Living in the country seems exactly the right thing to do right now. A couple of acres on a half-grass, half-wooded lot on some high ground in a town called Greenfield Center, about six miles northwest of Saratoga Springs in upstate New York: We found the ideal house at an ideal price at an ideal time for me to get quiet.
These first few days have been a wonder, even as I get used to the reality that far less traffic on the road in front of the new house than where I lived on Long Island does not mean that the pickups and cars that come barreling by aren't going about 15 miles above the 45 mph speed limit. Country roads, open and inviting, are meant to be traveled at high rates of speed. There's a lot of ground to cover up here, and freedom means going fast. But as fast and loud as the roar of a truck strikes up, it's just as soon gone. And it's back to quiet.
Trees rustling. The high, green branches up in the blue sky: That was the first thing I noticed. You could hear the trees. Leafy chimes, like a constant flutter and dance. I found myself just looking up and wondering whether I had actually ever heard this before. Of course I HAVE heard trees rustling before, but that was the surprise here. It was as if it was new. A first time. And then the realization that this would be a constant part of the sound stream of living here. If nothing else ever happened, I could listen to the trees.
Fast trucks, tree branches in the wind, crows and jays and a few barred owls. The soundtrack started to fill up. ATVs in the woods from where the kids down the road were riding. Shotgun blasts in the early morning. Echoing through the trees. That distinct "pop" and the trail of sound. It's not hunting season, technically, but it's shooting season always.
That was outside, while inside, new sound effects to get used to from a door swelling in the afternoon sun and heat; the fridge humming; the sound of the water through the pipes under the floorboards as the outside hose is turned on. It was all like turning on the speaker of a new life and letting each piece of the orchestra take its warmup.
Then there are the new things to see: An apple tree near the garage with green fruit thick in the boughs, headed toward ripening in a month's time. Another apple tree in the rear of the yard, where the woods start. A stand of blueberry bushes that the birds have yet to lay waste to. Blueberries on the branches, many of them ripe or ripening from green to dark blue. More berries on the ground, fallen and uneaten.
The dog goes wild near the edge of the woods, where a few large ferns have been tamped down and seem to be showing the outline of deer. Their beds? The dog's frantic investigation seems to indicate the animals had been there. So, too, under the porch. She runs in and out of the plant beds, out of sight, hot on the trail of some fresh scent that must be radiating odor.
The hemlock in the tree stand is all but eaten away. Only a few tufts of evergreen leaves to show. A porcupine has eaten through the hemlock, rendering it naked and exposed to the sun and elements. The porcupine -- one day I bet I'll finally make its quill-fringed acquaintance -- but for now it owns the tree, which stripped almost naked doesn't look like it will ever come back to full life.
What other creatures are out here? Wild turkeys from our yard crossed the road before disappearing into the far woods. A few adults and a bunch of young birds, heading out together, who knows why. Frogs in the pool. Frogs in the pool filter basket. Little frogs that made a big mistake jumping into the pool and unable to leverage their way out. Nothing you can do. Every day the pool takes down a half dozen of these small amphibious creatures. They're kind of white-ish, but I can't tell if that's from the drowning or their natural hue.
The driveway and front yard offer up clues, too, about what's come by under cover or night, or when we're not looking. Now we're getting expert at examining scat. Scat! What a great word. You'd think it was fanciful but out here, it is necessary to use. There are many forms of this stuff to look at. Coyote? Fox? It's important to understand in order to protect the dog from becoming a juicy meal for one of these wild creatures.
A coyote got a woman last week on a bike path several miles away. The dog would be a piece of cake. So we're reading the scat. Preparing for whatever. Storing up tomato juice, for that inevitable meeting between dog and skunk at 11 p.m. when, hoping to get one last bit of business done before sleep, the dog will get hit and it's midnight in the sink. The white dog in a red bath. The acidity of the juice hopefully soaking up the acrid stink of that wild v. domestic meeting. This is the place where that all comes together as I step foot and plant feet in the country.
It is actually a strange relief to absolutely know what we are dealing with. There is no doubt about him. None. What he said in public that gave cover for the deplorable and dangerous racists among us is what he has been known to say in private, learned from his racist father who denied housing to blacks in New York City and from Roy Cohn, his amoral legal master. Now it is out. We are at bottom -- and before you say "there is no bottom with him" let me say I agree. He will go lower.
What IS different is that we don't need any more proof of his depravity -- even though I thought we had reached this nadir many times before. I think this is the definition of evil; the stuff you hear about in church and think it's a scare tactic. Nothing could be this dark or sinister. Nothing so ugly could snake its way into society, even though we have witnessed his gas-lighting and lies for decades, accelerated into the surreal spectacle of his sickening presidential campaign. How is he here? Maybe it is not to be the wrecking ball his voters drooled over, but to be the mirror we hold up, in order to see for ourselves, here in America, the despotic, evil force that can root itself and take hold. The question is: How far? How long?
