Lost in the Land of the White Ape: Trump Came to Florida and I Survived (Part 1)
“…they struck me–after we leveled out–as a fairly straight bunch with very primitive concepts and honestly puzzled about whatever it is that makes them a source of trouble wherever they go. Like Goldwater, as it were, with all that energy and no socially acceptable place to put it.” – Hunter S. Thompson
The city of Melbourne, like many small Florida cities, does not rate high on the radar of Florida destinations. It does not have any theme parks to play in, does not have a Civil War history to exploit, and quietly pretends it is not currently attached to a state that specializes in unadulterated madness.
It’s the normal Florida, the respectable Florida, the kind of Florida where names like Northrop Grumman, Harris, and Rockwell Collins carry a lot of weight and people think highly of the military. It’s weirdly bland, home to both chest-thumping conservatives and former-hippie progressives, a milquetoast subsection of people who mostly live here because their parents did, save a few transplants who ended up here fleeing northern blizzards. Still, not a place people fly across the country from to visit. Not a place people really visit at all.
Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump.
It wasn’t exactly half-way across the country, because he’d been in Miami earlier that day. The idea that jackrabbit cities of importance like Orlando or even Jacksonville had been bypassed for little old Melbourne confused me greatly. Fresh after his crushing defeat in the first presidential debate of this cycle, the orange-colored monstrosity decided to speak to my neck of the woods.
I knew I had to cover it. And I would. Under the guise of a rally to “Make America Great Again,” I would fall into a gonzo search for meaning in a weird and polluted election cycle that even the spirits of the Dead seemed unable to fathom. I would be threatened, yelled at, and forced to bear witness to the strange reasoning that held sway in the foreign territories of American conservatism.
But first there had to be magic. I was unsure of what I was getting into, never having seen packs of Republicans in so large a setting. Sure, I’d seen the breed frolic merrily amongst its own kind at gun shows, and any resident of a Southern state has learned how to deal with that one crazy uncle that says racist things and keeps going on about chemtrails.
This would be a different beast altogether, a virtual mass-spawning where egos would be stroked and violence only partially hinted at. I would be forced to descend into the belly of the beast unarmed except with my wits, a press pass from Disinfo, and whatever magical aids I could sneak past the secret service to protect me.
I would not be alone. Along for the ride would be King Don, an eccentric and hilarious cab driver I’d gotten to know, who told me he not only invented the internet but overheard CIA conversations as a child.
Faced with a crowd that truly believed slavery was a good thing I would need all the help I could get.
The magic would neither be light nor heavy. I had traveled deep into trance the day before and been shown a symbol for some spirit that was never named that would ensure the day would be interesting. However he might come to that was no concern to me as long as it ended up being a damn good story to write about. I took an entire bag of Wormwood, an eldritch herb well-known to necromancers for parting the veil and attracting the dead, and jammed it as close to the sigil as possible. Between shots of Jim Beam, I sprayed myself with a fixed bottle of Hoyt’s cologne for good luck and anointed my beat-up work shoes with Road Opener oil to ease our travel and help clear up any obstructions that might get in our way.
All this was done in the space of an hour, a van emblazoned with Cab-to-Go signaling the witching hour was over and the journalist’s moon had risen. Outside I can see Don smiling, a big grin that seems to hint that he knows something I don’t. He’s excited, practically jumping. When I ask if he’s ready he reveals a sign he’s made to show to the presidential candidate some call “The God Emperor.”
With a crown in the background it reads I’M THE KING, YOU AIN’T.
On the back: LOVE TRUMPS HATE.
It was at that moment I was sure the spirits had heard my prayers.
We were fighting traffic as I try to take notes, my hand furiously scribbling into a notebook. Don is driving, weaving in and out of traffic with the kind of experience one can only gain from doing it for a living. We discuss the national debt as cars honk and lights turn red.
“The only part he said that made any sense to me is these countries paying us. I told the government that years ago. What he doesn’t understand is that the federal budget has to get spent. If you don’t do it, somebody else will. So yeah, you end with $900 hammers, you see what I’m saying, because if you don’t–Jesus CHRIST why do I always get stuck behind the slowest person on the planet?”
The small white van takes a hard left and passes a sports car bearing a sticker for the Fraternal Order of Police. An elderly man, possibly in his 90’s, cautiously pilots it by doing 30 in a 45.
