Trump

And they said the internet would kill big media.

Trump never had a chance. America might be angry, but it does not want a blowhard billionaire whose specialty is profitable bankruptcy and strategic licensing to run its country.

But that does not mean television and newspapers did not love telling his story, it injected excitement, it sold advertising, and in the era of big data it was all opinion all the time. True, there were polls showing Trump with significant traction, but the data pros said that at this point in the game polls are unusually inaccurate.

But don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.

So what does this mean?

Are today’s stars as big as we think they are?

Katy Perry sold as many TEAs (track equivalent albums) as Taylor Swift, but the latter is America’s darling.

We keep hearing about the popsters, Rihanna and Demi and a slew of no-talents, Kanye West is seen as the biggest star in America, whilst entire genres get little press and no attention and as a result they fail. Just look at Chris Stapleton, zero to hero overnight. The album didn’t change, it’s just that the CMAs gave him a big award on television and the rest of the media glommed on. He went from soft numbers at clubs to you can’t get a ticket overnight.

That’s the power of media. That’s the power to mold minds. That’s the story of this decade, with a plethora of information he who grabs the microphone wins.

But not really.

Remember when Twitter was gonna save television?

And right now you’d think that Snapchat is the new “New York Times.”

It’s all scuttlebutt all the time. And those we used to consider experts have been revealed to be anything but. All the prognosticators bloviating on the opinion pages, on Fox and MSNBC and the inane CNN, never mind the networks. Just because you put someone in the anchor chair, after plastic surgery and world class makeup, that does not mean their opinion is worth a damn.

Meanwhile, the supposed most powerful man in news, Roger Ailes, has been revealed to be a paper tiger. If Donald Trump can beat Ailes, it shows that others can too, those with enough gumption to see that the entire media business is a facade of self-important people with little knowledge…

But a great deal of power.

Want to be successful today?

Own the media. Publicity is everything. The rise from the bottom to the top via internet virality is a paradigm that expired with the last decade. Now the airwaves are cluttered, there are too many messages, and in a Tower of Babel society we all focus on that which everybody else does. Forget the iconoclast championing the obscure, that’s so sixties, the truth is we want points of discussion, and Trump provided one, just like Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift before him. And yes, there are some statistics in the music business, data indicating success, but if you think Adele’s jumbo sales numbers for “25” would be as high if she didn’t dominate entertainment news for a month you can actually sing more than one song from the album. As for keeping her music off streaming services, that’s like doubling-down on the story of the little boy who kept his finger in the dike, you can’t stop progress.

And the truth is we live in a disorganized nation. One in which the rich rule, but not as much as they think they do. They’ve got all the money, but the people have power. But the people are swayed by the nincompoops in the media, they like the story instead of what feels right.

Trump never felt like he could win. His ascension to the throne was as flimsy as a “Rocky” story, fiction.

So when it doesn’t make sense, it doesn’t.

How in the hell did an entire country think this guy had a chance?

How did our entire media system lead us astray?

In what other ways are they leading us astray?

Nate Silver had it right, Trump has too many unfavorables. Meanwhile, Silver started to blink, pull back from the brink, and was excoriated by those believing in Trump.

But Silver was right.

We hate the outliers, but they’re the only ones who can tell us the truth.

And what Trump told us was the media was a carny game that could be manipulated.

He could not win the election, never mind the nomination, but he taught us a lesson.

Here’s hoping more individuals who are unafraid of the media ignoramuses and bullies will challenge them too.

We’ll be better off for it.

Back From The Airport

I now like “Heard It In A Love Song.”

I’m still shaking. I haven’t driven in snow that bad since the seventies. Vail Pass is closed and I’m wondering whether to bother trying to make it to Telluride tomorrow, since they’re expecting 18-36 inches.

Now it didn’t snow all day. Well, there were a few flurries just before noon, but after that there was some sun. I wondered if the storm was just a myth, especially in ski country, they like to believe the flakes will fly.

And on the way to the airport it was RAINING! Now I’m sophisticated enough to know this is ultimately a bad sign, because as the night wears on the temperature drops and then you’ve got snow on top of ice, the worst of all possible worlds.