My goal -- after the Nazi shock of Charlottesville -- is to beg off this violent suicide watch. Save the fresh round of outrage for anything but Trump. He is a failed human. The energy must now be to figure out what action to take. How to turn the collective will of those who now stand against him in totality into action -- and doing so not in fury but with the peace of mind that comes with KNOWING we were right and he is evil. I am open to suggestions -- from friends and leaders -- about the best way forward for peace-loving people who do not trade in hate.
My complete lack of understanding about how anyone could support this person, despite the complete & obvious evidence that he is exactly the racist thug that he has now shown, remains. We are not conditioned to believe evil really does exist. I know I haven't been. That has been MY privilege. But this cancer must be quarantined.
I think everyone who is resisting -- especially now, especially without any more equivocation -- will be part of the firewall against Trump. The Birther in Chief ran in order to open this dangerous door of racism and division. He ran to let the dogs among us bring us all into the gutter. Refusing him and refusing any legitimacy he claims is to walk out of the gutter, up the curb and up the steps. The higher we go, the clearer the view.
We don't need to argue with anyone anymore about him. It's over. Now, what do we do? I am looking for a clear and straight path up the stairs to the highest ground. I know THIS is the country we the people can reach. America IS the promise. He is the negation of promise. He is black hearted. He is evil. He is done.
Golf. Never before has a little, four-letter word betrayed such an enormous, black-hole-like time sucking endeavor as is golf.
I admit I once set aside my deep belief that elitist golf was a symbol of everything wrong with capitalism, free time, patriarchy and sportswear when, during a sportswriting trip to The Masters, I secretly but with some anguish admired the course at Augusta National, where every flower petal on the azaleas and every blade of grass on the putting greens look as if they were hand-placed there, like sesame seeds on the bun in a McDonald's commercial.
I admit I may have once rooted for Phil to win a major, or Tiger to make a comeback. But to play golf? Over and over and over again? I understand the first, heady tug of the allure, but then what?
In 1996, as part of the Seattle sportswriting contingent covering the Seattle Sonics in the NBA playoffs, I got an invite from some of the guys to go play golf. It was an off day between NBA games and the fellas had snagged a tee time at some big, fancy course in Houston. Having played golf maybe once before in my life -- a duffer's delight party prior to my brother's wedding in Peoria, Illinois -- I was truly the odd man out, mostly because I was the only woman and a truly novice golfer among a gaggle of guys who, while all possessing great humor and sense of adventure, really liked to play and were pretty good at it. But they asked me to come along, so I went.
I borrowed shoes an clubs from the pro shop, and laid it bare for the three guys in the foursome that I was more than prepared to pick up my ball and just ride along, once my truly horrific skills were on record. They nodded and proceeded to send me out to tee off first, since they were letting me use the forward tee box (ladies) while they waited in back. I took a practice swing or 8, and finally got my ball to stop teetering on the little head of the wood tee. I stood straight up, set my hips, let loose a good, high backswing and let 'er rip.
And what happened at that moment is the stuff of how delusions of golfing grandeur strike. It was instantaneous -- an almost otherworldly and out-of-body experience in which, for that instance, you get the feeling you have just achieved greatness and it's the kind of greatness that never, ever leaves you. My followthrough with the driver was a huge, loping arc; the kind of swing you'd see on the LPGA. It felt perfect, and from behind me, I could hear the guys let loose a few words of commendation. My ball was still lifting, lifting into the blue, Texas sky. It was the flight of a Golf Channel fairway drive. Time stood still. The white ball remained in orbit for what seemed like hours, days. In my mind, it's still flying right now, only that is not the reality of things, because, as my three sportswriting companions as my witnesses, my drive landed about 220 feet away. Like, right in the middle of the fairway. With a soft little bounce and roll before it stopped, shining there as if it was the moon. The biggest shot of my life. Bigger and longer than anything the fellas hit off that first tee, a feat for which they congratulated me and called me a sandbagger and generally made good sport of it ....
Until I tried to take the 5-iron to the approach shot on this par 4 hole. At which point the head of the club drilled itself into the grass, producing a leaden spray of dirt, topped with a tuft of private golf course fairway grass. The ball, I recall, may have gone backwards, or sliced severely about 7 feet, toward a sand trap.
What's the point of this story? The point is: I realized that the soaring sense of self-worth that came with the grand drive off the first tee was a false flag. It was a ruse. It was an aberration. I really sucked at golf. And I hated myself and the game for it. I knew I could find myriad other ways to kill four hours without having to put myself or anyone else through such a dispiriting and spirit-breaking task ever again. It made me fast realize:
Golf is a pursuit in which the pursuant -- in order to keep pursuing golf -- must have the following characteristics: 1) Too much time 2) Too much money 3) Too much self-esteem 4) A desire to escape reality for eternally long stretches of time 5) A willingness to stand around aimlessly for hours while other people try and impress them or not embarrass themselves 6) Have mastered the art of getting away with murder because how else do they account for being at the golf course for hours and hours during THE DAY and ...
