The Cross House
In my previous post I did a year-end update on the Cross House.
This post is a year-end update on me.
Well, many readers have expressed interest in knowing the man behind the blog. I understand this, as I grow bored with blogs that endlessly detail a house restoration while never offering a glimpse into the writer.
So, on we go!
CAVEAT: I love politics. If you don’t, you may wish to skip this post.
CAVEAT: This post is long and with a lot to take in. You might first want to get a glass of wine before reading!
Last December, I was reeling from the horrific event of 11/8/16. During the ensuing two weeks, I walked around in a state of shock. Then, my emotional self imploded and I dropped into a bottomless pit of depression so great that it was dangerous. I mean, really dangerous. My friends grew alarmed.
All this happened because, as I wrote a year ago:
I now know a shattering new truth: Evil is more powerful than goodness.
And I don’t know how to live with such a reality.
How do I live when sexual abuse is now celebrated?
How do I live when misogyny is now celebrated?
How do I live when homophobia, xenophobia, and racism are all now celebrated?
How do I live when lies are now celebrated?
How do I live when a complete lack of qualifications is now celebrated?
I feel shattered.
Then something unexpected and inexplicable happened.
During the last week of December, 2016, my mood lifted. Then in January it lifted higher, and became buoyant even.
And while I had been dreading 2017 — dreading — a year has now passed and, to my utter shock, I can state that this was the best year of my life, even better than 2014. While I experienced pain in 2017, and many many many moments of utter horror and revulsion, overall I have been having a good time. A great time.
And I don’t think I have ever been more surprised by anything.
THREE KINDS OF NOURISHMENT
I mostly credit the Cross House with this unexpected outcome.
For, while my brain and heart are almost daily abused by the utter horror of the Trump Administration and GOP, my soul has been profoundly nourished this year by the Cross House.
I spent months rebuilding the NE corner. And this proved powerfully nourishing.
I spent months transforming the parlor into a thing of beauty. And this proved powerfully nourishing.
I spent months enhancing the exterior colors. And this proved powerfully nourishing.
I spent months painting the great north wall. And this proved powerfully nourishing.
I spent months going through the house and putting bits and pieces back into place, rehanging lost doors that had returned to the house, and recreating lost features. And all this proved powerfully nourishing.
I spent an entire month organizing and cleaning the house to get ready for the first annual Day After Thanksgiving family-of-choice dinner. And this, too, proved powerfully nourishing.
When buying the house in 2014, I knew it would never make financial sense, and I worried about my mental stability in making such a purchase.
It never occurred to me that the house would perhaps save my life. It certainly saved my sanity.
While my brain and heart are almost daily abused by the utter horror of the Trump Administration and the GOP, my soul has been profoundly nourished by becoming a volunteer.
At the end of 2016 I was invited to join the board of the Strong City Preservation Alliance, which has been focused on restoring the 1900 theater.
In 2017, the board approved my creating a new blog about the theater, and this went live.
This month, there was a mad/crazy rush to get the ruined theater somehow ready for the public to enjoy after more than thirty years. So Justin and Roland and Kay and Elena and Marilyn and Jaque and Tom, and Me, volunteered to make this dream a reality.
Before the show, Dorothy Doolittle stepped into the star-filled shell of the building. Dorothy, and her late husband, Dudley, owned the building for four decades. On Friday, she said that she had not planned to attend as it would have been too sad seeing the building in a ruined state. But, as her eyes scanned the huge interior of the building, twinkling magically, and filled with people and music, she smiled and said that she felt joyful, and knew that her husband was looking down from above, also smiling.
I felt that all the effort was worth just this moment with Dorothy.
Working with the Preservation Alliance and its wonderful, intelligent, and highly qualified volunteers has been deeply nourishing.
And last Friday was one of the most magical events of my life.
While my brain and heart are almost daily abused by the utter horror of the Trump Administration and GOP, my soul has been profoundly nourished this year by the fact that the rest of the world, mostly, feels the same. As do the majority of my fellow Americans, as Trump’s approval rating now stands at just 32%, the lowest ever recorded for a first-year President.
This gives me hope. Which I crave.
Trump has bragged about how America is now respected again. But this, of course, is a provable lie. The global standing of the US has plummeted in 2017. Plummeted. How is this winning? In only two countries has our standing risen: Russia and Israel. I am not happy about all this yet feel strangely comforted. For, this makes me feel a deep kinship with the rest of the world.
