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A Letter to My Kids on the Occasion of the 2016 Election

| November 11, 2016 | 0 Comments

Dear Danny & Bridget,

It’s now two days from the election of Donald Trump as our next president.  As I’ve said to you, the

Bridget accompanying Rita to vote. Bridget voted in PA

Bridget accompanying Rita to vote. Bridget voted in PA

magnitude of this event makes it hard to keep all the negative consequences in your head at the same time.   I keep thinking of new ones that I hadn’t considered or forgotten about.  Most of them are things over which we have no individual control.  “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change…”

But one thing we can control is how we remember this campaign, particularly the last few days.  As you know, I am always proud of you.  But my pride was literally bursting as I heard of the things you were doing to support the election of the first woman president.  Danny in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  Bridget in Pennsylvania. Me in Cleveland and

Photo accompanying NBC story about Bridget and the Springsteen rally

Photo accompanying NBC story about Bridget and the Springsteen rally

Mom holding the fort in DC, anxiously watching us all from home.  I was moved to tears more than once.  I loved the fact that we all stayed in such close touch, even in our various locations.  It was truly a family affair.

You both threw yourselves, heart and soul, into this election.  From the day I heard that Mom was pregnant with Danny, I have always said that my fondest hope is to have children with passion.  Of

Rep. Joe Kennedy greets VP Joe Biden in Scranton Photo by Dan Black

Rep. Joe Kennedy greets VP Joe Biden in Scranton
Photo by Dan Black

course I was hoping that your passion would be consistent with mine, but that wasn’t a prerequisite.

And boy did I get my wish.  You both are passionate and showed it in this campaign.  Danny, your 3,000 miles logged with Rep. Joe Kennedy will be something you remember your whole life.  And, Bridget, your enthusiasm for canvassing is one of the things that brought me to tears.  Frankly, I hate canvassing, but I do it because we have to.  Fortunately, I moved up to “management” on this campaign and only had to dispatch canvassers, not canvas myself.  That was nice.  And I loved hearing about your volunteer gig at the Bruce Springsteen concert, including getting on the news as a result of your Hillary socks.

What I want you both to promise me is that you will compartmentalize this experience.  A bad outcome on a campaign can taint the whole experience.  Don’t let that happen.  I’m not just preaching to you.  I’m preaching to myself, as well.  Let’s all draw a bright line between the campaign and the election.  And lets remember this experience with the fondness it deserves.

You are both extraordinary people and you showed in your “passion” the big-hearted values that were the engine of the Hillary Clinton campaign.  No outcome can change that fact.

Bill meeting Hillary at Kent State University

Bill meeting Hillary at Kent State University

Yes, she lost and it was devastating.  I honestly don’t have any words of comfort on that point.  Our friend Luke said it was like a sudden death in the family.  The only way through that experience is time, the time to absorb it until it becomes part of the new reality.  We’re all going to have to go through that process in our own way.

America is heading into a rough patch politically.  But we’ll get through it.  I would just ask you to keep the values you fought for in the campaign.  And keep that passion.  I love you both more that I can express.

Jay-Z Concert – Chaos

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Things were going very smoothly, albeit somewhat slowly.  There were four magnetometers and many thousands of people waiting to get in.  Some had waited since 3 pm and it was now about 6:30 pm.   I was dutifully overcoming my unconscious bias and giving out stickers to everyone that walked by me.

A commotion erupted at the left-most magnetometer.  A man who seemed very intoxicated got into a dispute with the police and the secret service.  It went on for a while before he was shuffled away.

As if this little dustup were a dramatic foreshadowing, a real crisis erupted.  Suddenly a very large crowd of people waving “preferred” tickets arrived from around the other side of the building.  They seemed disgruntled and were demanding to be let into the venue.  Nobody at our station knew what was going on or where they were coming from.  It turns out there was a suspicious package at the VIP/preferred entrance.  The secret service closed the gate and sent them to us.  Maybe somebody was informed, but my team was surprised.  I called the overall leader to let him know and he told me about the package.

The people patiently standing at our gate were understandably reluctant to give up their places to this new folks, irrespective of their “preferred” status.  I’m told that some senior Clinton staffer lifted the gate to allow the preferred people in front of the regular folks and all Hell broke loose.  The crowd surged into the security stations and the Secret Service declared a safety hazard and shut down our gate, as well.  The crowd erupted.  For the next 40 minutes various police and regular people tried to get the crowd to back up to no avail.

Jan Roller, my host in Cleveland, and her sister stood up on some concrete barriers and shouted for the crowd to step back.  “Go back!! Go back!!” they bellowed.  It was pretty scary.  This video doesn’t really convey the crisis situation, but gives an idea.

Somehow, very gradually, some space was established in front of the magnetometers, enough to begin screening people through again. After about half an hour of screening people, some order was restored.   It was pretty amazing that the mood of the crowd became more festive.  It was during this period that the guy said I looked like Bernie Sanders.

