Love. And Other Drugs.

I was riding the J home today around 7:30 PM. I had music on, headphones in. Flicking through shuffle, unsatisfied. I happened to look up from where I was standing, leaning against a pole near the door, to see a well-dressed man in a suit concernedly frowning at something going on to my left. I turned my head. A youngish guy, somewhere around 20, flat brim ball cap facing forwards; red, black, and white Nikes – only moderately beat up; was leaning down to talk to a seated man, well-worn cap on, leather jacket, Blackberry in hand that had seen better days. I did not remove my headphones. I saw an older woman seated on the opposite side of the train watching the conversation. Her eyebrows raised. I looked back at the well-dressed man. Still watching the conversation to my left with great concern. I turned back. Young guy seemed a bit twitchy. With dirty fingernails, every few seconds he’d scratch his face. I noticed from the way the seated man used his hands, he seemed to be talking with serious tone. I became curious. As I removed my left ear bud, I heard the young guy hurriedly thank the seated man for talking to him, and he reached to shake hands. After the handshake, the young man scurried off. I glanced down at the seated man. He made eye contact with me and shook his head.

“I don’t know what that was about. And I don’t know who he was talking to, if you know what I mean. He was high as shit. You see him scratch his face like that? He is asking folks for money, for help, when as soon as he gets some, he’s gonna go run to his crack dealer. Or whatever. I told him if he really wanted help, I could get him a place to stay, right now, right away, but he don’t want that. He’s gotta want to get better.”

The older woman silently nodded her head in agreement. The well-dressed man dropped his stare and opened his newspaper. I continued to talk to the seated man until his phone rang. And I wished him a good night as I exited the train at my stop.

Unfortunately, sanity isn’t always contagious.

At 4:45 AM on Saturday, October 30, I rolled up to Citi Field in Queens, NY in the back of a black cab. Yawning and shivering with two friends, we joined a slowly growing mass of people anxiously waiting to board the free Huffington Post buses headed to Washington DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, the collaborative rally effort of John Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

4:45 AM makes everyone look good.

After a moderately painful bus ride down to our nation’s capital (sleeping upright is rough, especially when said seat is right next to the bus bathroom), we emerged excited, albeit sleep deprived, but ready to join the throttle of like-minded individuals in town just for the rally. Though we could barely hear what anyone was saying from the stage, just being in and amongst all of the sign-wielding people was enough to make the entire trip worth it. The energy, electric; the crowd, engaged. I took a minute to have a thought completely inside my head while standing among my peers – ‘this doesn’t happen every day, or even every election. This is special, and people really do still care.’

The signs were an amazing presence, everything from serious, heartfelt messages to.. well.. ‘Don’t Be a Dick.’ I took way too many pictures to post, but again, the fact that there were so many captions scraggled on poster board that incited the urge to click off photo after photo felt oddly unifying. I got these people.

Amen.

Spot on.

Well played.

I left Washington DC that day (oh yes, I spent more hours on a bus that day than I did on the ground in DC) with a feeling of something like hope. My friends and I, along with approximately 200,000 others like us, made the effort to get to DC, to mingle and meet, and to try to drum up some spirit with election day looming.

And then November 2 came.

I sit here on November 4 unabashedly ashamed and disgusted. Maybe my peers and I voted for the most moderate folks we could find on the ballot, but the rest of America seemed to get their political information from those always charming campaign ads. Without really understanding the issues or what candidates stood for (do not get me started about tax cuts), people kicked incumbents out, left and right (half-pun), just because it might provide the sense that things could be different.

I live in NYC now, but I voted absentee ballot for Pennsylvania, my home state in which I am still registered. I figured PA needed my help, especially with Pat Toomey on the ballot. Pennsylvania did need my help, but my help wasn’t enough, because Pat Toomey, a man who is Pro-life, pro forest thinning, in support of opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, advocates reducing gun regulations, and voted to amend the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage (I’m not sure everyone understand that that means CHANGING THE CONSTITUTION), is going to represent Pennsylvania in the US Senate.

Mixed feelings.

What a depressing election on the heels of one of the most exciting politically-charged events I’ve ever been a part of. Bittersweet seems appropriate, but the sweet part isn’t all that strong.