November 12, 2010

To Sir, With Love

When I was little, a black cat crept up onto our porch and just. wouldn't. leave.

Mom refused to let us keep him because we already had two cats. Except that the real reason she didn't want us to keep him was that he was one of "the Nellum family cats." They just allowed their cats to run around, never spaying or neutering, and mom would put literature in their mailbox about how wrong it was and swore up and down that we would never get one of their cats.

I was a very cute 3rd grader and he wouldn't go away, and what other possible outcome was there? That cat became Sir.

He used to hate being held, so I would walk around with him wrapped in my down blanket so he wouldn't scratch me. I would take him into my room and close the door and make him let me pet him, chase him under the bed. I'm not sure how long it took, but eventually, he would let me pet him without restraining him. After a very long while, he became attached. He became my cat. I became his person.

When mom moved to Kentucky before I graduated high school, she took all our pets with us, with the single exception of Sir. And thank God she left him with me. It was a terrible time, saying goodbye to the house, my high school, and everyone else, and at the end of the day all I needed was to go home and see my cat--the same cat that I had had for nearly ten years at that point.

When I left for college, I promised myself (and my cat) that I would never move anywhere without him again. A year ago, I blogged about how Sir had been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and was losing weight, something I discovered while trying to get him a sedative for the 7 hour drive to DC. Sir hated the pills and they ultimately made him sick, so I stopped forcing them on him. We moved back home and Sir helped me deal with being 23 and living in my mother's basement.

In the past year, his weight cut in half again, despite mom sneaking him cheese sticks from Arby's and buying $15 cat food that is designed to help kittens gain weight. Also in the past year, I had to break the promise to myself to never leave him again. Mom took care of him while I lived with grandma working for Jack Conway. She said the entire time she just prayed that he didn't die on her watch.

I came home Saturday afternoon and Sir was unwell. He would eat a few bites and then lay down, and didn't do that thing he always did where he would purr when he ate. He didn't get all up in my face when I was sitting in the bed, eating cheez-its or Triscuits (two of his favorites, but he didn't discriminate: he loved PB & J, spaghetti, ham). He didn't insist on me kissing the top of his head (read: ram the top of his head into my face). He didn't come when he was called. He was falling apart. I was hoping he was just ill, just a cold. His nose was running, after all. I was sure it would be okay.

I was supposed to go to Columbus that night in a car Tim rebuilt, and I got all the way up there, all the way to the Lane Ave exit, and the car just stopped. Just. Stopped. So I called AAA and since they tow 100 miles free, I had it towed all the way back to Burlington and just paid for the 35 miles overage.

It was 1:30am. Sir was still unwell, but when I got in and he started to eat, he purred again. I took this to mean he was feeling better, doing well. On the road to recovery. I picked him up and took him to bed at around 2:30. I woke up the next morning. Sir did not.

Fifteen years. It's unbelievable to me that after all this time he's just gone. Either way, thank God the car died and Sir spent the last night of his life the way he would have wanted: with tuna on his face and next to his person. With that tooth hanging out that I used to poke sometimes when he was asleep. (He loved that, let me tell you.)

November 05, 2010


For those of you that haven't figured it out based on Twitter feeds, AP Photos, or just because I told you, I have been working on Jack Conway's US Senate campaign for the past four months. This explains why I have been unable to post very often: long hours and not a lot to talk about other than work, which I wasn't really able to talk much about.

But Jack Conway lost, and remains our Attorney General.

I have gotten a lot of very kind texts and emails and phone calls, and for that, I thank all of you. I am going to try to reply here, to the best of my ability.

I. Am. Heartbroken. There's no way around that. I can't explain to someone that wasn't on my staff what it feels like to work 80 to 90 hours a week, to pour everything you have into something: a person, a cause, and to get denied it.

I can't explain what it feels like to stand behind a man I believe in--we all believed in--and hear him concede the right to represent me in the United States Senate to someone that doesn't understand the needs of this state, the realities of this state, the people that live in this state. I can't explain how jarring it is to see a person responsible for lifting my spirits on the worst of days, the longest of days, the hardest of days crying in front of 500 people without being able to wipe them away--a person who was never visibly stressed or upset. I can't explain it, but I'll try: it was devastating.