Ast a kind of epilogue, we went for Chinese food after the concert.  I walked behind Jan, Joy and a couple of their friends as we entered the restaurant at about 11:3o pm.  As we were being seated, a couple in the booth next to us asked how we liked the concert.  Jan asked how they knew we were there. The guy said, “You were the lady shouting, ‘Get back! Get back!”

Cleveland is a small town.


Jay-Z Concert – Unconscious Bias

| November 5, 2016 | 1 Comment

My job providing replenishment tickets to other team members converting Clinton tickets into venue tickets did not require much work at all.  They all had plenty of tickets.  So, I wondered aimlessly watching the people come through security.

I discovered a large roll of Hillary stickers and decided to distribute them to the incoming Jay-Z fans.  It was an interesting social experiment for me.  As might be expected, most of the attendees were African American rap fans.  Distributing stickers meant going up to people and offering them a sticker.  Some would simply take the sticker, some would lean their shoulders toward me for me to apply.  It was fun interacting with people.

However, I found myself more willing to approach the women with a sticker than the men.  Some of the guys frankly looked scary to me.  Leather jackets, torn jeans, lots of bling and sunglasses.  I realized that my reluctance to approach the men was a clear sign of my unconscious bias.  Most of them had been waiting for 2 hours before they got through security and their expressions were serious, if not grim.  But I forced myself to approach whoever came through security, including the scary guys.  In literally every case, the man’s face would soften into a smile when I offered the sticker.  They immediately went from looking scary to looking benign, if not downright friendly.  No matter how many times this happened, I retained my reluctance to approach many of these guys.  That unconscious bias is very deeply ingrained.

There was, however, one very mean comment that cut me deeply.  I relieved one of the team members and waded into the crowd to do distribute tickets.  One guy in the crowd yelled, “Hey, look, Bernie Sanders is here.”  Ouch.  I reminded him that I had the tickets and he’d better be nice to me.  He claimed that somebody else that looked like him made the comment.

You be the judge.
















Hey, what a minute…

Jay-Z Concert – Sound Check

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

Waiting for the doors to open, we were able to peak into the auditorium.  The concert was at the Wolstein Center at Cleveland State University.  Looks to hold about 12,000 people.

Both Jay-Z and Beyonce rehearsed a bit to an empty arena.  Jay-Z was dressed very casually in an untucked flannel shirt and his trademark baseball cap.  Beyonce rehearsed separately wearing sexy shorts and a spangly top.  She came back a little later for a dress rehearsal wearing a pantsuit, in honor of Hillary.  She objected a quote that was projected on the screen behind her.  It was Hillary’s quote from earlier in her career about declining to stay home to bake cookies.  She said it was an incomplete sentence and lacked context.  Sure enough, during the concert, the quote was extended and more clear.

Jay-Z Concert – The Setup

| November 5, 2016 | 0 Comments

I was assigned to be an usher at the Jay-Z Concert as part of the GOTV program in Cleveland.  I took as just another assignment and even told my “boss” that I had no real interest in seeing the concert.  Not a big fan of rap.  Fortunately, he disregarded my “sacrifice” and I did get to see the concert.  It was pretty amazing, but more about that in a later post.

Volunteers gathered at 3:15 pm.  Doors were scheduled to open at 5;00 pm, concert begins at 8:00 pm.  The first couple of hours consisted of getting trained and mostly milling around.  My team was responsible for converting the campaign-issued tickets to official venue tickets with scannable bar codes. We were stationed in front of the security stations and make the exchange.  My job was to stand inside the security perimeter and supply the other members with the tickets they needed.  So, I floated.

Cambridge Ohio

| August 8, 2016 | 0 Comments
Bill, Beverly & Peter at Guernsey Kitch

Bill, Beverly & Peter at Guernsey Kitch

Peter and I strolled the Main Street of Cambridge, Ohio looking for a good beer. Peter is a beer snob, and he often finds someplace that offers IPA beer in every little town we visit. Sure enough, we found Guernsey Kitchen. Peter went into his spiel about what saints we are biking across America to provide affordable housing to families in need. Sometimes people will listen attentively and wait for payment.. Sometimes, they will shower us with effusive praise and allow us to drink for free. This was the latter. Beverly was so impressed, she not only gave us beers for free, she prepared a cheese and sausage plate to accompany our beers. All on the house. Here we are with Beverly.

Guest Blogger: Peter Asmuth

| August 8, 2016 | 0 Comments

Editor’s note: I am doing the Fuller cross country bike ride with my friend, Peter Asmuth.  He recruited me and did it last year.  He is also providing updates to friends and family.  He agreed to let me post his dispatches.  We pick up Peter’s reports in progress.

Farmer Pete

Farmer Pete

One of the axioms of the Fuller Center for Housing is, “living simply, so others can simply live.” Along the way, you do come to realize how little you actually need to be completely content with your situation. So, when nature calls, you look around and make do.

