Charm City: A New Hope Rises

29 01 2017

We begin a new era in Baltimore. It is cold, wet and windy. I have come here to see an old friend and witness the changing of the guard in our nation’s capital.

Male/Female

Male/Female

There is great unrest in America. Finding a place to stay in DC was nearly impossible. Many of my beltway contacts had no vacancy, while others left town in a symbolic jesture of protesting the new President. Some cut communication with me all together — feeling my attending the inauguration was somehow normalizing Trump.

But I pressed on. I had been covering this campaign from the very beginning, in a much colder Iowa, and I was intent on seeing it completed. This would also be a true test of journalistic integrity. I had yet to cover a Trump “rally.” What better way to open my eyes than to see his followers at their highest point.

I got tickets through Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz’s office. I did not seek press credentials because I wanted to be with the people. If there was one message from Trump that certainly gained him favor was his consistent claim that he was an outsider. There is an air of superiority that floats out of Washington. I felt it during my last visit. Those young “professionals” with their government jobs and jet set lifestyle who swoop into Red Amercia on holidays to remind “regular” folks that they still know how to pump gas.

Having previously considered attending Trump rallies in Florida, my newspaper publisher Norm always warned against jumping into the press pool.

“He’s going to put you in a cage and then make fun of you,” Norm warned. “Screw him.”

So I decided to go incognito. I reached out to my buddy Horacio first, but he was evacuating to Miami. I got similar responses from others which slowed my planning process and produced frustration. David, ever by my side, relished in the problem solving. “This is life, John, get used to it.”

Mere days before I was to fly away, Luke came through.

Luke is a delegate in the Maryland Assembly. We met during a candidate training in Fort Lauderdale just before the campaign for the 2010 midterm elections kicked off. We were on the same team for the training and roughly the same age. Luke would go on to win his election to the Maryland Assembly, while I was defeated for the Florida House.

We remained friends and I admired his work from a far. He helped bring marriage equality to Maryland while most of the Southern states were busy passing bans on same gender love. Aside from cultural issues, Luke continues to fight for the disadvantaged. He has a real job too. As a prosecutor he goes after criminals. In Baltimore, there is no shortage of work.

Much to my surprise, I would learn there is much more to Baltimore than crime. My entire week in Maryland and DC was an eye opening experience. I am grateful to Luke for providing me shelter to tell this story.

In this new era, after a campaign that ripped our country to shreds, we all seek to get well.

This is our start…..

 

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Turning The Corner

15 08 2016

It’s a long, hard slough these summer months in Florida.

The heat is almost suffocating and yet I am aware not to complain, much. David and I are doing our best to provide for one another in the complexity of our current situations. I continue to pursue a career as a reporter, following the local political scene and dreaming of vacations abroad. David splits his time between the church and funeral home, receiving a small supplement from each.

We have no air conditioning in either vehicle presently. This has been a bitter bone of contention in our relationship. The heat in general is wearing us out. We have lived in South Florida for three years now. It has been quite a learning experience.

On a positive note, I am quite pleased with our stamina. I recall the summer of 2008 when in the thrusts of another Presidential campaign, much of the nation took a dip into a financial death spiral. Some called it a crash — others term it a blackout period. Whatever your language, it was not good times for many.

Eight years later, we have cautiously taken steps to prevent such a repeat disaster. David continues to guide me in the right direction and my editors and publishers seem happy with the stories. The campaign has been outrageous, brutal and the news cycle never fails to produce a day of violence and mishap. The Trump phenomenon appears to have played itself out. Anyone who has followed from the beginning must be a cynical mess. I worry about the mental health of those subjected to daily stories of death, despair, doom and gloom.

In South Florida, with its large population, there are many stories involving crime. There are certain neighborhoods which are considered off limits to white boys like me, so I’ve been told.

But I’m not a boy anymore.

Thinking back to France and my last solo trip into Paris gives me hope for the future. At the hostel, I bunked with a Romanian, Frenchman and a man who would not reveal his country. He gave me several guesses and even the region (Middle East) but I still could not detect his origin.

“Saudi Arabia?,” I asked at one point.

“If I was from Saudi Arabia do you think I would be staying here?,” he responded.

It was a good point. The hostel was by no means a five diamond hotel. The man, dressed in all dark blue, never left the room during my time at the hostel. I found this rather strange and so did the Romanian but he was not aggressive so we left him be. On one night he split his can of sardines with me. He was very hairy and did not speak much. I do hope he was able to enjoy Paris.

As the campaign in America moves into the autumn season, I am hopeful a kinder, gentler narrative will surface. Americans have been subjected to a series of horror stories at home — from mass shootings in nightclubs to fears of viruses infecting women and children. When, we must ask, is enough…enough??

American In Paris

American In Paris

 

 

 

 





Spring Awakening at Christie’s

18 03 2016

There’s a spring awakening happening all across this land. Back in Fort Lauderdale there is plenty of water to go around for those content with retirement. Florida is great this time of year. Always was.

A month after Iowa and my strength has returned. Word to the wise, it is stupid to walk along the shores of Lake Michigan in freezing temperatures. Know your limits.

Billy was impressed. I drank straight whiskey that night. It unplugged my sinuses and allowed me to breathe again and offered just the slightest amount of resistence to Billy’s very vocal brand of democratic socialism.

Iowa had been a disaster. It was clear early on the mainstream media and various campaigns were in bed together. This level of collusion, however, was never before so apparant. A tiny older man from Springfield, Illnois was trying to pass himself off as Jewish in the lobby of the Marriott in downtown Des Moines.

The man was selling kippahs with the Presidential candidates’ name etched into suede fabric. I asked the man how much he was asking for one. He said, ’10 dollas.’

I replied, “Will you take five?”

“Sold,” he said, with a smile.

I chose the Bernie Sanders kippah. It was was gray, unlike the blue of Hillary Clinton or the red of Jeb Bush. I bought it for Jerry, my rabbi friend back in Pompano. It would be a nice souvenir and Jerry was a Bernie fan.

The salesman, whose name escapes me, had just returned from a function attended by Carly Fiorina, the ousted Hewlett-Packard CEO and lone female Republican Presidential candidate. I was intent on seeing both sides of the story in Iowa and the lobby of the Marriot is where I found a lot of GOP surrogates.

Interestingly enough they were not as scary as depicted in the media. Some where even friendly. I had a pleasant conversion with a middle-aged woman who was involved with the Chris Christie campaign. Christie, the Governor of New Jersey, was once considered a favorite for the nomination. That, of course, was before the Trumpnado twister hit the party. The woman informed me of Christie’s upcoming campaign stop and I gave her my card while expressing a desire to report on the event. It turned out to be a pretty fun outing at a pub on the westside of Des Moines. I got there early and shopped the nearby REI outdoors store. Great products at REI but way too expensive for me. This is what happens when the Chinese are not consulted, Donny, I thought.

One of the REI employees said she was a single working mother voting for Bernie Sanders and the other one who approached me declined to endorse a candidate. At the pub, I ordered some food at the bar while Christie’s advance team set the stage. That’s when I met Ms. Svokos, a Manhattan writer from an elite publication. Young and beautiful. We got the last two bar stools available. It would be a very interesting evening.

Wellman's Pub West Des Moines, IA

Wellman’s Pub West Des Moines, IA