I try to explain why I would work as many hours as I did, as we all did: I couldn't get past the fact that my job could affect the balance of power in the senate, and even if it didn't, it affected directly Rand Paul's chances of becoming my senator. That you look over at the British kid, who could not be paid (it would have been illegal) and yet worked some of the longest hours on the entire staff. How can you complain about being paid peanuts when Ben works harder and longer for literally nothing? What drives us? Clearly not the pay. We just kept hoping, right until 7:15 on election night when the race was called by every major news outlet, that what we were doing would result in sending the right guy to the United States Senate. We all hoped and believed at varying degrees deep in our hearts, that it was possible. Impossible, improbable, but still--possible. That is why we do what we do.

I try to explain what the people mean to me. I spent all my hours with these people. The first time I cried in the office, I apologized profusely. A friend of mine said, "Chris, you can't apologize for showing your feelings in front of people you spend literally all your waking hours with. You have to be who you are--it's the only time you have to do so." And that's exactly right. We all had to be honest with each other. It was impossible to do otherwise. And that's why I know the staff members a whole lot better than I know a whole lot of people I've known a whole lot longer.

Maybe if we had run in a different year, and certainly if Jack had been from a different state. But here we are: Kentucky could not elect a democrat in 2010. It just wasn't possible. There is nothing we could have done. This serves as a comfort--we did everything we could, no regrets, kept fighting til the end. This serves as a crushing weight--why did we bother? Was this particular lost cause worth the heartbreak?

But yes. Yes it was. Because I had the chance to meet these people. He started the speech with the old adage "The joy is in the journey." And how different I'd feel now if the joy were also in the destination, but still--I will always have that journey. I had the chance to fight for something I believed in. I'm proud of what I did, how I grew, and honestly? If I can do this and come out saying I'm glad I did it, I'm not sure I'll ever find a job I can't come out having enjoyed. So long as I am surrounded by the same type of people I now have the fortune of calling my friends.

(On another tangent: I am not ashamed of my state, nor should you be. Rand Paul had a great message: "we need to pay down the debt. Oh, and also: Jack Conway is Barack Obama." It's hard to vote for anything else when this guy has the popular opinion on a hot topic, and can paint his opponent as a president that has a 33% approval rating. He won on issues--issues I take issue with, but that's another tangent. It was a tough year to be a democrat, and a lot of really great public servants lost last night. If Ted Strickland lost in Ohio, if Russ Feingold lost in Wisconsin, what hope did Jack Conway have in Kentucky? No, it's not a point of shame for us, we were one of many states that lost the opportunity to have the best person for the job fighting for us. Unfortunate, but true. Two years ago many states and districts lost the same opportunity.)

I try to explain the reaction I have to the following phrases: Hurd dat. Train. BUMPS IN THE WILD. Fave Muffs & Morn Smooth. Fleece Vests. Summer Camp. BBQ sign. Fancy Farm. Wat-bots. Fried cheese & carpet sauce. "I SEE A HUMAN!" Aqua Buddha blues. Top 40. Point Break Live. Meow. "This is Greg." Sportsmen...Is that like Cricket players? Akikos! Political meetings. "This is Chris Matthews." "Is this Michael?" "..." Brody's round-up. Favorite British person? Homo-tern.
But those things are ours, and ours alone. Thank you Conway Staff.

Dear Dr. Rand Paul,
Congratulations. The NRSC called Jack Conway the biggest pain in their collective asses (quite an honor for us), and you beat him.
Please remember us. Please remember that there are Kentuckians who believe in the Department of Education, Kentucky students who need their schools to have the support of the Federal Government, Kentucky families who need Pell Grants for their children. Please remember that for every dollar that Kentuckians send to Washington, we get $1.40 back. And that we need that extra $.40, because we are a poor state, with higher unemployment than in most other states. Please remember that because of this election, members of both the House and the Senate are either very liberal or very conservative, and while we know where you fall, we need you to meet somewhere in the middle. Please remember the disabled, the minorities, the women in this state and in this country.
Please remember that you are also my senator.