I could go on, but I'll stop. Which is exactly what I wish Donald Trump would do.
I want him to stop being president, but since that won't happen until Bobby Mueller finishes the Big Dig of Russia et al, I just wish Trump would stop playing golf.
Likewise, I wish Obama had not played so much golf, even if Trump has played more golf in 7 months as *president than Obama did in the eight (short) years he was president. I wish that even this very week, we did not have to see pictures of Obama playing golf on Martha's Vineyard.
A president playing golf has come to represent not just a president playing golf, but a pissing match about who plays more golf? Who does more work? Who takes more vacations? Who is a bigger jerk? More divisive? More stupid or idiotic or weak or sad?
If we are lucky enough to get another presidential election, let alone another American president, I think part of my decision on who gets my vote will be based on whether or not the candidate does not play golf.
Golf is a private matter. It is an affliction as much as it is a pastime. Those who have the time or patience or cash to pursue it with the vigor that these past presidents have done so ... they are a little suspect in my book. In fact, why can't Trump just read a book? I know where he can find a good four hours. Then again, in his case, golf does keep him from starting WWIII. Or at least delay it.
Because we never learn, and because we seem to like buying houses, me and my spouse are currently in need of yet another bed. And this time, given the fact that the master bedroom in this cute house we bought near Saratoga Springs, N.Y. is actually a real master bedroom -- with an ensuite bathroom, Juliet balcony, skylight and room dimensions fitting real adults who are old and have worked (relatively) hard and deserve (maybe) a nice bedroom -- we can get a king bed.
We've never had a king-size bed before. Why? Because of the 8 or 9 houses we have owned (not all at once) three of them were in Seattle, where the housing stock consists of bungalows or small ranches on a plethora of in-city building lots of 5,000 square feet. This meant that, in at least two instances, our bedrooms required hugging the walls to get around the queen-size bed, which in one house meant when were laying in bed, we could look out over our lovely cement retaining wall. Tight quarters, but worth it!
Now, however, because we will be keeping two houses until one of us figures out how to RETIRE, we need to find bedroom furniture to outfit this lovely new room in the country where we will either love the quiet or come running down the hillside to the city and cry out on Broadway: What were we thinking? Until that happens, we need a bed. A nice, big but reasonably priced king-size bed.
So, I have taken up the cause and gone shopping online to see if I can find anything that 1) fits our aesthetic ideal and 2) fits our very modest budget. What this means is that we cannot, in good conscience, outfit this house with the same exact king-size bed that the current owners have so tantalizingly owned.
The Vermont Furniture Design cherry collection that they collected over their 30 years of inhabiting the home is, just, too much money given all the other expenses. Still, that sleigh bed just cries out to us, with its paneled headboard and footboard and wonderfully lovely mashup of Shaker/craftsman/mid-century design ... but I must resist! This sleigh bed, king size, runs upwards of $2,600.
This cold, hard reality has forced me to take up a relentless hunt through pages and pages of online shopping and home decor sites. I keep hoping I will strike gold; that somewhere in some forgotten collection on Houzz or Overstock.com, a lone leftover king-size cherry sleigh bed at a fraction of the cost will be lurking, waiting for some intrepid shopper such as myself to find it and proclaim: "OMG! I just found the cherry sleigh bed and it is a close-out on sale for $450!"
It's been weeks now. And ... so far ... nothing.
Well, scratch that. Not "nothing."
In what seems to be some kind of cruel and relentlessly unending joke, the Interwebs keep serving up NOTHING remotely like that lovely cherry sleigh bed for $450 but, instead, what I have been "treated" to is a rolling, brutal, tyrannical stream of bed frames and platforms that seem to be from the imagination of the Freddy Kruger film producers, or the warped sensibility of mass-market furniture manufacturers who went so far down the design rabbit hole that they've created beds for Martians or King Henry the 8ths wannabes.
Fresh horror after fresh horror, I realize that I have, by now, given up the Hunt For The Perfect & Aesthetically Stupendous Hand-Crafted, All-Natural Cherry Sleigh Bed and, instead, become completely fixated on just how so many god-forsaken beds are out there waiting to be bought!
For instance, this navy-blue tufted contraption, in which nowhere in the product description did it mention that it was straight out of a funeral home catalogue and well-suited for anyone seeking to get a sense of what it's like to sleep in a casket.
