Browsing Date

February 2016

Destinations, History, North America

Confessions of a Campaign Worker

February 24, 2016 • By

It’s an election year, it’s campaign season and I am a *political fundraiser. I’ve worked as the body person (sucker), the advance lead (warrior) and the consultant (a rare and mature combo of the aforementioned). I’ve traveled on the road, visited with voters door to door and I’ve sat at a desk dialing for dollars and begging for votes. The jobs are not glamorous but they allow me to pack my bags and discover the vast countryside. Places I never dreamed of seeing like Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

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Fasten your seatbelts we are off to Election Night in Boston

In 2004, I signed up for an advance job with the Kerry Edwards presidential campaign. Oh I thought to myself, “I’ve made it, I get to travel with Senator John Kerry by private plane.” I was wrong. Instead of attending shindigs at Radio City Music Hall or the Staples Center in Los Angles to listen to Bon Jovi, I landed in Green Bay, Wisconsin on a Sunday during Packer season and Nashua, New Hampshire in October when the skies are gloomy, the temperatures falling and the multitude of emotions high. My room at the Holiday Inn in Nashua leaked and I quiver to this day when I remember my time spent in Nashua, which years later I fumble pronouncing. The air was cold and damp– Brrr– and locals in dive bars wore hair mullets with fierce pride.

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Advance people spend a lot of time waiting

The campaign directed me to plan rallies around the theme of the week which often focused on jobs, universal healthcare, the environment or the War in Iraq. I stayed in small towns like Brownsville, Pennsylvania where the “best restaurant in town” served up healthy iceberg lettuce salads with mounds of greasy French fries in the center of the plate.  The Hampton Inn became my hotel of choice because the chain provided free breakfast cereal in the lobby and sometimes eggs on weekends.  My mode of transportation provided by the campaign featured a minivan courtesy of Avis Rental, a company I won’t use today. I bounced from Sioux City, Iowa to Waterville, Maine where I tasted lobster for the first time and purchased clogs because it felt like the right thing to do in Maine.

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The Election Night Party in Boston on the Kerry Edwards 2004 Presidential Campaign

It was not tough work but it was extremely stressful and demanding. Professionalism often went out the door and it became imperative to “make shit happen” quickly and inexpensively. My team consisted of college interns or newly graduated eager beavers. Every few days we moved to a new city, with different principals and we were expected to create 50-500 person public events in a matter of days. I shared rooms with campaign staffers who were hooking up or out all night drinking and I ran ridiculous errands to Target for supplies but my favorite part of the job was removing the “evidence” of the principal or senior staff’s existence. Mainly, I shredded confidential briefing memos and discarded empty bottles of wine.

Being on the campaign trail grows old with time. Mistakes are made. People are weary and temperamental.  One time I played the song,the Facts of Life at the end of a rally with Elizabeth Edwards. It was an accident since I cued up the wrong CD but upon hearing the lyrics, she scowled at me from across the room with a face of extreme disapproval. A pang of panic filled my body and then I giggled. A child of the 80s, I loved Mrs. Garrett who quite frankly reminded me of Mrs. Edwards.   I hope to never forget that moment of laughter through the insanity.

You take the good, you take the bad,
you take them both and there you have
The facts of life, the facts of life.There’s a time you got to go and show
You’re growin’ now you know about
The facts of life, the facts of life.When the world never seems
to be livin up to your dreams
And suddenly you’re finding out
the facts of life are all about you, you.
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The excitement of being in Boston for Election Night did not last long. CNN called the election for President George W. Bush early in the night

Campaign life is not for everyone and I contend it’s mostly for the young and foolish.  I vaguely recall earning $60 dollars on preparation days and $100 on game day (the day the principal arrives) and even less on travel days. Eating at strip malls, sleeping in sparse accommodations, flying with several connections to ensure the cheapest flight and being berated by angry voters eventually takes its toll but I can admit, I enjoyed every minute of it. When it was over and John Kerry lost, I found myself at the Westin Hotel in the Back Bay of Boston in the rain. I can still picture the faces on my friends, true supporters—sullen and disappointed. I went to bed.

The next morning, I called United Airlines to see how many miles I accumulated from my campaign work.  I was on a train to New York City making my way to DC for a wedding.

“Hi, my mileage plus number is xxxx.  I want to know how far I can travel on my miles.”

United: “You can go to Hong Kong, Hanoi, Bangkok and Sydney.”

Me: “I can go to Sydney?”

United:  “Yes and you can even go First Class.”

Me:  “What is the soonest date I can leave?”

United: “We have flights starting November 15.”

Me:  “Great! I will book a one-way First Class trip from Chicago to Sydney departing November 15.”

And so began my life of solo travel around the globe.  I thank John Kerry and the American people for that privilege.  If the  JK/JRE/THK/EE team delivered a victory in 2004,  it’s possible my life would be very different.  I often think about the lingo, my friends, the people I met in the cities I visited, the game day adrenaline and the hottie Secret Service Agents, “Wheels Up, Rings Off” and I share fond memories of my experience.

Elections matter –even this one– and I encourage everyone to participate in some capacity.  Go vote!


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Brad and Jodi reunited in Boston where campaign workers arrived from all over the country

*Disclaimer: I do not work for any of the Presidential Campaigns this cycle.

North America

Life on the 6 Train

February 17, 2016 • By

By definition, the word travel means to make a journey through a region or to be moved from place to place. It doesn’t necessarily mean abroad, while a foreign land would be an added perk. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York Subway systems carries 8.7 million people everyday.  It moves people–lots of them. It’s an astounding statistic. I am a New York City Subway rider. I am a number on the 6 Train.

