The International Writers Magazine: NY Politics
New York Trumps Everybody
I vote the straight Democratic line. As American philosopher Will Rogers once put it, “I don’t belong to an organized political party – I’m a Democrat”. It wouldn’t matter to me if the Democrats put up Pee Wee Herman or Lassie at the top of the ticket, they have got my vote. In fact, that’s where the term “Blue Dog Democrat” comes from, voters who would prefer to vote for a mutant canine before they would consent to cast a ballot designating a Republican. Any time I have ever been exposed to a Republican, I have broken out in a rash.
As far as the New York Democratic Primary is concerned, I am committed to Hillary Clinton. Quite apart from the fact that she is made of cast-iron and has laughed off the incessant Republican broadside of vicious slander and personal attacks of the past 20 years, succeeding as the U.S. Senator from New York and Secretary of State, I owe Clinton a debt of personal loyalty: when I got hit for a $100G hospital bill for a one-week convalescence from pneumonia several years ago, Clinton’s office and that of my Congressional rep, Caroline Maloney, got the bill reduced from a hundred grand to five grand, which I was able to pay (I didn’t have health insurance covering that particular period of time).
So there, I am locked into voting Democrat no matter what. All politics is personal. Having said that, my heart is with Donald Trump for having found a way to engrave New York style on Republican politics in a way that hasn’t been equaled since the time of another bombastic booster of Empire State triumphalism, Theodore Roosevelt. An electoral match-up between Clinton and Trump would be the ultimate New York Subway Series, eclipsing even the Yankees and the Mets, a veritable Home Run Derby Haymaker Slugfest that would enthrall America and the world. Both of these candidates have got thick skins and flamethrowers for mouths that would freeze world attention for the entire year. All that would be lacking is for Jay Leno to come out of retirement and announce a blow-by-blow narration of the ongoing rhetorical carnage.
You can dump garbage all over Trump if you want, but to me he is a totally recognizable New York type. I am surrounded by mini-Trumps on all sides, 24/7. A loud mouth with nothing to say, but still more animated than all the brain-dead zombies who occupy all but a few isolated areas of flyover country. New Yorkers might be nutz, but I would rather freakin DIE than live anywhere else.
Everybody who has ever worked in the New York job market has known his share of Donald Trumps. Every company has one, a loudmouth family-entitled fat progeny of the companies’ owners, who fit former Yankees manager Billy Martin’s analysis of club owner George Steinbrenner, “He was born on third base and he thinks he hit a triple.”
That bon mot should be engraved on Steinbrenner’s monument in the Yankee Pantheon of Heroes out past center field. Who knows? It might be, someday. Steinbrenner was The Boss while Donald Trump was still clubbing at Studio 54. He was a freakin asshole, but somehow he got a grip on the Yankees, restored their power and propelled them to innumerable pennants and world championships. Don’t ask me how he did it. Art moves in mysterious ways. He was a moron and he ran the Yanks by means of a Keystone Kops style of improvisation conducted by a whacked-out maestro of unintentional comedy moves, but he achieved magnificent results in terms of the glory of the Yankees, who are the hood ornament on the massive, gleaming limo that is New York City. Life is a clown show without meaning to be and, somehow, the insular geography of Manhattan compresses all the hysteria to a higher pitch of rapture, like a tank of carbonated soda that will explode under pressure unless some of the gas is released. This is where guys like Trump come in.
My business career was in the design/production end of the Fifth Avenue ladies’ accessory market, and I worked in every category of the industry, from luxury snakeskin handbags for the top department stores to low-end looks for the mass market and the popular price junior chains. My entry into the market was a little bit more from the artistic side of things, but I got along fine with the idiotic garmentos who ran the industry. Sometimes, anyway.
Every company has its Trump, and my case in point was Donnie, who was the nephew of Pops, the president of Malbro Accessories. Donnie, who was incredibly obese, had a butt as wide as a buffalo hide and a huge, screaming mouth full of invective. I shared an office with these two jokers for over a decade, which profited me a college education in the ways of nutso native New Yorkers.
Pops had made and lost fortunes since the Depression, but he has still accumulated sizable real estate holdings in Northern Virginia, put one son through law school, put another one through medical school and put away enough money to finance several yet unborn generations to come. This old man had a mouth on him like a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce, and a freakin set of lungs which screamed cacophony like a cartoon version of a roaring Chihuahua dog.
