Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

NYC, The Five Boroughs, the 2017 Calendar

 

I’m always curious about what the kids want for Christmas and Hanukkah each year, so I’ve been talking to a lot of my friend’s children, asking them, “What gift are you hoping Santa Claus brings you this year?” I was expecting the answer to be some trendy Japanese Pokemon/Furby type toy, so I was shocked when your kids answered in one voice, “This Christmas I want a 2017 Calendar of New York City Photos!”

I many not have kids of my own, but I care a lot about your kids, especially about making them happy. I’m assuming you want the same for your children. They ARE the future. That’s why I’m offering these NYC photos of the five boroughs for only $16.99! Not $17. I’m beginning to understand how business works. Only $16.99!

You can buy this NYC calendar on my ETSY SITE.   Tell me what you think of my oddball choices of  NYC photos, not one skyscraper or famous site in the bunch.

 

Announcing the 11th Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

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 In 2006, when this annual concert started, it was a celebration of the  internet.    Blogging was an avenue for the sharing of personal stories.   Even if you lived in the most isolated rural town in Alaska, you found yourself, through online storytelling, befriending black bloggers in Baltimore, gay bloggers in Los Angeles, and Jewish bloggers in New York.   Christmahanukwanzaakah  was our buzzword for our changing world — one of inclusion, diversity, and empathy.

We were naive.   As our virtual world grew, the problems of the real world flooded in, and eleven years later, when we thing of the internet, we think of the worst aspects of society — the  hate, bigotry, and trolling.  

In 2008, we voted in Barack Obama, the first African-American president.   In 2016, we voted in Donald Trump.

This year’s concert is not just a celebration of the season, but an affirmation of the moral underpinning that connects all religions and creeds –

‘Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.’

Yes, we love to share our stories and photos with our friends, but we also need to remember to protect each other, speak up against the bigotry that poisons our nation, and make a difference, no matter how small.    

Especially now.  

This year, for the first time, I will be asking for  small  donations, both from concert  participants and viewers, for “Being Black at School,”  a brand-new national nonprofit advocacy organization focused on addressing the complexities of being a Black student in the American education system.

I wanted to end the concert last year because I thought we all had enough of “blogging” as we knew it.   We had moved on to more practical ways to connect with others.   But I get a feeling that we all could use a bit of love, joy, and community this year.   And singing.  

Here are the past blockbuster concerts —

2006  2007  2008  2009  2010  2011  2012 2013  2014  2015

This year’s concert will take place on Tuesday, December 20, 2016  right here online.

It is time to hear YOU PERFORM!   YOU are the CONCERT.  That gives you about a month to work your magic.

Interested?  Sign up in the comment to perform.    You don’t necessarily need a traditional blog to participate, but at least have an online presence in Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Snapchat.   Be part of this long-running tradition!

Concert FAQ:

1.  Create a video (or audio) file of you performing a holiday song.  If you need technical help, ask me.

2.  You must be performing in the audio or video.   Don’t cheat and have your cute kids doing all the work.

3.  You can sing, play an instrument, recite poetry, dance the Nutcracker, or write a symphony.

4.  Once completed, post the video on a place like YouTube and send me the link. Or just send me the file via Dropbox or email, and I will post it on YouTube.   Try to get me all files and links by Monday, December 19, 2016, the day before the concert!  That gives you plenty of time to be creative.

5.  If you are too afraid to sing a song, send me a holiday photo to decorate the concert page.  It could be of your tree, menorah, or plain ol’ winter solstice if you are a heathen.

6.  The comment section is the sign-up sheet.    By signing up, we can see who is performing what, so we can avoid having ten versions of “Jingle Bells.”

7.  Most importantly — don’t be intimidated if you can’t sing.    We like to laugh at you.

Join us in the longest-running holiday concert online — The Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, in it’s ELEVENTH blockbuster performance!

Skating by Vince Guaraldi performed by Angela Reiner Downing of Fluid Pudding

The Election of Donald Trump and the Hallmark Christmas Movie

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I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, but after it became clear that he wasn’t going to be the nominee, I instantly backed Hillary Clinton. Ms. Clinton, an accomplished and intelligent public servant, was the obvious choice, compared to Donald Trump, an incompetent demagogue who used hate as his campaign message.

Last week, I waited an hour to get tickets to the big Clinton Election Night Party at the Javits Center, where the symbolic “glass ceiling” would finally be broken. I was excited to be part of history.

