Cora on a Friday
Cora was sitting on the corner of Maryland and Pennsylvania on one of those plastic milk crates, the kind suburban moms store Barbies and soccer balls in and college kids combine with plywood planks to form bookshelves (back in the days of printed things called “books”). But I digress.
Cora was festooned in Mardi Gras beads. Cora had a backpack and two flimsy plastic grocery store bags stuffed with, well, stuff. She had a coffee can or a hat or something for donations. She held a piece of cardboard sharpied with the message “My name is Cora. Down on my luck. Smile. God Bless.”
It was the commandment-request of “Smile” that got to me.
I think Cora’s husband was with her– he, also festooned with Mardi Gras beads and seated five feet away on a matching milk crate. Cora on the corner; Mr. Cora by the bus sign and the free news boxes nearby.
I wanted to stop the car and talk to Cora. She was, actually, smiling. Mr. Cora was smiling. They looked happy. Still, I wanted to ask them “what puts you on a corner asking for handouts?” Because I can think of many things that might, but I was curious what put them there.
Surely they’d make more money in even minimum wage jobs. Though it’s hard not to think it’s entirely possible that, in the sunny weather at least, there was a modicum of dignity in sitting on the milk crates wearing beads that wouldn’t be found being pushed hard amidst grease, low-wages, and mindless management when you’ve already worked for 40-odd years.
But of course, no dignity in having some pushy white chick stop the car to ask what the cardboard and the beads were for; to have to be asked questions and feel you have to answer in exchange for a dollar bill or two. There was no way to ask and though I really just wanted to know, I knew there was no way to ask without imposing, without it seeming derogatory, without it being rude, frankly.
Far easier just to drive on and smile. And wonder why it is that Cora and Mr. Cora had genuine smiles and if perhaps the better question to stop the car and ask would have been how to find happiness.
Smile. God Bless.
Thursday night I went to the Democratic Party Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner in Johnson County, Indiana. I joked with my mom before-hand that there would be roughly enough people that we could meet at the local Pizza Hut, order a medium pizza, fit in one booth, and have leftovers. I told myself not to be surprised if it was ten people and a card table.
Boy, was I wrong. Johnson County, Indiana is red, screamingly, startlingly, alliteratively scarlet, in fact. But for all that, there are 140 Democrats in Johnson County and there are rumors that there are more. But they’re going stealth and we’ll have to gently coax them from the shadows. Perhaps with treats and similar tactics to those used with my cats on days that involve cat carriers and veterinarians. Speak gently, don’t use sudden movements, shake the treat box and hide the carrier until you’ve got the 20-pounds of fur in your scratched and shaking arms. Success will come.
Patience, young Skywalker.
So there were 140 Democrats in a banquet room at Valle Vista last Thursday night. Many of the speakers were canny enough to throw “moderate” in their speeches (as in “I’m a …”). Well, know thy audience and it is Johnson County, reddest of the red. Only one speaker was graceless enough to make a joke that Tropical Storm Isaac headed toward Tampa for the GOP convention was cause for hilarity and/or caused by hot winds (egos) and bloviation. So to the Republicans out there, no need to worry, the Democrats amongst you are really fairly tame and there was no Republican bashing.
Mostly what there was, aside from white fish in creamy mystery sauce and crumbled Twinkie cake, was stump speeches. (Yeah, yeah, I know. “Were.” It wasn’t as mellifluous. Bite me, grammarians.)
140 Johnson County Democrats, most of whom were plugged in enough to know that IWIR means Indiana Week in Review, in a room with several candidates. And the 140 Democrats in attendance received stump speeches. Some good, some bad, but the point is this: we already knew who the candidates are as people. These were the 140 Democrats who not only pay attention but then google the candidates. These were the 140 who already, in short, knew the candidates.
And we got stump speeches.
Politically, it makes sense. And, in the candidates’ defense, it’s another openin’, another show. It’s another Twinkie cake meet and greet.
Still. Know thy audience: take a few minutes from your usual stump speech to trade the biography (which most of the 140 already knew) to go beyond. Add some policy. Add some specifics. Remove the tired “my opponent” and “I believe.”
We paid to get in. We know those things. We’re on your side.
Give us more. Give me more. Next year, give me more.And: if this is what you’re looking for, these are the people to watch (in the ever-humble opinion of Emerald/Orange): Watch Vi Simpson (Lieutenant Governor candidate). Watch Shelli Yoder (9th District, IN, U.S. House). Watch Ryan Guillory (Indiana General Assembly, House District 93). And, for what it’s worth, watch Isaac Goldberg. He spoke on behalf of the John Gregg-Joe Donnelly coordinated campaign. I think he’s 12. But he’s smart and some day (when he’s old enough) you’ll hear his name again. He’s a smart young whipper-snapper and some day, one hopes, he’ll move from staffer to candidate. Or he’ll be staffer on a national level. At any rate, fellow Indiana politicos, I bet you hear his name again.
And, when you do, it will, oddly, make you just a teensy bit nostalgic for $4 dixie cups of bad red wine and Twinkie cake.
As a codicil, Ann Delaney sounds in person exactly the same as she does on IWIR every week. And while I might have wished she hadn’t used the same “Mike Pence goes ice-skating” trope she’s been using for months on IWIR, she’s like a force of nature and just sharing some oxygen with her for 20 minutes was a heady experience.
So all in all, Thursday night, a good time was had by all 140 Democrats of Johnson County, Indiana. (Insert punchline here.)