100 Days in Donald Trump’s America
January 20, 2017 : Day 1
A friend of mine named Stephen left Chicago on a plane early this morning. He had been in the city with a business school group from his Ohio college. Growing up together, we lived in a neighborhood with backyards ostensibly built to be football fields. Massive and rectangular. There were even small trees around the perimeters that served as rooted endzone pylons and first down markers. I am actually closer with his older brother Brady, who is my age. The two of us, coached by their Dad, were part of an undefeated CYO basketball team in the 8th grade. Besides Stephen and Brady, there are two other boys and one girl in the family. The four boys all went to the same all-male high school as I did, graduating in the years from 2010 to 2017. Three of them excelled in various sports while they were there. Stephen was the musical kid. And though it was not the prevailing method of achieving social status in a building crowded with nearly 800 rowdy, newly-muscled, Kobe-vs-Lebron arguing young gentlemen, all in blazers and Sperrys, he seemed genuinely to thrive. I watched him play Marius in Les Misérables and Joseph in Joseph. I can attest to his absolutely room-filling presence, on and off the stage. His passion for theater and for music. During the past three weeks in Chicago he has entered the Hamilton ticket lottery every single day. Yesterday he won, and sat first row for the modern American masterpiece. He described the experience to me, via text from his O’Hare terminal, his exit-stage-left from the city of Chicago if you will, as surreal.
January 27, 2017 : Day 8
The travel ban
Juan Gabriel Perez is a stereotypical San Franciscan. His job involves coordinating social media for a Japanese-American startup. See what I mean? “…it’s crazy, there’s a good mix of culture, there’s two Latinos, well that’s counting myself, two Filipinos, there’s an Italian White guy, we honestly like play a lot of games and just eat rad food like sushi a lot…” he effervescently explains. Today his assignment was to use Facebook Live to market a ramen noodle product. In the midst of some conceptually-ever-popular “social media challenge” involving large quantities of ramen, Juan could not handle the spice. He coughed a few noodles into his hand and spilled a lot onto the floor in a live-captured panic. Since Juan is the type of person who garners only additional charm, and no repulsion, from this type of thing, the entire office — including two Filipinos, an Italian White guy, and of course the other Latino — laughed their asses off.
February 5, 2017 : Day 17
This evening under a vast and warm Houston sky Tom Brady — once half-jokingly called the “Greatest Living American” by sports journalist Scott Van Pelt — took off down the field. As he did so, gathered groups of men across the country — high-school buddies, fraternity brothers, guys who all have kids at the same school, dudes born in Massachusetts now living in Minneapolis — could not help but comment on his infamous lack of speed. Brady entered the NFL with labels like “awkward” and “slow”, draft pick number 199. He was never a pure talent, yet with a transcendent force of will and competitiveness he has dominated professional football throughout the entirety of the known 21st century. Teammates have reported that in practice they sometimes find themselves unable to catch Brady scrambling. They see him run daily; they know his stats and their own. They are without a doubt twice as fast, and some half his age — yet he gains ground. Is it possible that a person so innately committed to success could make themselves temporarily faster than they actually are? Perhaps it is like the mother able to lift a car off of her child in an adrenaline-rush hysteria, available to Brady at the mere sight of a two-score deficit. He took off down the field and gained about 15 yards. Later he also gained a 5th Super Bowl trophy, a 4th Super Bowl MVP title, and consideration by many as the greatest football player to ever live.
