Like The Trumpet’s Martial Sound

I had not seen Donald Trump in person since June 16, 2015, when he came down an escalator to announce his candidacy for president. I was standing in the lobby of Trump Tower that day, having stopped by – taking a walk as usual during my lunch hour, from my office a few blocks away – and wandered in, curious about the crowd gathered there. Today I get a chance to see him again. He was a curiosity then; almost an inevitability now.

I have gone online and secured a ‘ticket’ – free of course – to his rally this evening at the Grappone Conference Center in nearby Concord, about 20 minutes north by car. The event is at 7 pm and the site initially tells me the doors will open at 6 pm, but be there by 5:30 or you might not get in. Before I sign off, the site changes that, to say the doors will open at 4 pm.

A little research on Grappone’s site shows that the main ballroom seems to hold 600 people. I’m not sure how these events go, but I know that Trump’s rallies can be, in the candidate’s word, HUGE, so I plan to be there before 4 in case there’s a big advance line. And I don’t dress my absolute warmest, as I don’t expect to be outdoors for long.

In fact, the original idea was to spend the afternoon in Concord, first visiting the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center, which has space travel and other science exhibits and a planetarium. (Christa McAuliffe was a science teacher from Concord who was chosen from some 11,000 applicants for NASA’s Teacher in Space project; she died in the Challenger explosion. Alan Shepard was the second person, and first American, in space, and later the oldest person to date to walk on the moon; he was from East Derry, NH.) My busy schedule, including such herculean tasks as getting out of bed, scotched the museum visit. As it was, I arrived at the Grappone Center about 3:45.

There was already a line but it wasn’t very long. Trump volunteers were walking around keeping count – I confess I signed one of their sheets promising to do future volunteer work, but didn’t specify any of the work choices – and my area of the line was about number 180. By pretty soon after, it had about doubled.

Then came a dreaded announcement. The head of the volunteers was walking down the line, telling us “the doors won’t open til 6:45.” No reason given. One of my line neighbors was skeptical – they wouldn’t make us wait outdoors in this cold all that time — they’ll open before then — but her husband expected it was true: “They don’t care.” They seemed nice people, he a disability-retired steelworker (who had actually helped make the block letters for Trump Tower) and she a middle manager of some sort in the state, I think, healthcare system. She was the driving force to attend the event; she’d always wanted to see Trump in person and she wasn’t going to quit just because it was cold, declining his offer to call it a day. They were probably around 50 or so; others near us were mostly younger, guys in beards, hoodies and work boots, with whom I decided not to start debates.

And they were not know-nothing yahoos. From their talk with each other, occasionally us, and a couple of reporters who stopped by looking to interview people, they seemed well informed, reasonable and highly articulate. The only problem, for me, was that they were operating in a different world. In that world, the US economy these days is very rough on most people, Ukraine is not really our problem – and can be solved fairly easily, at least to America’s satisfaction – and illegal immigrants are displacing our kids from public schools. And of course, the DOJ and Deep State will not rest until Trump is, in some way, eliminated.

Unfortunately the Trumpists have no monopoly on stupidity. Fani Willis’s hiring of her lover – a man with no RICO experience, apparently – to run the RICO prosecution in Georgia of Trump and 18 others for election manipulation, is simply a magnificent gift to Trump fans everywhere. Even near our own little waiting line, there is a bearded, middle-aged man with a rainbow LGBTQ flag who is, politely, haranguing the line-standers about what an incipient fascist Trump is. They are, also politely, no violence here, telling him why he’s utterly wrong — when a full-size bus sidles by, festooned top to bottom and front to back with Trump paraphernalia. I think there’s lots of Trump gear for sale inside, or maybe it’s like a museum. Here’s a look at it:

Back half of Trump fan bus …
… and front half of same

Unbelievably, our ‘love for all’ liberal decides to take a souvenir from the Trump fan bus, and pulls a poster off the side of the bus. Between the bus itself and a line of Trump supporters standing ten feet away. What is he thinking? He is instantly called out by many voices, pointed fingers and dire threats, and surrounded until the official Trump volunteers are summoned. They ascertain the facts – no dispute there, as the man admits grabbing the sign – and escort him from the premises. No violence. But rainbow man has reinforced the line’s view that it’s the liberals who break the rules when it suits them.

This idiocy is welcome relief, however, because the overriding fact is that we’re all freezing to death. I think it would be quite an embarrassment to the campaign if two or three hundred frozen corpses were found in line when the doors opened. Still, no one comes by with an explanation, or better yet, jugs of coffee. The gentleman next to me says he’s not going to make it – we’re over two hours here now – and his wife offers that he go wait in the car, parked not far away. I tell him we’ll certainly hold his place. But he’s going to stick it out if she is. At this point I ask if they will hold my place, so I can go get my hat from my car. (Well, at least I brought it!) They do, and I do. It no doubt helps, but it’s really our feet that seem to be losing the battle.

