Civilization.

As anyone who pays attention to the news knows by now, the U.S. Census is over. I pretty much stopped enumerating around the end of September anyway, after a series of frustrating shifts, the details of which are unimportant, convinced me it wasn’t worth my time or the wear and tear on my car anymore. Turned in my phone, ID and bag o’ forms last week. It’s over.

But I’m still left with my experiences, which is one big reason I did it in the first place.

In June, we had a brief, ferocious thunderstorm, and our neighborhood was hit hard. Trees down all over the place, roofs pierced by falling limbs, one house and a couple of garages destroyed. Within 12 hours all the streets were clear, within 48 hours most of the chain saws and chippers had fallen silent and within two weeks, you had to look for the damage in the trees — the still-raw snapped limb stumps, etc.

My census cases were mostly in Detroit, on the east side more or less adjacent to the Pointes. And there, three months after the storm, the storm’s evidence was still very much in view. No streets were blocked, but where limbs had fallen on private property, quite a few were still there. One house had a huge tree lying across the back yard. (I assume from the same storm because we didn’t have another nearly as severe, and the look of the leaves left on the branches, the stump, etc.)

I remember thinking, walking Wendy in the days after the storm, noting the cleanup, Thank you, civilization. But of course it’s more honest to say, Thank you, money. If you don’t have the resources to remove a tree too large to do yourself, or with help from neighbors, if you don’t have a chain saw or other suitable tools, well, the limb stays where it is.

My ultimate takeaway from the census was this, however: We have to figure out a way to do it better. Polling had to pivot from the everyone-in-the-phone book landline era to cellular phones. The census, too, has to figure out how to get more people to fill out the stupid form themselves, because door-knocking is a highly imperfect tactic, particularly in poor neighborhoods. Good news rarely arrives via a knock on your door, and with technology enabling people to see the person standing there without even leaving the upstairs bedroom, bathroom or miles-distant office, it’s easier than ever to ignore it. In poor neighborhoods, your friends text you that they’re coming by. Several times I’d knock, knock again, leave and then see someone pull up a minute later, hustle up the front walk and be hastily admitted.

All this by way of saying: We’re headed for a big undercount, especially in cities like Detroit.

I got my main Problem Closet cleaned. It took the better part of a week, off and on. As always, when I do this, I get sidetracked. There are boxes of letters and photographs in that closet, so you can just imagine. But as also always happens, the further you get into that project the more ruthless you become. I didn’t throw out a single photo, but I did pitch lots of clothes and other crap. The door closes smoothly now and while there is probably still stuff to toss — hello, mystery Box o’ Cords, I’m looking at you — it’s done for now. (I’m actually waiting for a recycle event for the cords. Someone must do something with those things; it can’t be entirely landfill material. Does anyone know?)

Now to put the still-good clothing on the Facebook Mom Swap. Lots of pictures to take, capsule descriptions to write. My FB listings are the J. Peterman catalog of social media.

What else this weekend? Watched the new Borat movie. It’s fine, if you like that sort of thing — cringe humor. Personally I think Larry David does it better, but Sasha Baron Cohen certainly does it fearlessly. One thing I do know, however:

Rudy wasn’t tucking in his shirt. At that man’s age, sometimes Mr. Happy needs a little shake to wake him up.

So let’s have a good week ahead? I hope to.

Posted at 4:07 pm in Detroit life, Movies, Same ol' same ol' | 55 Comments
 

The wringer.

Got the ol’ mammogram today. Never my favorite medical checkup of the year, but since they’ve gone digital, the tech always lets me look at the images so I can marvel at My Miraculous Body, Breast Division. And it’s less painful now that I don’t have to worry about the appointment falling during the time when the Miraculous Body turns the Breast Division into a sore thumb, so to speak. It’s just four uncomfortable squeezes that last a few seconds.

The clinic was running late, though, and I didn’t get in until 25 minutes past my appointment. I was feeling a little testy about this, probably displaced testiness from current events, transplanted into an area where I’m normally very chill. The tech apologized for the lateness: “The earlier patient got some bad news, and needed some extra time to get herself together.”

