Digging a Hole

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ohio Stories

Oh, werd?
I am back from yet another mid-western adventure. Honestly, I don't know why more people don't canvass with job perks like extended stays in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Actually, Ohio was quite fun, as I will discuss, but I can not refer to the organization I was working with by name anymore because they get Google alerts every time I write about them and then forward my posts in angry emails to Eric. Oops. It was tempting to write posts about random, unrelated things and then insert their name into them, but luckily, my more mature half prevailed.
Anyhoo... OHIO.
Columbus, Ohio is the home of Ohio State (The). On the plus side, it is a rocking college town. On the minus side, it is home of the Buckeyes. A buckeye is a poisonous berry. At first, my Jersey friends and I agreed that that is a horrible mascot because other mascots can eat it, but then we realized that the buckeye destroys its enemies from the inside, killing as it is devoured. Creepy. Would a Wolverine be able to resist the shiny temptation to eat a buckeye? If a Scarlet Knight stabs a buckeye, is the buckeye dead? Columbus also sells peanut-butter chocolate buckeyes which I assumed were safe until I read about the peanut-butter recall. Damn you Buckeyes!!
Columbus is also home to Ohio residents (surprisingly!). They are easily recognized by the dazzling variety of Ohio State gear that they can wear at one time. Whether canvassing Columbus proper, the new sprawling suburbs, or the luxury golf resorts, everyone comes to their door displaying their Ohio State (The) pride in the form of crocs, polo shirts, and parachute pants.
New Jersey transplants living in Ohio are easy to recognize as well because they have vanity license plates like JRZY SHR and Giants SuperBowl stickers. (Note: Vanity license plates must be free in Ohio because nearly every other car sports them.) I actually found a cat that had been adopted in Montclair by striking up a conversation about how awesome the Giants are. East coasters in the midwest can also be identified by the blank stares they offer when you ask them how they are doing. In Ohio, "how ya doin" is an actual question requiring an actual answer. Who has time for that?
One refreshing aspect of Ohio is the amount of trust. In New Jersey, photo IDs and permits, while not legally required, are critical for canvassing. Most Jersey folk will check through their peep hole after dark before opening their door, if they open it at all. In Ohio, every door was widely thrown open and legitimacy was never questioned. On the other hand, schools and libraries are adorned with signs politely noting that these are "Weapon-Free Zones". It's easy to be friendly to strangers when you have the option of shooting them.
I got to experience the easy-going midwest attitude towards security early on a Monday morning. At 7:30am, a stranger entered the apartment where I was staying. Five of us were sleeping upstairs. (They have upstairs and downstairs in the apartments in Ohio!) My first thought was, "This must be the cable guy," but the cable guy wasn't due until Wednesday, and they don't enter locked apartments before 8am. Then the intruder announced loudly, "I'M NOT A ROBBER!" Obviously, we were being robbed. My fellow Jersey cross-train was too deeply asleep to notice, so I listened for any signs of response from my midwestern hosts. Nothing. Meanwhile, the stranger in the living room was having a loud conversation with himself about how he didn't want to scare us and how he was not, still, a robber.
Stranger: "I'M NOT A ROBBER! Just going into your basement!"
KPd.: (reaches for cell phone to call police)
Stranger: "Your neighbor has eight inches of water in her basement! Isn't that crazy?!"
Our host Dylan (from other bedroom): "That's crazy."
Stranger: "I KNOW!"
After much stomping around, the stranger left. The folks from Indiana and Ohio never stirred.
Later that morning, an older man in a hunting cap walked right into the apartment a second time where four very surprised young women were making lunch.
Stranger: "Any of y'all use tampons?!"
Dawn: "Well, there are four ladies staying here. I suppose that it's possible."
KPd.: Oh?
Stranger: "I work in the ladies' dorms at Ohio State, and they will never admit to flushing a tampon. You all are so honest. By the way, you got a bit of sewage in your basement. Think we fixed the clog though. Anyway, have a good day!"
KPd.: Do we call the police now?
In conclusion, Columbus, Ohio is a fun place. We should all go visit Emily there just for fun. There's a dance club there with an 80s night that rivals anything I ever saw in the city only with cheaper drinks and no cover charge. There are vegetarian restaurants and gourmet ice cream shops. There's a two dollar movie theater with no heat. There are borderline-crazy plumbers who break into your apartment at sunrise. Just don't eat any buckeyes.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Update from Ohio

Oh, werd?
I don't have internet access in the apartment in Columbus, so I won't bore Emily by writing on her laptop while we should be hanging out. I *will* say that a Buckeye is a poisonous berry. What a dumb mascot.. .
Also, canvassing in -8 degrees is evil.
I will try to update for real while I am here, but I may just save it all for my return to Jersey....

Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Maturation of an Expansion Team

Oh, werd?
First, there was darkness.
Then, there was Kerry. And the NJ Devils.
In October of 1982, an NHL franchise moved from Colorado to the swamps of Jersey. With the NY skyline rising ominously behind their arena, this new team worked to build a fan base from a state not used to rooting for the home team. Also, in October of 1982, Leslie and Michael Doyle brought a young girl into the world. Parents of children born from 1982 on had a choice: they could bring their young children to a very rowdy and very expensive Madison Square Garden, they could travel down the turnpike to Philly, OR they could bring their kids to see the new team up the street.
And so it was that New Jersey moms and dads put away their beloved Rangers jerseys and brought their kids to see the cheaper, more family-friendly hockey franchise in East Rutherford. The team spared no effort in recruiting these children of NY hockey fans. They offered youth hockey programs, scout days at the arena, birthday parties, huggable mascots (Occasionally too huggagle. Look up "Slapshot" the hockey puck...), and ice cream giveaways. They gave away hockey sticks and jerseys to "all fans in attendance 14 and under." As my dad noted, "I couldn't leave Kerry by herself in the stands when she was three years old at the Garden. At Brendan Byrne Arena, it's safe for dads to take a pee brake."
The expansion franchise went through an awkward growing period. It threatened to run away from home (to Nashville! wtf?!). It infuriated other franchises with its defensiveness. At the same time, the fan class of 1982 was also going through puberty. It was asking its parents to let it drive itself to games. It was sneaking beers in the parking lot. It was chanting "Rangers Suck!"
Finally, the little expansion franchise is all grown up, and so are its fans. Well... sort of...
Yes, they both now have places of their own. They are paying the bills and are financially self-sufficient (though not yet well-off). But, like many places where twenty-somethings live, the Devils home is no longer geared towards children.
The Devils organization briefly flirted with bringing in a new generation. They held a contest online to help the team update its goal horn song (originally: Rock and Roll Part 2 or the Hey! Cheer), but the results were total confusion every time the team scored. Fans twenty-one and up put down their beers to start singing "Hey!" while the six year old next to them bounced down the stairs, spilling his carvel ice scream, chanting "Ole! Ole Ole Ole!"
At the same time, cheap season tickets and a game day sale of $10 upper deck seats was leading to an increasingly rowdy presence in the 230s with barely anyone in the rafter seats other than the class of 1982. For these fans, there never was a time when there was no NJ hockey franchise. And now, we are finally old enough to come to the games on our own, spend too much money on "The Beers of Newark", and harass opposing fans also sitting in the upper deck with barely repeatable cheers. Apparently, the Devils twenty-somethings learned some of these cheers from their older, wiser cousins, the Islanders fans, another maturing expansion franchise, who started the cheer "If You Know the Rangers Suck Clap Your Hands."
The Devils fan base is now smack in the middle of its roaring twenties. Hopefully, in a few years, it will settle down and raise a family. Maybe once the class of 1982 starts having children of its own that it wants to bring to games, the "You're gay, you're gay you're gay you're gay" cheer will begin to fade from the rafters.
Last night, though, when the goal horn blared in the new Newark arena, and the fans in Section 230 high fived each other and chanted with false outrage, "Mais non!" to the Montreal fans sitting behind us, the old goal song erupted from the speakers, and 17,000+ people chanted: "Hey, you suck!"
An old favorite with new enthusiasm but with an unfortunate variation.... Hopefully not one that sticks around into the team's thirties...

Fans at a Predators hockey game demonstrate the proper way to chant "You suck"

Islanders fans offer a classic example of "If you know the Rangers suck clap your hands". Note the fact that the team the Islanders are playing is *not* the Rangers.

Disclaimer: Obviously these chants are homophobic in nature, and I am not celebrating them. This is just a commentary on being a hockey fan.