The Ghost of Leadership

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I’ve lived right around the corner from the United States Mission to the United Nations since I moved to New York in October of 2001. In those early days after 9/11, the city was awash in Xeroxed fliers pleading, “Have You Seen My Daddy?” alongside yellow caution tape. We were looking for answers. We were looking for strength and someone to convince us it was all going to be okay.

At the time, the US Mission to the UN showcased photos of President George W. Bush and his cabinet on the wall, facing the United Nations. George with his goofy frat boy grin, Dick Cheney with his evil operator sneer, no-nonsense Colin Powell.

I wasn’t a fan of “W”, didn’t vote for him either time. But there he was, professionally posed, hanging on the wall. Photographic proof that we had government in place, and they were accountable as we worked to put our country back together.

When Barack Obama was elected, I was elated. So was my neighborhood. On election night 2008, people literally threw open their windows and shouted, “WOOOOOOOO!!!!!! OBAAAAMMAAAA! “ It was the opposite of Network’s “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” It was “I’m so damn happy that this man is in charge.”

Within a few days, George W. Bush and company were replaced by Obama’s calm, “Don’t worry–I got this” face. Next to him was Joe Biden looking the same as he probably did in his 1st grade class photo: “Hi guys!” Then came Hillary Clinton, in all her pantsuited professionalism.

Now, the US Mission to the UN on First Ave is the street I take to get to the grocery store, the gym, and the little café in Dag Hammarskjold Park. It’s part of my daily routine, the backdrop of mundane activities.

So on election night 2016, I thought about that wall of photos. Yes, I was part of a liberal New Yorker cliché, at an Upper West Side election night party, surrounded by people expecting a celebration who went home drunk, depressed and bewildered when Donald Trump won.

And I’ll tell you, I dreaded the new photos. On Inauguration Day, I looked outside my window at the American flags and they suddenly looked funereal. Flags that once brightened the grey winter sky made me sad now. Within a week after Jan 20th, one of them actually ripped. It felt like an omen.

I kept waiting for the Trump administration photos to go up. The Obama Administration photos had been removed immediately, but the walls remained empty. I waited for the photos so I could grimace at them, flex my middle finger, shake my head and look away.

And I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited.

At first I thought, “This is great! I don’t have to look at Orange Foolius.”

But on the 89th day of the Trump era, the walls still remained empty, and my curiosity got the best of me. I asked one of the security guards if this was unusual. I said I’d lived in the neighborhood for years, and I’d never seen the walls empty for so long. He looked up at the walls, back at me and shrugged.

“Well, I guess they’re taking their time,” he said.

“No complaints here!” I said.

But that’s a lie. The truth is, I want those faces. I want to know that someone is in charge. Even if it is someone I fundamentally disagree with. There is something disturbing about that blank space, reflecting a lack of leadership, a lack of concern for basic protocol. Of course this isn’t just about the photos. It’s another symbol of the fact that we are adrift now. It’s not just bad leadership. It’s no leadership.

As you can see, I tried to take a photo of what this wall looks like. But this is one situation where a photo is not worth a thousand words. People who have not lived in this neighborhood have no idea there used to be something on those walls. Reassuring photos of a working government. The walls remain empty as I post this. Now the only evidence of what used to be is a series of hooks on the wall, anchoring nothing.

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PODCAST: Daddy’s Girl

What’s it like to be Daddy’s Girl…when Daddy is President of the United States? I have no idea. I do not roam the corridors of power. But I do have a good imagination. So I came up with this…

10 Items Found In The Future Donald J. Trump Library

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All U.S. presidents eventually get a library, even those who admit they don’t read much.  So it is inevitable that there will be a Donald J. Trump Library some day. As I live in New York, I sincerely hope it will be in Florida, not here. After all, Florida is already home to The Magic Kingdom, where employees are paid to tell fanciful stories so that people can enjoy a world of fantasy, so it will fit right in.

Question is…what will be in the Donald J. Trump Library?

Here are a few ideas. And consider, he hasn’t even hit his 100 days yet. Imagine the treasures to come!

1. This flattering oil painting of Dear Leader looking sporty and fit, with normal-sized hands. The only reason I recognize that it is supposed to be a depiction of Orange Foolius is the realistic melted cheddar hue of his skin.

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2. A commemorative can of spray tan, dipped in gold-plate.

3. A freeze-dried slice (under protective glass) of “the most beautiful chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” that Trump and China’s President Xi enjoyed while 59 Tomahawk missiles were dropped on Syria.

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4. Trump’s personal copy of his Playboy issue. A couple of pages are stuck together, from furious masturbation over his own photos.

5. An extra long , dick-tickling tie. (Scotch tape included.)

6.  A clip of my mom turning to me, Chardonnay in hand, and saying, “You know, his mouth looks exactly like an asshole.”

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7. In the gift shop, a patented “Pussy Grabber” apparatus that comes with a free box of tic-tacs. Made of solid plastic, embossed with the TRUMP logo, “Grabbing ’em by the pussy has never been so easy!”

8. In the cafe, it’s ALWAYS Taco Bowl Tuesday!

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9. A copy of the check from Mexico to pay for The Wall. (Exhibit remains curiously empty.)

10. The Pee Pee tapes. Because damn it, if they really exist, they are a national fucking treasure and the only thing I’d pay to see in this horrid library.

 

 

LUNAR CONVENTION: One Week Away!

Calling out to all you Moonage Ravers and Intergalactic Gallivanters! We’re a week away from our convention on the moon, where New York’s top storytellers will take us on an out-of-this world journey! PLUS: You can win great prizes in our Sounds From Space Trivia Contest! Check it out at Parkside Lounge on Friday, March 24th, 8pm!

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Moment In The Sun

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I went on a road trip a couple weeks ago.

Okay.

That’s stretching it.

That conjures up images of driving under sunny skies, smiling with the roof top down and music blaring.

I had to travel to Ohio for a funeral. In February.

But-

The funeral was for a cool guy who truly loved music, and found a way to enjoy life no matter what life threw at him.

So as we headed back to New York, I snapped this photo at a gas station. Because I realized that odds are, at least one person managed to see the beauty in eating cheap food,  perched at this picnic table, by a highway, in a shithole town, in the shadow of a gas pump.

Or, maybe someone just changed a baby’s diaper on it.

Either way…here’s to the people who see beauty wherever it can be found…

The Hopeless/Hopeful Chest

The wait is over! After a month of diligently checking my mailbox for the Chinese Nipples to arrive, my art project is done! Behold…The Hopeless/Hopeful Chest!

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A while back, I bought a plastic torso off the street for 10 bucks. My friend Jesus sliced it open and added hinges to the back. Then I painted it silver, added the Chinese Nipple latches and on the inside…I plastered ALL of my rejection letters!

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Rejections of short stories, articles, essays, my memoir and my novel. I added alphabet letters as a flourish. But you know what I realized? The rejections weren’t THAT bad. And some of these projects deserved to be rejected. I never used to understand why authors like Stephen King pasted their rejection letters on a wall but I get it now. The rejections are as important as the publications. They teach you how to be a better writer. That’s why this is The Hopeless/Hopeful Chest. It all depends on your mind set…