Heading west in my car on University Ave.
tuned in to 88.3
in the heart of North Park, just past the emptied dollar Arab store
(a “for lease” sign posted, probably another craft brewery in the making)
and approaching that no-name street,
I see an average American four-door has its wheel aggressively cranked
to enter my lane.
Driven by a greybeard waving two American Flags
— a big one on a post welded to the front right, and a small one on the left rear.
A TRUMP decal in white letters on a red background.
No blue in it.
Is that purposeful?
Does it mean blue states don’t count?
The old man
— he barely seemed to look at me before idling the barge forward
to cut me off —
slowly continues the barge’s crawl.
I see him checking the rear view mirror without moving his head
so he can seem unconcerned, or innocent
(only he knows which of these pretensions he is).
He wants to turn left,
but the oncoming traffic is insistent and prevents him.
I notice his passenger side window is half down.
He’ll have to hear my protest from his right side.
I should have yelled at him: Trumplet, trumpling, FRUMP, or the more suggestive, FUMP.
The idea of yelling at him came in the same second I saw his half-rolled up (down?) passenger window.
No time to think of something clever.
I yell it as loud as I can at the window,
seeing that he’s not so old as I thought.
My wife reacts with something only barely less than a howl,
but more than a groan.
Instantly I recognize that he might have mistaken my angry shout
to mean I was in the trenches with him;
My wife is, on the other hand,
pissed at me for shattering her calm.
I admit that I’m a troll’s sucker …
can’t keep my feelings hidden until that strategic moment
when words can have their proper impact and value.
But … do words change minds anymore?
And … who’s the innocent in this non-event?
After all, he bought the American flags
and put them on his car
because he was under the impression that what he thought
— what he prefers to think —
could change someone’s mind.
That’s pretty innocent.
On the other hand,
he’s part of what used to be the silent majority
— silent no longer,
and murderous now,
so that even North Park is not safe
from an avenging cracker or nasty-minded Christian.
Nahhh … he probably just wanted to remind hipsters
that he doesn’t like them.
They’re elitist, after all.
If he thought his flag and Trump sign could change North Park
… well, he’s not so dangerous, is he?
Sucker. You suck. Suck it, you sucker.
If I let him know about his imagery
and that his expectations are out of line with reality
will it make any difference?
But HE rolled in front of ME!
Did he see my white beard and old Volvo
and judge me not a threat,
but an aging hipster,
so that if he did manhandle the intersection it was only fair
because these hippie/hipster-nerds
with barbered hair and tight jeans
are not as American as himself.
What if I showed him my simple grey cotton sweatpants,
and sensible walking shoes?
Would he change his mind?
Why do we think we can change people’s minds?
Maybe it’s because we see ads for cancer drugs on television news
at 6, or 5:30 —
toward the latter parts of the half-hour headline displays.
Do people who watch MSN
really ask their doctors if Amagen is right for them?
Is it better than Amidon?
Can we tell what humans believe by what diseases they have,
or by the way they walk, talk,
look the other way when passing each other,
if they go to church
or they diet,
if they know IT inside and out,
or have played semi-pro baseball?
Manhandler on one side of the street, panhandler on the other side.
Do they appear to be different?
Which did he think I am?
One day, long ago,
or maybe less than a year,
I grabbed this really great baseball cap,
fire engine red, on the way out the door to some meeting
I can’t remember,
even though it might have seemed important at the time.
It was one of those caps that wouldn’t blow off in a wind
and was adjustable with a pre-curled bill
so that the sun’s light didn’t readily slant in from the side.
I noticed that people were looking at me strangely,
then looking away.
It was my hat.
I’d worn it long enough that it didn’t occur people might think
I was Trumpaticized.
So the next time I wore it was to a demonstration downtown
that police underestimated by thousands of people.
I gave it a one-word salute made from white paper
glued on its front,
A woman told me she liked the hat.
Would the guy who cut me off yesterday like the hat?
How could I find out?
How ’bout if a friend videoed me in that hat
standing somewhere on 30th St.
near where the indoor flea market once stood
and where I used to buy old desks to use for shelving,
or now and then a good drinking glass
that didn’t match my other glasses.
Another friend could be just hanging around
faking homelessness with a hat at his feet
so that he could record what was being said
about the guy in the red hat.
No, even better, a film.
Perhaps as little as two or three percent
would be talking about the hat.
But that’s about the rate that Hillary Clinton lost votes
from the Electoral College.
You know them; they’re important people.
So did TRUMP figure that a red hat
could make two or three percent of all people talk about him
so that the Electoral College professors
(voters? chancellors? representatives of … what?)
could put him over the top?
How did Russia suddenly become so rich
in the minds of people we mistake for conservatives?
Why, suddenly, have horizontal blue stripes
on a white field become popular?
A large bunch of people must want to be yachtspeople.
How, suddenly, did opiates become the drug of choice
if not for the possibility that
cracker-eating crackers are white
and can be the subjects of therapy rather than jailing?
Will we be forced by law to drive self-driving cars,
and allow drones in our neighborhoods?
Who decided that?
Who decides which neighborhoods?
How can supermarkets make money
on water bottled in Italy or France
that is shipped aboard boats all that way?
Do some people who advocate local produce drink Pellegrino?
The unexamined life is not worth living.
Did Plato say that,
or did Socrates?
Does it matter that they were Greeks?
We’ve entered a world
that influences us
we often can only guess at.