Renewed Hope in the Rockwellian Barber Chair

I voted for Biden to pick up where Obama left off, but I wonder whether Trump has mutated America beyond repair.

 

The glass case in Walmart’s sporting goods department commonly displays a full array of rifles and other guns.

It’s empty.

Against the advent of a “gun-grabbing” Biden presidency, Prescott-area residents bought up firearms. Must be the same assholes who, day after Sandy Hook, ran around muttering, “Just let that nigger try to take my guns.”

Sometimes I wonder why I live here.

Chorus of Prescottonians: “So go back where you came from. We don’t need you.”

Ah, they’re stuck with me. Anyway, the shits are just some of them. And there are shits everywhere.

Barb and I have a nice house; we’re dug in. I always had more of a sentimental association with Cleveland than she did anyhow.

I’ve bonded with Prescott. You can’t beat the climate.

Moving back to Cleveland wouldn’t help. My friend there told me on the phone, some months back, he’d driven to Lake Erie for a yacht or boat party and the scene bristled with Trump and MAGA regalia, boats and trucks with banners broadcasting love for this political gate-crasher who bled civility from public life. Nostalgia for Ohio? Hah! Ohio just went redder than Arizona!

Unless you’re living in a gay enclave in densest Manhattan, you can’t escape Trumpism.

Shame abounds. I know at least one Jewish relative who will spew the spurious gospel of tax freedom and Trump’s enabling of Israel. I’m all for Israel, never saw Zionism as an epithet; I advocate for that beleaguered nation’s staunchest defense. But Clinton was right. A two-state solution has to happen. And whoever thinks Trump is better for Israel than Biden would be, and Obama was, is dead wrong.

Don’t get me started on religion. Because let’s not forget the evangelicals, in bed with Trump because of conservative Supreme Court judges and abortion. The whole thing is the perfect storm of nonsense and horror.

I keep my mouth shut in the Walmart break room where the loudest people are employees spouting off in favor of Trump, who lost the election but isn’t man enough to admit it. He doesn’t give a shit about them; they’re just acolytes in his cult of personality.

I got a haircut the other day and got into a political chat with the barber. He’s from Bulgaria, as is his mother, who was styling a gal behind us.

I mentioned to my barber the talented Bulgarian actress in the new Borat movie. We picked up where we’d left off last haircut, talking about Bulgaria.

I asked whether Bulgarian barbershops were any different from ours.

Mom, overhearing, chimed in that Bulgaria was a communist country, there were only a few politically sanctioned cuts. That wowed me.

Isaac, my talented young barber, said he was afraid Biden was a socialist who’d raise his taxes.

“Who told you that?” I said.

“People here say that.”

Your taxes wouldn’t go up,” I corrected him as gently as possible.

He laughed. “But that’s what I’m hearing. You would hear that in a conservative Republican town.”

I smiled and allowed, “Yeah, well, Democrats can talk a lot of bullshit too.”

Didn’t want to prolong any defense of the Biden administration I’d copped to voting for; I could feel the neck hairs on the lady customer getting cut behind me prickling as I spoke.

I AM ENGROSSED in Barack Obama’s memoir, marveling at its wit, humility, and vision. I always felt history will be kind to him and burnish his legacy. I miss his big heart and disdain for esoteric frippery. People have said he was wonkish and long winded (he admits that when he began in politics he was), but when you listen to his speeches overall, to his most recent, and to those that marked his presidency, you hear plain language, language pristine and elemental.

Trump is hateful and inarticulate. And got seventy million votes.

I just read a decent piece in The New York Times about the futility of trying to empathize with Trumpers.

My take on this thing is that Trump backers found the Trump reign to be … well, fun. There was no teacher in the room to tell them to read pages 17 through 34 and answer the questions on page 35. The mood was anti-intellectual. It doesn’t matter whether the countervailing force was Bill Clinton, the best president in my lifetime, or Barack Obama, whose political finesse lagged behind his communications genius. No accounting in words of the inevitability of a multicultural nation and need to consider a new melting pot, no adult explanation about race as a core issue and Black Lives Matter a fit reaction to entrenched bias in our policing, will work.

Thank you, internet culture and social media magnates — and Donald Trump, their cementing force — for bringing us into the era of no facts, only warring tribal myths. The more outlandish, the more successful.

And Bill Maher’s right. Democrats are culpable too, with their far-left outing of public figures in the name of political correctness. No wonder nobody likes us either.

