to David Yepsen of the “Des Moines Register” Kerry carried 52 percent of them, Bush captured only 41 percent. “Of the 73 percent who were left to vote, their preferences are tied. Bush needs to win that vote decisively. If not, he could lose this state by a wider margin than he lost it four years ago.” Yepsen is a well-respected political columnist for the Register.

In Ohio a judge has ruled that no challengers can go inside the election places. This is wonderful news! The Republicans had planned to confuse and slow voting in minority and poor neighborhoods with challenges that would create long waits and - they hoped - discourage voting. The Republicans are appealing to federal district court but it is late in the day.

In New Mexico one tenth of the voters registered this year for the first time. These are not Bush voters. Assuming we can get them to vote they should be predominately ours.

In Florida nearly two-million have voted early and informal exit polls show Kerry is running ahead of Bush.

The feared weather in Pennsylvania - which might deter voter turn out has apparently passed, which may be bad news in Detroit but in Pennsylvania it is expected to be rainy but warm. According to our friend Paul Nussbaum we have about 2800 volunteers in Montgomery County who have already canvassed every one of the Democratic precincts (195) of the 409 precincts here and will do them all again on election day. “This is a Republican registered county but I expect we will carry it by 50,0000 votes.”

The Presidential race is getting close in South Dakota according to our friend Tom Waldeck.

And there's other grim news for Bush: Chuck McLain of the Denver Research Group has a very sophisticated tool for mining the internet and summarizing the information in order to predict public opinion way ahead of the polls. We met him through our friend Bill Joy, the founder of Sun Microsystems, who is truly a computer genius. He thinks that Chuck has found a way to use the enormous potential of computers to gather and analyze data from opinion leaders on a real time basis in such a way that he can project public opinion several weeks ahead of time. Here is what McLain says about the election: “Our systems suggest presently that John Kerry will win and we would not be surprised if the victory were larger than expected.”

Any undecided voter at this point has the brains and backbone of a sponge. And Sponge Bob is clearly one of us.

Kerry is relaxed and looking good. In one pocket he's got his four-leaf clover that brought him through the primaries in Iowa and in his other pocket is an Ohio buckeye.

Everyone is feeling heady and optimistic.

Reporters on the press plane who bet on everything aren't even finding the election odds compelling enough. Los Vegas is offering Kerry at 5 to 4 and Bush at 4 to 7. Instead “the minute the plane lands they all race to get out the back. Our Advanceman son Nicholas figured it was so they could catch the candidate disembarking. But it turns out it's because they mark the wheel of the plane and they're rushing to see whose name comes closest to the top in a game of airplane roulette.

The Red Skins were defeated and the Red Sox won.


Alison Teal

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