Or this boxy behemoth decked out in gold. This must be for couples who emulate the French monarchy. It's called Lavish Gold by Meridian, whose product description says this bed "is an impeccable example of truly memorable, opulent traditional design.'' Features are:
This mahogany masterpiece is a real show stopper. Or, maybe it's a door stopper. Or maybe it's alternative use is to sail across the Atlantic, back to Spain in the time of Columbus and the Moors. You can almost hear it creak with every stormy swell. Ahoy!
Or this magnificent red leather platform number. It looks like taffy and all I can think of are my knees screaming at me every time I try to elevate from this low-slung sleep aid. All I can see is Ronaldo or some other high-value European soccer star coming home to his high-priced Madrid condo to find his home decorator has decided this leather bunk is the best way to express the image of a sporty, sleek, millionaire playboy.
Now this thing, above, is called Vegas deco. Its wrought iron and appears to have two stags parading at the foot of the bed. Their heads are cocked to the side, averting each other's eyes. It is actually so mysterious a design that I think I would spend more time trying to figure out what those stags are doing, and why, than I would sleeping in that bed.
Then there's this one, above. A poster bed with decorative elements straight out of a spelunker's handbook. I call this "The Stalagmite" for the way the poster design appear to be a grotesque outcrop from the floor of a cave.
I could go on. And maybe I will add more beauties to this blog post. I have saved numerous other bad beds because after failing to find my natural cherry sleigh bed needle in a haystack, I became fascinated by the plethora of rustic charmers out there on the discount sites.
In one instance when I did a search for "natural wood king beds,'' this thing popped up. I think it's from The Beverly Hillbilly Collection, but I could be wrong.
Dear Sherman Alexie,
I did not read the last chapter or two of your memoir "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" not because I am lazy or uncommitted to this book but, because in the chant-like way in which the essays and poems that make up this book reverberate and deliver the story of your mother, and you, I was really rather overtaken by the time, near the end of this book, that you forgave your mother, or, at least, forgave yourself for, rightfully, having to walk away from the reservation and her.
I really would hate to ruin this memoir for anyone who has yet to read it, because there is a "secret" told here. Actually, there are two. One involves your mother. The other, your oldest sister. I guess that is what strikes me the most, and made it OK to walk away before fully ingesting the final chapter or two, which I did skim and which you -- by obligation -- try and wrap this thing up. I think you had already done that, and done so in such an aching and heartbreaking and adoring fashion that you should be commended.
I know that since the book has come out, you have now stopped touring to promote it. I think it's a good call. You were suffering from the travel and having to visit with the ghost of your vexing mother. That''s what you cited as the need to halt the book tour. In reality though, there is no need to promote this book, or to bleed for it, or to enter into public space and make chitchat and take photos or listen to your adoring audience. Not that you don't deserve that adoration. You do.. You are a gift.
But the book, as you have delivered it, has been a difficult birth. Yet it breathes and cries and would stand for nothing except full care and attention. As I said, I won't spoil what it is you give to the world in this book. You gave yourself. You gave your mother. And you gave your oldest sister. You have an uncanny gift in this book as you have in all your others to know exactly how to use words in a way to create the compression of time and thought and memory and feeling.
Maybe your friend is right. You have Salish hiding behind your gifted English. I certainly can't fathom this gift. All I know is that you already did your part here. The book stands. Let it be. You did all the hard work in such a way that, reading it, I have no doubt. You did absolutely what you had to do. You are freer for it. And so are they.
In Washington D.C., Anthony Scaramucci on Wednesday night attempted to put a bold, new spin on America. The hedge fund financier -- whose immigrant father used his hands to shovel sand in the pits near the Long Island Sound in Port Washington -- said America is more Uber and start-up "by a bunch of rich guys who broke away" from England than a nation of patriots and revolutionaries and poor immigrants who wanted political and religious freedom.
Another day, another rebranding of America in the age of billionaires steering the ship.
Meanwhile, his family back in Port Washington was just sorting through the swift ascension of Scaramucci to White House director of communications in the Age of Trump -- and that was before Newt Gingrich delivered a message to Scaramucci that may or may not been authorized by Trump about Scaramucci's "divisive" actions and "full-of-himself" bravado. Then the biggest bombshell in Scaramucci's one-week tenure: A profanity-laced tirade in The New Yorker which he took lethal aim at Reince Preibus, Steve Bannon and all the alleged White House leakers. One week!
Sal Defeo is a sort of legend here in Port Washington, N.Y. For decades, he and his brother, Sonny, ran Ghost Motorcycles, a small but mighty motorcycle shop on Main Street that once sold some of the most rare and powerful bikes to a large and loyal clientele. These days, the 90-year-old World War II veteran can be found sitting outside the old house on Main Street selling the only thing left of the old business: T-shirts and hoodies.
That's where I found Sal on Wednesday afternoon, only this time the familiar face had some other wares spread out on a table in front of him: Newspapers. Not the "fake news" that Donald Trump likes to mock whenever there are headlines about investigations into Russian election hacking and possible collusion, but the local Port Washington and Manhasset newspapers, and the New York Daily News.