That was a shaming moment, right there. So OK, then: It was a nice day, I rode my bike in the mild temperatures to the clinic and had to wait an extra 25 minutes, during which I was able to scroll the nation’s greatest news sources on a miracle device I carry in my hip pocket. Plus I got to look at the insides of my boobs. Testiness is reconsidered. Count the blessings instead.

Otherwise, it was a quiet Tuesday, although I woke up and doomscrolled at 4 a.m., which I really shouldn’t do, but it’s either that or stare at the ceiling. Watching the president heave for breath last night is probably what did it. This barking asshole. This pestilence. October is going to be the longest month ever, like a dream where the escape door keeps retreating into the distance. Then, should Biden win, the transition period will last 17 years.

Ugh. Oh, well. RIP Eddie Van Halen. I was never an enormous fan of that cock-rock stuff, but I always turned up “And The Cradle Will Rock” when it came on in the car. Sixty-five is too young to die, said the nearly 63-year-old.

Posted at 5:53 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 60 Comments
 

One for you, 19 for me.

To answer the question on everyone’s lips: Yes. Yes, the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere paid more than $750 in federal income taxes last year. I think our daughter, the penniless struggling musician, paid more than that. Virtually everyone did.

Which is, of course, not going to make an immediate, titanic difference in the polls or anything else. Because this is the stupidest country.

But it is instructive, if you have seventh-grade reading skills:

And within the next four years, more than $300 million in loans — obligations for which he is personally responsible — will come due.

Against that backdrop, the records go much further toward revealing the actual and potential conflicts of interest created by Mr. Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his business interests while in the White House. His properties have become bazaars for collecting money directly from lobbyists, foreign officials and others seeking face time, access or favor; the records for the first time put precise dollar figures on those transactions.

I can’t fucking stand it. But maybe we don’t have to stand it forever. Or even much longer.

Census-ing tonight was more of the same: Lots of dead-ender cases, with occasional glimpses of joy. One such case: I knock on the front door. After a few moments, the side door flies open with a loud WHO’S HERE, but not with a question mark. I peeked around the side, and there was a massive man, the size of a bison, advancing with an angry expression. I told him why I was there. WHAT’S THAT, he demanded. I explained the census and he immediately chilled. OK, we can talk about that, and we had a very productive survey.

I’ve enjoyed this interlude, but I’m looking forward to the end. I need to clean some bathrooms.

Tomorrow, more election training. Let’s get the week underway.

Posted at 9:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 78 Comments
 

Dregs.

Stems and seeds and census: We’re down to the dregs these days, the houses where the case notes are likely to have four versions of subject said he wouldn’t participate or subject said he doesn’t care who gets counted or subject slammed the door in my face. All of these are, obviously, proxy cases. But even these proxy cases are long shots, in neighborhoods where all the nearby properties are vacant or boarded or have That Look that says, eh, you’re not going to luck out here.

Kate had a couple drug houses in one day last week. There was a sign on the door that read I DO NOT ACCEPT COINS OR SHORTS and she took that for a turn-around-and-head-back-to-the-car. Can’t say I blame her.

Yes, Kate is also working as an enumerator. Good money while she waits for her world to reopen. We’re all still waiting.

Two pieces of bloggage today. First, a thoughtful piece in Slate on why women, especially young women, are the new QAnon evangelists, gathered mostly via Instagram:

These accounts are growing quickly, even as Instagram tries to shut down some of the bigger players. The appeal is morally unambiguous, simultaneously frightening and reassuring, and perfectly crafted to draw in a certain slice of suburban women. There’s the psychology of the approach: Leftist discourse on these platforms can have a preacherly aspect that asserts moral truths without giving the listener the option of disagreeing. This can strike the not-yet-persuaded as condescending, bossy, or dismissive of their right to form independent judgments. Q-proselytizing folks err in the opposite direction: They tell tantalizing stories about their heartfelt conversions that are extremely light on detail and almost invariably conclude by saying, “Do your own research.” Of course this has power. It has the frisson of secrecy—find out what they’re not telling you. Most of all, it’s flattering: It expresses full faith in the reader’s abilities to discover the truth, promises a light at the end of the tunnel, and appears to invite independent verification and free inquiry. In practice, searching those hashtags tends to lead people into closed information ecosystems (and, yes, lectures) that are every bit as didactic as any “woke” explainer. The key is this: The new recruits feel that they have discovered these things.