On Election Night, the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood around the convention center was chaotic, as thousands of Clinton supporters and the mainstream media crammed into an area blocked off by armed police officers. Those who had general public tickets, like myself, were sent to the back entrance to airport-style security. A few campaign volunteers grumbled about being stuck with the regular folk when VIPS, in their Wall Street suits, were guided inside without waiting in line.  But, all in all,  we all felt like we were on the same team, confident in a Democratic victory.

By nine o’clock, we knew Trump was going to win. The crowd turned to the brightness of their iPhones in a desperate attempt to distract themselves from making eye contact with others. It was heartbreaking.

In the subway going home, you could feel the gloom in the claustrophobic underground air. A homeless man sitting alone in the corner was screaming at his demons in Spanish. The darkness outside the windows grew ominous as the metallic screeches of the train’s wheels pulled us further into the unknown. I asked myself, “How did this happen? “How did Donald Trump become elected when we were so sure that Hillary Clinton was our next President?”

When I returned home, I was too wired to sleep, but too anxious to watch the news. I needed something stupid for entertainment, television as innocuous as possible. I went to my DVR and found my choice.

Every year, around this time, the Hallmark Channel starts showing their annual Christmas movies. These “feel-good” cable movies are hopelessly corny, like the type of network “movie of the week” starring B-list actors that felt outdated even back in 1975. But like many things lowbrow, people like me have turned them into an ironic guilty pleasure. I’m even involved in a Facebook forum where we dissect each new Christmas Movie premiere on the Hallmark Channel. These movies have become so popular, that Hallmark has even started to show them as early as October! I had recorded a few last week, so I picked a rerun that I missed. On election night, with Donald Trump now as the president-elect, I watched a Hallmark Christmas movie.

One of the reasons these Hallmark Christmas movies have achieved a cult- like status is that 85% of these films are the same story told in a slightly different way. It’s amusing to watch the writers tell another yarn from the same basic plot. The protagonist is someone from the big city who travels to a small town in Middle America for some nefarious reason. It can be a real estate guy who wants to turn the “old mill” into a Chipotle, a self-absorbed actress who returns to her roots for some photoshoot about her origins, or some snooty marketing executive who wants to sell off the family farm after her father dies. All of these urban characters have disdain for these boring small towns. They are blind to the fact that they are unhappy in NYC/LA/Chicago and that their big city fiancé or fiancée is self-absorbed and unfaithful.

You know what happens. The protagonist falls in love with the small town values. He/She falls in love with a cowboy/waitress/farmhand. And he/she pays back the small town by saving the mill/the farm/the Christmas parade.

The myth of these Hallmark Christmas movies has nothing to do with the Miracle of Christmas. They are about America. Big cities and small towns need each other, and learn from each other. The big city is more trendy and knows how to get things done in the outside world. They can teach the small town citizens about modern art and rap music. The small town can teach the urban dweller how to fish/hunt/farm, and most importantly, how to live in a loving community where people care for each other.

This pop culture myth of big city/small town, and their need for each other, has been part of American culture for two generations, especially popular after the Second World War, in which the country was required to be unified, and American soldier stood with American soldier, bonding together to save our country.  Our most popular Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, is about a small town man, George Bailey, who dreams of moving to the big city and living the exciting life, like his big-shot, college-educated brother. Instead, he is trapped in a crappy old town, living in a drafty old house with a broken staircase. But what is the final message of the film? Yes, George Bailey’s brother become a war hero, but it is George who saves the town and America’s values from Mr. Potter. George is as important as any soldier. He didn’t march into Berlin, but held the fort at home. Bedford Falls, and George’s values, is why America was fighting.   Small town values. America’s cities were important to this country, but if we let them create the values alone, we get the darkness of Pottersville.

Big city and small town must coexist or else America ceases to be. The big city is America’s muscle and brain, but the heartland is American’s heart.

As I’m watching this Hallmark movie on Election Night, enjoying this absurd romance of a lonely prima donna fashion editor from New York and a hard-working cowboy who’s wife had died, I ponder the mythology of the narrative. The myth of the big city and small town needing each other, learning from each other, was a myth that allowed us to live in the same country, to believe in one America. But as we started to watch different TV, get our news from different outlets, and follow different leaders, this all changed. The cultural interaction stopped. The cities grew more diverse and prosperous, but ignored any of the issues in the small towns, stereotyping their fellow Americans as fat racist losers who only shopped at Walmart. The small towns, at least the ones which declined as we shipped off jobs abroad, retreated into their comfort of white supremacy and anger at the elitism of the establishment. Hillary Clinton felt it was useless to woo small town America, especially in the Rust Belt. Donald Trump exploited the anger of small town America by spreading his vision of bigotry and racism.

