In Search of High Density Ultraweirdness

On the Path to Peak Absurdity at the 2016 Republican National Convention

My sources indicate he didn’t take the mask off all week.

At the 90’s throwback hip-hop GOP dance party on Tuesday night a dark, semi-crowded bar blasted hardcore Biggie Smalls while a bunch of middle-aged, white, predominantly overweight delegates from Georgia got drunk and stumbled around the dance floor.

It was ridiculous. Just two hours prior these people had been cheering their asses off while Rudy Giuliani was on stage, screaming like a maniac about Black Lives Matters being a terrorist organization, slamming his hands on the podium, mashing his teeth out of his fucking skull and imploring every single one of them to get on their hands and knees and blow a police officer every chance they got (It’s your god given duty as an American!) — and now here they all were, dancing to “Gimmie the Loot,” which ended with an interlude where Biggie’s character in the song lit up the NYPD with a Mac-10.

I walked up to the shortest, fattest Georgia delegate I could find. I wanted to ask him how he felt about the lyrics, but the DJ switched to Outkast before I reached him and I had to alter my approach.

“Hey!” I said, shouting above the music. “You know these guys are from Georgia too, right?”

“Who?” he said.

“Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Outkast. Southernplayalisticadillamuzik.”

He laughed and slapped my back a little too hard.

“Who the fuck are you?” he said.

He was hammered drunk — although to be fair, so was I.

“I’m a writer,” I said. “Here to get in touch with the highest density weirdness I can find in an attempt to understand the absurd rise of Donald Trump in America.”

“Oh yeah? Who do you work for?”

“Um,” I said.

“Oh shit,” he said. “Motherfucker. You don’t work for anyone, do you?”

“I’m a freelancer.”

He put his arm over my shoulder and I had to hunch over to keep it from being very uncomfortable. His body type was not dissimilar from Danny DeVito’s.

“Freelance my fucking ass. I talk to reporters all the time. I’ve had a lot of screen time this week, you know. Not a big deal or anything but I’ve been on TV a lot.”

“Okay,” I said.

“Where are you from?”

“San Francisco.”

“See that’s the problem right there. All you motherfuckers in California think Georgia’s nothing but the KKK, don’t you? You think we all get up in the morning and eat breakfast and then put on a white hood, right?”

“Well,” I said.

“How about this? You’re a fucking writer, aren’t you? I mean, even if you are unemployed.”

He squeezed my neck a little harder and really laughed his ass off after that one.

“Seriously. Why don’t you write a story about the real Georgia? How about that for a fucking change?”

I started to say something but he cut me off.

“Hey now,” he said. “Take a look at that.”

He was staring at a woman on her way to the bar. She was middle-aged too, probably no younger than fifty, and had an ass as flat as a table top.

“Uh,” I said.

“Oh shit,” he said, letting go of my neck. “You’re not gay, are you?”

“I actually just came from a gay party with my good friend Doug over there. Despite our best efforts though, we couldn’t get in.”

It was true too. Doug and I had tried our damnedest to get into Milo Yiannopoulous’s party at Cleveland State for the gay alt-right, but security had been tight and we hadn’t been able to sneak in. It was a great disappointment for us. Milo was all the rage since being banned from Twitter for trolling Leslie Jones and I’d wanted to hear what the white nationalist had to say. Unfortunately though, when you show up to a gay party wearing running shoes and dusting your pants off from anti-fungal powder you just poured down your boxers to alleviate the horrific burn of jock itch (long story), security wasn’t inclined to make an exception.

Meanwhile, the gears were really turning inside that Georgia delegate. He was genuinely concerned with the uncertainty of it all. Thankfully, Doug came back from the bathroom before he could ask me anything else or curse me out some more for not being employed by an official magazine.

“Check it out,” Doug said.

He had two lanyards in his hand with what looked to be Convention credentials of some sort attached to the end.

“Where did you get those?”

“Bathroom,” he said. “Someone left them in a stall.”

He handed me one. It was for a fundraiser gala for the Republican Party of Cuyahoga County that had taken place yesterday. I put it on. Even if it was expired, it was better than walking around with a naked neck for the next two days, I knew that much for sure.