Interesting theory. But this is dwarfed, of course, by the Barton Gellman doomscroll scare-a-thon in the Atlantic, i.e. What if Trump refuses to concede? It’s terrifying and infuriating and I can’t take out a few paragraphs to summarize. It’s all in the URL.

For a palate-cleanser, enjoy the video with this clip.

Into the weekend, the last of September. How’d that happen?

Posted at 8:49 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 36 Comments
 

Two clips, short shrift.

It’s a tired night, but I have two videos to share that I think you’ll dig.

First, a grizzly kills an elk in the Yellowstone River. It’s not as gross as you might fear. It’s just Wild Kingdom: The Director’s Cut.

Second, here’s the video for Kate’s band’s new single, and of course this is mom talking, but I think it’s pretty great. Fingers crossed — they already got a great email from KCRW, so if you’re in L.A., maybe you’ll hear them there.

Wednesday awaits.

Posted at 9:10 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 47 Comments
 

Homestretch.

The census is coming down to the last 10 days, and the cases are getting harder. The way it works is: Most people respond to the form that went out in the spring. The ones who don’t get a home visit from someone like me, who, if they don’t answer the door, leaves behind a notice with a code where they can go online or call a toll-free number and do it there.

And if they still don’t respond, they become “proxy eligible,” i.e., we enumerators are obliged to knock on their neighbors’ doors, asking nosy questions about who lives next door, etc.

You can imagine how well this goes over in Detroit, especially when the questions are posed by a Karen like me.

Almost everything I had today was a proxy-eligible case. Rarely they’re easy; mostly they’re not. But the job is taking me onto some blocks where you can really see how fragile a neighborhood really is. Blight is a metastasizing cancer. I once shadowed a neighborhood manager in Detroit for a day, and he theorized that if you don’t get there early — if you don’t tear stuff down when there are maybe two rotten teeth in a row of houses — you risk being too late. Two bad houses can be cleared, and it’s a block with a couple of vacant lots, which in a still-stable neighborhood will be mowed and cared for and maybe turned into garden plots by the people who live adjacent. But if all the houses go bad, quickly, all you’re left with are those little-house-on-the prairie blocks.

Which can be very pleasant, I hasten to add. The people who stick it out often find themselves quite content, listening to pheasants and watching other natural scenes out their windows. The other day I was pulling out of a condo complex near Lafayette Park and a red fox trotted right across my path. I know they can become quite comfortable in urban environments, like their coyote cousins, but it is still startling to see.

Anyway, today I had one of those blocks. A weird one, too — one whole side of the street was 90 percent boarded, the other was maintaining. One address was easy, a godsend even, as it was being restored and the owner was there. The other was partially boarded, but not entirely. No answer to the knock, of course. A neighbor, a proxy, said he “saw people going in and out,” but only sometimes, and probably they were squatters. I stared at the app on the phone. I figured something out, but not sure what it was.

On the other hand, there were delights, the best being a 12-year-old boy, alone in the house, one year too young to be officially interviewed, who stunned me by saying, “Oh yeah, the census. We only got until the end of the month, right?” I asked how he knew that.

“I read everything,” he said. “I play video games and I read.”

“So what did you learn today?” I asked.

“The Chinese are test-driving a flying car,” he answered, instantly. You don’t say.

Ten more days of this.

I’m grateful to be busy. Friday night’s news, combined with one slice too many of pepperoni pizza, had me staring at the ceiling until past 2 a.m. If eyeballs could shoot death rays, I’d have burned a hole in the roof. I stopped reading about it by Saturday morning; I just can’t stand it anymore.

