Patrick Sauer's Election Tour of New York Part One: Brooklyn
Fort Greene, Brooklyn 9:30 a.m.
A couple days ago, I was informed by Sir Paul Carr that the following is happening as part of NSFWCORP's 2012 Election Bukkake: Kotecki’s flying through four swinger states, Ames’s driving a few hundred miles from LDS Salvation to Sin City, Bee and Aylett made it all the way from in Merry Olde to these here United States to be all haughty about stuff, and well, whatever Cowart is doing is guaranteed to make electoral votes arousing...
I wanted to be a cool kid too. So I cooked up a scheme to dispatch from all five of my hometown’s “boroughs,” the oddball designation we give our five distinct geographical regions. I planned on utilizing subways, commuter rails, taxis, buses, car services, ferries, bicycles, perhaps or a scooter of some sort, and lots of footpower to traverse New York City to make it happen. All, of course, after I did my civic duty and voted.
About that... One might think that two years of being a stay-at-home-dad would clue me into the fact that things involving children never work out. Things like, an hour wait at our neighborhood voting station. This probably won’t be as disturbing to you as it is to me, but there’s a decent chance I’m not going to be able to vote. For now, let’s call it 50-50. For many, it wouldn’t be a big deal. It certainly doesn’t technically matter, according to everyone’s favorite poli-sci nerd Nate Silver, New York is 100% for Obama.
Barry’s my vote too, so no big whoop, right? Except that I. Love. Voting. The only thing I love more than voting, is voting for President of the United States. Yes, I am that annoying guy who believes it’s your “duty,” who gets a furrowed brow when people purposely opt-out, who wears his “I Voted!” sticker for three days. Hell, one of my proudest accomplishments is authoring "The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the American Presidents", a book written for adults who want to keep their historical awareness at a fifth-grade reading level.
So, true believers, that is where our journey begins, with a ticking clock.
Vanasco Family Parts Shop, corner of Myrtle Ave & , Clinton Hill Brooklyn 11:05 a.m
I forgot to mention the other promise I made, that I would find a Republican in the 8th Congressional District, which went 91% for Barack Obama in 2008.
I had a guy in mind, Roy Vanasco, an old boy who owns a shop a few blocks away that specializes in random appliance parts. It’s been there for 48 years. Roy wasn’t in, but his younger brother Jack was. Jack’s a spry 85 to Roy’s 86, the two remaining brothers of the Fighting Vanasco Five. Four of the brothers served in the Pacific Theater in World War II, and they all came home, sort of like Bizzarro Private Ryan.
The shop is a wonder to behold, with a million parts for every type of appliance built since the Beatles played Shea. It’s also a living family museum, going back to when the Vanasco boys played softball and watched horses drag Howitzers around in the local armory, the same building I now call home. Look closely, you’ll notice that the Vanascos stand out in another way...
“My father, he had a rough time of it during the Depression with five kids, but he never voted for Roosevelt,” said Jack. “We’ve always been Republicans. Sometimes the party doesn’t mean everything, there’s some local Democrats I like, but for President? No, never.”
In the 1970s, Roy ran various futile Republican campaigns for things like state assemblyman, but Jack (and some other old guy minus a tooth or two who wandered in carrying a gas can) just laughed at the notion that his brother had a chance. I asked him, as a military man, if he felt Obama was doing right by veterans.
“He talks about it and makes people believe he’s doing stuff, but he’s cutting the military. Period, end of story. There won’t be enough for veterans.”
Wanting Jack to get a bit more specific, I pressed him on the issue of veteran suicide.
“Guys come home mentally unstable because they’re under a ton of stress over there. They don’t know who they’re fighting! A Vietnam Vet friend and I were talking, he told me about shooting a kid standing next to his mother and father. The kid was strapped with explosives! It’s worse now, a solider is getting court-martialed for killing a woman? She was hiding terrorists! In World War II, you knew the enemy! The guys who cut off heads with bayonets and threw them away! We knew who we were killing!”
Jack shook his head in disgust. I wrapped it up with an easy one, Romney or Obama?
“Romney. He may not be the best, but between the two of them? People voted for Obama because they wanted a change from Bush. They didn’t care who it was. I voted for change from Obama.”
I double-checked on where Jack votes.
“Marine Park. Down near Sheepshead Bay.”
Damn, Uncle Sam. That’s not my district.
Towncar traveling from Myrtle & Emerson to Atlantic Terminal, Downtown Brooklyn 11:35 a.m.
A line of towncars, I climb into the first one. Guy just points toward the gas station a block away. Another guy honks from across the street. Miguel, a driver originally from the Dominican Republic, picks me up.
We have a brief political conversation.
“How long have you been here?
“Since 1983, 29 years.”
“Oh, so you’re a citizen?”
“No. I went to fill out an application many years ago and I needed some forms I didn’t have, so I left... Never went back.”
Hatred of filling out forms, the universal language.
“My wife and son are downtown right now doing the interview, they will be citizens soon.”
“Not for you though?”
“Who would you have voted for if you could?”
“I like the Obama. Maybe he be doing more for the poor people. I know the people want more after four years, but he’s making things a little better.”
“Thoughts on Romney?”
“I never heard of the Romney before.”
“How’s your family?”
“We’re in East New York, no problems for us. My wife’s family in in The Rockaways, so they are all over by us now. Except for one husband. He work over there, staying in a house with no power.”
“Any other thoughts on the election?”
“Bill Clinton is for the Obama. That is good. Bill Clinton, now that was a good president.”
All over the world, everyone loves the Big Dog.