“I could have solved the national debt in one day. Still can, okay? You see what I’m saying? What they don’t understand is that I own the United States because I claimed it. I own the universe, okay? Right?”
I can’t pay attention because I’m the watching the cars fighting just like we are to get parking to the event. Large amount of jesus-fish bumper stickers appear on almost every one of them, brand new cars bought with loads of money on their way to see a man who has habitually demonized immigrants and mentioned wiping entire populations off the map in a sea of nuclear fire. How could these people reconcile the Prince of Peace with the Prince of Profit? What weird mental gymnastics were required for such an endeavor?
The ride, taking an hour when normally it’d’ve been 10 minutes, allows me to drink deeply on these contrasts. All around me in, 87 degree heat, Black folks selling Trump hats and shirts shout from the side of the road. A white couple with a stolen Wal-mart shopping cart crosses the street with Great Value water to sell to the eager hordes of bourgeoisie. Hands cautiously reach out with fists of money, some perhaps have never being this close to an actual poor person before.
“This traffic is ridiculous,” I say. “He’s supposed to arrive at 6:00pm and speak at 7. It’s 4:50 now….are we going to be able to get in?”
“Don’t worry dude,” Don reassured me. “We’re going in the back way. I already thought about it in the future. Why else do you think I have fake birthdays and shit?”
Things move at a snail’s pace. A fucking school bus lurches ahead of us, making me increasingly worried about how long the line will be. Horror sets in as we see the parking lot is full and the police are motioning people to turn around.
When it’s our turn Don rolls down the window: “I’m with the media! I’m here to drop him off!”
And the reply: “Not over here you’re not. You can park down the street sir but nobody’s parking in here.”
Shit, I think, I’m ruined. It’ll take another hour to get up the road and god knows how long to actually get inside the massive hangar this event was supposed to take place in. King Don, Ruler of the Universe, simply waves like he’s turning around, another good-natured patriot ready to comply with an officer’s orders.
As soon as the cop turns around he guns the minivan over a ditch and slides into an open spot of grass, all without being noticed. He reaches for a cigarette. “See man? I told you. I’m the King of the Universe.”
The line is huge, winding around the new hanger and rivaling anything I’d seen at any of the large theme parks Orlando is so known for. Even with the wait in the hot sun there is a strange carnival atmosphere, a celebration of a certain lifestyle. Roosting snow birds smile like they’re about to meet Kennedy while corporate techs trade internet humor in real-time. The Florida Redneck certainly has representation here but is vastly outnumbered by what one might call the Salariat, fingers worn not by American steel but Korean-made keyboards. To the eye it appears perhaps Macy’s or JC Penney’s has donated thousands of Forth of July clothes and supplied sales people to boot.
Of course there are other shirts and hats on display: “Deplorable Lives Matter,“ “Hillary for Prison,” and even one wishing that Hillary had been married to the famed American murderer OJ Simpson.
Street vendors walked about and down the line selling hats, t-shirts, and buttons, an uncanny number again being folks of color. In fact they would be the most I would see all day, those making up the line itself almost totally of the Caucasian persuasion. Clearly there was something to be said here, some symbolic meaning emanating as low-paid workers hawked goods to a semi-annoyed and increasingly sun-burned bourgeoisie.
Trump’s arrival had appeared to have summoned the entrepreneurial demon in even those cast off by it, the entire town seemingly bewitched, almost compelled to mimic their messiah. If there’s money to be made why not get it from a sucker?
“Hats inside are $25 and made in China! Get it out here for $20 and made in America!”
“Excuse me sir! I bought one but can’t see where it says ‘made in America.'”
“That’s easy. Should have a tag inside that says ‘made in America.’ If it doesn’t that means they ripped it out because it said ‘made in China.’
“But it doesn’t have a tag and I bought it from you!”
The line dragged on, stretched for what seemed like miles. The going was slow so I took in faces, made notes, and wrote down bits of dialogue my ears were able to catch.
“I’m hoping he has something new to say. Give us numbers, give us a plan. Give us something.”
“Build a wall, deport ’em all, and lock her up! Geeeeeeet ya buttons here folks!”
“This is incredible. I’ve been working for this campaign for 6 months and never seen anything like this in my entire adult life.”