And now the week yawns before us. God, let it be not-too-terrible. I can’t take another like this one.

Posted at 8:56 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 53 Comments
 

Some days, away.

Back home, back to the grind. It was a nice mini-break during which very little happened. I cooked all but one of our meals. Read two books (“Passing” by Nella Larsen, and “Squeeze Me,” Carl Hiaasen’s latest) and got a good start on a third (“Evil Geniuses,” Kurt Andersen). At one point I got bored and went into town, hoping for another slight novel from a used bookstore, a Friends of the Library pile, even a drugstore revolving rack. Discovered even the magazine selection at the latter was confined to fish, deer and, of course, weaponry:

Well, it is northern Michigan, after all. I found an InStyle, and bought that. Waste of money.

I also checked out, from our local library, the second season of “The Knick,” a Steven Soderbergh drama I — and hardly anyone else in the whole world — really liked. I cut the cable cord when that season, which was also its final one, was still playing, and I needed, what’s the word, closure. It reminded me how much I liked the damn thing, but alas, it is no more. At least I got my closure.

The last day we floated a few miles of the Au Sable:

Alan got skunked on midday fishing. The car-spotter cost $30. But that was the night we went into town for a barbecue dinner at a breezy, socially distanced restaurant, and that was OK.

Of course I had to peep at the news during our fleeting moments of connectivity. It was like looking through your fingers at a gory movie. Oh, we’re doing sterilizations on women in ICE camps now? A HHS communications aide is cracking up on Facebook Live? Who was it who said here that we’ll be cleaning up after the Trump disaster for the rest of their lifetime? That’s absolutely true. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t leave a fresh turd in the Oval Office privy on his way out the door.

And that brings us up to date. A short shift of census-ing this evening, but I bagged some pelts, and that was good. Even got one from a household where a previous enumerator had been told to get off the property, so that’s good. And one nice lady had a two-month-old Rottweiler puppy that I got to pet. He was as soft as a stuffed animal. She said he already has a bond with her grand baby. I advised her to buy the “Good Dog Carl” books.

Now the weekend awaits.

One final photo, speaking of peeking through fingers at gory things. This is what Ivanka must know her future looks like. Imagine what that must be like:

Well, Halloween is coming…

Posted at 8:50 pm in Same ol' same ol' | 105 Comments
 

One, two, three, four, etc.

Did I mention that I signed on to be a census enumerator? Yes/no? Whatever. I did. At the time, I thought it was like working the election — something I could do for a few weeks that would be for the common good and wouldn’t jam me up with one of my bosses. But that was before I lost one of my jobs, and so now it’s pretty simple: The money will come in handy.

I had my first shift yesterday. When were were hired, we had to raise our right hands and take an oath that we would protect the privacy of all the people we interviewed for the rest of our lives, which gives it a certain frisson, and makes blogging about it problematic. I speak only in general terms, then. Based on my first four hours:

1) If a census worker knocks on your door, answer it.
2) If you agree to an interview with a masked census worker on a sweltering hot day, be nice enough to crack the storm door, at least, so I can understand what you’re saying. It’ll go faster.

That is all.

Otherwise, people were pretty cooperative, for the most part. Fear still rules the land, though; the number of Ring doorbells out there is mind-boggling. I realize some of this is for package security, but honestly — it kinda makes you feel for the Mormons and others who have the temerity to knock on front doors in the course of making their living.

Maybe I should dress as a Girl Scout. Offer cookies for cooperation.

This may make blogging spotty from time to time here. I’m signing up for nights and weekends, in hopes of doing what little I can, in my own nerdy good-citizen way, to maintain the norms of our endangered republic. If you follow the news, you know we have until the end of September to conclude the census. So I’ll be out there until then, with a brief break for a few days up north, as Alan burns his vacation time, not to be confused with his furlough time — four weeks so far — which, if nothing else, has been good for the house. We got the living room painted, and this week he’s doing the doors, shutters and trim outside. The latter involved ladder work, which I am increasingly less sanguine about as time goes on, as well as battle against a wasp nest found behind one of the shutters. But it’ll look good when it’s all done. (The shutters are done, but have to be re-hung.)