His nephew, Donnie, was equally explosive and vituperative, and I used to imagine all the hot air and gas shooting out his butt and bouncing him off the walls like a punctured circus balloon. Man, I came to New York imaging runway shows and cocktail parties where you meet top models, and instead I find myself locked in a rubber room with these paleoanthropological nutjobs, like the lunatic asylum scene in the old Cheech and Chong comedy movie. It was agony, but I didn’t appreciate its future value in terms of understanding and defining Trump.
Like Trump, Donnie had gone to Wharton Business School. Oh please, business school! His uncle, Pops, had, like, a fourth grade education and he had ended up owning city blocks of apartment buildings. The business school genius, Donnie, ended up running a dreary dress division with an obese designer, which turned out a line of raggedy housedresses that even the old babushkas on Brighton Beach Avenue wouldn’t be caught dead wearing.
None of which fazed Donnie who, when he wasn’t relaxing in his spacious personal corner office with a magnificent view of the 59th Street Bridge (the factory was located in what is now a landmark building in Long Island City), rolled through the factory like a huge beachball, shouting at supervisors and generally reminding the place that he was The Boss.
Actually, Donnie never bothered me at all. He had strict orders from Pops that Pops alone was in charge of handling me. They thought a lot of my work, and they didn’t want to rock the boat. I probably would have remained working there until retirement age if the market hadn’t been destroyed by the cheap imports.
Not that I had an easy time dealing with his uncle. Pops calibrated how much abuse I would take and went right to the limit. New Yorkers don’t mind indulging in a little bit of negative reinforcement. Sourpuss people, really. One time, after Donnie had gotten through a vicious tirade against the shipping manager, I asked him, “Why did you have to scream like that? You could have made the same point just by talking normally.”
“I like to scream, he said, lumbering away like a huge pachyderm.
At least Donnie had an appropriately thick skin of an elephant, not like the egg-shell egos of idiots today. I knew that all the telephones were tapped because Donnie was listening in on calls in order to catch thieves, of whom he caught many. My low level of grafting in the place involved kickbacks from buckle suppliers for incorporating their hardware into my line, and bribes from our own sales staff to get their lines prepared first, none of which was conducted over the phone. I knew that Donnie was listening in to my calls, but I used to make all kinds of elephant jokes about his fat butt, which undulated when he walked like two tectonic plates from the Continental Divide and threatened to erupt and destroy New York at any moment. I know Donnie heard this, but, to his credit, he never confronted me about it. Most likely, he didn’t want to give up the secret that he was eavesdropping on telephone conversations. Nevertheless, it’s to his credit that he never expressed any hostility toward me for all the fat jokes I was enjoying at his expense.
Just like Trump, Donnie expressed all the manifestations of a fatman who is secure that he can’t be fired. I was off-limits to him, but he unleashed a ceaseless, unyielding torrent of screaming abuse, a veritable reign of terror, among the Malbro production managers. What’s the point of being God if you can’t hurl down bolts of lightning upon the invertebrate creatures lurking in the slimy depths of your domain? Donnie was screaming “You’re Fired” when Trump was still pulling his putz at Cipriani’s. “I fuck them where they breathe”, he was fond of saying. Malbro was a cash-rich company and a division of Pine Hill Industries, which was listed on the Big Board. We shipped for hundreds of thousands of dollars a day because of my inspired styling, so suppliers were secure in the knowledge that they would get paid (although not always the agreed amounts), and we consumed vast quantities of supplies and contractor services, which made us the Holy Grail for salesmen. We all cleaned up one way or another from these supplicating turkeys. I used to be content to just quietly take the money and run, but Donnie and Pops felt the emotional need to exact whatever suffering they could impose on the suppliers, although I never was able to generate any sympathy for any of those bleeding beggars.
||Trump is Olde Tyme New York. It’s even reflected in the décor of his gambling hall in Atlantic City, which was all elaborately done up in the Diamond Jim schlock style of riverboat shit from the turn of the 20th century. His values are rough-and-tumble and not gentrified like sensitive, present day New York. He grew up in a morose family mansion in Middle Village, Queens, which is Archie Bunkerland, the Go-To Place for reactionary, working class principles.
Somehow, the popular perception of rich people is that they have got more sense than the general public, or they wouldn’t have all the money, right? But a closer inspection of New York real estate fortunes belies that concept. Real estate heir Eliot Spitzer, who got elected as New York governor on a promise to clean up Wall Street, had to resign when his banking enemies, who were tracking his finances with a magnifying glass, exposed him for buying free-market pussy by means of electronic bank transfers, duh! Who needs a schmuck like that anyway? His family dinners were characterized by The New York Times as degenerating into hysterical, screaming fights over public policy. Not so great for the digestion. One can surmise, judging from Donald’s mouth, that Trump family dinners were probably no more decorous.