February 13, 2017 : Day 25
National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns
Shelly was in the middle of her lunch break when two nearby strangers began screaming profanities at one another, apparently attempting to decide which of them would speak to the cashier first. Fortunately, she was already settled in with her 10-piece chicken nugget and two cups of McDonald’s tangy barbecue sauce. She always uses one cup of the sauce for the first five nuggets and then opens the second for the next five. When the meal comes with ten nuggets and two sauce cups, this just makes sense. She would actually like to meet someone who does it some other way, and hear their explanation of how that could possibly be reasonable. Over the weekend, Shelly had prepared steak and grilled artichokes with her wife Debra to celebrate Valentine’s Day. Funny how, when one is in the mood, a McDonald’s 10-piece can be just as satisfying. At about nugget #6, sauce cup #2, one of the strangers said to the other “Bitch I will burn your house down”. Oh shit. The situation shifted suddenly from socially awkward to guiltily entertaining. The “bitch” in question was unfazed; her mind did not flash to an image of her old high-school basketball newspaper clippings curling into flames or anything like that; No. She simply sent a few texts. By nugget #10, sure enough, four large, bald, angry friends of the bitch arrived. The self-proclaimed future-arsonist took off past the diners out the rear McDonald’s door and proceeded to run down the sidewalk as fast as Shelly had ever seen anybody run. Hysterical. Just awesome, Shelly thought as she impressed the wooden garbage flap that read “THANK YOU”.
February 19, 2017 : Day 31
President’s Day Weekend
Today was an incredibly warm February day in some parts of the U.S. This probably meant something slightly different to every single person who had the opportunity to experience it; but to almost all it was welcome. Being able to step out and have a cigarette without suffering through the painful sting of a harsh breeze was appreciated by a great many. Others couldn’t help but get excited about their garden, despite full awareness that the thaw would not last. Games of softball and soccer materialized on fields not officially reserved for months to come. For Jade, struck with a sort of Midwestern obligation to celebrate warm weather each time it unexpectedly chooses to reveal itself, it was perusing the bars and restaurants of downtown St. Louis in a floral top, mini-skirt, and sandals. Her celebration had much to offer — everything from tacos to sushi. Friends found in the crowd and others lost to it. More hours it seemed, than a normal day provided. But it was the sandals, for some reason, that repeatedly brought an organic, internally-prompted smile to her face. Something about wearing those sandals and drinking a mojito in the middle of a sunny, crowded, metropolitan beer-garden-slash-club felt metaphysically right. Not just “fun”; but like a hedonistic meditation that there could be no greater purpose for humankind. Jade sent a Snapchat to friends in nearby cities who were enjoying their own warm days. She got back a series of foot photography, a variety of skin and toenail color.
February 27, 2017 : Day 39
Brian sat in the family room shirtless, glasses resting on his sternum attached to a lanyard around his hairy shoulders. He had The Boston Globe on his lap but had not yet read a word because there was a lot of bullshit that he had to tell his wife and son about. Like many of the Jewish men he grew up around, Brian often complained about bullshit with a smirk on his face. As if the more unbelievable, the more utter bullshit it was, the more he enjoyed relaying it. All the rich kids from Newport and Bar Harbor were getting more ridiculous by the semester. Reading from a textbook gives them a headache they say — they need a Kindle now! And the parents at dance class — what they don’t have anything better to do? Every Monday and Thursday they sit there for an hour and a half watching intently while Brian instructs. It drives him crazy. I mean shit, three wide-open hours a week? If it was him he would drop the kid off every day and then show up at the Spring recital with a pot of caldo verde for everybody and say “I’m proud of you son” in Portuguese! With this comment, Brian sprung up from his armchair for accentuation, which simultaneously brought down both his wife’s head onto her arms at the counter and his son’s hand onto the adjacent couch for support — both of them losing balance to their laughter.
