left Portland, Maine at 9:30 a.m. and took a bus down the coast to New York City.
I rarely see the morning. If I have to be somewhere early I usually stay up all night and drag through the next day completely useless, drinking coffee every 15 minutes for fuel. But all that caffeine really does is keep me sharp enough to constantly be on the lookout for a bathroom.
This Maine morning was about as terrible as I’d expected. Bright and sunny in all the wrong ways. I got to the bus station early and watched the terminal fill up. Nothing but children. Their parents flopped into chairs with deep graves under their eyes. They looked as tired as me, but luckily I didn’t have to keep anyone from getting kidnapped.
The day before, I’d climbed a huge mountain on the western end of Maine called Pleasant Mountain. I saw my first porcupine on the way up. I’d always pictured them as hyper violent spear-cushions but this one seemed friendly as a puppy. I wanted to pet it but it crawled into a dark lair when I got close. And when I looked into the burrow I heard the growl of an animal that sounded much larger.
I climbed all day. Almost a straight vertical trail. I was sure that it would wear me out enough to get a good night’s sleep. At the top, I looked west at New Hampshire. Smaller mountains rose like green pyramids to the horizon. Mt. Washington dwarfed them all, and looked like a Himalaya still snow-capped in this late spring.
There was no early bed-time that night, though. I turned on the TV for some background noise and scrolled through the news channels. I noticed a black man on a stage with a Make America Great Again hat on. Given the blatant racism of Trump supporters I was curious enough to turn up the volume. Trump stood behind the man speaking, nodding in a way that crossed sympathy with approval. What is this con? I wondered.
It’s not a secret that Donald has to at least get some of the black vote. I don’t think his campaign is counting on high turnouts from Latinos (regardless of what he says). Race relations aren’t a taboo subject in America anymore. It’s an argument between the young and the old at every bowling alley and family reunion. Are cops targeting black kids? The young say ‘yes’. Is the institution racist? The old say ‘no’. And this is usually followed by The BIG question- How will Trump unite both whites and blacks?
That night I found my answer. The man in the Make America Great Again hat told a tale of family. His son, who had just called to say he’d be home soon, never made it. He was gunned down right after the phone call. Murdered for no reason by a Mexican man. And when the arrest was made, they found the gunmen had already been arrested three previous times… and he was an illegal.
And that was it. With the simplicity Trump has moved through every other deception, seeming misstep, campaign blunder, KKK endorsement, he had just achieved what every other politician in American history has attempted to do. He united both whites and blacks with the most basic tool- FEAR.
I couldn’t go to sleep after that scam. I spent the rest of the night You-tubing Trump insults and laughing like a moron. Why hadn’t any comedian tried this routine before? Andrew Dice Clay could’ve skipped all those midwest VFWs and just become president instead. Suddenly, it was morning. I took a shower, drove to the bus station and ate a green bar Xanax.
I was heading back to New York for a book signing. NOFX had just published an autobiography and that night they were hanging out at Strand. It was some sort of book pickup/meet and greet. But at 9:30 a.m. even hanging out with your favorite band seems like punishment. I thought about throwing in the towel. Finding a dumpster to sleep behind. But I’d already paid the $23 for the book preorder.
The bus was late leaving Maine. The kids were screaming and spilling food all over the floor. Luckily, the bus driver had more brains than any of the parents. He put on that stupid movie where Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore fall in love because of the Red Sox. Or Jimmy Fallon has a Red Sox fetish. I couldn’t tell. I never plugged the headphones in. When I saw Jimmy Fallon’s face come on, I thought “no way, even kids have to hate this guy”. But they all shut up and zoned out.
I never actually fell asleep on the way to New York. I wanted to look at the scenery on the way home but it wasn’t pretty. Once we got south of Maine’s pine trees there wasn’t even any green. Somehow the Jimmy Fallon movie played on a continuous loop for six hours. I never saw the same scene twice and the movie seemed to run as one long, continuous nightmare that never ended.
As we parked in New York the bus driver’s voice came on the intercom. “Thank you for riding with us,” he said. “And go Sox!” The whole bus went berserk and sang ‘Sweet Caroline’. Clearly this was some sacred ritual because no one missed a word. After they calmed down a woman leaned over to me and asked “is New York City safe?”
“No,” I said. “Leave immediately.”
Scott Laudati lives in New York with his Boxer, Satine. His collection of poems “Hawaiian Shirts in the Electric Chair” has been published by Kuboa Press. Visit www.ScottLaudati.com for less professionalism and angrier essays.