get out the vote

Up ahead is a man on the sidewalk with a flashlight. He’s checking bushes, I think at first. I approach with my dog on leash and at a close distance.

"Irish Setter," he says as if I’ve asked him to guess the breed of dog.

"Hardly," I say. "She’s a mutt."

I notice he was flashing a clipboard and he says he’s trying to get out the vote. Heidi, my five year old mutt, jumps on him. He says not to worry, "Dogs love me. All dogs."

"I was a mailman," the dark-haired man of in his mid-thirties says. "Until the accident."

He doesn’t go into it and I don’t want to know what kind of accident. I want him to get out the vote. "What are you campaigning for."

"Forty one. You do you think about?"

It’s late in the campaign season and I should know this one by now, but there are a lot of forty measures and I’m not sure which it is. Taxes. But what? I’m not sure. My friend Nate is working on this one.

"No on 41, right?"

The man mentions something about some guy from New York and screwing over Oregon. I’m not sure that he knows what it means either. "Tell the truth. I’m a little disoriented." I believe him. Clean-shaved and white pants, the man was a little too eager to talk to me. "I’m from Bismarck, North Dakota. When I delivered mail there you could see house numbers." He flashes the his little red flashlight as Heidi is eating weeds growing out a crack in the sidewalk. He points the light to the house we're standing in front of, the one I originally suspected was his and that he was picking berries from the bushes. The light hits the two front windows, which are big and beside the front door. "You see any numbers here?"

"No, I don’t, but it doesn’t look like anyone’s home anyway," I hope because I don’t want them coming out and catching me with this disoriented man from North Dakota.

"This is the strangest neighborhood I’ve ever been in," which happens to be the Southeast neighborhood that I live in. "I don’t know why they put me in this blue collar neighborhood. I don’t even have three day growth on my face. I don’t listen to Billy Joel or whatever."

I don’t either, well, listen to Billy Joel.

"Would you think I’d go up or down? These number jump up in interval."

It’s dark and my eyes aren’t very good, and so I don’t bother to look at his clipboard, but I try to explain that because of the short blocks in Portland, yeah addresses do climb and I told him to go south if he wanted higher numbers.

"I pretty much ruined my brain with the vodka," he says. "And feel lost out here."

"Alright, man, well good luck," I suggest. And I feel sorry for him and don’t want to be him. He points he flashlight towards his face like I used to do at summer camp. The flashlight is under his chin and the light creates shadow from his crooked nose and his indented eyes.

"Hey," he says. "Do I look like Jack?"

"Jack?" I want to know.

"O Lantern."

"Oh, yeah," I laugh, "Kinda. I mean, with that light in your face."

And instead of continuing down SE 14th on the west side of the street, I cross--with Heidi--over and head east, up Ivon towards my house and away from the man now singing some tune I don’t recognize that’s stuck in his head.

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