March 2, 2017 : Day 42
Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuses himself from Russia-Trump Administration inquiries
Lecydra was excited. She was excited because tonight was different and at the age of 9 that’s enough. A few weeks ago her entire class had been uproarious and giggly simply because they were moved to the basketball gym for the day while a seepage issue was taken care of in their regular room. Tonight it was a guest speaker, instead of the usual tutoring session. The speaker was someone who had grown up in the same neighborhood as Lecydra, Atlanta’s Carter Street, and was now an APD officer. She encouraged her audience to keep busy with school and to reconsider their perceptions of and relationship with law enforcement officers. She asked them to raise their hands if anyone they knew had ever been shot. Lecydra’s left arm mindlessly flopped into the air while her right continued awkwardly navigating a handful of Doritos, which had been served together with a Subway 6-inch and a Coke to all attendees, into her mouth. Volunteer tutors glanced around stunned at the skinny middle-school arms, the human-limb forest of tragedies now surrounding them. But the children might as well have been asked to raise their hands if they were paying attention, or liked Oreos. Simple yes/no question, participate, let’s get to the good stuff. The book signing afterwards, the chance to talk to the boy from another class. Lecydra paid decent attention, but was too nervous to ask a question. She was really just excited about the good stuff.
March 8, 2017 : Day 48
About 8 months ago an unplanned pregnancy required Josh and his girlfriend to move from West Palm Beach, Florida to suburban New Jersey. The sunshine, the drugs — all of it had to go. This time for real. Today, as Josh put in the flooring of a massive, well, what is it anyway? Probably a school or some shit like that. Anyway, as he worked today putting in the flooring of a school, Josh was no longer thinking about the past, about 8 months ago. His thoughts were 1 month in the future. That’s when she’ll be here. What the fuck? Painters, electricians, contractors up; tools down. Josh joined the flow of bodies heading upstairs. In the enormous skeleton of a building the exodus from empty unfinished rooms into the plastic-shrouded hallways and stairwell must have lasted 8 minutes, gaining viscosity from newly alerted followers the entire way. Finally, Josh arrived at the source of the commotion — a man who had violently gashed his arm on a piece of piping. He would be alright, but oh fuck would OSHA be all over this. Everybody was given the remainder of the day off. As he cruised home, Josh was psyched about a number of things: the extra time, the way Red Bull somehow inexplicably goes really well with cigarettes, about not having a fucking hole in his arm, most of all though, and even though it wasn’t even literally the case yet, he was really psyched to be a Dad.
March 15, 2017 : Day 55
NASDAQ-100 hits record high
Leaving the house this morning, Debbie flipped the grill on the front porch upside down. The winds in Bismark were over 20 MPH all last week and were closing in on 30 today. Some trampolines had even exchanged yards — only temporarily, as children on the receiving ends were disappointed to hear. At the national retailer where Debbie worked, the now upside down grill was not performing very well. It was one of those bugaboos that lengthened her days. When she returned home the grill was upright, had 4 beer brats sizzling on it, and there was a man from her high-school graduating class standing next to it. “Hi Honey” he said. She put her hand on the rough canvas back of her husband’s jacket and examined her 2 brats nestled together with his, a tad browner. They looked and smelled delicious, flames were strong, grilltop shiny and chic — who the heck wouldn’t want one of these things? She wondered if it was simply a price issue as she stepped into the house to begin searching for buns, mustard, ketchup, and soda.
March 20, 2017 : Day 60
FBI announces investigation into Russia-Trump Administration ties
Early this morning a 101-year-old human heart pumped a few last ounces of blood throughout the body of a man in New York. His name was David Rockefeller. His grandfather was John D. Rockefeller, a folk hero akin to Paul Bunyan and Jesse James, the richest man in modern history. Naturally, much of David’s life was defined by this lineage. He grew up on 54th Street in the largest private residence in New York City at that time, a fairytale child to city kids whose imaginations did not have the capacity, nor indeed the need, to wonder about distant worlds and magical creatures. Right on their own peninsula they had the tallest structures ever built by man and the New York Yankees. With adulthood, David did not disappoint those free enough from envy to be in awe. He studied at Harvard and served his country in Europe. He shared intimacy with Kathleen Kennedy and looked Castro, Gorbachev, and Hussein all in the eye. Last night, he went to sleep in his home surrounded by the work of Picasso and Matisse.
