Getting Trumped

It was the morning after the election. And like most minorities, young people, or anyone else that wasn’t comfortable with the idea of Donald Trump having the nuclear codes, I woke up that day feeling like if I was in mourning. Trump spent the better part of eighteen months spewing xenophobia, misogyny and being an outright dick to anyone that dared to have an opinion opposite to his, yet America chose him to lead the country into right-leaning direction. As I walked out of my home to make my way to work, the middle class, multi-cultural neighborhood that I live in was quiet, with the only thing stirring being the torrent of dry leaves that danced and swirled through the air by the forceful breeze that shed them off all the surrounding tree branches. So although in my heart it felt to me that I had just phased over into the darkest timeline, the world around me, looked like any other day. The sun rose, the birds sang, people went about their business. Life moved on.  

I made my way north up from Berwyn, through the lower-middle-class neighborhoods of Forest Park, and Maywood, until I reached the shopping center sector of Hillside, where I exited the local roads and jumped on the 294 tollway.  From there it I traveled about 25 miles north until I reached the Willow exit, where I get reminded daily how folks on the other side of the track live.   After going 8 miles due east, I reached the uber-affluent town of Winnetka Illinois. The town itself is sixteen miles north of Downtown Chicago, and according to the 2010 census, is 94% caucasian. The median household income hovers somewhere around the low 200 G’s, and the average median value for homes is a smidge below two million dollars. I believe our current billionaire Governor; Bruce Rauner has a residence in Winnetka, and the house that Kevin, from Home Alone, transformed into a burglar death trap is just down the street from my job.

I parked my car across the street from a large, but aging mansion, that had a small work crew of Polish carpenters working away at improving its weathered facade. I summarized the home dated back to the 1920’s and was about four times the size of the quaint, two bedroom home I owned 32 miles south in Berwyn Illinois. Even in it’s less than pristine condition, this was the kind of house that barely middle-class folks like myself would gladly sacrifice their left testicle for. Its spacious yard and the capacious sunroom covered more ground than I would know what to do with and served to remind me every morning, how unlikely I or anyone I know would ever reach the heights of success necessary to afford such a home.    

As I cross the street, heading to the office, I kept my head down, but my mind gazed out into an unfamiliar horizon. My life, one that has only known what is like to survive, instead of thriving, was suddenly presented with a new fear. What would a Donald Trump presidency mean for my family and I, as well as all the other families in this country that are one lost paycheck away from being sent into depths of utter despair?   Some would argue that Trump would do precisely what he promised, that he would make America Great Again. But not once did I ever get the sense that he meant that all of America’s citizens would bask in America’s rediscovered glory. No Trump and many of his followers want to bring America back to simpler times.  To a time when dirty Commies, radicals, hippies, angry minorities, godless atheist, and bra burning feminist got their just deserts instead of getting a seat at the table. I also wondered what this would mean for my job.   

You see ironically I work as a Housing Intake Specialist for a nonprofit organization that protects tenant rights, tries to help families save their homes from foreclosure, as well as fight all housing-related discrimination. So in laymen terms, I work for an equal housing organization that promotes inclusion, which so happens to be located in the middle of the most exclusive, and least racially diverse town in probably the entire Chicagoland area.  Nearly half of our funding comes from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development also known as HUD. And if there are any major cuts in the grants that the organization receives from Hud, not only would we have to drastically scale back on the help we give hundreds of people a year, but it would also mean that I could receive a drastic reduction in pay, or simply be laid off;  two prospects that I seriously couldn’t afford.  

Two days later, tired of hearing all the pundits talking about what came next for America, and my kind hearted co-workers sense of despair, I took off during my lunch hour, for some much needed alone time.  I got into my car, and drove down the affluent streets of Sheridan Road, with its multitude of million dollar homes,  to take a breather in the quietest spot in all of the Chicagoland, the beautiful Baha’i Temple, located about 3 miles south in Wilmette. I parked my car and walked up the handicap accessible ramp that led up to the temple gardens. During the spring and summer months the garden is filled with an abundance of vibrant flowers, and beautiful reflective pools, but now that the fall had arrived in earnest, the garden was subdued with the sort of floral arrangements, that would seem appropriate for a funeral.  

I made my way around the brown brick path, the sound of flowing water coming from a fountain located somewhere on the grounds could be heard. A single white male, with designer shades and a $75 haircut took several seconds trying to take the perfect selfie. The temple grounds were serene and quiet.  From my elevated vantage point, I could see a pair of women jogging together on the quiet street that sat across from the Temple grounds. I could see the lake stretching itself out until it blended with the equally blue horizon. I was standing in a pocket of the universe where no matter what turmoil was affecting the outside world, it seemed that it just couldn’t penetrate the insulating bubble that has protected the well to do people of this town for decades. The good people of these affluent towns, with their generational wealth, didn’t need to concern themselves with the worries of the outside world.