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Gates, exits, uptown, downtown, east side, west side, taking the train to work

Every morning I am in New York City, I ride the east side green line 6 Train. It’s a routine. Leave my apartment by 7:20 AM, slide my card, shimmy through the turnstile, see the train, bolt down the stairs or wait patiently along the platform edge, hop the subway, ride for 25 minutes without interruptions, arrive at 14th Street/Union Square Station, buy my Starbucks. That’s a good day.

“This is a Brooklyn Bound 6 Train, the next stop is…”

I’ve taken to nicknaming my fellow riders. There is the professional, religious zealot, the student, mom and dad, the girlfriend, the boyfriend, an exerciser, the reader, a mobile phone/tablet game addict, the worker bee, the coffee drinker, the loud talker, the deafening headset listener, a sleeper, a pusher, the local, the foreigner, the performer, and sadly the sick person and what that implies.

Rats scurry below the platform. When the train approaches, an ear piercing rrrrrrr screeching sound sometimes causes me to cover my ears. The noise dissipates and the doors open. Passengers exit and passengers enter. The wheels start to turn and inside I make believe an old-fashioned steam engine is puffing along until I hear the dreaded voice over the intercom. It’s muffled. Passengers struggle to listen but most of us ignore it. Announcements are never positive. We are thanked for our patience.

I eavesdrop on two young men about 30-years-old dressed in scruffy business suits. They work for the Governor of New York. They are in heated conversation about a rebranding effort in Buffalo. They offer me a seat but I am too absorbed in their conversation to pivot from my perch to take THEIR seat. One young gun says to the other, “It’s a process right. It takes months or even years to form a relationship with a reporter.”  They are ambitious and I like them.  They offered a woman their seat, a rare occurrence aboard a New York City Subway.

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Stand back, get ready, the anticipation

It’s 8:50 AM on a Wednesday. I’ve missed the window of opportunity for a hassle free commute. It’s no man’s land. Time to toughen up my belt for the boxing match that will ensue in my attempt to find space for a 5’6, 130-pound (58 kilos) woman with a 20 pound (9 kilos) over the shoulder bag wearing a ankle length winter coat. The first train arrives and there is no chance for me. I can’t squeeze onto the second train either but I am assured another train is minutes behind this one. The third train arrives and I brace myself for the fight. I inhale and like an Olympian athlete thrust myself through the doors and into or maybe even onto the maddening crowd.

“Sorry, So Sorry, S–o–r–r–y, excuse me” words most spoken by New York City Subway riders.

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Courtesy Counts. The MTA posts these signs to remind passengers they are humans and not animals a small distinction on the subway

The doors of a subway are like the jaws of a crocodile, when I step from the platform edge into the metal moving box I never know if I am going to be eaten alive or if I will escape free of injury. We are packed shoulder to shoulder nose to nose. Sweat forms on my forehead and my body screams for air. It’s not worth removing my hat or gloves because I cannot move. My fellow New Yorkers are holding me into place, which is a good thing. Signs overhead remind us that Courtesy Matters yet we are animals, hunting our prey, a handrail or a seat, pushing, shoving every morning and night.

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Let me squeeze in please

The train slows before the next stop and then abruptly halts tossing the standing passengers into the arms of strangers. People fortunate to steal a seat would not dare look upon other passengers in fear of shame. Embarrassed today he or she got lucky as the rest of us are manhandled like a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. There is an incident ahead and so it goes we wait and people groan. It seems impossible to remain on schedule aboard the 6 Train.

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A man at 68th Street station plays music in the morning hours

Alas, my journey ends at 14th Street to the sounds of Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. The subway musicians at Union Square Station are my favorite performing quality music throughout the day. Sometimes their performances can ease the pain of a horrible commute. (Check out Music Under New York

Another afternoon, a 26-year-old Pakistani woman is hovered over me. I am sitting and she standing swaying as the train moves.  She holds the above handrail to steady herself. It’s possible she could fall onto my lap. We study each other and she asks what I am writing. I tell her I am working on my to do list. I lied. She volunteers that she is reading Harry Potter and a book for her driving test. She speaks three languages and divulges she really isn’t sure of her age because of the way they create documents in Pakistan but she is a New Yorker now.  She asks my name. I say, “Kelly.” She is intrigued and wants to know the meaning and I respond, “It means bold in Irish.” “Oh,” she says, “Do you speak Irish?” I giggle a bit, “A little.”  We talk for several minutes but I never ask for her name. I assume she would have provided if she wished. I hear the piped in voice, “the next stop is 68th Street Hunter College,” and I stand up, greet my friend with a goodbye and good luck and dash out the doors.

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All aboard the 6 Train at the 68th Street /Hunter College

It’s Friday. I decide to leave the office later to avoid the 5:00 PM crowds. It’s quiet for a Friday and I secure a seat. My iPhone is dead. I read the advertisements in Spanish and English mostly about health and education.  A man in his 30s boards the train. I eye him skeptically. He is sprouting words and phrases from some sort of religious book and I decipher every other world, “Satan!” “Damned” and I can’t help myself. I look up. We lock eyes and he says, “You don’t see him but he’s here.” The doors open at the next stop and like a mirage he is gone.

I am left to listen to the sounds from above making the last leg of my journey home feel painfully long.

Please step aside and let the passengers off the train

Step all the way in please

Stand clear of the closing doors


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Let me out of here. I want to go home