“Hey now, look at this!” the delegate shouted to no one in particular. “Two virgins at their first convention!”

“Actually,” Doug said. “This is my fifth.”

The effect this bit of information had on the Georgia delegate was dramatic. He stepped toward Doug and put his hand on his shoulder, looking at him like he’d just found his long lost son after a decades long search.

“Son of a bitch,” he said. “This is my fifth convention too.”

They shook hands. The delegate didn’t take his eyes off Doug. The bastard wasn’t even blinking anymore.

“You don’t meet many five-timers these days,” he said. “This other son of a bitch though, typical convention rookie as far as I’m concerned. Doesn’t know his asshole from a goddamn ditch. Couldn’t figure out how to get on the floor of the Q if Donald Trump was leading him by the fucking hand!”

Still not sure what the lyrics are.

Little foul-mouthed prick, I thought to myself, stumbling to the bar for another drink. I was in no mood for his nonsense. I’d flown in the night before from San Francisco — drinking Red Bulls and listening to the Drive soundtrack — spending large parts of the red eye staring straight ahead, blinking very little, and playing “Nightcall” over and over. I couldn’t quite make out the words but something about the song had felt intensely right. Kavinksy and Lovefoxxx, I thought, must be in tune with the ultraweird, which was the reason why I was at the Convention in the first place.

My associate Doug — a hard drinking, former collegiate wrestler and full blown political junkie — and I had hatched a plan to immerse ourselves in the Convention scene, connect with maniacs from all over the country and crash the strangest events we could find.

We had no credentials, no invitations and no friends on the floor, but neither one of us saw that as an impediment. We weren’t trying to get invited to the prestigious stuff — the parties packed with press and all the familiar power brokers. We were trying to go to the strangest things possible. Like dissertations on how to spot the Lizard People in Congress and all-night watch parties featuring Richard Nixon’s televised speeches played on a loop. Trump was a circus act after all. If we wanted to understand the essence of his appeal, it wouldn’t be by hanging out with the establishment motherfuckers who had just recently started to come around. It would be with the freaks and conservative cast-offs that had helped fuel his goddamn push in the first place. Those were the people we were looking for. The ones that would put us face deep in the absurd.

Exclusive footage from a June meeting.

Our first experience with it happened almost immediately.

We were cutting down an alley next to an old church a few blocks from Doug’s place on Monday when four hillbilly speed freaks in full second-hand military gear and loaded AR-15’s emerged from an empty parking lot and stopped us in the middle of the street.

“Excuse me sir,” the youngest one said, hand on the trigger. “Would you mind telling me what you’re doing here.”

“Um,” I said. “What?”

“We’re just checking up on folks, making sure no one from out of town is coming in here, trying to sabotage the Convention for Trump,” another one said. He was wearing sunglasses, but the heavy pock-marked creases in his face and the sweat pouring out of him told me one thing. Hardcore tweaker. They all were. Fucking Marlboro smoking meth heads walking around with assault rifles in broad daylight playing soldier for Trump’s GOP, expecting people to take them seriously.

“I live here,” Doug said.

“Here downtown?”

“This isn’t downtown Cleveland. It’s Ohio City. Downtown is fifteen minutes that way.”

Doug pointed toward the Q. The militia looked at him and then the direction he was pointing. They seemed confused. They huddled up and started whispering.

“See that,” Doug said, pointing to the patches on their uniform. “These guys are from Lima.”

“So?” I said.

“Lima,” he whispered. “Is in the middle of nowhere. Allen County. Bunch of racist rednecks. These guys came to the Convention looking for an excuse to kill black people, guaranteed.”

Doug was black by the way.

I took a closer look at one of the guy’s rolled up uniform sleeves. I wasn’t positive, but it looked like the wings of a Nazi eagle were extending on his forearm.

“Alright fellas,” I said. “Nice meeting y’all. Think we’ll be headed out now.”

Another Ohio City native started walking by before the tweakers could really register what I’d said. He had what looked like a Costco card clasped to his shirt pocket, which seemed to catch the militia’s attention. Two of them half lifted their assault rifles and stopped him.

“Just hold on now,” one of them said. “We’re gonna have to check that.”