With the appointment of Anthony Scaramucci to the White House, where he is now in command of Trump's scorched-earth "communications" team, Sal Defeo was basking in the hoopla surrounding the ascension of his nephew. It is a well-known fact that, growing up in Port Washington, where Anthony Scaramucci was a respected athlete and student before heading off to Tufts and Harvard and, later, earning over a billion at Goldman Sachs and with his own Skybridge hedge fund company, "Mooch" used to go help his uncle sell helmets and mopeds.
A working-class kid whose Italian immigrant father worked in the nearby sand mines, and whose mother was a well-coiffed homemaker who raised her kids Roman Catholic, Anthony Scaramucci's roots are Port Washington and his family. He has close friends from his days at Main Street elementary and Schreiber High School. He lives two miles away in Manhasset. And during Scaramucci's business cable TV news appearances, he extols the virtues of his working class background. Which is what Sal Defeo wanted to show me.
"Look,'' Sal says, reaching for his cellular phone and pulling up a picture. It's one that Anthony Scaramucci sent Sal on his 90th birthday. It's a Tweet that shows Scaramucci 30 years ago at Ghost, with a caption that says he will never forget what he learned working alongside his uncle.
"I'm going to the White House,'' Sal Defeo says, explaining that because Anthony has made such a big deal about the influence his uncles had on him, Anthony wants them to come dine with Trump. It's payback, in a way, for what Defeo and all of Scaramucci's immigrant family taught him over the years -- an American Dream story that Scaramucci often references in his mega-media appearances and finance books.
Trump is slated for an appearance in Suffolk County on Friday, where youth gangs have committed some heinously violent crimes. Trump will be met with protests, but Sal shrugs. He did not exactly sing Trump's praises. "What were people going to do? They were both bad,'' he says about Trump and Hillary Clinton. However, when you are within one loyal and loving nephew away from the presidency, it's something to crow about. Sal pointed to his motorcycle, the one with the sidecar, and said Trump wants to ride in it. You never know, Anthony comes by his parents' home around the corner often. Maybe Trump and Scaramucci will take a detour and drag race up Main Street.
Sal Defeo holds up the newspapers then. He has collected them because his sister is coming by any minute and she wants to see the fuss being made over her son. It's then that Marie Scaramucci comes driving up the side street in her gray sedan. Sal hops up and walks over to her open window. They pat each other's hands and smile and chat. Then Mrs. Scaramucci asks if I know Anthony and I tell her I do but he was in my younger sister's class in school. She nods. She asks my name and nods again. She's kind of beaming, as if none of the controversy and crazytown surrounding Trump and now Scaramucci is happening.
"I've met Trump. He's a very nice man,'' she says, and fends off any notion that Trump may be slightly, you know, divisive or mentally unhinged or unable to govern. "He just says what's on his mind. He's not a politician,'' she says as her car idles at the stop sign.
She is not done being the proud mother, though. This is not about Trump, really. It's about her son. "My son is very , very talented, he's very regal and he's everything that a mother could want and he's going to run for president one day and I might not be around because I'm a little bit old and hopefully he gets it and I'll see him from spirit.''
For the record, I did reach out the Anthony Scaramucci to let him know that his mother and uncle were making a fuss about him, and to let him know his mother was making some newsworthy statements about his future plans. No word back, which is understandable, given the White House firestorm into which Scaramucci has walked, and which he may be accelerating.
Scaramucci was due in D.C. month before his eventual arrival last week. He sold his Skybridge hedge fund, then was told there was no room at the inn. Now, with Trump on the warpath, Tweeting his way to his immovable base, Scaramucci -- who dogged Trump's candidacy during the GOP primary -- was brought in to be Trump's younger, more handsome, more glib megaphone. It's been quite a show already.
Sean Spicer quit as press secretary within hours of Scaramucci's arrival. Trump has inspired a new round of outrage with Tweets about banning transgender soldiers from the U.S. military. He has drawn rebukes from Republican Senators over Trump's humiliation via Twitter of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The teardown of the Obama legacy is foundering, at least in the GOP's desire to repeal and replace health care. And Scaramucci faces fresh criticism almost hourly over his handling of White House staff, his ire over "leaks" of his financial disclosure statement, which is actually a matter of public record. Then there are the video montages that compare how exactly Scaramucci is mimicking Trump -- at least in terms of press conference hand gestures.
What side of history Anthony Scaramucci from Port Washington is on -- time is going to tell. In the meantime, his people at home are sharing not-so-fake news from local newspaper about his arrival at the Trump White House.
It's been a strange year, mostly for electoral reasons we won't get too far into right now because I am so sick of thinking about HIM. But one of the most telling aspects of the strange and outrageous year has been the toll it has taken on my waistline, and arms and ... yeah ... like everywhere.
