Monday, October 20, 2008

Finally, what you've all been waiting for!

Well folks, I know I've been somewhat ambiguously referencing my trip to Pahrump to Nevada, and now I am going to shed a little light on that journey. Not a lot of light, because we were asked by those above us specifically not to blog about the experience (hah, me not blog? Right).

Anyway, I went to Pahrump after work Friday night with my friend Alexander, the intention of our purpose was to volunteer with the Barack Obama Campaign for Change (I think we aren't supposed to blog about it because they don't want to draw attention to the fact that Californians are headed to Nevada to volunteer, however, isn't this A common knowledge? and B entirely not surprising? When you are an Obama supporter in a blue state it's only natural that a real volunteer opportunity might only be found in the swing state next door).

Pahrump is located just on the border of California and Nevada, surrounded by the mountains and desert that comprise Death Valley. It's a desert town just an hour northwest of Las Vegas--not desert town in the sense that Shoshone "the gateway to Death Valley" is, with a grand population of 67 people, because in fact, Pahrump is anywhere from 30,000 to 40,000 people.

It was a long drive Friday night, and for the last hour and a half or so, the only thing that really kept me driving was listening to The Audacity of Hope book on tape, read by Senator Obama himself. Sure, this paints an incredible hilarious picture--two idealistic kids from California driving to Nevada to canvas for a presidential campaign, listening to that inspiring leader all the way there... but you know what? It totally worked. Not only did it help me stay awake on those desert roads, but it was both inspiring and informative. Also good to keep me level because I felt like I was driving through Mars. And at one point I saw a dog in the middle of the road in the middle of NOWHERE, which really means I saw either (1) a coyote or (2) my animal spirit god (I am hoping it was choice 2, because an animal spirit god is a much rarer find then one of those darn coyotes).

That night we stayed at one of the Casino-Hotel-RV-"Resorts" in town, which was really just an over-priced place to crash, and were up early Saturday morning to discover that Pahrump, not a very exciting place on its own, was surrounded by the most beautiful and dramatic mountains all around. It was truly spectacular. While admiring the view, we had a more difficult time admiring any breakfast opportunities, with our final stop being the one Starbucks in town, located inside the grocery store.

The campaign headquarters were a modest affair, all the other volunteers, both locals and others who had traveled various differences, were kind people from all walks of life. It was heartening and encouraging to be around so many others who also shared such a strong belief in one cause.

Canvassing is an interesting experience. It sort of requires a no-fear attitude. I mean you are knocking on doors, interrupting people at their homes. By the end of the day (a total of two canvassing shifts) we had knocked on 77 doors and spoken to something like 45 people. It was fascinating. Just about everyone was friendly, even McCain supporters, and some people really wanted to engage with us, while others expressed frustration at yet another campaign volunteer showing up on their doorstep. I realized it must be exhausting to live in a swing state right now. You are constantly being inundated with information, people, propaganda, etc. However, must of the people of Pahrump were polite and courteous and we appreciated that.

For lunch we ate delicious barbecue at Walter's BBQ & Maverick's Saloon (ahh yes, MAVERICKS!) and at one point we also stopped to get a drink of water and a coke (or as our feisty bartender called it, pop) and a separate BBQ joint. It was fun talking to our bartender, a woman who I could only describe as being full of piss and vinegar, a McCain Palin lover because she was sick of men running the country and thought "Palin was so fun" and she wanted to see a woman in power. She pointedly asked me how I felt about men running the country, and to be honest, as a woman, I am okay with it--for me it boils down to the individual. Obama is someone who could cross party lines, reach out to people everywhere, and maybe dial down some of the polarization that has overcome the country.

The most bizarre experience of the whole day was when at one house we stopped by, the very old woman who lived there asked us to please come inside where we realized we might get stuck for hours because she was so excited to show someone all her stuffed animal birds, paintings of Jesus, lampshades, flower arrangements, and countless other tchatchkies (does anyone know how to spell this? Please advise). She was simultaneously crazy, sad, and the most other-worldly being I've ever met. It was really something.

We drove home Saturday night, but not without somehow managing to encounter car trouble. We pulled over in the road leading out of Death Valley (aka Mars, home of my spirit animal god) so Alexander could take a leak and we could check out the desert at night--which is incredible and I am not sure I've ever seen so many stars in the sky. Of course, we managed to get my car completely buried in the sand, so much so that the front end was so buried in we couldn't move anywhere and Triple A had to come dig us out. Ah, adventure.

We got back to LA, finally, and after the requisite late night In-N-Out stop, around 1:30 am. I was exhausted. But it was worth it, if not to canvas for Obama, but just to go to a different part of the country, to step outside the LA bubble, and the bubble I've become accustomed to, and to talk to people and get to know a community somewhere else. It was both rewarding and insightful.

Here's hoping that on election day, those 5 electoral votes from Nevada will go blue. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, Pahrump!

One final note, apparently we were only about a half hour from Area 51 and Roswell. Shit yes, next time I am going hunting for aliens. Maybe that's what my spirit god was--AN ALIEN. No but really, I thought that crazy late night desert drive was a secret transport to another planet or something. It was extraterrestrial, that's for sure.

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