The United States is a nation of abundance, global influence, and cultural power. All citizens are aware of these concepts to varying degrees; but few bear witness to the outermost edges of their full potential. David was one of those few. Today however, for the first time in over a century, he experienced something much greater.
April 1, 2017 : Day 72
Tony had planned to meet up with some old college friends today — show them around the hip Alberta neighborhood and the unique bar food and all that. It didn’t happen. Just like writing did not seem to happen. He left his go-to coffee spot without having completed a decent paragraph at about 12:15. Maybe he was hungover. As he shuffled home though, he happened upon a very satisfying scene — a driveway with four of his favorite humans loading guitars, amps, wires, bags, mics, and snacks all into an olive-green van. Without the exchange of many words, “dude”, “come”, a few variations of the word “fuck”, it was established that Tony would himself be loaded into the van. Exactly the type of inspiration and economical language he had been looking for all morning, fuck man. The van barreled north on Highway 5 towards Seattle; show at 10. Tony settled comfortably into his role as spiritual advisor to and joint roller for the band. He sent a text message to his college friends, alerting them of his sudden call to arms. They received the message in the lobby of Seattle’s Marriott hotel over a few of the dozens of complementary bagels they would altogether eat on their spring break excursion. Tony and his friends’ separate road trippin vehicles eventually passed each other under the gorgeous shade of the pines and Douglas Firs that line the road in that part of the country.
April 3, 2017 : Day 74
Today began at about 6:30AM and 112 feet. Well no, Ale began at ground level like everybody else. A gigantic Southern red oak is what took him to 112. Damn if he wasn’t still shaking off last night up until the point he got up there though. Fully awake now, in a dead fuckin tree, and the hangover started to set in. But it’s the dead wood that pays for the whiskey and the hangover that pays for the fun, so you tough it out. He went to work — cutting, sawing, strapping, securing, and listening to local sports talk. The Vols are right fuckin there man. When it was time for a breather, Ale grabbed an acorn. Long and lonely days up in the trees can drag on, so he invented the game Toss-The-Acorn-Into-My-Sunroof. He was actually getting pretty good at it. As this particular acorn left his hand though he knew it was way off, he totally overshot it, shaky-ass fuckin hangover hands man. But lo, the acorn was actually so far off that it hit the trunk of another tree, bounced once on the roof of his pickup parked below, and then plopped right in. Ale listened to his own echoing whoops as he realized sardonically that this would be the highlight of his day, but had to admit that was pretty fuckin awesome bro.
April 7, 2017 : Day 78
U.S. conducts airstrikes in Syria
Shuffling through his sock drawer without having first shut the breeze-accepting window, Marvin realized how nice it was. He crammed into jeans and a smoky-smelling sweater, grabbed what had once been a Costco-sized container of cheese puff balls, and headed out to the 16th Street Mall, a quick walk from his apartment. And indeed — cooperative weather, the mall had set up the public-use street pianos. He was happy to see the ivories back out baby. Singalongs like “Piano Man” and “Don’t Stop Believing” drew in the most “assistance” from passers-by, and also the most dollars. Though Marvin plays regularly, many of the same songs, there is always something new that can hit the spot — a lyric, a riff. It’s seemingly random, but felt by both performer and audience. Today it was “God Only Knows”, particularly the transition, the building dun — dadun-dun- before the second verse. That feels as good as any bass drop, Marvin thought. After finishing, he looked around to see if anyone agreed. A “WOOH!” came from a flannel-clad couple raising glasses of amber draft beer in his direction. They were as happy that the bar patio was open as Marvin was about the pianos.
