I have been spending time since the election in activities that help me avoid unsettling news– Putin, bizarre cabinet appointments, well-engineered take-overs of North Carolina’s government, etc., etc. One path of escape is repeated games of Sudoku. Another is computer solitaire, which I have chosen to uninstall because it was consuming too many hours. In the past, I have also sometimes withdrawn from the world into facebook, but my facebook feed has even more distressing news than NPR.
Another way I escape is to get absorbed in a book. I thought I was safe retreating into Jonathan Ames’ novel, The Extra Man, published in1998. (I love to find books in coffee shops and little libraries. I actually found this one in a give-away stack on a stoop in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn.)
In Ames’s novel, Louis Ives, a young man unsure about his sexuality, moves to New York and finds a place to live in the dirty apartment of Henry Harrison. Harrison is penniless but navigates the upper echelons of New York society. He teaches Ives how to sneak into Broadway shows and opera performances during the intermission and how to enjoy fancy snacks at fund-raising galas.
I was nearing the end of the book, at the point where Harrison returns from a winter trip to Florida, when I was ambushed by this passage:
“Didn’t you exercise in Florida,” I asked.
“I had no time. Something was always going on. It’s very competitive. Trump tried to break in again. He threw a big party at Mar-a-Lago the night of the Red Cross Ball. Said he was going to have beautiful models. They were nothing but prostitutes, and then at the end of the party they did the inevitable—jumped into the pool. So he’s finished for another year. Too vulgar.”
Recovering from the shock, I realized that this little clip helps explain some of Trump’s behavior. For years he was mocked and rejected by the wealthy socialites he was courting. Now, he has put himself on a pedestal, and they must stoop and bow to him.
There is no escape. We must all turn to action—making a stand in whatever way we can for love, inclusion, transparency, democracy. Meanwhile, I am sorely tempted to install another program on my computer. It promises to turn every picture of Trump in my facebook feed into an image of kittens.