Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016--Transition Tower

Late last week we visited the literal and metaphoric Trump Tower.

It felt touristy and voyeuristic and thus we tried to do it as inconspicuously as possible.

We voted for Hillary, have been disdainful at times of Donald Trump, and are blasé about celebrity sightings--after all, though we do spend more time in a year in rural Maine, we grew up in New York City, first in Brooklyn and now for about 30 years have lived in lower Manhattan where being blasé is as obligatory as black outfits.

You know the joke about New Yorkers--"I'm wearing black because I couldn't find anything darker."

So pretending to ignore Trump's royal presence, sprawled out in his nouveau-riche gilded Las-Vegas-like Trump Tower triplex (one whole floor of which is turned over to his 10-year-old son Barron [Barron!]), though traffic for blocks was snarled, and every 24/7 news report began with reporters camped on Fifth Avenue across from the main entrance to TT, adjacent to Tiffany's (Trump's Marla Maples daughter is named after the store!), try as we might pretend, there is no way to ignore his yuge presence, and, in spite of all of this, we pressed forward to get as palpably close as possible to the Trump Phenomenon.

And so, at about noon on a sun-drenched Thursday, we took the R train up to his lair. Not literally up there, but as near as the police and secret service would allow. Pretty close as it turned out.

Traffic on Fifth Avenue was at a standstill as the NYPD narrowed the southbound lanes from four to two to enlarge the security zone and things were made even worse by the cars and buses that finally made it to 57th Street slowing further so the drivers and passengers could sneak a faux-disinterested closer look. And crowds funneling along the barricaded sidewalks numbered in the thousands, clearly, like us, there not for pre-Thanksgiving shopping at Gucci or a glance at the Tree, not yet adorned and lit.

They and we were there for one clear purpose--to gawk at the spectacle and if possible catch a manic glimpse of Rudy or Ivanka or Jared or . . . him.

Risking claustrophobia, we came to a stop right behind the bank of two dozen TV cameras, reporters, and a cordon of police. A good place to become gridlocked as it turned out, right across from the golden entrance that because of the visual media has achieved icon status.

Most curious was the hush that descended on the streets and gathered crowd. The muted sound of the city reminded me of those rare occasions when New York comes to a halt as the result of a blizzard or  power blackout.

Those few who did speak did so in quiet tones, whispering, as if not wanting to interfere with what was transpiring 60 stories above.

"I wonder what he's up to," someone pressed against me said to her friend.

"Nothing good," he said softly so as not to be overheard.

"Do you think the Japanese prime minister is meeting with him?"

"Could be, though don't you think it's inappropriate to have this kind of meeting before he's inaugurated?"

"Everything he does is different. That's what people voted for. Not to do business the old way."

"Well, good luck to him with that."

Most said nothing, preferring to stare silently into the hazy noontime sun that illuminated the top floors where Trump lives and works.

Though squeezed to my other side, a visitor to the city, said to no one in particular, "I drove all night from Ohio to be here." I looked toward him so he knew I was listening. "Something amazing is going on up there. If you're from the City I assume you will disagree. Probably voted for Clinton." I did not nod though 90 percent in Manhattan did. "Could be like the Wizard of Oz. An amplified voice from behind a screen or facade. But I am thinking . . ." He trailed off.

"But to drive all this way," I said to him, "you must think . . ."

"I do think," he pressed even closer to me and lowered his voice further, "I do think something historic is happening. I believed in 2008 when Obama first ran and then voted for him twice. And I think he did a pretty good job, but this is, may be different. With his election we're hearing from different political voices. I will admit that there is danger in that. But maybe there's more magic than danger. Hope may still be alive. Look around at who's here. Look at the faces. Doesn't it feel reverential?"

I did and said, "It does and that disturbs me. I'm being frank with you. Reverential is not my favorite mode. I prefer skepticism." I felt sorry, after his effort to get there, that I was implying criticism of what he was feeling.

"I'm that way too," he said, returning his full attention to the Tower.

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