All Politics Is Local, Indeed

This is an endorsement of my friend Alexandria Wojcik’s campaign for re-election. I reside in the Town of New Paltz, not the Village of, so I hope the anecdote that I share below means more than my current street address.

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In December 2021, my landlord informed me that he wanted to move from New Paltz, New York, to North Carolina, which meant that he needed to sell the house we both resided in. He estimated that this process would take three months or so. It actually took only three weeks for him to find his next home and receive an offer from someone to purchase the home we both resided in. In the current real estate environment, this should not have been a surprise.

In those three weeks, I placed an ad for myself as a renter/housemate (I live on a limited and fixed income, as I am disabled, which longtime readers know) in various venues like Craigslist and Facebook and others, and I responded to every ad I could find. There were no legitimate rentals—not in mid-winter, not in the middle of a month. I have friends in real estate, and they utilized their resources and knowledge on my behalf; it was obvious that a good solution would be eventually available, but not in the desperately brief window of time I was in. I started to research how to place myself in a homeless shelter. (It is not as easy as one may think.)

Two public officials stepped up on my behalf: New Paltz Village Trustee Michele Zipp, who offered me temporary space in a relative’s home, and New Paltz’s Deputy Mayor, Alexandria Wojcik. New Paltz is a small village, and these two brought this to life for me in the best possible way. I have not yet met either of them in person, yet help was offered. Online, I must come across as a good person; I hope I live up to that thought both online and in real life.

Michele Zipp announced last week that she will not run for re-election. Alexandria Wojcik has started to campaign again. As she embarks on a re-election campaign as village trustee and gathers signatures to re-qualify for the November ballot, I write here something I have said to my friends one-on-one for the last year: Alexandria exemplifies the best in our community and even helped me re-acquire a sense of hope at that difficult moment last year.

As I wrote above, Alexandria and I have not yet met even though we have many friends in common and it is likely we have lived in many of the same apartments in our New Paltz histories. I also write this as a voter in the Town of New Paltz and not the Village of New Paltz (for those in New York State, this makes sense; and for those not, it does not), so I can not vote for her or serve as a signature on her ballot petition.

Alexandria and Michele did something unique in my experience, and I share this small anecdote as something that is not unique to Alexandria—others with whom I have spoken share similar stories—and as something that I hope becomes ever more frequent among all public servants. Part of our national problem right now stems from the fact that most political figures are characters on a TV show from most voters’ perspectives and are thus viewed through our emotions rather than our experiences. Our current political climate is closer to road rage than problem-solving, but we can change this, one experience at a time.
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Four Homes, One Beard: 2022

Oh, and I grew a beard this past month for the first time in my life. I should have led all this with THAT news.

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Last month I posted my annual birthday essay in which I searched for a possible correspondence between my age and the equivalent element on the periodic table; this year I am 54, and xenon is the 54th element.

As I explained, it is an idea that I credit to the late Dr. Oliver Sacks from one of the last essays, “My Periodic Table,” (here’s the link; subscription required) that he published before his death.

Some friends took me out to dinner the night before my birthday, which was very kind, and one of them asked me whether I had written anything recently. Whenever I live a year like 2022, the one we are about to see off, a year in which I wrote little and published less, I will admit to you that my replies to this friendly question can sometimes make me sound like a job applicant who knows there is nothing he can say to win the job: for several months in 2022 my answer has been, “No, I haven’t written much, but I’ve been learning how to edit video …” and my voice would trail off in the direction that I perceived my questioner’s attention had drifted off toward.

But on my birthday, I had indeed written something, and I explained the age=element concept to my friends, several of whom are between the ages of 24-30, and told them that this is a series that I have undertaken for several years. It elicited the unmistakable sounds of their approval for my clever brain: an “ooooohhhh” seemed to come from each one of them.

And then one of them asked, “How many more elements are there? Are there enough?”
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A Christmas Story

How (not) to cut down your own Christmas tree.

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Tree trimming was my least favorite type of trimming when I was young. I still lack the eye-hand coordination required to decorate a tree correctly; in fact, I believe that almost every tree I have attempted to decorate was quietly fixed upon my departure from the vicinity of the tree.

A beloved girlfriend one Christmas credited me with the expansion of her notions of tree decoration. She said, “You’re the first person I’ve known who does not put all the decorations on the ends of the branches,” which is true, I sometimes place them on the middle or sometimes closer to the trunk. And they she pointed out that I had overloaded one section of the Christmas tree with the same color ornament (albeit at different depths on the branches!) and this needed to be fixed.

Oh, Christmas can be a challenge for someone so rarely festive, like me.

One winter’s day long ago, a dear friend enlisted me in a project to cut down a real live Christmas tree from a local Christmas tree farm so that her son could experience a Christmas just like the one she and I had never, ever, ever, never had.
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