While my brain and heart are almost daily abused by the utter horror of the Trump Administration and GOP, I have discovered that I am not alone. MSNBC is doing the best reporting on the administration and GOP and their ratings have skyrocketed. So, too, with the New York Times and Washington Post. Across the country, Democratic candidates are winning winning winning in special elections and Alabama — Alabama! — just elected a Democratic Senator! While conservatives have tried hard to scare voters by demonizing transgender people, in Virginia a transgender candidate…won! She won! In another state, an openly homophobic and openly racist candidate lost to a white lesbian married to black woman!
Also in the Virginia race, Democratic candidates received more than 153,000 donations of $100 or less — compared to about 7,000 for GOP candidates.
Of course, people who watch FOX will know almost nothing about what is really going on. They will not know that Trump is a global laughingstock. And, if you try and explain, their response? “Fake news!”
Studies have shown that most conservatives almost exclusively watch Fox, while most liberals normally get their news from a variety of news sources. It would not take a rocket scientist to know which is better informed.
When restoring light fixtures in the morning and nights (my business) I often listen to Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Ari Melber on YouTube. And the intelligence and excellent reporting of these individuals, as they expose the utter horrors of the Trump Administration and GOP, nourish my soul.
DELIGHTING IN KARMA
In 2016, Michael Flynn chanted during the GOP Convention: “Lock her up! Lock her up!” And the huge hall roared with approval.
In 2017, Flynn was indicted.
While my mother always told me to never delight in another person’s misfortune…I delighted. Hugely.
When members (note the plural) of the Trump administration were indicted, my soul was nourished for I realized that good can prevail over evil. I am breathless with excitement about any upcoming indictments. Lock them up! Lock them ALL up!
TWO TERRIFYING STORIES
In the 1980s, I worked for Trump for about two years. Not for his company, but directly for The Donald. As such, I have unique insights into the man.
I actually designed his apartment. But then he fired me (owing me money) and replaced me with his casino architect. The architect then took my plan and replaced everything with GOLD GOLD GOLD and MIRRORS MIRRORS MIRRORS.
Then Trump fired the architect. And brought me back. However, the apartment was about half-way finished and there was little I could do to, ah, subdue it.
One day huge plastic panels were installed in the 2-story dining room, between the lower and upper windows (see picture below). I was horrified because they LOOKED like plastic. The contractor was horrified. EVERYBODY was horrified. So, we had Trump look at them.
We all stood. Silent. The moments ticked by. Then Trump, without looking at me but continuing to stare at the panels, asked: “What do you think?”
I replied: “They look like plastic.”
Moments more ticked by.
Trump: “I think they look like carved ivory.”
I replied: “But…ivory does not come…in 4×8 panels.”
Trump’s face instantly transformed. He looked LIVID.
The room, and time, froze.
The moments ticked by. I was fucking dying.
Then, Trump spoke: “They look just like carved ivory.” And he stormed out of the room.
Years ago, while reporting a book about Donald Trump, Tim O’Brien accompanied his subject on a private jet ride to Los Angeles. The plane, as you can imagine, was overly ornate; hanging on one wall, for instance, was a painting of two young girls—one in an orange hat, the other wearing a floral bonnet—in the impressionistic style of Renoir.
Curious, O’Brien asked Trump about the painting: was it an original Renoir? Trump replied in the affirmative. It was, he said. “No, it’s not Donald,” O’Brien responded. But, once again, Trump protested that it was.
“Donald, it’s not,” O’Brien said adamantly. “I grew up in Chicago, that Renoir is called Two Sisters on the Terrace, and it’s hanging on a wall at the Art Institute of Chicago.” He concluded emphatically: “That’s not an original.”
Trump, of course, did not agree, but O’Brien dropped the conversation topic and moved on with his interview. He thought that he had heard the last of the Renoir conversation. But the next day, when they boarded the plane to head back to New York City, Trump again pointed to the painting, and as if the conversation had never happened, he pointed to the fake and proclaimed, “You know, that’s an original Renoir.” O’Brien chose not to engage, and dropped the conversation.
While this story is comical and sad and utterly bizarre on so many levels, it’s also emblematic of Trump’s very essence. “He believes his own lies in a way that lasts for decades,” O’Brien told me. “He’ll tell the same stories time and time again, regardless of whether or not facts are right in front of his face.” And, as O’Brien points out, that’s what makes Trump so dangerous in his current war with the media around so-called fake news. “Its foundation is that he’s the final arbiter of what is true and what isn’t,” O’Brien said, “and it’s one of the reasons that he’s so dangerous.”
This is exactly what I experienced in the 1980s. Trump just makes shit up. All the time. And nothing, nothing can convince him that he is wrong.
This is dangerous level narcissism.
I repeat: This is dangerous level narcissism.
So, the next time you hear Trump raging about fake news, what he is really raging about is news which punctures his distortion bubble.
Trump’s disconnect from reality is profound. And now that he has the power to create a nuclear war, this should scare the shit out of everybody on Earth.
