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Beach Party: Notes from a Miami Trump Rally

Donald Trump - South Beach - presidential election - real estate
It’s the first bit of sunlight that South Florida has seen for days, but the beaches are nearly empty. The tourists either fled or canceled their vacations when they heard that Katrina was going to make landfall just north of here, and though it was a “minor hurricane” when it sideswiped Miami, the specter of a larger, more deadly attack was enough to drive away all but the most adventurous — or the greediest.

And here we are, on the sand behind the Delano hotel, where Donald Trump is holding an event to highlight his recent acquisition of a cluster of high-rise condos. Ostensibly, this is a news conference — the press release had prepped us for a “huge announcement” — and Trump’s press agent had promised me an interview with the Big Guy himself.

But judging by the crowd and the terrifyingly large Disney characters passing out watered-down margaritas, this feels not so much like a news event but rather a sales extravaganza (although it’s hard to tell the difference in Miami, especially when Trump is involved).

I swing around to survey the attendees. A few of the men are wearing shorts, wrinkled polos, and sandals — outfits designed to stand up to the hearty soup of heat and humidity — but most of them don pastel shirts tucked into linen dress pants that saddle up to their sagging bellies. The relative formality of their outfits is a concession to the importance, in their mind, of this event. But, for those of us with the eyes for such things, it telegraphs an insecurity unique to the newly moneyed members of the upper-middle-class: a desire to, at all cost, display their comparatively modest wealth. It makes them “fit in,” but it also turns them into marks for salesmen.

SimplyGood Miami - Donald Trump - Claudia La Bianca

And while the bulbous pink men are studies in bourgeois neurosis and insecurity, the women with them are courses in sadness and submission. They’re not the crop of ambitious, 20-something prospective wives hanging on the syllables of Halliburton executives and VC capitalists you see at swankier gatherings. These are the ex-wives; women, who upon turning 35, were escorted out of the building — traded in for a fresh set of Melanias or Ivankas, and relegated to marrying semi-retired middle managers from West Virginia coal companies, forming a retirement league for rich wives, bonded by a mutual understanding that they’re damned to sip cucumber margaritas made with well tequila.

I bet the Big Guy is happy the hurricane didn’t fuck up his soirée,” a cracked, raspy voice mutters over my left shoulder.

The voice belongs to Julian, a writer for the New Times. He had been one of the area’s leading lifestyle reporters before he developed an aggressive case of eczema that left his face a cascading ridge of crusty red skin. As he mentioned to me in a bar once, shortly after he’d been reassigned to the real estate beat:

Nobody wants to deal with facial disfigurement on the red carpet.”

“He won’t sell anything,” I reply, shrugging my shoulders. “It’s a shitty investment.”

“They’re not buying a condo, they’re buying a story — Trump’s story,” Julian replies. He takes a deep drag from his Parliament and blows it into a nearby circle of prospective buyers. They muster up a series of fake coughs and bat their wrists as if they were swatting away mosquitoes, before they spot Julian, then hush up and look away. “They want it to be their story.”

I hear some rumbling from the back, and the oversized men dressed as Disney characters put down their cocktail trays and begin to file onto the stage. To the left of us, the marks point to the horizon. Following their fingers, I look past the stage, past the bystanders who’ve been gawking at this affair from afar — the women in string bikinis and knock-off designer shades; the permanently dumbstruck college boys in novelty tank-tops championing conspicuous alcohol consumption — beyond the white-capped waves and streaking jet-skis, and I spot a tiny speck just below the sun that grows larger as it veers towards us.

Dear god, that’s Donald Trump in a jetpack!” Julian exclaims.

Before I can process that statement, Trump lands on the beach and begins violently shedding his jetpack, staring at the jumble of wires, gears, and exhaust pipes with a sneer before composing himself, adjusting the flock of orange hair above his head, and looking for the cameras.

People come to him in waves. The cameramen are there first — they always are — but they quickly make space for the half-dozen brunette models in semi-transparent white dresses. The models immediately wrap themselves around him, and Donald’s violent scowl turns into a brief, penetrating leer. He curls his small, crinkled hand into a cup and stretches out his arm to somewhere below the belly, reaching for a nearby model, aiming for where the dress breaks beneath her thigh.

And she freezes, with a drawn, horrified expression painted on her face. Just before Trump’s fingers make contact and clasp her flesh, another hand from his entourage comes in and swats it away.