We slipped away while they were scrutinizing his grocery club membership. It was probably going to take them all afternoon to figure out what they were looking at. I doubted those fuckers could read. My associate and I, meanwhile, had a Convention to get to.

Badges? BADGES? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

I had two more drinks at the bar and then rejoined Doug on the dance floor. The Georgia delegate was still screaming his head off when I got over there but he was wobbling a bit on his feet and it looked like the little guy was finally running out of steam.

“What’s the Democrats’ argument?” he shouted. “I mean, what is it really? What are they saying to this country? They’ve got nothing — no case to make! Because as far as I can tell, the only reason we should vote for Hillary is because she sits down to pee. Because she sits down, that’s it Doug. That’s the only thing they talk about!”

He sipped his drink and sort of staggered side to side before finding his balance.

“To be fair,” Doug said. “Sometimes in the morning when I’m really hung over, I sit down to pee too. It’s a lot more comfortable.”

The delegate exploded with laughter and pounded Doug on the shoulder.

“Hell!” he said. “I’m fifty-four years old! I’ve been sitting down to pee for the last ten years! Speaking of which.”

He stumbled off to the bathroom. The DJ was playing “Regulators” but most of the delegates had given up trying to dance. It was late, last call was coming soon.

“Looks like Newt Gingrich is hosting a film screening tomorrow,” Doug said, glancing at his phone. “Want to go to that?”

“God yes,” I said. “I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.”

Milo, before the cosmetic surgery.

I woke up on Wednesday after dreaming about the scene outside Milo’s party and the crowd I’d seen strutting in — the Breitbart supporters walking in perfect time with some distant Nazi drumline that had never completely left the atmosphere, their smiles getting bigger and bigger, something so gleefully fascist about the look on their faces. Like no matter what happened in November, these motherfuckers had already won.

It troubled me.

So much so that when I walked in the living room, I’d completely forgotten about Peter, the maniac Russian journalist we’d stumbled across late last night.

He was asleep in the corner, using his backpack as a pillow on the floor. Doug was barely awake himself, watching Big Brother on the couch.

“Jesus,” I muttered, rubbing my forehead. “What the fuck happened?”

Doug sort of groaned. He wasn’t in great shape. I was still pretty drunk myself and the details of how we’d gotten to that point were certainly hazy. I vaguely recalled drinking with Peter in a bar while he hit on every girl in sight, praising the freedom of women in our country and lamenting the inhibitions of his Russian wife. We brought him back to Doug’s place after he’d told us he had no place to stay in Cleveland and wound up sharing warm Bud Lights until seven o’clock in the morning while he pontificated on the vicious, bone splitting nature of heartbreak. He may have even recited one of Pushkin’s poems on the subject. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure, but that was roughly what I remembered happening after we left the Georgia delegates at their dance party.

I sat down next to Doug. There were empty beer bottles everywhere and two of the contestants on Big Brother were cuddling in a bed that was shaped like a race car.

“Seriously man,” I muttered. “I can’t believe you watch this show.”

He groaned again. Peter turned over and blinked, registering where he was, which might have been a shock, depending on how much he remembered from last night.

“Good morning,” he said finally.

He was wearing one of Doug’s Cleveland Browns t-shirts.

“Nice shirt,” I said.

“Yes,” he said. “Dan was so kind to give me some new clothes.”

“It’s Doug,” I said.

“What?” he said.

“Nevermind.”

I took another look at my associate. He’d wrapped himself so tightly in his blanket it looked like he was wearing a burka. His eyes fluttered closed.

“Hey man,” I said, grabbing his shoulder. “We’ve got a date with Newt Gingrich this afternoon.”

“I know,” he said.

He took a deep breath and tried to pick himself off the couch, but he couldn’t do it.

“Just give me another hour,” he said. “I’ll be ready.”

Currently holds a .003% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

I didn’t know a hell of a lot about the film itself but apparently Gingrich had produced and narrated a biopic of George Washington called “The First American.” Honestly, I didn’t give a shit. The movie was going to be terrible, I knew that much for sure, but what I was interested in were all the people at the RNC who still got excited by Newt Gingrich enough to go to one of his movies.

“This way dude,” Doug said once we made it downtown. “I know a short cut.”