We all discovered the real truth about our country today — the big city and small town now hate each other. Both Hallmark Christmas movies and America need a new myth.

Orange is the New Autumn

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Boyhood

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The Oculus at the World Trade Center

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub’s concourse will ultimately connect visitors to 11 different subway lines; the PATH rail system; the Battery Park City Ferry Terminal; the National September 11 Memorial & Museum; World Trade Center Towers 1, 2, 3, and 4; and Brookfield Place (formerly known as the World Financial Center), which houses the Winter Garden. It represents the most integrated network of underground pedestrian connections in New York City.

The “Oculus” serves as the centerpiece of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, incorporating 78,000 square feet of multi level state-of-the-art retail and dining. The concourses emanating from the Oculus link the entirety of the site above and below grade. With an additional 290,000 square feet of exciting, multi-level retail and dining space, the World Trade Center site is the focal point of Lower Manhattan.   (Port Authority of New York and New Jersey site)

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The Bus Driver in Queens

There are two MTA city buses that go from Flushing, Queens to Jamaica,  Queens.  They are named the 25 and the 34.  One bus goes the local route, making all the stops, and the other is  the express, skipping a few.  I usually get onto whatever comes first, because the amount of time saved using the express is negligible.  But today, I ended up on the express bus, heading towards Jamaica. There were ten passengers on board.  The only passenger standing was a mop-headed middle-aged white man who was carrying six plastic Key Food bags filled with grocery items.

“I want to get off here,” he yelled as we passed his stop.

“I can’t.  You can get off at  the next stop,” said the bus driver, a portly black man.

“But I want to get off here!” repeated the passenger.  “This is my stop!”

“I don’t stop here.”

“How can you not stop here? I always get off here.”

“This is the express bus.  This is a local stop.   I don’t stop here.”

“I demand that you stop!”

“I cannot stop. There are RULES.”

The passenger edged towards the front of the bus, his foot hovering over the white line separating him from the space of the driver.

“I know you,” he said to the driver.  “You’re a control freak. You’re always like this. You get pleasure from sticking it to others. You’re a cruel man. A cruel, cruel man.”

Another passenger, an African-American woman in a short dress, stood up, hoping to ease the tension.

“It’s an express bus, mister.. Chill out.  He doesn’t make the same stops. You must be used to being on the  local bus.”

“Fuck that,” spewed the man.  “He could stop if he really wanted. He just loves the power. I know his type.”

The rest of the passengers nervously glanced at each other, preparing for the worst. They turned towards me. I assumed that since I was the only other white passenger on the bus, and they wanted to see if I was to be an ally in case things turned racial.

The tension dissipated when the bus pulled into the next stop.  The angry white passenger stepped off,  two blocks from his usual stop,

“I know who you are,” he snipped once more at the driver.  “All of us know who you are. You enjoy it. The way you stick to your rules. You’re a sick man. You’re crazy!”

The bus driver remained silent, ignoring his insults. The moment he left the bus and the door was closed, we all erupted in laughter.

“That guy was nuts!” said the woman across from me, sitting with his young son.

We all looked out the window as the man struggled with his bags, walking in the opposite direction.

There was a red light at the intersection where the stop was located, so the bus needed to wait at the curb until the light turned green.  We sighed; our ride had reverted to normalcy.  Just then, an elderly black man, a cane in his hand, knocked on the closed door of the bus, wanting to come inside. He was relieved to not miss the bus.

“I can’t let you in,” said the bus driver.

“Why not?” asked the man. “You’re still here.”

“I closed the doors already. There are RULES.”

The light turned green, and the bus sped away, spewing smoke in the elderly man’s face.

The bus passengers bonded again in secretive looks, but this time, you could see in our eyes that our opinion of the bus driver had  forever changed.

How I Explained Black Lives Matter to My Mother’s Mahjong Group

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“Liberals” are sometimes stereotyped in the media as elitists. I wonder if there is an element of truth to this. We say we want to discuss issues with our friends and relatives, but then use abstract language more suitable for a Yale graduate school seminar.   If your conservative Uncle Joe on Facebook is willing to agree with you that there is too much police brutality against African-Americans, does it really matter at this point if he “accepts” the concept of white supremacy on your latest post?