“Not here,” a voice murmurs. And when Trump’s grin returns to an angry glare, the voice whispers, “Not yet.”

“Okay, Billy boy,” Donald says. And they — the women and him — snap out of this quick, nonverbal initiation, and flash wide, painstakingly relaxed grins for the photographers. Somewhere behind the tangle of flashing cameras and bare bodies, the rest of us push forward, wanting to catch a glimpse of the spectacle, this hemorrhage of bawdy glamour and late capitalism.

Donald Trump - Pussy Grab - SimplyGood Miami - Claudia La Bianca

Trump’s handlers break the circle, and, as he makes his way the stage, speakers blare Cream’s classic rock anthem, “White Room.” As Eric Clapton pounds away at a riff that channels both barrel-chested masculinity and cowering apocalyptic paranoia, Goofy sets up a thin speaker’s lectern and Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck unravel a 30-foot American flag. They set up the flag behind the stage, providing a makeshift barrier from the random onlookers who have gathered on the beach, creating a stark, strangely nationalistic intimacy.

“We showed that bitch Katrina, didn’t we!” Trump exclaims as his large frame swallows the lectern. “All my friends, they said, ‘Donald, you can’t do this. It’s going to be a disaster. There’s a hurricane.’ But here we are, people.

And it’s a beautiful thing. I’ll tell you, nothing keeps this city down. Nothing keeps this country down. Nothing keeps us down!”

So it continues. Julian and I retreat to the pool bar at the Delano, where we order whiskeys neat and gaze with sad eyes into the cocoons of VIP pool cabanas, where beautiful girls giggle about things we could never know.

“In a world that has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood,” Julian mumbles.

“What?” I ask.

“A quote from Guy Dubord,” he replies.

“I haven’t seen many of his films,” I admit.

My girlfriend made me watch Green Card once, but that’s all, I think.”

“Within a year, those condos will be worthless,” Julian says, pulling from his 10th cigarette of the past two hours. “The Miami skyline is going to be a steel-and-aluminum ghost town. And it’ll take us a few years to recover. We know that. We’ve written about it. But they, those people,” Julian continues, motioning back towards the beach, “they’re too invested, and not just financially. They don’t want to give up on Trump’s myth. Not just yet.”

I down the rest of my whiskey in a gulp, as Julian sighs and looks to the end of the bar, where Minnie Mouse is posted on a barstool. Donald and Mickey are still on the stage, but Trump didn’t want the minor, feminine characters around when he made his big pitch, so they’ve unshackled her. Now that she’s taken off her helmet, it turns out the she is a he — yes, a hulking, bearded man in his 30s, with thick lines of sweat running down his cheeks.

“My, Minnie, that’s quite a beard you’ve grown,” I comment.

“Go fuck yourself,” Minnie replies.

“You’ve got a dirty little mouth for a mouse,” Julian quips.

Minnie unzips her costume at the stomach and flashes a pistol at us — and we marvel at how easily kitsch transforms into violence, and absurdity gives way to bloodshed. I understand that Trump isn’t so much an aberration as he is a culmination of a culture that we have all built, stone by stone, for decades, and perhaps even centuries — and it stretches beyond Miami, and beyond even the borders of our country. We’re headed to hell, and that includes those who see beneath the costumes. It’s a feature, not a bug, for a product we’ve been building for hundreds of years.

——————————-

But I don’t have to reconcile all of this, at least not yet — it’s still 2005. Trump hasn’t yet championed birtherism; nor has he mocked disabled, injured veterans and the families of dead vets; nor has he admitted to sexually assaulting women, before he denied sexually assaulting women; nor has he proposed to build a wall against Mexico, or revealed the size of his cock; nor has he questioned the legitimacy of our courts and our elections, or advocated for torture.

He hasn’t yet said that women should be punished for having abortions, or directed for his followers to attack protestors; nor has he suggested that he would jail his political opponents, or advocated shutting down mosques and limiting the movements of Muslims; nor has he defended the use of internment camps during WWII. And this also is before tens of millions of us lined up and declared this to be a revolution — a triumph of the common man.

Right now, he’s just another asshole on the beach, so we keep quiet and order another round.

Editor’s Note: This piece is not factually accurate, but it’s entirely true (if you think about it). 

All illustrations by Claudia La Bianca. Check out her website here and follow her on Instagram here.

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