A year ago, I saw the terrain ahead through a glass darkly, and with my contact lenses still in their case. On the eve of the 2016 election, I would have bet on certain things. Let me correct that: on the eve of the 2016 election, I was betting on certain things. I had about $500 in various election futures on a web site. Although I hadn’t yet started spending the money, I stood to walk away with more than a thousand dollars, because I had bought shares of Kelly Ayotte when she was seen as having only a 43% chance of winning; in safer and less profitable bets, I’d picked Hilary Clinton when at about 87%. On November 7, 2016, I knew the next day would bring me some money.
(A quick word on Kelly Ayotte: She is a woman of sterling integrity, charm and humor. Although I disagree with her on many issues, I would donate to and work for her election for any office she might seek. Like her mentors, Lindsey Gramm (could it be that his presidential ambitions died aborning because no matter how one spells his name it looks wrong? Lindsay Graham?) and John McCain, Kelly is honest and straight shooting. While she may not be quite as funny as the two men, she is considerably more fetching. New Hampshire made a mistake in not reelecting her.)
In November 2016, I assumed Hilary Clinton would be our next president and she would be oatmeal made with slightly-out-of-date milk. Her presidency wouldn’t kill me, but it sure wouldn’t be anything to write home about. I didn’t have the blood-boiling vitriol many Republicans have toward her—Satanista in a pantsuit—but I also never trusted her. I pictured Clinton: The Sequel to be like a PG-13 version of her husband’s presidency: double-talk, lying, economic growth and perhaps a teaspoon of wealth redistribution, lacking only sexual scandal to keep it from being a remake. Like most Americans, I knew Hilary would win—the fix might not be in but the polling sure was.
Even Donald Trump, in his heart of hearts, must have thought he’d be returning to private citizenship. As it happens, I met with Candidate Trump about two weeks before the election, and it was like hanging with the Fonz after he’d jumped the shark.
Lest anyone get the wrong and inflated impression, my meeting with Donald Trump took all of 10 minutes, and while I happened to be sitting next to him, the table we sat at had 10 other people. All the non-Trump members of the group were either employed in the recovery field, local celebrities or, in my case, a chucklehead who’d gotten sober and now ran a local nonprofit. I had written up a lighthearted proposal regarding setting up halfway houses for the newly clean and sober in non-medical facilities around the state—the idea being that the medical model of recovery increased the cost so much that fewer people could be helped. Honestly, once people are medically detoxed off drugs and alcohol, the remaining path to recovery doesn’t require ongoing blood pressure checks—it requires going to meetings, asking for help and changing their perception of the universe. This is difficult work, but the effort comes from the inside not from a nurse or doctor.
I’d placed this proposal, entitled A Modest Proposal, where Candidate Trump was to sit and got a frisson of pleasure when he picked it up, glanced at it and took it with him when he left the room. If that notion ever becomes practice, now you know whom to credit. Or blame.
Trump did not give off the odor of wormwood or attempt to grab anyone’s genitals. He was a typical businessman, if a little more aloof than most, spending most of the time looking at his phone while people told of the opiate crisis in New Hampshire. When he left the meeting, he jovially said he’d have all of us to the White House to continue the conversation, but even he didn’t appear to believe anything we discussed would ever amount to much.
So, a year ago I thought I could see the future: President Clinton, Senator Ayotte and Citizen Trump. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Professionally, if I’d made a prediction about myself, I would have continued to run that non-profit, aiming toward continuing to increase our donations and, perhaps, expanding the number of homeless veterans we housed and the number of folks we fed and clothed.
Instead, I’m living in a Tiny White Box, Sam (is a dog) is napping after a long and cold walk this morning, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet is playing on the box and I’m writing. In a little bit, I’ll have a breakfast of oatmeal made with water, not sour milk. It will be good, as is my life.