He led us through the bowels of the Tower City mall. We cut through the kitchen of a Jimmie John’s, moved quick enough to avoid suspicion and then raced down a hallway that exited right next to the movie theater. We ran in and asked a woman working the ticket counter if we could get into the screening. Before she could answer though, a group emerged from the back of the theater, led by old man Newt himself.

He was flanked by three or four reporters along with his chief of staff and they were making a quick exit through the same doors we’d just walked in.

The sly bastard, I thought. He wasn’t even going to stay for his own movie. He must have known how terrible it was.

“Come on,” I said to Doug. “Let’s follow.”

I took some notes while we walked side by side with Newt through the mall. Here’s what I wrote:

Gingrich is much larger than I expected. There’s a certain girth to him that almost appears surreal. It’s fat, certainly, but a fat that’s much denser than normal. Indeed, there isn’t much softness to the man. It’s almost as if his layers of corpulence are made from something different entirely— a dense foam perhaps, the type you’d see on a professional sports mascot or a costumed children’s television host, like Barney the Dinosaur, except the show he’d be the host of wouldn’t be about love or learning — rather it would be about the impending apocalypse, a far-right introduction for kids ten and under to the doomsday and Islamic jihad.

It was all true too. The man did not look normal. In fact, I was so caught up in the oddity of his appearance that I didn’t realize that, as a perceived member of the press, I could ask him questions too.

Shit, I thought. Think of something!

Gingrich meanwhile had been stopped by two fans who called themselves Latinos for Trump despite both being women. They took a quick picture and then the other reporters started peppering him with real hardballs, really putting the fat man on his heels.

Q: Mr. Gingrich, what’s your speech going to be about tonight?

A: Safety. We’re not safe in America anymore.

Q: Mr. Gingrich, were you upset about not being Trump’s choice for VP?

A: No, no.

Q: Mr. Gingrich, what do you think your role will be in Trump’s cabinet if he wins in November?

A: I expect it’ll be something policy related.

“Sorry folks,” his chief of staff said, stepping in. “I’m afraid that’ll be all for now.”

They continued onto an elevator. The doors closed. Newt was gone and so was my opportunity to thrust him face to face with the depths of my twisted and tormented intellect.

“Fuck!” I shouted.

The other reporters stopped writing in their notebooks and stared at me. They were a bit surprised by my outburst. So was Doug.

“What’s wrong man?” he said.

“I missed my chance to ask Newt a question,” I said.

I gestured toward the other reporters.

“These other jackoffs were too busy asking him what color the sky was and how often he ate food with the intent of converting into energy for me to get a goddamn word in.”

“Pssh,” Doug said, waving me off. “Don’t worry. Nobody gives a shit about Newt Gingrich anymore. He’s like the old guy at the park that keeps coming around, thinking he can still ball, but can’t. He needs to just go the fuck home.”

A true renaissance man.

We stopped in Public Square after leaving the mall. Things were even calmer there than they’d been on Monday but there was still a massive number of photojournalists with cameras at the ready, fingers crossed, hoping at any minute the entire city of Cleveland would descend into anarchy.

For the time being, their presence didn’t bother me. I was too preoccupied and depressed about how things had gone with Newt to care about anything else.

“Imagine all the crazy things I could have said to him. I could have asked him how it felt to have Bill Clinton’s fist rammed up his ass for all those years— or what kind of promises it had taken from Trump to turn him into one of the agents of the Republican apocalypse.”

“Dude,” he said. “Forget about it. Seriously. Newt hasn’t been relevant for a very long time.”

I eyed Doug carefully. We were sitting on a concrete ledge at the edge of the square and he was nursing the Pepsi can that we’d been using as a makeshift flask all week.

“You sure you ready to start drinking again?” I said. “You were in pretty bad shape this morning.”

“I feel great now,” he said.

“You gonna eat something?”

“Nope,” he said. “Not hungry.”

I nodded. I was having a Red Bull myself, although I’d switched from mixing it with whiskey to vodka, which was a more appropriate drink in my opinion at that hour. The sun was still up after all.

Who says it’s a two-party system?