 The temple itself is one of the most beautiful pieces of architecture that I have ever seen. It is surrounded by nine fountains, which then lead up to a set of stairs that surround the entire dome complex. At the top of the stairs, there are nine entrances, separated evenly allowing people entry into the temple from virtually all directions. Above the entrance, there are another nine sides, adorned with elaborate designs and elongated windows that stretch upward until you get to the bottom of the dome. The dome itself is round, but have nine protruding concrete slabs that curve near the top giving the structure a look from above of a king kong sized orange squeezer.  I made my way into the dome, where about five people were seated quietly, disperse through the room, on faded red chairs. A young black man sat quietly wearing a black turtleneck. He sat there in silence, never once seeming to look in any direction but straight ahead. He also happens to be only the 3rd black face I had seen up in these neck of the woods since I started working up there almost two months ago.   

Above each entrance, there are several religious proverbs, written in gold letters. Nearly all of the proverbs were partially obscured from the angle that I was viewing them, due to the way the nine-sided temple is shaped inside. The only one that was fully visible to me said “All the prophets of God proclaim the same faith.  But as I stared directly at the dome ceiling, and the interlocking nine circles that made the dome look to me very much like the tunnel of light that people that had suffered near death experiences have described, I felt no divine presence. No sense of inner peace or tranquility. And absolutely no renewal of faith. All that I could feel was the persistent, and overwhelming sense of uncertainty that has been constant since election night. Perhaps, my overly anxious mind is just getting the better of me, as it often does, and all my current worries will be all for not. But unfortunately for me, unlike the residents of Winnetka, and Wilmette, I can’t afford not to worry.

A Man’s Gotta Do What a Man’s Gotta Do!

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On Friday night I went to bed dreading the day I had ahead of me. I’ve been a bit busy as of late, with work and my writing, which has caused me to neglect my yard upkeep duties. Yard-work is not my idea of fun. And anything that I don’t perceive as fun automatically falls under the “shit I rather not do” list. But the yard was looking a tad bit abandoned and I rather not have my little place be deemed the neighborhood eye-sore. So I went to bed that night with my mind set to do what a man had to do.

I woke up early Saturday morning cocooned in our plush comforter. I had left the window opened and had turned on the fan, not knowing how chilly it was going to get overnight. Even though I was snug like a bug, with only the top of my head exposed to the cold air in the room, my bones could still feel the early chill that was in the air. Even though I was conscious, I had to lay in bed an extra 10 to 15 minutes while the rest of my body slowly regained it’s senses. As I waited patiently for my body to snap out of it, I was mentally psyching myself for all the work that I was to do. “ A’ight big man, we gonna handle our business. We just gonna go out there, pick up all the crabapples that damn tree in the back left strung all across the yard, and give that lawn a little TLC. After that gets done, we can come back inside, go down to the basement, power on the 360, and get in some quality time with Bioshock: Infinite”. My mission was a simple one. Yet I wanted no part of it.

I eventually managed to get my big frame off our comfy bed. I went through my early morning ritual of brushing my chompers, washing my face with cold water, in hopes that it would wake the last bits of me that were still asleep, and helped myself to a nice cold bowl of day old oatmeal. I put on my, I’m about to get dirty but I don’t give a f@#k , gear on, and went out back. It was a bit chilly at first, but the sun was out and about; and she was still giving off just enough warmth that I didn’t have to run back-in to look for a sweater. It was perfect weather for a big guy like me. I grabbed the garbage bag and got straight to work.

The first hour and a half all I did was pick up crabapples. Now I don’t know who was the genius that thought it would be a good idea to plant a crabapple tree in the middle of our yard, but who ever they were I wish I knew where they lived, so I could drop the dozens of apples that I picked up and toss them across their lawn, to see how much they like it. You know, as a thank you, for all the hard work that they have put me through.

I must have picked up at least 100 apples that were strung cross my yard. It’s safe for me to say that it was the least enjoyable part of my morning. But I got the job done, and my yard was on it’s way to looking half way presentable.

Next order of business was to pull the reel mower and even out the grass that had grown a little unruly over the past few weeks. I live in a corner lot, so I have to not only cut the grass in the yard, but the large patches of grass that I have next to the sidewalk and the front lawn. This I didn’t mind so much, because it is nowhere near as tedious as picking up half rotted apples from the ground.

Once the grass was cut and then evened out by the edger, I picked up some of the fallen branches that were scattered around the property. This only took a few minutes and I didn’t mind at all, because by this point I was feeling strangely motivated to do a good job. I was like a bolder being tossed down a steep hill. The more I worked the more momentum I seem to pick up. I was in the zone. I was taking pride in my home, and I wanted her to look her best. I was feeling guilty for neglecting her. Yes, my wife and I have had a lot of things to juggle lately, but I should have found the time to fit the work in. This is our home after all. This is why we wake up early every morning, and spend 40 hours a week in a mind numbing office. So that at the end of the day, we can drag our lifeless bodies away from our daily torment, and be resuscitated in our little slice of heaven.

I finished of the work by nourishing the yard with some much needed watering. I hooked up the sprinkler. Set a couple of lawn chairs out. And the wifey, pups, and I sat under the crabapple tree’s shade for an hour or so relaxing by watching the sprinkler go to work. It was the perfect end to a work filled morning. It was pure nirvana.

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