Not as good as Alex’s house, however, the photos of which I saw on Facebook today. He had the great good luck to couple up with a construction worker, and between the two of them have been able to turn a well-located but otherwise ordinary old-lady ranch house into a wonderful home. No wonder he enjoyed working from there during the lockdowns.

So that’s it for now; I’m going to do some work, shower and then hit the pavement again with my ID hanging around my neck. Expected high temps today? Eighty-eight. Kill me now.

Posted at 9:58 am in Same ol' same ol' | 58 Comments
 

What the hell, more cake.

Guys. What a long, exhausting week, and it’s not even over yet. It does appear to be on the downslope, though, so – a few minutes have I to catch up.

I feel maybe a little guilty playing the Tired card; Alan was out of town for two days, fishing, and I had the joint to myself, so it’s not like I didn’t have the time. But I spent it mopping the kitchen floor and gadding about with friends. The summer is slipping away, and there will be precious little gadding about possible once it gets cold. So I hopped off to Howell to meet my old Lansing boss kinda-halfway and sit at a sidewalk table for a steakhouse dinner.

Unfortunately, it was Drive Your Loud Vehicle Through Town night in Howell, a conservative town with a reputation as a Klan outpost. That made conversation trying at times, but it was nice to see my buddy. I made the mistake of ordering dessert.

“Our carrot cake is famous,” the waitress said. OK, that’s the play, then. Holy shit. It reminded me of Jim Harrison’s line, that only in the Midwest is overeating seen as somehow heroic. The piece was enormous, topped with about a pound of cream cheese frosting. If I’d been with Alan we’d have split it, but you can’t split food with someone not in your germ pod. I took half home, and the half I ate sat in my gut like a nuclear warhead all the way home. I still feel its poison in my body, 48 hours later.

The thing about a binge like that is – because the rest of the meal was similarly over-the-top, too – it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, like an alcoholic falling off the wagon. In a normal year, I’d be selectively shopping the Nordstrom anniversary sale, assessing my fall wardrobe, rotating some pieces out, freshening up for the cool weather ahead. Now all I can think about is: More time spent in yoga pants and slippers? Why not have more cake?

Also: A friend of mine tested positive last week, a rather baffling result for someone who’s been very careful. She’s asymptomatic and I think false positive is a very real possibility, but she’s one person I’ve been outdoor-socializing with, too, so I went off to get my own nose-poke this afternoon. It was as uncomfortable as the last one, but driving home down 8 Mile Road was cheering, in that perverse-Detroit kinda way.

Traffic was fairly heavy, and you know who was doing a land-office business? The weed shops. With the pandemic precautions, they’re running almost exactly like street dealing in days of yore: Pull up, make your selection depending on what’s in stock. A runner retrieves it and you’re cashed out upon delivery by a masked employee. You don’t have to get out of your car, and it all seems to go very smoothly.

Other news today: Steve Bannon, charged with being a grifty grifter. Here’s a lightly edited version of what I said on Facebook, for those who don’t follow me there:

Steve Bannon is rich. Right? He has all this dough from working at Goldman Sachs, investing in “Seinfeld,” blah blah blah. And as an ex-Trumper, he could spend the rest of his dissolute life consulting and speaking and cashing checks.

When I went to the We Build the Wall Town Hall in Detroit last year, I was struck by two things: 1) how D-list the speakers were — hey, Tom Tancredo and Joy Villa! and 2) how truly pathetic-looking the crowd was. These weren’t young, vigorous MAGA types, but older people in Costco sneakers and bingo-outing sweat suits. What was Bannon, accustomed to consulting with European despot wannabes and yelling at Ivanka in staff meetings, doing scraping the bottom of this barrel?