“Trump water! Get your Trump water! Best water you’ll taste all day! $2!”
“I saw a video in Russia where they shoot teargas at protesters as soon as they assemble. That’s what we need: law and order.”
–“That’s against the constitution.”
After an eternity we arrive at the TSA checkpoint. I lose King Don for a minute and join a line of human cattle walking through metal detectors. No problems when they check my bag, and the wormwood and spirit paper remain unnoticed. I think I’m pretty slick until they go through the things I keep in my pockets.
One of the TSA agents carefully opens up a green crown royale bag. Inside are playing cards wound around a hairnet and a key that is tightly bound with shoe laces. At the bottom of the bag hangs a mojo bag blessed for luck and money drawing. Looks of confusion fill all the faces around me. You can see the thought running through their mind: Is this a bomb?
“Wha…” The women look back and forth from the key to me, “w-what this? Why would somebody carry this?” To her I don’t fit the bill of the usual terrorist, most mass killers hardly dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and a big salesman smile. As secret service agents get closer I decide to go with the truth.
“Oh! It’s Hoodoo!” I reply.
“You know, magic? Rootwork? Conjure?”
She squeezes the mojo bag like a pair of testicles, desperately trying to figure out what’s inside. In a tone that generally confuses me, neither confirming nor denying the words it carries yet somehow insinuating much, she passes back my magical artifacts slowly.
“I don’t know what ANY of that means.”
I turn to see King Don grinning wildly. He’s somehow miraculously made it ahead of me, past the secret service agents and the TSA, all with his sign still clutched lightly in his hand.
Magic, or King Don’s control of the universe? Who’s to say?
Inside the hanger one feels immediately small. Metal walls rise higher and higher until you feel the building should have its own cloud system. The ceiling is arched like a cathedral, but the only icons being worshiped are numerous Trump banners and an American flag that is far too small for the entrance it hangs over. The doors are open wide revealing a breathtaking view of cloud systems the size of battleships drifting the sky.
Nobody here seems to notice that natural beauty however, and instead remain turned either to phones or towards the empty spot where His Holiness will eventually speak. People are packed in as close to the soon-to-be-blessed stage as they can get in a place with no air conditioning, a move that defies all logic. On the edges of the crowd it’s not too bad for someone used to high temperatures and no water, but in the center?
No way. I can tell some of the older folks are doomed. I think about what kind of views a massive die off of heat-struck old people might generate and chuckle.
I turn my attention towards finding a good spot to post up and open my laptop but King Don urges me towards the press area. A cop moves to stop me. “No no no,” Don admonishes, “he’s media. He’s with the press! Let me in too, I’m his assistant!”
I flash my press badge and the cop waves us in.
The press zone rises above the crowd like a dark mountain, or one of those hunting shacks people hide in to hunt bears. Multi-feature lenses and boom mics look like cannons aimed out at a sea of human beings. No interviews are being done, and the majority of “journalists” are either on their phone or practicing for a camera. Sections of fencing cordon them off from the potentially hostile crowd, reminding me of a zoo enclosure with us on the outside. Safe, surrounded, they seem annoyed to be here. I attempt to bluff my way in, or at least get the goddamn wifi password so I can write-up a bit of what I’ve seen, but I’m turned away.
The press wrangler makes it very clear privileges like internet access, tables, and armed guards are reserved for the journalistic elite, those vapid papers people only buy for the Sunday coupons, and network anchors that keep mistakenly referring to their location as a suburb of Orlando. Not once during the entire event would they leave their bubble and mix about the crowd.
Then again maybe they knew these people far better than we did, sensed what was soon to unfurl around us.
In a matter of hours we would see normal, misguided Caucasians werewolf themselves into ferocious white apes: hungry for blood and howling for battle. Maybe they pitied us, we intrepid fools, unaware at just how lost we were….
Dr. Bones is a 9 year practitioner of the Southern occult tradition known as Conjure, Rootwork, and Hoodoo. A skilled card-reader and Spiritworker, Dr. Bones has undertaken all aspects of the work, both benevolent and malefic. Politically he holds the Anarchist line that “Individuality can only flourish where equality of access to the conditions of existence is the social reality. This equality of access is Communism.” He resides in the insane State of Florida with his loving wife, a herd of cats, and a house full of spirits.