Doug and I dropped into a Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday for a basket of mini-corn dogs and if nothing else, to escape the heat for a while. It was brutal outside and I’d all but given up hope that my jock itch was going to improve before I got back to San Francisco. We were walking five miles a day at least, there was constant rubbing on my inner thighs and that powder was just simply too weak for the task at hand.

I glanced at the TV’s. CNN was profiling Trump’s children and I spent a good deal of time at B-Dubs staring at their faces, trying to calculate the combined dollar figure on the amount of plastic surgery they’d had done over the course of their collective lifetimes.

“Oh shit,” Doug said, showing me his phone. “Looks like there’s a ‘free speech’ happy hour with some alt-right guys later today.”

“Who?” I said.

“Mike Cernovich and someone named Roosh V.”

“Are they gay super trolls like Milo?”

“I don’t know,” Doug said. “Probably.”

We combed Twitter after that, trying to find exactly where the happy hour was taking place. The whole thing was strange. Cernovich and Roosh were keeping the location secret. There was a password involved. A secret, pre-meeting somewhere before it even started. Who the hell knew? These guys spent so much goddamn time on Twitter and had so many conversations going on with themselves about how revolutionary and masculine they were that I really had a very difficult time trying to understand what the hell they were talking about.

I did a little research on the pair while we tried to figure it out. They weren’t gay — or rather, if they were, they were still in the closet. Ostensibly, the two were professional misogynists who spent their time writing articles for pathetic, socially inept young men about how to target insecurity as a way to manipulate women. Other than that, all they seemed to do was troll feminists on social media and try to pick fights with liberals.

Any surprise that Trump was their hero?

“Okay,” Doug said. “I think I got it.”

He showed me his phone. Roosh and Cernovich had finally posted the secret pre-meeting location on Twitter, which was a bus stop in front of the Cleveland Casino. Once we were there, we were supposed to give them the password, which was “pet shop,” at which point they’d tell us where to go for the happy hour itself.

I scrolled through the profiles of the dozen guys who seemed the most excited about it. The few who’d posted pictures of themselves were oddly proportioned, strange looking dudes who were not shy about telling the world how much they hated Jews or how superior they thought White European culture was and why the West needed to cleanse itself of Arab influences.

I read a few more of their tweets and then put my phone down.

I could only take so much of their nonsense before I wanted to slam my face against the wall, which was probably the reaction those trolls were hoping for.

Milo and Breitbart, trolling the universe.

Here was the thing —

If Doug and I were two captains fielding a team for literally any sport, the guys waiting for the “free speech” happy hour were in a fifteen-way-tie for last picked. If they hadn’t been such awful human beings I would have felt sorry for them, honestly. They were the type of stoop shouldered, acne ravaged dudes who’d been bullied and socially fucked every day in school, and instead of growing out of their awkwardness, they’d doubled down and become the perpetual misfits that we were surrounded with now.

“This is the alt-right?” I whispered to Doug once we were in front of the casino. “Are you sure?”

“You’ve never seen a group of racists hanging out before?”

I shook my head.

“They tend to be pretty pathetic.”

Roosh came over not long after. He was wearing a Hillary Clinton t-shirt over a bullet proof vest. He also had a woman’s wig on and was sporting long, very fake looking dark hair.

“Cool outfit man,” I said.

He nodded. He had extremely bad teeth, which explained why he hadn’t been smiling in any of the pictures I’d seen of him on the internet.

“I’m undercover,” he said. “Blending in with the protesters. You here for the happy hour?”

“That’s right,” I said. “Pet shop.”

He nodded, satisfied with the password. Cernovich was walking up behind him, typing something on his phone. There were big blotches of eczema all over his face and arms, and he was a chubby fucker too — the type that sweated profusely indoors.

I took a look at him and Roosh together.

Right, I thought.

The pinnacles of masculinity.

The face of the alt-right.

We went around the corner to the Tilted Kilt for the happy hour. I drank a couple beers and shuffled around the bar, getting a feel for the crowd. I still couldn’t believe this was it — the alt-right, the infamous thought criminals, the fuckers who were going to take over the Republican Party and propel Donald Trump to the Presidency. Most of them were too socially awkward to even talk to one another in real life and if it was really true what they thought — that some people were born superior by virtue of their genetics, then these sons of bitches had most likely lost the game of life at the moment of conception.