Supposedly he cleared $1 million from this particular grift, which seems an absurdly low payment for the chore of dragging his ass around the country and having to look at Sheriff Clarke in a million green rooms. These people truly are despicable.

Check out the website for this shit. And let me assure you, the people whose donations added up to that $25 million, assuming the number is that high, didn’t do it by writing big checks. In Detroit, these were people living on Social Security. The most prosperous-looking people there were probably the Bikers for Trump. Who can steal from the pathetic like this? The worst people in the world.

Also, you know who the biggest clown was in that particular car? Not Bannon. Clarke. Pro wrestling missed something when they didn’t draft that asshole.

A rare witty comment on the Deadline Detroit Facebook post of the story today: “We have entered the Layla portion of this ‘Goodfellas’ remake.”

So now I’m pretty much all caught up, right? Weekend lies ahead. Hope my Covid test is negative. And I think it’s going to be salads and club soda for a few days. Let’s be optimistic.

Posted at 5:03 pm in Current events, Detroit life, Same ol' same ol' | 71 Comments
 

And the sign said…

One of our neighbors put up a Trump yard sign. No biggie there, and not unexpected. In today’s environment, it’s a step up from the QAnon people, whom we also have nearby. I noticed two things about the sign: It’s smaller than most yard signs, and it says only TRUMP. No Pence, not even in smaller type. Not implying anything, just sayin’.

So I step out to walk Wendy the other day, and the sign seems different. We walk closer and it looks like it’s been defaced. Closer, and it seems something has painted another name over Trump’s, but it’s not Biden’s. Looks like…STUART? Maybe it’s a friend, playing a prank?

Closer still, and I can read it. It says SHART.

Hmm. Once again, it doesn’t quite work as a punchline, but again – maybe it’s a friend, with an inside joke about a wet fart. I heard the recently departed Geoffrey Nunberg’s tribute on “Fresh Air” on my drive this weekend; maybe he’d have been able to say something about it: “A portmanteau of two vulgarisms, neither of which is suitable for this program or even public radio…” Or maybe it was just bad graffiti.

So. A whirlwind trip from southeast Michigan to southeast Ohio this weekend, with barely a moment to stop. The drive was pretty fast, and the revelation was the now entirely four-lane high-speed highway between Columbus and Athens. When I was in school, it was four lane/two lane through the whole trip, and you drove through, not past, the city/towns of Lancaster, Logan and Nelsonville. The last of those is an Appalachian town of obvious poverty but also the home of Rocky Boot Co., provider of the red-laced pair of hiking boots worn by, I swear, every single student at Ohio University. I’ve talked about them here before; how they saved my life through two terrible winters. You could see their lug-soled prints all over campus in the snow.

Nelsonville is also the birthplace of Sarah Jessica Parker, if you’re keeping score at home. My brother-in-law calls her Miss Nelsonville.

Anyway, the new four-laner makes the trip from Columbus to Athens about an hour, less if you’re coming from the east side. And I was so very pleased to see that the trip is simply beautiful, especially past Lancaster. The low hills are almost impossibly green, without the bagworms you see on trees in northern Michigan. Just a great drive.

The bagworm in the ointment, however, was rain, which made a walk around campus less than appealing. We couldn’t even find much of a patio dining scene to have lunch, although we finally found a mediocre restaurant that had some umbrella’d picnic tables out back. The hostess wiped them down for us, and we took our chances. It was fine, the food just OK, and for those of you who remember the Athens of my era, get this: It’s the former Mr. Magoo’s.

Mr. Magoo’s was the closest thing to an obnoxious frat bar that Athens had, although it was usually full of Arab exchange students, men, dressed up in disco clothes and hoping to score some American nookie before they had to return to Tehran or Riyadh and find a nice girl. The OPEC oil boom was still ramping up, and the Arab world was sending its students abroad in vast numbers, with generous living allowances. OU had a good intensive-English program, so they’d roll in, spend a year learning English, then transfer out to petroleum-engineering programs elsewhere. The car of choice: A Trans Am with a screaming firebird on the hood. Footwear: Stacked heels. If you’re thinking the Ackroyd/Martin “wild and crazy guys” you’re on the right track.

