(PNS reporting from OAKLAND) “Are you planning on voting Tuesday, brah?” Dale Mendoza scrunched his eyes shut behind his dark sunglasses as he concentrated on his phone call with a potential voter in Arkansas.
“This election is critical, OK, and we totally need your vote.” Mendoza (photo, left) was the team leader of two dozen phone bank volunteers in a basement office in this Northern California city, possible the country’s most pot-friendly municipality.
The smoke-filled room is a California outpost of Toke the Vote, a coalition of pro-marijuana political activists backed by the Zig-Zag cigarette papers company and ConAgra’s Screaming Yellow Zonkers snack products.
“The presidential election this Tuesday October 16 is so awesome,” volunteer Bakhti Quinoa told another potential voter. “The vibes, I mean, can you dig it?”
Although the organization is officially non-partisan and only advocates for voter turnout, most of the volunteers were hoping Pres. Barack Obama would win a second term.
“He would be the first president to actually admit smoking weed,” phone banker Kine Mota told PNS. “Clinton ‘didn’t inhale’ and George Bush only copped to ‘substance abuse’ although he fell over and hit his cabeza after eating a pretzel which sounds like too much nitrous to me. That’s why Dale made his video. Obama is the stoners’ candidate. Tuesday. Be there!” [Video below.]
“I don’t know,” responded volunteer Crystal Starshine. “[Gov. Mitt] Romney is into this whole other planet called Kolob thing. That’s a trip. We need more planets ever since Pluto got ripped off. And the dude has magic underwear!”
Toke the Vote‘s mission includes directing voters to legitimate voting places; last year many “voted” in what turned out to be the mens’ rooms at Dunkin Doughnuts stores, Mendoza explained. The group is also making special tie-dyed sample ballots in the hope voters will find it easier to concentrate and pay attention to something familiar during the voting process. “There’s a lot of distracting shiny shit in those voting booths, dude!” he said.
Meanwhile, volunteer Sugar Calavera had another potential voter on the line. She was trying to make a personal connection with the woman in Iowa by revealing a little about herself, just like it said in her Tips for Telephone Stars guidebook.
“So anyhow,” Calavera began, “In 1978, a young Chicano actor from Montebello, CA went to my uncle, a tailor named Yossi Berkowitz, to try on a new suit custom-made for his starring role in a Los Angeles play. Right away, he noticed that the coat sleeves were too long.
“No problem,” said Uncle Yossi (that’s short for Yosef), a long-time shop owner on Whittier Boulevard in nearby Boyle Heights. “Just bend them at the elbow and hold them out in front of you. See, now it’s fine.”
“But the collar is up around my ears!” the actor complained.
“It’s nothing. Just hunch your back up a little . . . no, a little more. . . . that’s it.”
“But I’m stepping on my cuffs!” he cried in desperation.
“Nu, bend back a little to take up the slack; put your hands in the pockets and pull up. There you go. Look in the mirror — the suit fits perfectly.”
Leaning like a tree, clutching his pants, the actor lurched out onto the street, startling a passing couple. “Oh, look,” said the woman, “that poor man!”
“Yes,” said her boyfriend, “but what a beautiful suit!”
We know that young actor as Edward J. Olmos; Uncle Yossi, of course, was sewing the Zoot Suit.
“So — are you going to vote?” Calavera asked. But no one was on the line.