It’s highly likely Biden will be hogtied, what with chinless whore Mitch McConnell exerting his clamp hold on the Senate. How I root for a miracle in Georgia!

Do we have political naïf Obama to thank for bringing us into this era of opposing-party intransigence?

I guess we’d better not forget it was a room of Pelosi-spearheaded Democrats that pushed through the Affordable Care Act.

The sword cuts both ways. And that sword needs to be retired in favor of compromise.

Biden has said as much, and he’s right.

Looking Forward

Me and my girl, who loved car rides. Is it me, or does she look pensive, or sad, here? (Photo courtesy of Barbara Chiancone Gitlin. Annie Leibovitz, eat your heart out.)

 

My shrink screwed her face up as politely as possible when I unburdened myself of a bit of searing cynicism regarding whether there was any point to me continuing to write. I’d done a longish bit of autobiographically derived prose, call it a novel, call it a memoir. Some of it was good. But I’d got to wondering whether the whole thing lashed together amounted to anything coherent or compelling, let alone saleable. I wondered this because I was starting to get damned with faint praise from New York agents.

“Mm hm. But Bob, you sat there in that chair not long ago and expressed the highest possible praise, and optimism, for what you’d written.” Or words to that effect. I don’t take notes during our sessions. Neither does she, though I sometimes wonder if — perhaps as the antidote to insomnia — she plays back my tape-recorded dronings.

The book sits in a drawer: my stories, or my story. It’s all one story, just as Keith Richards says all Stones songs are one song.

“How do I know my liking it doesn’t take place in this little subjective, solipsistic bubble?” I defended my refusal to battle on. I have this terror my obstinate refusal to give up constitutes the ultimate folly. “I might like it, but the world has the opposite reaction.”

My therapist doesn’t seem to be listening. Not that she feels she must labor to buttress a sagging ego; more that she doesn’t believe me, or she sees though my bullshit, my self-defense tropes.

She’s seen some of my writing. Says I have enough talent to make writing worth my while.

Hell, this blog was at her suggestion. I began it as something to lift me out of the doldrums that pervaded my world when I first saw this therapist, fresh from having got my ass handed back to me, well chewed, by a soured career in compulsory education and the most difficult kids it had to offer. My shrink said I should start a blog to record my “mythopoetic hero journey.”

So I did.

 

My last writing before this post was marked by terrible grief. My dog had died.

I’d been there when the vet eased the needle in to end the dog’s suffering. Barb and I drove home tear-stained, stunned. Went back to bed at dawn, but no sleep could fill the hole in our lives. I bounded out of bed, wrote a Facebook post about my dog — right from the heart, with little or no revision — and got well over a hundred sympathizers, which helped me get through this thing. I hadn’t expected so many well-wishers what with a national emergency rendering insignificant any man’s sniffly little lament.

So here’s an old photo Barb took iof me and the dog during a car ride. I’m wearing long sleeves so I don’t think it’s hot. Rosa liked to lean over into the front seat to catch the air conditioning on her face. Sometimes she just liked being in our human space. There’s me and there’s that furry muzzle.

It’s been two weeks now since she roamed the house.

I refused to pick up her last poops. Heat and wind and snow have turned them back to land. Barb and I have a box of her ashes, half of which my friend Bill from Boston will help me scatter in a special hiking place.

And life goes on. One must look forward, just as Rosa and I are looking forward in the photo.

I have a new president and am so thankful. I feel sorry for all the people lamenting the end of Trump’s aegis, but I must work at mending the national fence. Beyond spite or recriminations. We’re better than that. I loved Biden from the start.

I have more work to do at Walmart, burning off karma, rubbing shoulders with Trumpers. It’s all good for me. I’m working harder than I ever worked in my life. Whether this travail is sufficiently lofty is not my call. I look forward to seeing the movie Nomadland, based on a good book, about seniors working their poor ass off in this economy.

I can work at being a husband. My wife grieves the hole in our lives same as I do. We’ve bonded in mutual reflection and consolation. Just got back from Palm Desert and those healing hot springs. We’re addressing our mundane human concerns. She’s decided to wait till January to collect Social Security checks. I can get mine too or follow my original game plan and hang on till I’m seventy. Money is boring but it gives us hard reasons to do stuff.

And I guess I’ll stay a writer. Not like I have much choice — I mean, I am one. Maybe spend some bucks entering literary contests. What the hell. “Just One Victory,” as Todd Rundgren said. Life is a dream.