If any of them were bothered by Doug being there, a black man, they didn’t say a word about it either. In fact, it didn’t take long until he was one of the most popular guys there. After about ten minutes, he was holding court with six or seven of them at the bar and they were hanging on his every word like a group of middle school students huddled around their favorite teacher. I think they were probably even buying him beers. It was ridiculous.

I noticed a Nazi looking motherfucker in an expensive suit dominating a conversation off to the side so I went and eavesdropped for a bit. He was talking to Roosh and the others about Milo, whom he didn’t seem to think was conservative enough to be considered alt-right. Maybe the fact that Milo was so unabashedly gay bothered him, or maybe it was because he was getting burn from all the major press in the country and he was jealous. I wasn’t sure.

“Who are you, exactly?” I said, interrupting.

Roosh looked at me like I was insane.

“You don’t know who this is?”

“Nope,” I said.

“It’s quite alright,” the Nazi leader said, waving Roosh off, brimming with false modesty.

He told me his name after that, but honestly, I forgot it almost immediately. Apparently, he was a very big deal in the alt-right community — a strict, white nationalist identitarian and one of the founders of the movement according to Roosh.

“Okay, so maybe you can help me understand something then,” I said. “What’s the deal with you guys? Are you professional trolls or something?”

The guy in the expensive suit, whatever his name was, laughed one of those very stilted, ivy-league laughs — or rather the type you’d expect the ivy league villain in a bad 80’s movie to have — and then shook his head.

“No, no,” he said. “Social media just happens to be one of the more prominent means of communication of our time. And if we have to provoke people or be controversial to break them from the idea that liberal multiculturalism and political correctness is some sort of social inevitability, then so be it.”

“Isn’t that the same point Milo makes?”

He rolled his eyes.

“Milo is simply echoing those of us who have been saying that for years.”

“So you’re not a fan?”

“Oh,” he said. “Milo’s fine. He’s prominent now, especially since his Twitter ban, and he’s given us a lot of attention. I’d hardly say he’s truly conservative though. When he stops being useful, the movement will cast him off the wagon.”

“You’re both believers in the importance of the culture war, right?”

“Of course,” he said. “It’s critical — far more important than any policy battles. It’s why the mainstream Republican Party has been losing for years and why Trump has done so well. He understands that in order to seize power you first have to become a cultural icon.”

He paused and sipped his drink. It was pink, in a very fancy glass. I think it was a Cosmopolitan.

“That’s been one of the biggest problems for the Right,” he continued. “Who’s emerged for us during the last thirty years? What icons have we had?”

“Um,” I said. “Newt Gingrich?”

“Hardly,” he said. “There’s been almost no one. They’ve all been on the Left, unfortunately. That’s what needs to change.”

“Is that why so many of you spend so much time on social media publicizing yourselves?”

He sipped his Cosmopolitan and smiled at me.

“Twitter, things of that nature — that’s just one part of it. We need more people putting out articles, writing books, making documentaries. We need to be present in Universities. Trump is just the beginning. This is a war that will be fought over generations.”

“Alright,” I said. “But to become a truly prominent political movement, wouldn’t you have to expand your base among people who don’t traditionally sympathize with you? What do you think it would take, for example, to increase the number of women in your organization, considering they represent one of the largest voter groups in this country?”

He looked at me for a moment like I’d just pulled down my pants and taken a diarrhea shit all over his dress shoes. Roosh too. They were in fucking shock.

“Women,” he said, still aghast. “Are irrelevant. Once we take over, they’ll fall in line because they’re slaves to power.”

“You don’t say?” I said.

“You’ve never thought about that?” Roosh chimed in, staring at me like I was some sort of retarded child.

“Uh,” I said. “I’m not a misogynist, so no. Not really.”

“It has nothing to do with misogyny,” the founder of the alt-right said. “It’s scientific fact. The female mind isn’t suited for complex mental tasks like trying to understand political organizations. They’re built to give birth and take care of children. Trying to teach a woman about the nuance of government would be like trying to teach an elephant how to play baseball.”