Since November, there's been an inordinate amount of time spent on the computer, in front of the TV, on the phone looking at Facebook and Twitter -- all in an effort to try and be there for the exact moment when the news breaks that everything that's happened and happening is going to stop, so we can return to a normal country, or at least not a country run by a nutcase authoritarian with a real knack for lying and gas-lighting millions of people.
Anyway, about the eating -- otherwise known as binge snacking from 7 p.m. until 9:22 p.m --which has accompanied the post-election nightmare: The biggest problem has been potato chips. It appears that watching cable news during this strange year has accelerated and exaggerated the body's need for Cape Cod low-fat potato chips, or Utz's Dark Russet Chips, with an occasional bag (or 99 bags) of Lay's low-fat Ruffles.
When those items have found themselves eaten out of house and home, we have been known to resort to Cheeto's (!!!!) "All Natural" Cheese Puffs, or Pirate Booty, or Cheez Its or a big bin of homemade popcorn smothered in salt and nutritional yeast. (Have you tried it? Until you do, do not scoff.)
Sometimes, when those preferential snack items are out of stock in the kitchen cabinets, we've had to resort to Special Dark Pretzels, or Everything Snack Factory Pretzels or that giant bag of Pita Chips.
And then, when the chips were really down, we could always rely on saltine crackers or Virginia peanuts, since they are staples in the house. And as if all of that wasn't bad enough, and since we've abandoned diet soda because it is going to kill us, all of that salt and garbage was generally washed down with a few million gin & tonics, or a nice Woodford Reserve, or, in really desperate times, straight rubbing alcohol.
Which brings me to the picture above: The Dry-Mixed Sweets that mysteriously appeared in my refrigerator. Just as I have launched a new crusade to go snack free -- or at least limit access and intake to salty or sweet or overly caloric items in an attempt to regain any resemblance of self control, I find that somehow my mother must have bought us a pack of Indian pastries when she took out kid out for lunch when I was out of town. Now they are sitting on the counter. They are a very colorful and alluring set of sweets, all the more enticing because these goodies remind me of being in India, and the exotic flavors and spices of that cuisine. Eating this kind of treat can be justified as not about calories, but as a gastro-transportational method of being somewhere else. Not Proustian. But maybe a little more justifiable than ... potato chips.
I took two small bites. India. Other countries. A big world. So much bigger than one can comprehend. Bigger than ... HIM. I gave the dog a little crumble, then put the treats back in the fridge. It was a nice interlude.
But I don't really want to sell real estate. I mean, I love houses. But I like to buy them, not sell them to other people, because other people are much more annoying than I am, and that's saying a lot.
I bring this up today because, since I don't want to sell houses, I thought maybe it would be fun to do something like sell commercial real estate. So, on a whim, I took an interview with a small firm in Queens. They are nice people, or, at least, nice enough to let me come in for an interview. It was in this interview, in a moment of complete delusion and/or boredom, that I said: Sure, I would really love to come in and join your team!
I guess this is a problem, since, it's been a few weeks and now it's show time. They wrote to me asking: Hey, are you done with your vacation and can we talk? After spending a few months online with my trusty but virtual real estate teachers, whose little 1:30 minute video tutorials about capitalization rates and gross monthly income prepared me to take the New York State Department of State licensing test -- which I somehow passed -- it seems a shame that, after all that, I am on the verge of wasting all that time and effort.
So now I have to decide how to tell them that, really, I like the IDEA of selling commercial real estate, especially in scrappy neighborhoods in in Brooklyn and Queens where neighborhoods are turning over and changing, as more and more of NYC's record 8.5 million residents move out to the fringes of the boroughs. It seems exciting to try and strike up deals with old mom & pop shops that may decide it's time to sell; or to find space for retailers and franchisees looking for a spot in Bayside or Bushwick. Deals are fun! People have interesting stories, and it's exciting to get them to trust you and make them want to let you help them. And make a little coin, too.
But the reality is: I like the stories. I like talking to people and getting all the information. But can I really get down and dirty and slog through the listing and selling or leasing process? More to the point, do I really want to commit myself to an office in Queens, right on Northern Boulevard passed the Cross Island Expressway exits and in between the Korean barbecue restaurants and tire repair shops, and invest all kinds of blood, sweat and time developing a "book" for myself?
The answer: No.
I want to go to the country and write. Maybe I have to work. But I can work at Stewart's. I can stock shelves at Price Chopper, or make egg salad and slaw in the deli department. I like to cook. I like grocery stores.
Mostly, though, I like words. And while selling commercial real estate in Queens seems like a grand new adventure, and a way to invigorate life and maybe pave the way for a few commissions, I think my heart isn't in it. I'm not sure. But I think probably not. I have to decide. Like in the next 7 or 12 hours.
