My wife was stranded in Mississippi. She was supposed to get home late on Friday night, but then the big snowstorm came. We ended up with 4-6 inches, which in the North would be considered a flurry. In the South, it means we have to shut her down for a spell.
While I was in the Food Lion — which felt like Times Square on New Year’s Eve, except with people clutching gallons of milk instead of glasses of cheap champagne — my wife was getting the terrible news that her flight to Charlotte had been canceled and the kids were getting the awesome news that school was closing early.
I turned 18 three weeks too late to vote for Ronald Wilson Reagan for president of the United States, but if I had been eligible to vote, I would have voted for him. The world seemed too complicated and too dark to me. Every night on the evening news, there were reports of more violence in the Middle East, rising interest rates, out of control inflation, an economy in the toilet. President Carter — who nobody doubted was a good man with the best of intentions — just didn’t seem to be the kind of man to lead the country out of what he himself called a “crisis of the spirit.” He coined that phrase in what would later be remembered as the infamous “malaise speech.”
I don’t know about you, but I need a quiet place about now. I need to turn off the news and close my laptop and just take a break from all of the noise. I need to put my fury away, shut down all the lights except for those on the Christmas tree, and have Doris Day sing “Silver Bells” to me alone, slumping down in my easy chair with a hot mug of chamomile tea here as the whole miserable year collapses into darkness.
It has been a few weeks now since the election, and I feel like someone who just came out of a coma and woke up in the hospital after suffering a traumatic injury. I am surrounded by dozens of cards and letters from friends assuring me that I am going to be OK and that “everything is going to be fine.”
A couple of friends are by my side, trying to explain what happened, but I gradually realize they are speaking another language and I have no idea what they are saying. I tell them that I do not feel fine, but they just smile and nod. My head hurts and my toes are burning like French fries in hot grease. On a little table next to my bed, there is a half-eaten container of blue Jello, and next to that, my heart, slimy and still beating, as if the doctor — perhaps a graduate of Trump University — forgot to put it back in before sewing me back up.
I needed nearly a full day after the election before I could formulate a response to the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States.
Just before 10 p.m. on election night, as Florida and North Carolina broke for Trump and it began to dawn on everyone that all the pollsters and pundits had had it all wrong, I must have read two dozen posts on Facebook ranging in tone from delirious celebration to abject misery to complete disbelief, but I contributed nothing because I just could not believe what was unfolding.
I am old enough and comfortable enough with my shortcomings to just admit it: I am not very good at Halloween. I never really have been. In my youth, other kids my age would imagine and then design — or have their crafty soccer mothers design — elaborate costumes with imaginative accessories. Little Evel Knievels and their little red-white-and-blue outfits with the stars and stripes and big collars, or little Calamity Janes with their cowboy hats, flannel shirts, boots and spurs, threatening the residents of our neighborhoods with their cap pistols until the neighbors turned over their caramel apples or at least a cupful of miniature Snickers.
I am at the salad bar, evaluating the freshness of the broccoli and spinach, deciding whether I want croutons or sunflower seeds sprinkled on top, when I perceive a short, stocky man with dark hair sizing me up from the other side. I can already sense what is coming. Am I a confederate? Or, shudder, a liberal? Maybe apolitical, though how could I be — how could anybody be — with so much at stake in this election? He approaches, and I turn to acknowledge him just as I spear my second radish.
“That damn Hillary Clinton is out to ruin this country, you know it?” he says, leaning in a little. “If she gets in, we won’t recognize America two years from now.”
We are still near the dawn of the Internet age. We can get just about any information we desire in a matter of seconds, so much information that a simple Google search on practically any subject will turn up literally thousands and thousands of “hits.” This has obvious advantages if you are looking for the best restaurant in, say, Hickory, or if you want to know who won the Dodgers game last night, or if you are trying to find out why your dog is sick by typing in her symptoms. It is all there for the taking.
When I was 16 years old — going on 17 — I had a poster of Stevie Nicks, the mystical, utterly bewitching lead singer of Fleetwood Mac, on my bedroom wall. I sometimes tell people that she was my first schoolboy crush, but that is not entirely true.
Beware, gentle readers. This story is not for the faint of heart. It is a story of betrayal, corruption, and greed. If you have ever read Dante’s classic work, “The Inferno,’ you may still have nightmares remembering the Nine Circles of Hell. Since the poem was written in the 14th century, Dante could not have anticipated the 10th, and most vicious circle, the one you enter when you call a major corporation to request a change in service, as my wife tried to do a couple of weeks ago in a noble attempt to save us a few dollars per month by disconnecting our landline.