It’s dark by now. But there is progress! A plain metal truck comes by and stops at the center entrance, which is only about 40 yards away. “Persons who know” say that this is the truck with the metal detectors: once they set them up, we’ll be able to go in. Eventually they are set up, and a shout goes down the line as it starts to move into the doors. It’s 7 pm and we’ve been outside for three hours.

Inside, where it’s blessedly warm, after getting through strict metal-detector scrutiny, I enter the ballroom and search for a seat. Lucky me – I find a single in the very second row:

View sideways from my seat; stage next to me on right

We first have a prayer, mostly for Trump’s recently deceased mother-in-law (“can you believe that judge in New York wouldn’t give him a single day’s delay so he could attend the funeral?”); then a lovely rendition of the national anthem by a pretty young local office-holder; then the Pledge of Allegiance. After a couple of warm-up exhortations, mercifully brief, we hear from none other than Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York (way, way upstate). She’s a crowd favorite, and an enthusiastic speaker. And then out comes the man himself, to thunderous applause.

Heeere’s Donny!

I won’t, and can’t, summarize the speech. The interesting thing is that it’s not a speech as such. Despite the teleprompters flanking Trump, he rarely looks at them. He speaks, or reads, a short talking point – say, how many unchecked immigrants are flocking over our border each day – and then riffs on that theme, or digresses from it, conversationally, for the next ten minutes or so. Then he seems to check and pick up another point, and goes off on that for another five or ten minutes, then on to something else. It is a very casual, friendly, animated (and one-sided of course) conversation and is apparently effortless. There’s no speech to memorize or to read, no awkward pauses, no searching for the right word; if just flows. And so do the gestures. If you’re expecting a speech as mind-numbing as Castro’s were, no way. And if – as I thought might be – you were going to experience a Hitler-like symphony of emotion, hatred and call to violence able to rouse the dead, not that either. This is a man at home with his friends, holding forth to his own and their entertainment, and clearly enjoying himself.

He makes fun of Biden, of course. He describes what he might do if he ran into Biden at a bar: take him to the back room (at this, some in the crowd, who feel free to interject constantly, yell ‘Beat him up!’ and other niceties), and stand in front of him, and… here Trump just blows into the microphone, whoosh! – and gestures how Biden just falls over in the breeze.

He also does a nice bit of Joe trying to find the stairs off a stage: “Look, there’s staircases everywhere” Trump says, walking around counting four of them off his stage, left and right – “and he can’t find one?” ” ‘Um, uh, is that one, there?’ ” It is deftly done, utterly disrespectful, and quite funny. Yes, there is a mean edge, sometimes prominent, but this is not just a schoolyard bully; there is talent here. For those of a certain age, think of trying to campaign against Don Rickles.

Am I good or what?

All told, he speaks for an hour and 35 minutes, and it flies by. It’s not all humor and schtick. All of it is delivered from the heart, with total sincerity, although some of it is pure fiction delivered as fact (what some might call “lies”). I’m not enough on top of economic and social facts to call out his misstatements, but one I recognized for sure: “99% of the people I endorsed won,” he said. Almost the reverse is true. But the crowd loves it all and gobbles it all down.

The connection between them and him – the almost palpable flow of love from the crowd to the podium – is overwhelming. And he is right to flaunt his legal troubles. I was not taking notes during his speech, but I remembered one line and wrote it down right afterwards, because I think it explains why even a felony conviction will make only a marginal change in his support. He said, “They are trying to take away my freedom because I am trying to protect your freedom.”

Our 45th and possibly 47th president

At the end, he’s joined by Sen. Tim Scott – who has today endorsed him – Elise Stefanik, and former NY candidate for governor, Lee Zeldin. Each further rouses the crowd. We are all on our feet – as we’ve been for about half of the speech – and it’s a happily fired-up hall who exit to the cold and their cars.

An hour later, about 11 pm at the (great) Red Arrow Diner, there are five men sitting in a row at the counter, all in black with white shirts and black neckties. They look like undertakers. My counter neighbor – one Zachary Weisz, a British-American (mother born in Riverdale) reporter and photographer for the National Journal, published in DC – informs me they are Trump staffers, now off duty. I wonder where Trump stays? He may be on his plane back to Boston or further.

As I leave the diner I meet Mark Prascak – Democrat (amateur division) for President! He’s happy to tell me his plans for a new Department of Robotics, with four divisions: A for A.I., B for Bots, C for (ordinary) computers, and D for Drones (for defense). He’s a nice guy, rather nerdy, but empathetic enough to let me go after a couple minutes. You can find him at Or here:

Mark Prascak, candidate, with tourist

As I’ve said before, I love this place – New Hampshire, and Manchester, and the Red Arrow – because it charms me that you can’t walk twenty steps without tripping over a presidential candidate or two (or member of the press). It’s a wonderful game and it should make us proud.

But the stakes of this year’s game are mighty high. Higher even than usual. And there will be plenty of fear and anger both before it is done, and after. But take heart, as friends G & S would say:

For when threatened with emeutes
Tarantara, tarantara
And your heart is in your boots
There is nothing brings it round
Like the trumpet’s martial sound
Like the trumpet’s martial sound!

For those wondering, emeutes are riots.

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