I understand this tendency to sound elitist because I can be that person myself. I’m the type of guy who came home from my first semester of college to scold my mother to stop reading her “stupid Sue Grafton mystery novels” and pick up Plato’s Republic instead.

“Do you want to live your entire life in the shadows?” I told her after my freshman year.  “How can you live without ever getting a strong foundation in Greek philosophy?”

Yeah. That type of guy.

Who would have guessed that one day I would be back living in the same apartment with my mother, reading her Sue Grafton novels?

Twice a week, my mother sets up a bridge table in the living room and plays mahjong with her friends.   Her friends are smart, compassionate women, feminists at heart, open to neighborhoods of diversity, but born of another generation.   Each woman is over eighty years of age,  the children of immigrant parents, and have worked since an early age.  None of them had the opportunity to attend college.   It would be haughty of me to lecture these amazing women based on my advanced education, right? But sometimes I just can’t help myself.

I remember a few months ago, the mahjong group was taking a break from the game, having coffee and cake, and gossiping about their neighbors in the building. I entered the kitchen to grab a piece of the cake myself when I overheard one of them mention the cute children of the “Oriental” neighbor in apartment 3D.

“You probably shouldn’t say that,” I said. “She’s Chinese, not Oriental.”

“What’s so bad about Oriental? I’ve always said Oriental. Like someone from the Orient. Like Oriental salad!”

My mother and her friends teamed up against me.

“Yeah, Neil, what’s so wrong with Oriental?” asked my own mother.

I explained the different of Oriental and Occidental, and how the term Oriental comes from a European perspective and gives off the aura of “the other” and exoticism.

No one understood what the hell I was talking about.

“Just don’t say it! They don’t like it!” I shouted, giving up.

A few days ago, I came back from this rally in Union Square. The women were playing mahjong. I showed them a few of the photos I took, including one of a protester holding a sign that read “Black Lives Matter.”

“I don’t get what this means — Black Lives Matter? Don’t ALL lives matter?”

I went to the kitchen and made myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, in order to give me time to think about my answer. What was the best way to talk to a group of eighty-year-old Jewish women about this subject?

I had an idea.  I returned to the living room.

“Remember when you were kids, everyone said “Merry Christmas” to each other?”

I figured this was a good way to draw them in, with an analogy.

“We didn’t say Merry Christmas to each other,” said Louise, my mother’s friend.

“Yes, that’s because you’re Jewish,” I replied.   “But the average American said Merry Christmas. People felt like it was a Christian country, so they just said Merry Christmas. This is the equivalant of saying White Lives Matter, but it’s more like Christmas Matters. Or Christian Holidays Matter.”

Now, everyone just looked confused.

“Hear me out. But as time went by, Americans wanted to include everyone in the holiday spirit, particuilarly their Jewish friends, so they started saying Happy Holidays. This is like saying All Holidays Matters — Christmas, Hanukkah, whatever.

“And what’s so wrong about that? Saying Happy Holidays?” said my mother. “You just made the argument for saying All Lives Matter.”

“Well, yes, but we all know that deep in our hearts, All Holidays Matter is really about Christmas, with Hanukkah and the other holidays sitting in the back row. It’s still Christian Holidays Matters in disguise. So someone who really celebrates Hanukkah might not want to be a mere appendage, but wants Hanukkah to be celebrated as worthy of it’s own meaning. So someone might say, “I never liked when you just said Merry Christmas, because it excluded me, and I did appreciate that you started to say Happy Holidays, but we both know that I was never an equal part under that All Holidays Flag, so now I just want to hear Happy Hanukkah so you are acknowledging that my holiday has meaning in itself. There is nothing inherently wrong with saying Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays, but sometimes you just want to hear Happy Hannukah. And it is the same with saying Black Lives Matter. It’s a matter of giving respect.”

And I think I won them over. Either that or they just wanted to go back to their game.

Fictional Characters of New York — #52

 

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In my twenties, I would never have slept with a married man. I’m too moralistic. The granddaughter of a preacher.  But now, I don’t consider it a moral failing.  it just IS.  I see him, despite his marital status. I love him, despite his marital status. I caress him in my bed, despite his marital status.

It’s not the big bad city that changed me.  I’m still the goody-two-shoes Wisconsin girl.  It’s just getting older.  It  means the stripping the body and mind clean of what constricts  us, the old black and white thinking, and embracing complexity.  Don’t overthink it. See the world with an open mind. We are all flawed.  Brene Brown tells me to not feel shame.   My love for him is not shameful.  Yes, our relationship is complicated, like they say on Facebook.  But I understand it.   I understand that he has kids, and his wife who’s  crazy, so he needs more time. What I can give him is patience. I can wait. That’s true love. Like in Shakespeare.