For what it's worth, here is a little real estate roundup about Trump World: Sean Spicer was born at North Shore Hospital because his parents lived at the time at 8 Third Avenue in Port Washington. It's a two-family brick abode down near the Town Dock. I walked by there after I read that Spicer lived there as an infant.
Anthony Scaramucci is also from Port Washington, and was in the same class as my sister, Corinna: 1982. When me and Anthony go at it on Twitter about T&&&p, especially via DM, he always says "say hi to Cokie." Anthony's parents still live here in town, and he has a house in Manhasset.
When Anthony became T&&&p's most ardent NYC supporter and campaign fund raiser last year, some of our fellow Schreiber High School classmates wondered how come Anthony believes in the Creation Theory? After all, Port Washington has some of the best schools in the country. It is just so inconceivable but then again, others pointed out that the Christian Right has been milked by the likes of T&&&p and Scaramucci for money and votes all because these characters have adopted some outrageously unscientific positions, as if to fit in with The Base.
Anthony's uncle owned Ghost Motorcycle. It was an interesting little place on Main Street. His cousin Auggie runs a glass replacement outfit in town, about a block from where Spicer was born. The glass outfit is lined with photos of Auggie and Anthony with all kinds of politicians: Cuomo, Romney, Democrat and Republican alike. When I brought a coffee table top in to be fixed, Auggie told me once about a house in Irma Avenue (where we live) where drug dealers once stashed $14 million in the pipes. Interesting story.
OK. Now, one or two more notes here. Felix Sater, a notorious figure in Trump world, lives in Port Washington, too. Sater served time in federal prison and then became an FBI informant. In the latest news (July 2017) it was reported that Sater is COOPERATING with the FBI on the Trump money laundering investigation (That's bad news for Trump). Sater has a big ranch house right at the beginning of Sands Point. When we ride our bikes past his house, the signs warn: Surveillance Cameras In Effect. I get scared, a little, and pedal faster. Now, Trump as we know is from the same Queens neighborhood as my father: Jamaica Estates. Little Donny was known as a bully from the earliest of ages. When a ball was hit over the fence into his yard, Donny wouldn't give it back. His childhood house just sold for very high price.
I am only bringing this up in the event that these four fellas are ever at Louie's together, and I find out about it, and I go in there, and I say something stupid, and then I am swimming with the fishes ... you'll get a sense why I think the whole cabal is ... not necessarily on the up and up.
Of course, Anthony would not need to go to Louie's. He owns a restaurant in New York City. The Hunt and Fish Club.
Again, last year when I was all over Anthony about Trump being kind of, you know, a liar and a con artist, Anthony said I should come to The Hunt and Fish Club for dinner. "You'd like him in person,'' he said. I was like: I am not going to The Hunt and Fish Club to meet Trump. First of all, I don't have stockings, sleeveless dress and pumps. Second, it is a restaurant NAMED AFTER A MOB JOINT, as in John Gotti. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS STUFF UP.
By the end of the town hall Bernie Sanders held with Chris Hayes of MSNBC this week in West Virginia, so many of the savagely depressed citizens of that coal-bearing state started to come around to the idea that maybe not much was going to change. The 2016 campaign was over, but the dawn of 2017 has been polemics, chaos, lies.
Meanwhile, the misery in West Virginia is being acknowledged as a shared plight among all of us Americans. Despite red-state voters being sold a load of red-dog slag that all the elites and liberals didn't give a crap about them -- their joblessness, their opioid epidemic -- it seems much more likely that we are all in this together, despite different geography, culture and stations in life.
While it's equal-opportunity bad throughout much of working-class and middle-class America. it's impossible to deny that West Virginia serves as a stark, strip-mined and diseased Ground Zero for America's despair. The boom & bust economics of coal, let alone the politics of coal, are hardly a new deal. The author of one of the best books on the state, John Alexander Williams, startlingly describes this "addicted" state so hauntingly:
"Persons who have studied the impact of coal mining on different societies from Silesia to northern Japan have usually concluded that coal has been a curse upon the land that yielded it. West Virginia is no exception. In its repetitive cycle of boom and bust, its savage exploitation of men and nature, in its seemingly endless series of disasters, the coal industry has brought grief and hardship to all but a small proportion of the people it has touched.
"There has been, of course, a tiny elite of smaller producers and middlemen who grew rich from coal exploitation although not so rich as the nonresident owners in whose shadow the local elite worked. For those West Virginians who lived at a remove from the industry, its impact has been more ambiguous. Certainly coal created opportunities that were not there in the agricultural era, but it also created new problems, especially as the owners of the industry have always tried and have usually succeeded in passing off the external or social costs of coal production to the public at large.