I nodded for a moment and then had to put my hand over my mouth to stop from laughing in their faces. It was a struggle. They were saying this stuff without a hint of irony, like they’d just left a 1920’s German Eugenics meeting and come away from it thinking they’d heard the gospel. It was becoming clear that despite the veneer of intellectualism, these guys had likely not graduated from college.

“Wow,” I said. “I had no idea you all knew so much about science.”

“It’s common sense.”

“No kidding,” I said. “In that case, tell me something. What’s your relationship like with your mother?”

The guy in the expensive suit just stared at me for a moment, blinking, his face slowly turning a very bright shade of red.

“Excuse me?” he said finally.

“Your mom,” I said. “How do you feel about her? Considering your views on women, I think it’s relevant.”

“I’m not going to talk to you about my mother.”

“Alright,” I said. “What about your ex-girlfriends then? Was there a really bad heartbreak you went through before you started hating women, for instance? Could you tell me a little bit about that?”

He started to say something, stopped and then his whole face seized up in a sort of apoplectic confusion. He was upset. So were the other guys around me. No one was quite sure how to respond. I was pretty sure I’d just trolled all of them in real life.

“You know what,” he said finally. “I’m terminating this conversation. You’re being very insulting. Shame on you.”

I laughed out loud finally. I couldn’t hold it in any longer.

A professional white supremacist had just exposed his views on the inferiority of the female mind and then claimed I was the one who was being insulting.

I really laughed my ass off thinking about it. I was almost hysterical for a moment. Because deep down, I knew. I had pushed all the way through in to the other side. I was finally there — the absolute epicenter of peak absurdity at the Republican National Convention.

“Yes,” I whispered to myself. “This is truly where Donald Trump lives.”

Poor Pepe, he didn’t deserve this.

Hanging out in a bar in the Flats later, half-listening to Trump’s Convention speech, I thought more about the alt-right’s argument on the culture war. It was actually sort of interesting — the idea that what was acceptable to talk about in public circles had been largely determined by the Left, and that as a result true open mindedness had been stifled by liberal hypersensitivity and an obsession with never even remotely coming close to hurting anyone’s feelings.

Hell, I thought. I lived in San Francisco. I knew all about that.

Where the alt-right’s argument failed though was in its application. Because like Trump, they used their criticism of political correctness as an excuse to spew some of the most hateful, vile nonsense I’d ever heard in modern American politics. And really, after thinking about it all week, there wasn’t any actual substance to anything Trump or these clowns on the alt-right had been talking about. There were only a few mediocre ideas thrust in with all the insults designed to obscure the undistilled misanthropic opportunism at the heart of it all — their crass, manipulative attempt at provoking outrage through the media in the hopes of gaining attention they could then leverage for personal gain.

And that’s what I was thinking about while Trump droned on for an hour and a half about whatever the fuck he was talking about.

I went to the bathroom at one point just to talk a break from all that goddamn screaming, only to find someone freaking out about it way worse than I was next to the sinks.

“Fucking asshole!” the guy shouted, pounding the metal paper towel dispenser with his fist. “Fucking Trump! Goddamn motherfucker!”

I stood quietly next to the urinals until he stopped and looked at me. Sweat was pouring out of him. His tie was thrust over his shoulder and his shirt was missing at least two buttons.

“They think he’s one of us,” he said, breathing hard.

“What?” I said.

He took another deep breath and tried to gather himself.

“I’m a political consultant for the Republican Party in Ohio,” he said. “I’ve spent my entire professional life working for the GOP. Now everybody thinks we’re the party of Trump. That orange hair fucking clown has hijacked my party. He’s not even a Republican. He’s not…”

His voice trailed off. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him I was sorry.

I really was.

We both got quiet after that.

And for a brief moment I thought maybe he and I, a Conservative and a Liberal, were about to share a beautiful moment together in the bathroom. Before we could look into each other’s eyes and embrace in some symbolic showing of American unity though, I felt everything from the week rise up in my gut. I couldn’t even offer an excuse to the poor guy. All of a sudden, I was shoving him to the side, rushing into one of the stalls, barely able to get on my knees in front of the toilet bowl in time so I could puke my goddamn soul out. Everything that was there. Warm Red Bull and all.