One of our neighbors put up a Trump yard sign. No biggie there, and not unexpected. In today’s environment, it’s a step up from the QAnon people, whom we also have nearby. I noticed two things about the sign: It’s smaller than most yard signs, and it says only TRUMP. No Pence, not even in smaller type. Not implying anything, just sayin’.
So I step out to walk Wendy the other day, and the sign seems different. We walk closer and it looks like it’s been defaced. Closer, and it seems something has painted another name over Trump’s, but it’s not Biden’s. Looks like…STUART? Maybe it’s a friend, playing a prank?
Closer still, and I can read it. It says SHART.
Hmm. Once again, it doesn’t quite work as a punchline, but again – maybe it’s a friend, with an inside joke about a wet fart. I heard the recently departed Geoffrey Nunberg’s tribute on “Fresh Air” on my drive this weekend; maybe he’d have been able to say something about it: “A portmanteau of two vulgarisms, neither of which is suitable for this program or even public radio…” Or maybe it was just bad graffiti.
So. A whirlwind trip from southeast Michigan to southeast Ohio this weekend, with barely a moment to stop. The drive was pretty fast, and the revelation was the now entirely four-lane high-speed highway between Columbus and Athens. When I was in school, it was four lane/two lane through the whole trip, and you drove through, not past, the city/towns of Lancaster, Logan and Nelsonville. The last of those is an Appalachian town of obvious poverty but also the home of Rocky Boot Co., provider of the red-laced pair of hiking boots worn by, I swear, every single student at Ohio University. I’ve talked about them here before; how they saved my life through two terrible winters. You could see their lug-soled prints all over campus in the snow.
Nelsonville is also the birthplace of Sarah Jessica Parker, if you’re keeping score at home. My brother-in-law calls her Miss Nelsonville.
Anyway, the new four-laner makes the trip from Columbus to Athens about an hour, less if you’re coming from the east side. And I was so very pleased to see that the trip is simply beautiful, especially past Lancaster. The low hills are almost impossibly green, without the bagworms you see on trees in northern Michigan. Just a great drive.
The bagworm in the ointment, however, was rain, which made a walk around campus less than appealing. We couldn’t even find much of a patio dining scene to have lunch, although we finally found a mediocre restaurant that had some umbrella’d picnic tables out back. The hostess wiped them down for us, and we took our chances. It was fine, the food just OK, and for those of you who remember the Athens of my era, get this: It’s the former Mr. Magoo’s.
Mr. Magoo’s was the closest thing to an obnoxious frat bar that Athens had, although it was usually full of Arab exchange students, men, dressed up in disco clothes and hoping to score some American nookie before they had to return to Tehran or Riyadh and find a nice girl. The OPEC oil boom was still ramping up, and the Arab world was sending its students abroad in vast numbers, with generous living allowances. OU had a good intensive-English program, so they’d roll in, spend a year learning English, then transfer out to petroleum-engineering programs elsewhere. The car of choice: A Trans Am with a screaming firebird on the hood. Footwear: Stacked heels. If you’re thinking the Ackroyd/Martin “wild and crazy guys” you’re on the right track.
Anyway, Mr. Magoo’s – pronounced MAH-goose by these young men – advertised “Texas cocktails,” i.e. big ones. I think I went there twice. I preferred the more English-major vibes of the Union, Swanky’s, the Frontier Room and of course the steak sandwich at the Pub. Now MAH-goose is the Pigskin Grill. I had a pulled-pork sandwich that was on the dry side, and the waitress expressed puzzlement when I asked if it came with slaw on top. Ah, well. At least it was outdoors. Kate informed me she hadn’t eaten in a restaurant, period, since March.
But we had a nice time together, talked a bit. Her roommate is a slob, but she still likes him, and anyway he’s moving out, she said. How much so? “He gets up from the table after eating, and he doesn’t even put his dishes in the sink,” she said. I thought of how long it took her to learn that, and felt: My work here, it is done.
I think also, just to drive far out of town was a thrill. I need to travel more. Not just to Morocco and overseas, but to, I dunno, Indiana or Pennsylvania or Toronto, if they ever let Americans in again. I interviewed a Canadian immigration lawyer for a story last week, and it was like talking to a person who’s visiting you in the hospital. They don’t have the fever you have, and they’re so, so disappointed to see you like this.
Of course, is Justin Trudeau trying to sabotage the post office? No? THEN MAYBE YOU SEE WHY I HAVE THIS FEVER.
Bloggage? I’m working my way through this Olivia Nuzzi look at the re-election campaign, and surprise, it’s a shitshow, as we see from the Pennsylvania volunteer effort:
It was 7 p.m. on July 23, and Team Trump had scheduled a training session for campaign volunteers in the area. Before I arrived, I had worried about my exposure to the virus. I imagined a scene that was part local political-party headquarters and part anti-quarantine protest. I imagined a lot of Trump supporters, maskless and seated close together, breathing heavily on a reporter leaning in to record their comments. But the office was quiet. I walked through the arch of books by right-wing personalities (Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh) and past the portraits (George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan) and maps of Pennsylvania voting precincts. I didn’t see anyone there.
In a blue room in the back, beneath an American flag with the words MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN printed in block letters inside the white stripes, a woman sat alone at the end of a conference table. She wasn’t participating in the volunteer training. She was the volunteer training. There just weren’t any volunteers.
…Fifty miles away, at the GOP headquarters in Lancaster, another event was scheduled for 6 p.m. the next night. When I arrived, the local field director, Jason, was talking to an elderly man. “I appreciate all your support, sir,” he said. “Oh, absolutely. I think this election is more important than 1864. Then, we would’ve lost half the country. This time? We could lose the whole country.” Nick, the Trump-Pence regional field director, asked me if I was there for the food drive — which was part of the campaign’s “Latino outreach effort,” he said — or the volunteer training. The elderly man had made his way out the door, and now there was nobody left in the office besides the two men who worked there. “There’s pretty light turnout,” Nick said. But not to worry, as things were “going really well,” Jason said.
…A few days later, on July 30, the campaign scheduled two voter-contact training sessions at Convive Coffee Roastery on Providence Boulevard in Pittsburgh. The evening session was supposed to start at 7 p.m., but when I arrived, early, at 5:30, the shop had already been closed for half an hour. A girl cleaning up inside came out to talk to me (even when it’s open, like many such establishments, the pandemic rules are takeout only). She said she had no idea that any campaign had scheduled any kind of meeting at the place where she worked for two hours after closing time. But she hadn’t worked the morning shift that day, when the first event was scheduled, so she texted a co-worker who had. He told her a few people came into the shop and asked about a Trump-campaign meetup but that he didn’t know what they were talking about and couldn’t help them. “I don’t know if they figured it out or not,” she said.
And if you’re interested, here’s a decent WashPost explainer on how the president came to fixate on the post office as a font of problems for him.
The week lies ahead, and let’s make it a good one.