"Moreover, the industry called into being a larger population than West Virginia’s other economic resources can support so that, even after the great migration of the postwar years, the position of the state is like that of an addict. West Virginia is ‘hooked’ on coal, for better or for worse. In the past, it has generally been for the worst.''
This week, as the Trump presidency founders amidst the cruelty and chaos of its agenda, Sen. Sanders sat next to West Virginians to try and steer a conversation back to collective solutions.
One miner sitting on the stage next to Sen. Sanders said he voted for Trump because Trump promised coal jobs. Now this miner was loathe to find out that Obamacare was going to be taken away in the name of freedom and making America great again. Even this man came around to agreeing that universal health care is probably the only real way to end this ridiculous, nihilistic fight over keeping Americans from further sinking their mortality rates. We aren't No. 1 when it comes to suicide, infant mortality, life expectancy.
This town hall was close to heartbreaking. No, it was heartbreaking. A young woman in her 20s offered up one of the most sanguine summaries of West Virginians' state of affairs: Jobs have been so long gone from the Mountaineer State that she's living in a generation where jobs aren't even part of the collective memory.
"I never saw the jobs. I never saw what could be. I still don't know what all is out there. I'm still trying to figure it out. You're born into generational poverty,'' said Sabrina Shrader. "For all the coal that has came out of our mountains. The whole country and whole world got electricity ... we really got breadcrumbs.''
More hauntingly, she understood exactly where the coal industry had left them: Holding an empty bag after the fat cats ran off with all the bituminous gold and all the profit. She didn't even owe her soul to the company store. The company store was long shuttered. And worse, in a state where 250,000 men once worked in as miners, 110,000 of those jobs were lost to machines brought in by mining companies for greater efficiency. Automation is not as easy to vilify as Obama, however.
Trump is not to blame for America's misery, but he is to blame for the rollicking load of bull crap he promised at the rallies he used to satisfy his ego at the expense of America's legion of the lost. He had his finger on the pulse, all right. People are so angry that they surfed a dangerous wave of nationalism and false promises, only to arrive now at this fractured abyss called reality.
Ain't no quick fixes on the horizon. Worse, the chaos of this presidency wastes precious time for a rebuilding project that in places like McDowell County, W.V. there is no more time to waste.
In Nashville, Trump held himself a campaign rally on Wednesday night. Presidents are allowed to go meet with their people, connect, get some energy outside the Beltway. But when crowd enthusiasm comes mostly from "Lock Her Up!" chants, it's hard to ignore the appearance that grudges and anger are all that this campaign was about.
The neo-Nazi haircut boys in the lily-white crowd directly behind Trump bathed the night in Brown Shirt-style "chic." The normalization of bullying, bragging, put-downs and fear-mongering were the hallmarks of this night as Trump huffed and puffed in all the ways that demonstrate he has not one clue, or care, that the Constitution still underscores the principles and actions of this country.
But that is the point of Trump. It isn't about what he is going to build between Americans, it's about walls and dividing people. The Nashville crowd loves the idea of the wall, but down in Texas, you wonder how landowners feel now as the government posts condemnation warnings in advance of taking their acreage for Trump's wall.
While Trump goes out and blows 4th-grade taunts and slogans at his followers, Steve Bannon remains in the White House: The president-not-elected on a collision course between Christianity and Islam, Bannon is bent on tearing it all down, burning it all down, taking it all away. That includes Meals-On-Wheels and Elmo.
In the middle of Trump's Nashville rally, someone on the Twitter machine tweeted that it was Bannon who sent Trump out to the arena for some Roman Empire theatrics, when really all Trump wanted to do was stay in and watch more Fox News. But Trump can't resist the applause, and the sweet strains of the campaign chorus: "Lock Her Up!"
The new president 's big talk about quick fixes continues. It's all going to be great! And the media is still dishonest and the worst bunch of humans. He did not talk about microwave ovens that spy on people, or his false wiretapping allegations against his predecessor, or about the resignation of a National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, who could be a compromised Russian asset.
His top priorities included a travel ban on Muslims that has now been twice rejected by the courts, and a health care teardown that has no chance of passing the House, let alone the Senate. But at least now, with the charade of an agenda in free fall, Trump can't wait to get to tax cuts for the rich, most of whom reside in Trump's billionaire boys club Cabinet. He would have started there, he bellowed, underscoring the joke of the GOP repeal and replace Obamacare scam.
How much longer can this go on? Sanders, in West Virginia, took the time to listen and, unlike Hillary Clinton who coldly stated the fact that coal jobs won't be coming back, Sanders validated the experience of these Americans. In the absence of jobs and hope, anger only goes so far.
I used to write politics, news and sports for newspapers in cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. Now I take a lot of Instagram photos, check Facebook, swim, read about T$$$p and cook dinner for people I really like. New York native, living in Port Washington and Greenfield Center (that's near Saratoga Springs FYI).