April 13, 2017 : Day 84
U.S. drops “Mother of all Bombs” on ISIS strongholds in Afghanistan
Intergalactic space travel followed by a dinner party with the undead, a flight by elephant and another by fairy dust, a treacherous encounter with an evil witch. It was certainly a full day, but Yu was sure that doing it solo would have been workable, maybe even enjoyable. With two children, ages 4 and 6, it was flat-out body-aching, brain-pounding exhaustion. The crying, the waiting, the walking, the running. Each normal physiological need became a production of expenditure that ten years ago would have floated Yu through an entire Saturday night. Someone gets thirsty — understandable after hours of wandering about this dizzying metropolis of colorful, twisted steel in the Southern California sun. Bring on the sodas (souvenir cups), might as well grab a pretzel to tide everyone over before Ariel’s Grotto, and now the 6-year old has her eye on the Minnie Mouse mini-mist fan. That’ll be $44.12. Yu maintained a positive energy by making it a point to appreciate the park design, the incredible attention to detail. In the area surrounding the Pirates of the Caribbean there were hook-handed and peg-legged characters walking around of course. There was a skull-shaped cave across a shipwrecking bay. But it was the little things that were most impressive. The light posts and fences were somehow … pirate-y; and the souvenir kiosks, even the ones that sold the same old jewelry and hats as the rest of the park, had storied names like “Captain Kidd’s Lost Treasures”. Yu noticed that the barrels placed around the walkway for ambiance were marked with cryptic swashbuckling inscriptions, carefully forged by some Disney artist to go unnoticed by most, but not Yu.
April 21, 2017 : Day 92
The grill was hot at Kosta’s at about 5:30AM. Mr. and Mrs. Kosta cooked eggs, sausage, and bacon and prepared biscuits in fixed quantities. After that, it was first come first serve. If you came in looking for grits and Mr. Kosta was done making grits for the day, enjoy your hashbrowns. The Brawn factory workers knew this, and knew their own breakfast preferences, and arrived accordingly. Priya, a senior at Winamac Community High School, did not get to Kosta’s until about midnight. She had snuck out her basement window, which was probably unnecessary. It’s not like her parents actually cared, but an unspoken don’t-ask-don’t-tell-hear-no-evil-see-no-evil-speak-no-evil type of arrangement had been established, and she tried to respect that. Grades solid, headed to Purdue in just a few months, and her parents didn’t want to be seen as the “cool” type, sharing joints with her or asking her how many beer pong games she won or whatever; so she snuck out windows. Her friends Maddie and Kelsey did the same, and were now in tow. The unlit Kosta’s parking lot is the perfect place for a pregame (or a postgame, am I right?). Priya, Maddie, and Kelsey split two Four Lokos and did not so much sing, as scream “One Dance”, “Broccoli”, “Work From Home” and on and on. They truly felt that no moment in their future could ever be as special, that nothing would ever be bigger or more important than making tonight legendary, making it a story. Arguably, they were right.
April 28, 2017 : Day 99
Air Force Second Lieutenant Scott Wawrzyniak arrived in the flight room at 6:13AM for 6:30 show time. He catalogued this mentally for no immediately apparent reason. Typical of the mind during the strictly regimented droll of pilot training. Check-In with the IP (Instructor Pilot), g-suit up, and then it was out to the heat-distorted runway to inspect the vehicle. Routine routine routine. By 11:24AM Scott was moving at 210 knots and by 11:25AM it was 230. No cataloguing necessary here, he could feel that one. This was the first of two solo flights he would complete today, as he did every Monday through Friday. In between defense maneuvers, sky clear above an empty beige Del Rio landscape, he thought of only one thing besides flying — his recent engagement. Back to the action — thighs, calves, buttocks, and toes all clenching and unclenching in unison, sometimes in pairs on a turn. Stomach strong, but undoubtedly different. Maybe standing up there at St. Joe’s will feel just like this; hopefully. The human body requires supplemental oxygen at altitudes above 10,000 feet. Scott spent a few hours of his day at fifteen to twenty. Boy were there some moments down on land where he could barely breath around that girl. Oh jesus Wawr, that is some high-school level corny shit right there. He chuckled to himself out loud and squinted from the sun which he was flying directly towards.