The other day, I was “in the field”, after ignoring the warning about the fire ants that someone casually mentioned. When I got to the showers that evening, my ankles had a dozens of bites, which extended up to, but not past…the leggings; reason #24 to never ride without them. 🙂

Today, was a nice 83 miles with next to no wind. I could tell that the wind might be a real problem in these parts, as there are hundreds of wind turbines dotting the landscape; and they’re all facing the direction that we’re heading, just poised for that thirty mph head wind. Today, they just stood there barely moving, which was fine by me and the folks back in Craig, Colorado operating that coal fired generation plant.

After about 40 miles we crossed the Indiana state line and entered the eastern time zone. The landscape is quite flat and a mixture of corn on one side of the road and soy bean on the other. Every now and again, to break up the pattern, they reverse the corn and soy bean sides, which doesn’t really bring any relief from the monotony.

I came upon a livestock auction house with a bunch of trucks parked in the lot and, although I didn’t think that I needed a cow, I went in to check out the action and talk shop with the boys. The auction wasn’t going to happen for a hour, but a nice fellow gave me the nickel tour of the place and told me how the process works. I learned something, too. Who else knew that cows have horns, just like bulls?

BTW, everyone must have gotten the corn quiz question correct. It’s one ear per stalk, for the reason stated. And you can buy it for $.18 in the store. How does that business model work?

The next two days are going to be pretty tough; 100 plus miles, back to back. Some of you have asked, “How do you do it, Pete?”

Like all successful people have discovered, you break it down into manageable segments. The first 20 miles, you’re not even thinking of the ride; your fresh, fed, and the morning sun is greating the new day. And you get to enjoy it all on your bike. What could be better?

Somewhere along the second twenty miles, you’re 1/3 of the way. And the difference between 1/3 and 1/2 is only 1/6, which is practically nothing. Soon, your 2/3 done and the mental gymnastics start to give way and you realize that it’s hot, you’re tired, and the last quarter is going to take a lot longer than you want. At that point, you put the distances and the time in familiar context. Why, the last 15 miles is just the distance from the Capitol to home or that’s no longer than one song: Led Zeppelin’s ‘Stairway to Heaven.’

I’ll let you know how my method holds up, tomorrow.

Made It

| August 2, 2016 | 0 Comments

I completed my day one of the ride, 75 miles.  It actually started out well.  The weather was cool and overcast.  There were a few hills, but not much.  I felt empowered.

We passed through some small farming towns and it was very scenic at the beginning.  I felt like the bicycle gods were smiling on us.

Over time, however, the sun began to peak through the clouds, the temperature rose and the scenery got pretty one dimensional.  Miles and miles of corn on one side of the road and soybeans on the other.

At the 67th mile, I was riding alone and spotted a rare shade tree.  I pulled over and sat under the tree.  My butt was as sore as could be and my knees were giving out.  The last 10 miles were a steady incline and I didn’t think I could take any more of that.

Then I looked at the route on my mobile phone and saw that I was at about the highest point in the ride and the rest was down hill overall.   That gave me the boost to go on.  And, although there were still a few up and down hills, the ride was easier.  I am still sore, though.

Here’s the scenery for about 65 of the 75 miles….

The road from Peoria to Gibson City

The road from Peoria to Gibson City


Gay Marraige – How It Plays in Peoria

| August 1, 2016 | 0 Comments

As noted below, the group is staying at the First Christian Church of the Disciples of Christ.  I don’t know anything about the denomination, but the area does feel like the Bible Belt.  The fact that most stores, including bike shops, are closed on Sunday is a clue.

The community has been extraordinarily welcoming.  I went to their service today and it was very nice.  A small older crowd and the Pastor knew the names of everyone in the pews, except, of course, us cyclists. A lot of shout outs about members of the community, both good news and bad.  A few hymns, prayers, a short sermon.

One of the women who cooked the meals for us sat with us at dinner last night and talked about her family and mentioned her “wife.”  Since we’re in the Bible Belt, I assumed I’d heard her wrong.  But today, she asked for some help with a bike problem she had at home and mentioned her wife again.  My private reaction was an indication of my own prejudice.

Such a sign of the times….in a good way.

Now, I’m Ready

| July 31, 2016 | 0 Comments

imageI took the bike the 47 miles to the bike shop in Bloomington, IL. It was the Bloomington Cycle and Fitness store. Kelly and Mike the Mechanic came along. Kelly drove. It was a great opportunity to get acquainted. Mike’s a military retiree from Alaska and Kelly, a former JAG lawyer who lives in Reston, VA. They both have been on the ride since Seattle.

The Bloomington Cycle and Fitness store was amazing. They immediately went to work on the bike, fixed the main problem and about six others. We went to lunch and, when we came back, they were done. They also gave me a 10% discount in honor of the cross country ride.

The couple who owns the store are passionate cyclists. The husband worked on my bike while Kelly shared biking war stories with the wife. She started a women’s cycling club in Bloomington and they have 80 women for the Friday night rides. I’m beginning to better understand the cycling subculture.

Anyway, the bike is ready and so am I. 80 miles tomorrow.