Anyway, Mr. Magoo’s – pronounced MAH-goose by these young men – advertised “Texas cocktails,” i.e. big ones. I think I went there twice. I preferred the more English-major vibes of the Union, Swanky’s, the Frontier Room and of course the steak sandwich at the Pub. Now MAH-goose is the Pigskin Grill. I had a pulled-pork sandwich that was on the dry side, and the waitress expressed puzzlement when I asked if it came with slaw on top. Ah, well. At least it was outdoors. Kate informed me she hadn’t eaten in a restaurant, period, since March.

But we had a nice time together, talked a bit. Her roommate is a slob, but she still likes him, and anyway he’s moving out, she said. How much so? “He gets up from the table after eating, and he doesn’t even put his dishes in the sink,” she said. I thought of how long it took her to learn that, and felt: My work here, it is done.

I think also, just to drive far out of town was a thrill. I need to travel more. Not just to Morocco and overseas, but to, I dunno, Indiana or Pennsylvania or Toronto, if they ever let Americans in again. I interviewed a Canadian immigration lawyer for a story last week, and it was like talking to a person who’s visiting you in the hospital. They don’t have the fever you have, and they’re so, so disappointed to see you like this.

Of course, is Justin Trudeau trying to sabotage the post office? No? THEN MAYBE YOU SEE WHY I HAVE THIS FEVER.

Bloggage? I’m working my way through this Olivia Nuzzi look at the re-election campaign, and surprise, it’s a shitshow, as we see from the Pennsylvania volunteer effort:

It was 7 p.m. on July 23, and Team Trump had scheduled a training session for campaign volunteers in the area. Before I arrived, I had worried about my exposure to the virus. I imagined a scene that was part local political-party headquarters and part anti-quarantine protest. I imagined a lot of Trump supporters, maskless and seated close together, breathing heavily on a reporter leaning in to record their comments. But the office was quiet. I walked through the arch of books by right-wing personalities (Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh) and past the portraits (George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan) and maps of Pennsylvania voting precincts. I didn’t see anyone there.

In a blue room in the back, beneath an American flag with the words MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN printed in block letters inside the white stripes, a woman sat alone at the end of a conference table. She wasn’t participating in the volunteer training. She was the volunteer training. There just weren’t any volunteers.

…Fifty miles away, at the GOP headquarters in Lancaster, another event was scheduled for 6 p.m. the next night. When I arrived, the local field director, Jason, was talking to an elderly man. “I appreciate all your support, sir,” he said. “Oh, absolutely. I think this election is more important than 1864. Then, we would’ve lost half the country. This time? We could lose the whole country.” Nick, the Trump-Pence regional field director, asked me if I was there for the food drive — which was part of the campaign’s “Latino outreach effort,” he said — or the volunteer training. The elderly man had made his way out the door, and now there was nobody left in the office besides the two men who worked there. “There’s pretty light turnout,” Nick said. But not to worry, as things were “going really well,” Jason said.

…A few days later, on July 30, the campaign scheduled two voter-contact training sessions at Convive Coffee Roastery on Providence Boulevard in Pittsburgh. The evening session was supposed to start at 7 p.m., but when I arrived, early, at 5:30, the shop had already been closed for half an hour. A girl cleaning up inside came out to talk to me (even when it’s open, like many such establishments, the pandemic rules are takeout only). She said she had no idea that any campaign had scheduled any kind of meeting at the place where she worked for two hours after closing time. But she hadn’t worked the morning shift that day, when the first event was scheduled, so she texted a co-worker who had. He told her a few people came into the shop and asked about a Trump-campaign meetup but that he didn’t know what they were talking about and couldn’t help them. “I don’t know if they figured it out or not,” she said.

And if you’re interested, here’s a decent WashPost explainer on how the president came to fixate on the post office as a font of problems for him.

The week lies ahead, and let’s make it a good one.

Posted at 5:24 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' | 172 Comments