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Life Gets in the Way Sometimes – 32 Days

6 October

Sorry, kind readers, for going silent for a while.

When last we met I had arrived in the Blue (Democratic leaning) oasis of Asheville, North Carolina on my road-trip through Trumpland. My destination was Nashville and, more specifically, a first-ever meeting with my birth-mother. So that was strange and good and exceedingly hard, especially to have done on my lonesome. Thus the silence. Life just got too much for blogging. I don’t think I’ll have more to say about that meeting here, for now.

But there is a radio station in Western Virginia that plays nothing but theme songs from 1970s and 1980s television shows – one after another without breaks or commentary. Nightrider, Facts of Life, Different Strokes, Love Boat, Greatest American Hero, Magnum PI, The Jeffersons, and more – yes, I listened that long, playing Name that Show.

In central Tennessee The Gun Shop and Trading Post advertises on the radio as your AR-15 specialist. The AR-15 is the “civilian assault rifle” favoured by many mass murderers. A version of the AR-15 was used in the slaughter of Sandy Hook’s children, for example (that such an event could be an example of the many times an assault rifle has been so used in America is, in itself, grotesque).

I also saw billboards advertising guns as “men’s toys”. America, I really don’t know how you will every reign in the slaughter of your own by your own.

I spent two nights in Asheville. It’s a bustling, booming, mostly progressive, artsy, foodie, micro-brew-loving, mountain-and-river city surrounded by Trumpland. I barely scratched the surface of the place and sincerely hope for a chance to visit again. I had good barbecue, good beer, a good coffee, a good taco, and a fairly tasty doughnut.

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While I was there I went into the North Carolina Democratic Coordinated Campaign Office to phone bank. I was pleased to recruit and schedule one volunteer – that’s a good outcome. It was nice to meet some of the people hard at work there – North Carolina has voted for the Republican nominee in every presidential election since 1980 except for 2008. Polls show the state is a toss-up right now so we have a real chance of winning the state.

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The very first election I ever worked on was in North Carolina –  Harvey Ganntt’s run for the US Senate in 1990. So ringing North Carolinian voters brought me full-circle, sort of.

That was the last summer all of my stuff was in one place, my parents’ house. I travelled out to the west coast – I moved someone’s car from Chicago to Portland and got a bust to Seattle where I spent a couple of days doing day-labour to make a few bucks. That involved turning up at an agency in the morning and going out to some random job – in this case furnishing a new chain hotel. We moved stuff into rooms, unpacked and placed nightstands and beds. Yup, that was a thing I did.

I caught a Greyhound bus south to San Francisco, stayed with a friend, thought about sticking around for a while but soon pushed on to Los Angeles before turning east. I was 21. I took overnight bus rides and saw cities by day – maybe I spent a night in Phoenix? No, I think I pushed all the way to El Paso, Texas in one run. I remember smoking cigarettes late at night at the Phoenix station and talking with an LA gang-member heading home to the South to get away from some trouble. From El Paso I wandered into Juarez, Mexico to check things out. This was before it was a killing zone.  I drank soda from a glass bottle which had to be returned right there and then and was handed a leaflet by protesting communists.

I spent a night and day in New Orleans and a whole day being freaked out by Montgomery, Alabama. We pulled in just after dawn and I decided that, yes, it was the same Greyhound Station where Freedom Riders arrived to an absolute bashing in 1961.

20 May 1961, Montgomery, Alabama, USA --- Two blood-splattered Freedom Riders, John Lewis (left) and James Zwerg (right) stand together after being attacked and beaten by pro-segregationists in Montgomery, Alabama. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS
20 May 1961, Montgomery, Alabama, USA — Two blood-splattered Freedom Riders, John Lewis (left) and James Zwerg (right) stand together after being attacked and beaten by pro-segregationists in Montgomery, Alabama. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

That sort of set the tone. I ate breakfast with rednecks at a diner, was the first visitor of the day at the First White House of the Confederacy, sat in the quiet of Martin Luther King Junior’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, and gawped at the utter white-washing of history at the Lurleen B. Wallace Memorial Museum (now closed). She ran for, and was elected, governor when her husband, arch segregationist George Wallace, was term-limited out of office. She paid him $1 per year to be her advisor. I believe she was, mostly, his puppet. But the museum did assure me that she was a “darn good fisherwoman” and displayed her waders.

From Montgomery it was on to Charlotte and a month’s campaigning for Harvey. In the end he fell short but it was a great team to be part of.

Like this journey I’m on here, now, my time in North Carolina was precipitated by my just turning up and wanting to help. I fell in with good people and got to work.

Sorry … that was a wonder down a rabbit-hole.

Right.

From Asheville I drove on to Nashville where I did the thing I came to do. I also ate a lot of barbecue and had a good coffee at Crema.

I was in Nashville the night of the first debate and joined a local Democratic Party watch party at a bar. The place was packed – I thought Hillary did a good job and that Trump was, as expected, rude and ridiculous as well as weirdly sniffy.

The next day I drove all the way back to Alexandria – including breaks it took about 13 or 14 hours but I didn’t want to have to pay anyone else to house me another night and I just wanted to get “home”.

That was a bit more than a week ago and, frankly, I think I’ve just about overcome the exhaustion the trip left me feeling – emotionally and physically. I’m back at the coal face – phone banking, canvassing, registering voters – but now with only 32 days to go.

I’m aiming to stay daily again.

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