Or how about the Durst family, which holds billions in Manhattan real estate, whose scion, Robert, is accused of being a serial mass murderer. These examples along should explode the notion that “the rich are different from the rest of us”, as F. Scott Fitzgerald once tried to imagine it.
I could also include my father, Morey Bellows, a Chicago real estate mogul and hotel owner, as exhaustively documented a specimen of primordial savagery as has ever existed, in this little wax museum of horrors, but, compared with the Dursts and Spitzers he is relatively small potatoes, though just as venal. Compared to these idiots, Trump is a relatively benign entity. No trace of scandal can be traced back to him, and all his business associates have spoken of him in the most glowing terms.
The worst you can say about Trump is that his family’s wealth has endowed him with the self-entitlement to speak and act like a total moron regarding race relations and delicate affairs of state, secure in the conviction that the whole world loves and admires him. But he has really hurt no one, and he has done the body politic a huge service by marginalizing the vapid personalities that characterize the Republican field of candidates, and dragged the Republican Party, whining and complaining and moaning, into the 21st century.
Seriously, anybody handicapping the Republican race has to take into account that while Trump is getting a great reception from primary voters, he has not enlisted the support of even one state or national party organization. Nobody loves him but the public. He has no power base or influence inside the Republican Party, and that is a very hard nut to crack. Jeb Bush and his establishment allies, with their proven track record of stealing elections, would still represent to me the odds-on favorite.
In fact, Trump has been remarkably lucid on some issues, like acknowledging that high-end earners should pay something closer to their fair share, as well as his dismissal of the Vietnam War, which he considers to be a historical farce and a wasteful tragedy. He even had the nerve to tell the truth about John McCain’s supposed heroic status as a war hero, which is mostly a construction of McCain’s self-confabulation. It takes one to know one, you could say. I would discount most of Trump’s positions. Trump has had a lot of comedy experience as an entertainment personality, and the first thing that comedy teaches you is that it is all a load of hot air anyway.
I can’t believe that Donald Trump really hates Mexicans. It sounds to me like snippets taken from a family dinner table tirade. His daughter, Ivanka, who has accompanied him to meetings and construction sites since she was a child, swears that he has always been friends with everybody, and I believe her. Nevertheless, Trump expressed trepidation at campaigning in South Texas, near the Mexican border. Evidently, somebody must have explained to him about the perils posed by picking personal fights with drug baron ”El Chapo” Guzman. It’s one thing to insult Mexico as country, that’s bad enough, but to actually single out El Chapo by name and threaten to ”kick his ass”, as Trump did, is considered by a lot of very informed people to be tempting suicide.
What is Trump to El Chapo? Down in Mexico a lot of politicians have been sent to meet their maker for saying a lot less, and in El Chapo’s mind Trump is not even an official politician, but just a television comedian who is pretending to run for office. Not that that would stand in El Chapo’s way if he really got pissed off. The Mexican press and Internet have asserted for decades that El Chapo was involved in a broad conspiracy that included drug cartels and deep state political oligarchs to assassinate another Donald, PRI presidential candidate Donaldo Luis Colosio, at a Tijuana political rally in 1994, after they had reached a consensus that once in power he would be uncontrollable and inimical to their business interests.
Mexicans are heavy hitters. The richest man in the world is a Mexican. Any Mexican I ever met, if you threaten to “kick his ass”, you got a fight on your hands. It’s not academic and Trump should know better, except he’s never been in a fight or had to endure a beating in his life. Fucking around with these Mexican dudes is not like putting on a WWF wrestling show with Vince MacMahon. And, let’s face it: who are all the waiters and busboys that are working at the banquet halls where Trump is giving his speeches? Mexicans! El Chapo could put out a Mexican fatwa with a million dollar reward on Trump and a lot of those guys would line up six-deep to collect the money.
We are married to Mexico now because of geography, NAFTA and geo-politics, and there is no divorce. If you’re married to a hot-blooded Mexican wife, you have to figure out how to deal with her, otherwise it’s gonna be Mutual Assured Destruction. The whole problem boils down to race. You don’t hear Trump complaining about French-Canadians, although they have got plenty of bad gangsters up there too. All he’s doing is repeating a dumb, stoopid litany of ignorant Middle Village dinner table conversation, the way he learned it as a kid and blah blah blah…
© Dean Borok Sept 24th 2015
Exile on Main Street
I once had a cousin who was hanged at the U.S. Army prison in San Francisco as a thief. He did the hanging himself, one day before he was scheduled to be released.