He treats me well, better than any other man.  He brings me gifts and tells me I’m beautiful.   I so want to meet his kids. Some day.   And we will be a family.  Or else, we can have our own kids. Yeah, imagine that!  What am I talking about? I’m not going to turn into my sister, stuck at home with kids, getting fatter by the day. No kids right now! That time will come.  Just enjoy what you have.  With no shame.  Thank you, Brene Brown.

I bought a steak for tonight. He loves steak.  I wish we would skip dinner completely and  fall into bed, so I can feel his strong hands grab me from behind. I love when he says my name. I wait for that.  He says that I make him feel like a man again.   That his wife is aloof and makes him feel that he never makes enough money.

It’s 7:30. He said he would meet me here a half hour ago. But it’s OK. He must be stuck somewhere. I know Tuesday night his daughters have Girl Scouts. I wish he would text and tell me where he is.  He needs to be discreet.  I understand that.   Until he can divorce her,  it has to be this way.  It’s all good.  What can I do?  All I can to do now is wait.  True love requires patience.

The Election

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Democracy requires compromise. We cannot survive in a world where ideological splits, gender politics, and vicious accusations of corruption are the daily norm. The 2016 Campaign has brought out the worst in everyone, and I’m not talking about the primary season, but the Board of Directors election in my apartment building in Queens.

There are two political camps in my building — Team Murray and Team Sylvia, which I’ve named in honor of their leaders. Each team has differing views on hot issues such as the efficiency of the new dryers in the laundry room, the wisdom of hiring a new management company, and the acceptable amount of electricity used in the yearly Christmas/Hanukkah decorations. Five new members of the Board are elected each year, and each side want to stack the Board with those loyal to their agenda.

This year’s trouble began a few weeks ago when tenants started to receive homemade “campaign” fliers slid under their door. At first, they were innocent enough — typical campaign promises of more parking spots — but the situation quickly deteriorated as more and more fliers showed up, usually at 3AM, unsigned and with vague accusations of corruption and abuse of power.

Team Murray and Team Sylvia went to war.

“Is there anything lower than sending around anonymous letters accusing good people of profiting from the new laundry machines?” screamed a new notice received under the door, written in a size 15 font.

“Only cowards write anonymously!” the person continued on, anonymously.

The day of the big election quickly arrived. I remembered that Jana was flying in from Atlanta that same night.

“Have any exciting plans for us?” she asked me on the phone on the night before her arrival.

“Very exciting plans,” I said. “I’m taking you to my apartment building’s Board of Director’s election night. This will be more dramatic than any Broadway show.”

The General Election was held in the apartment building’s large wood-grained “community room,” located near the lobby. The room, with a full kitchen and a full set of tables and chairs, has been home to countless meetings for the tenants, sweet sixteen parties and retirement dinners. It was in this room where, many years ago, I had my bris, the traditional Jewish circumcision ceremony.  Can we get any more symbolic than that?

But tonight the room was a shelter for Democracy in Action. The candidates sat at the dais in the front, nervously fidgeting as the tenants placed their filled-out ballets into the makeshift cardboard ballot box, then sat down at one of the rows of chairs set up for the general meeting  before the vote counting.  My mother came early with her friends to get “good seats” up front. I arrived late with Jana since she had just arrived from La Guardia Airport. We found two open seats in the back, directly behind a group of supporters of Team Murray, including Murray himself. Whispers were passing between them; there was a last minute plot afoot.

The meeting started off peacefully. As we waited for late-comers to show up and vote, the President of the Board convened an open meeting to discuss some minor issues involving the building. And that’s when the shit hit the fan. One female tenant stood up to publicly accuse some long time resident on the fifth floor as the mysterious “anonymous letter writer.” The accused fought back, insinuating that she was cheating on her husband, and stealing The New York Times from other tenants. Things only go worse.

Much has been made of the lack of decorum on the internet, with all the insults, hate, and trolls being a product of modern-day forums such as Twitter and Reddit. This makes the assumption that in the days before the Internet, the human race was kind and respectful, lovingly listening to the needs of the others. I can guarantee that Jana and I were the only ones in this room who have ever used Twitter, and there was enough “shaming” going on in this room to fill ten timelines.  Humans have been hitting each over the head with clubs since we were cavemen

After much loud drama, a tenant shouted everyone down, suggesting that we keep our personal issues saved for another day, and focus on the purpose of the evening — the election. All the ballots were now sitting in the box and it was time for the count. But first, as required by “the bylaws,” the President of the Board, a plumber by profession,  had to read some legal document written back in 1960 to validate the legitimacy election.  It was a ritual done in every Board Election since then.

