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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Art of the Trump in the City

My relationship with Donald Trump is complicated. The most expected complication is that I have no real relationship with Donald Trump.

Yet here we are.

When I was a kid, Trump's Art of the Deal was a thing. Art of the Deal (more formally known as The Art of the Deal, but we'll skip formalities) was a best-selling book about bullshit before there was a best-selling book about bullshit, which is called On Bullshit.

On Bullshit is a much better book because it cuts through bullshit rather than making it into an art. It also has the benefit of being 100% less bullshitty as it is written by someone other than Donald J. Trump.

This was prescient, btw.
Art of the Deal was left out on coffee tables around America and other unsuspecting countries, and was possibly translated into other languages but no one speaks about that any more. It was on bedside tables. It was in the floor next to suburban toilets. No one got rich from reading it, but it was as widely-read as Peyton Place in its day. (A lot of people at least got laid from Peyton Place.)

The only people who got rich from The Art of the Deal are those who ghostwrote it, those who published it, and those who appeared on the cover of the book. None of them, ironically, read the book.

My parents bought the book. They left it laying about like casual porn for me to find. To their credit, they also let me read my Bloom County books in peace--and Bloom County truly had a different view of Donald Trump.

Seeds planted.

Some years passed--in Trump years, some wives passed--and I moved to New York City.

From a small town in Alabama, littered with Art of the Deal books, I fled to a place littered with Trump buildings. And one of my first interviews for a job was with a man who eventually said, "Have you seen Apprentice?"

Again, informal. What the man meant was The Apprentice, but when it comes to Donald Trump, the only time 'the' is required is when saying The Donald. Or, of course, The Litigant.

The interview was in a Midtown studio pretending to be a Midtown office. There was a beautiful view of buildings looking out at buildings looking out over the Hudson. And there was a table as long as a deli window, and as unappealing--rather than meat, across the table were slabs of humans, sitting in chairs like pools of olives, like cheese awaiting a grating.

Each of them, from olive to cheese, had a greasy copy of my resume in hand, and each read it in their own way, some as a dramatic interp and some as a class assignment.  The olives pitted it. The deli cheese sliced it. 

Some weeks before, I'd spoken to my little brother. I was living in a terrible apartment in Morningside, and he'd just seen Donald Trump approach lower Manhattan in a helicopter, so he wanted to know if I, too, had seen Trump's helicopter.

"He flew in over Lady Liberty," my brother said in a voice that implied a swooshing hand gesture.

"Ah... yeah, I saw that." I hadn't--I was too far uptown and too buried in buildings to see much of anything. But it seemed important to him, so I pretended. Twelve years living in NYC, I understand: you see the city so often when you're not in the city, you sometimes just need a reference point. I was the reference point.

"Did you see him waving?"

"No. But I have terrible eyesight. I'll ask Greg if he saw the wave."


Two days later, sitting across from a phalanx of slick hair and pitted olives, I was in an interview going so badly that I was advised to take lessons from Apprentice episodes.

The position, so far as I could tell, was for a medical concern. It was my understanding that I would be tasked with forcing hospitals in Manhattan to purchase useless software, and then making sure they properly used the software to more inadequately serve their patients. As the man, sitting at the end of the deli window table like a butcher explained to me--while his collection of olives and cheeses and human meats nodded--they were a Company, and the Company required a person to go out into the world and make sure Things Got Done.

I nodded along with the deli selection.

"We need you... Marcus. May I call you Marc?"

"Up to you."

"Marc. We need you to make sure," and here the man templed his fingers over my resume, "each client agrees to use our product in a way beneficial to the Company."

"Perhaps," I replied, "I'm wholly unqualified for this."

"Let's see. Let's role-play."

Jobless, living in what I think Dickens would call penury, obligated to help my future husband make ends meet, and I said, "No."

"It's just a formality." One thing about the man at the end of the deli window table: he had a hairline almost down to his eyebrows because his constantly-furrowed brow drove it there. Looking at his collection of olives and cheeses, I knew instantly why the man kept his brow furrowed: it gave the impression of deep thought when, in reality, there was no thought more deep to him than an PowerPoint slide.

"I'm not gonna role-play."

The man un-templed his fingers and sighed. He nudged my resume a bit as if testing it for life. "You know, this." He flicked the resume. "This is a work of art." Then he looked at a young woman sitting off to the side--she'd been taking notes, and when the man looked at her, she stopped noting much of anything other than the man's gaze. "It's not your fault," the man said, and I then understood it had been she who had asked me to the interview. "This resume would fool Donald Trump."

Not making that up. The man actually said my resume would fool a man known as a fool.

Then the man turned his gaze back to me. "Have you seen Apprentice?"


"Watch it. You could learn from it."

And that is how my younger brother gave me a point of reference.

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