Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to have been first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style.
So last weekend I was about a hundred feet from Donald Trump.
He’s not in the above picture of course, that’s the press island, in the World Congress Center of Atlanta, Georgia. The media was roundly booed during Trump’s appearance, at greater intensity than anything else, even ISIS, was booed.
As for why I went, I am a humorist, and I know of few things funnier in life than taking a hostile, phobic cartoonist with a hundred mental disorders and plopping him in the middle of a right-wing political rally. Plus it was free. Because of the close proximity of the other attendees, I had to stifle my laughter for three hours, and Trump’s supporters were clearly ready to deal with uppity protesters. I was so far out of my element I felt like I was in church. I thought of Hunter S. Thompson and Richard Nixon. I thought of something Palpatine told Anakin Skywalker.
“Anakin, if one is to understand the great mystery, one must study all its aspects, not just the dogmatic, narrow view of the Jedi. If you wish to become a complete and wise leader, you must embrace a larger view of the Force.”
That reminds me, there was a guy who spoke before Trump who led the crowd in a prayer. If by some fluke footage of it happens to surface, you will see me looking so out of place, you’ll assume I was superimposed. I never know where to look when folk gets to prayin’.
We were part of a crowd that probably numbered a thousand, if I’m being honest. We weren’t all white, either; I saw plenty of black people, all seemingly sound and unmolested. From the way Trump’s people are portrayed in the media (BOOOOO!), I expected wall-to-wall whiteness. I was wrong on that, and I also didn’t expect the crowd to be as close to half women as it appeared to be.
There were a zillion women at the Trump rally. They were the loudest, and they were for the most part very attractive. They screamed that they loved him. It sounded like they meant it. They brought many underage daughters. Some were so spoiled that they dragged folding chairs into the crowd and laid down on them to watch videos on their phones. I was raised in a better era, so I remained standing for the duration, and an older lady next to me complimented me about it. I have working legs and nut-brown hair. The act of sitting in a standing crowd that includes women whose hair is white is utter anathema to me. Call me old-fashioned.
Even with this nonsense going on at my elbow, a dude behind us saw fit to bark at my friend to remove his hat for the pledge of allegiance. If I wind up on camera, note that my hand is not over my heart. I was pissed off and I couldn’t do it. Bite me.
There were a lot of kids present who didn’t look old enough to vote, for some reason. Probably the side effect of politicking parents. I haven’t seen so much cystic acne since junior prom. One kid looked like Matthew McConaughey in Dazed & Confused, and I swear to god, I saw two different kids that resembled Martin Shkreli. One guy in the crowd was such a ringer for Ron White that I just assumed it was him. The rally was a paid event, the organizers reminded; there were no hecklers because it’s technically illegal to do so. The masses were behaved and quiet enough to make me unsure about muttering the many awesome jibes I had prepared.
A criminally underage girl uncomfortably close to my shoulder adjusted her brassiere for what felt like hours. Finally her friends screamed at her to stop it, and we could look up from our shoes. Folks- this was a child. I was literally trying to crush myself into a diamond. I haven’t felt terror at the possibility of being misunderstood that much since jail.
Speaking of terror- Trump says it like “terra“. For a moment, I thought that was the name of that newly-discovered planet, and I realized I wasn’t a fraction as stoned as I should be for this event. The cavernous World Congress Center requires a lot of walking and exertion. This did nothing to stop the many elderly people in attendance from showing up (and standing as long as I did). One thing I took away from this rally is that old folks are seriously miffed. Rankled, for certain.
The dual glowing masses in the above picture are the two black ladies that support Trump. I mean, they’re not the only ones, that’s their shtick. Look, you stand for hours in a crowd of strangers and then come home and make funny. See how well you do.
Anyway, the ladies got the crowd fairly whipped up. One of them said “succeed” like “secede”, which I figure probably worked better than intended. They were all about “unity”, and “all lives matter”, and everyone was into it. Have you ever been in a situation where a chant of “USA!” just petered out? Because I have. I’ve heard better chants at temples.
There was a tape playing faintly over the PA system, repeating the same four songs, before Trump took the podium; Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”, opera that I took for Wagner, “Hey Jude”, and the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. At one point “Rocket Man” played, with its refrain of “I think it’s gonna be a long long time”. I’m not making any of this up. At first I thought the opera might be Pagliacci, and I told my friend that if it was, I would immediately die on the floor. My cerebral cortex would split like a pineapple at something that unintentionally funny.
Am I uncomfortably close enough for you? I’ve had long-term relationships with women who touched me less than the underage girls at the Trump rally. I think I might now be engaged to one of them. What the fuck, mothers. I have strong moral convictions regarding minors. Be grateful I’m not actually an awful creep. And have a talk with your daughters, please, before they encounter a real one.
There were husband-and-wife singers that performed songs they’d written about Trump. The guy looked like Zack Galifanakis, or the hacker that’s especially awed by the Secretary of Defense in the first Transformers (someone’ll get it). I think I was familiar with the couple’s work, because I sang along like I knew every word:
ohhhh no, this guy’s got a guitar
o my god
over my head here
(The video is vertical because I have massive interpersonal problems, and it provides a more accurate picture of what it is like to be me. Quit your bitchin’.)
Trump spoke very passionately about building a wall, and making Mexico pay for it. He referenced the Great Wall of China, praised its height and durability, and asked the crowd, “HOW DID THEY DO IT?” I replied “slaves,” and either everyone agreed or no one heard me.
Granted, Trump was speaking and not fielding questions, but it has to be said that the guy is a riveting orator. Not once did he stammer, or stall with an “uh” or an “ah”. That’s why people are getting behind him; if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he can at least appear like he does. His hair doesn’t even look fake in person. He was the single person who stepped behind the podium that didn’t appear reduced by it.
At one point, the blazing spotlight upon Trump cut out. What would’ve been a gaffe became an advantage, as he steered his points towards how much money would now theoretically be saved, and how he didn’t have to pay rent because the lights are defective, thus breaching the contract. He had the crowd, even more than he did when he entered. It’s not unimpressive to behold.
As soon as Trump suggested backing out of the rental fee, the lights blasted him again, and he led the crowd in a chant of “TURN OUT THE LIGHTS!” It worked. The Donald remained in natural light. This was around when my phone ran out of juice, so I couldn’t get a decent shot. Underage Girl #3 pushed something supple against the back of my arm, and I thought about flesh-eating bacteria.
(The video isn’t sideways; you are.)
I spent a day neck-deep in the “silent majority” and lived to tell you about it. I’ll say this much; if it comes down to Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump, Trump will become the next president. I’m not keen on any of that action, to be truthful. Like I told my friends as we left the rally;
I don’t want to live in a Doonesbury cartoon.