The tenants of the building half-listened to the legalese until he reached the President reached the last paragraph of the bylaws, which went, “According to the bylaws, as written in June of the year 1960, if anyone so chooses to be included on the ballot as a write-in candidate, now is the last moment to do so, or else forfeit your chance.  Would anyone else like to be added to the list of candidates?”

This was read without emotion, much in the same way that a pastor might ask those attending a wedding if anyone present has a reason to oppose the marriage.  No one is supposed to yell out, “Yes,” except maybe a character in a romantic comedy from the 1990s.

But here is where Team Murray executed their shock and awe plot. They earlier had convinced Rashida, a friend of Murray’s wife, Allison, to add her name as a last-minute write-in candidate, hoping to stack the Board with supporters of the Team Murray agenda.

“I’d like to add my name,” said the woman, a middle school teacher named Rashida.

“Uh, OK…” said the Board President, unsure of the next move. In the fifty years of Board Elections, no one had ever added their name on the night of the election.

“You have to add her,” said Murray. “It’s in the bylaws.”

“I suppose it is. We’ll have to add her,” he said, facing the crowd, showing his first true sign of leadership during his five years as Board president. “So now if anyone wants to vote for Rashida, you can vote for her.”

Rose, one of the members of my mother’s weekly mahjongg group, stood up with an objection. Although now frail, the eighty-five year old Rose once worked at a large advertising firm and was considered intelligent and street savvy by the other tenants.

“I think we might have a little problem with this plan,” she said.

“What’s that?” asked the Board President/Plumber.

“We voted all already and our ballots are in the box.”

Pandemonium broke out, and even King Solomon himself couldn’t find a compromise between Team Murray and team Sulvia, a precursor of what is going to happen when Bernie Sanders makes a play for Hillary Clinton’s super-delegates at the Democratic Convention this summer.  Politics is an ugly business

The Board President consulted with a tenant from the fifth floor who used to work as a court stenographer, and a decision was reached

“We will take all the ballots out of the box and return them to you, and then you can cross out someone and add Rashida instead.”

It was a mess. Many tenants never signed their name to the ballot the first time, so no one was quite sure which ballot belonged to which person, except if they used a special colored marker

Rashida, fearful of utter chaos, made the announcement that she was pulling out of the election, much to the dismay of Team Murray.   She realized that it was just too complicated, and also wanted to go home before nine o’clock to watch some TV show.   The ballots were returned to the box, and a trio of supposedly unbiased tenants from the building, an accountant, a retired NYPD officer, and a stay-at-home mom, took the box behind closed doors into the “kitchen area” to count the ballots by hand.

As the rest of us waited for the “results,” calmness fell over the room, and tenants socialized with each other, asking each other about their health and families.  My mother took Jana over to meet her friends, introducing her as my “girlfriend.” Not that I minded my mother saying it, but it did feel weird hearing her say it, especially since I never described her as such.  But women know these things.

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Jana meeting the neighbors.

The cocktail party atmosphere faded as the kitchen door swung open, and the election committee returned with results. The crowd returned to their seats. It was time. Call Wolf Blitzer.

The election results were a surprise.   Despite the maneuvering of the Machiavellian Team Murray, it was a clean sweep by Team Sylvia.   All five of the Team Sylvia candidates were elected to the Board.

Murray himself stood up and announced the entire election a fraud.

“It’s an illegal election.”

“Why’s that?” asked the Board President, who was re-elected for a second term.

“Because the ballot box was opened, making it null and void!”

“But we only did that because your own candidate decided to run at the last moment before she changed her mind!”

“I demand a new election.”

“We’re not having a new election!”

“Then I’ll take this entire apartment building and the Board of Directors to court!”

Insults were flung. Someone’s wife was called a whore. Arguing was heard for hours as most of the tenants shrugged, and went upstairs to their apartments. Rashida went home to watch her TV show.

“So what did you think?” I asked Jana as we took the elevator upstairs.

“That was the best time I’ve ever had in New York.”

A week later, all parties agreed to accept the results, as long as it goes down in the history books with an asterisk, much like the contested election of George W. Bush.

Politics as usual.

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