And if these two stories don’t terrify you…there is something wrong with you.
Trump lies constantly.
This is not just my opinion but something which can be confirmed.
NOT MAKING AMERICA GREAT
The Trump Administration has created a vast new amount of red tape with regards to anybody wanting to come and work in America. His supporters applaud this.
But American corporations are so not applauding. Many of these people are highly skilled technicians, doctors, and engineers, and American corporations depend on such skilled people. But many of these people are now turning away from America and instead going to Canada, the UK, and France, for example. Indeed, the new French President has been welcoming such people with open arms. For, he understand what Trump does not: Skilled people make a country great.
The effects of this will last for decades with America potentially developing the status of a third-world country as the global Best & Brightest go elsewhere.
How the fuck is this winning? How the fuck is any of this winning?
BRINGING SHAME UPON AMERICA
During the Obama Administration a record number of illegal immigrants were deported.
Not a single Republican I have ever talked to knew this.
Yet, the administration was humane about this process. If, for example, they found an illegal immigrant, and if this person had not committed a crime, had been in the US for a long time, had a job, and an American-born family, the ICE agents would say: “You have six months to become a citizen. If you don’t, we will then deport you.”
Contrast this with the utter inhumanity of the Trump-era ICE agents. I will never erase from my mind the horror of watching a video of a grandmother — who had illegally come into the US many decades before, but had never committed a crime, had married an American, and had American-born grandchildren — being dragged (dragged!) out of her home by ICE agents while her children and grandchildren screamed and screamed and screamed.
Shocking. Sickening. Disgusting.
As I watched the video I kept recalling one thing: Videos of Jews being dragged out of their homes during Nazi Germany.
And I recoiled in horror. Is THIS what my country had become?
Then came the hurricane which devastated Puerto Rico. Which is still today mostly without power and clean water. All the while Trump insults its people and leaders, American citizens.
And I recoil in horror. Is this what my country has become?
SPITTING ON AMERICANS
While I have, overall, enjoyed 2017, it is obvious from the above that I have not been sleeping.
I feel wide wake. Because I have never before felt that my country was in danger of being utterly destroyed.
But I feel that now. I watch in horror as Trump insults our allies, our court system, the FBI, the media, Democrats, and even members of his own party. I watch in horror as the State Department is being destroyed, the EPA, and dozens of other Federal agencies which have helped make America great.
As a gay man, I watch in horror as Trump, and the odious-beyond-comprehension Pence, work to trample over and take away the rights of the LGBT community. However, I at least know that because I am male, and white, I am somewhat protected. Then I imagine what it must feel like in 2017 to be, say, a woman. Or a black woman. Or a black lesbian. Or transgender. And I become nearly faint when trying to imagine what any immigrant must feel like, legal or otherwise. Or the child of an immigrant. Or a Muslim.
Not once during the eight Obama years did I feel abused by the White House.
In 2017, I feel spit on by the White House. My White House.
How has America come to this? How is this winning?
AND A YEAR LATER
Last month, at the day after Thanksgiving dinner at the Cross House, a guest told me: “I work for the military. Every Thanksgiving we have a base party. Last year, most people were SO excited about Trump winning. They were all saying that he would make America great! That he would make our borders strong! And on and on. I felt sick, and had not planned to attend this year. But, to my surprise, there was NONE of that this year. Nobody wanted to talk about Trump and politics. All the bragging and boasting of 2016 had vanished.”
I found this really interesting, as I had been hearing/reading the exact same dynamic from people across the country. On multiple political blogs people were telling the same stories: the bragging and boasting of 2016 had been replaced by a kind of embarrassed quiet.
So, maybe there is hope?
Yep, 2017 has been a doozy.
I fear for my country and yet, strangely, feel optimistic, too. What has helped the latter is something I can only explain as an intuitive feeling. Anybody with animals knows that a wound, in order to heal, must express itself, And when this happens the visuals are…disturbing. But only then can healing begin.
And I think America is like this now. A wound. Expressing itself of cruelty and evil. But only then can healing begin.
I also have great faith in our young people, which overwhelming reject everything the Trump Administration and the GOP represent. And the average age of a FOX viewer is 68.
I began 2017 nearly comatose with dread.
I end 2017 with feelings of being deeply nourished and happy.
It has been an extraordinary year on both a personal level and national. As a historian, I am gobsmacked to have a front-row seat to history. Many times in 2017 I have recalled the stories of people who lived through German bombing in London during WWII. Decades later, a common story was: “It was terrible. But…but…I never felt more alive in my life.”
In 2017, I appreciate that I am living during an epochal era. So are you. And it feels…
Much love to you all,