And Eagle County Regional Airport is at 6,540 feet. Downhill from Vail’s 8,150. And the temperature was in the mid-thirties. And visibility was good. So I was feeling confident, wondering if all my anxiety was ill-spent.

Kinda like the car rental.

Tempkins told me to go to Thrifty, he said they had the best deals. But no one was at the desk and Avis and Budget and Alamo told me they had no cars whatsoever.

I was just checking, because the Hertz website said they had no four wheel drives, I wanted a four wheel drive, I’d reserved a Chevy Venture, which comes in both iterations, front and all, but usually the rental fleet is just front so…

I went to Hertz.

I asked them about the Venture, whether it was two or four wheel drive.

They told me they hadn’t seen a Venture in months.

But they had my reservation.

They were gonna give me an SUV. And by time the clerk went through a few computer screens she told me I was gonna get an Infiniti, a QX80.

Now that’s living in style.

But that’s not what I got.

I got a QX70. Would it fit my skis?

First I had to check for dents, I don’t want no extra charges.

And I already declined the $64 and change insurance policy. I know, I know, you don’t need it, but I’m only renting the car for one day…

Now I’m wondering whether I should have bought it, I still might call and request it.

So the car came with satellite radio, and even navigation and NeverLost, and there were too many switches to figure out and I had a hard time turning it on and getting out of the parking lot and then…

I couldn’t see a damn thing. The windshield wipers were bad. Or…

I mean you know you’re in trouble when you can’t see the road.

And I was far from the Interstate.

I blasted the defrosters. I turned up the music. And I tried to figure out where I was going.

Eagle, Colorado ain’t that complicated, but there are roundabouts and I couldn’t see anything and then… On the window, were those now snowflakes?

I didn’t want to believe it. It had been raining only minutes before, I’d gained no elevation.

But it was true, it was snowing.

And then it was a blizzard.

You know, the kind where the high beams render vision impossible and the low beams show you there’s snow, but you still can’t see the road.

I started off behind two trucks. But then I got worried they were going too slow, and the longer it took me to get back to Vail, 35.5 miles, the more snow there’d be on the road.

So I passed them.

I was feeling confident, my winter driving skills were still in evidence. I could ride this pony.

And then I couldn’t see the damn line on the road. Where the hell was I supposed to go? Left, right, center… I’d lost my guidance, believe me, you want to be following those red tail lights, they were the only thing giving me direction.

And the hills are getting steeper and I’m starting to go slower.

The speed limit is over 70, I started off doing 60, now I was down at 50, was I ever going to make it?

And then other drivers started to freak out, they started to go slow.

And then the left lane started to be covered by snow.

And then the heavens EXPLODED!

You’d think it’s the end of the world. But somehow in the midst of this winter storm there was lightning, happened three times, I could finally see the road, for an instant anyway, but I felt like I was experiencing Armageddon.

And I finally realize I’m listening to the Bridge, Sirius XM’s soft rock channel for the uninitiated. The Little River Band segued into Carole King and then I heard the bumper. I listen to the Bridge, I felt comforted. Carole King was my friend, the song never sounded better.

And then I heard Marshall Tucker’s “Heard It In A Love Song”…

I hate that song. I love “Can’t You See,” but not this big hit.

But tonight I loved it. I couldn’t take my hands off the wheel, I had no idea how to change the channel, I endured it and it revealed itself to me, decades later.

Finally I was in Edwards. Civilization. People live there and ski Vail. I thought I was home free.

Until I got to Avon and found myself exiting without knowing it. There was no way you could see the highway. I was drifting right, headed for disaster, the only thing that saved me was that rough pavement they install that makes your tires roar and alerts you to the fact you’re flirting with disaster.

Now I had to pay attention.

BUT I ALREADY WAS!

I was wired, concentrating, doing my best, would it be enough?

Then I lost all perspective, I had no idea what lane I was in, all I know is there were two tire tracks and I was following them.

And then the lights started to blink and flashers were going and I thought there was an accident, but it’s just that everybody had slowed to a crawl, because there was no way you could make fruitful progress.

In the slowdown I passed a fire truck. Its lights were not flashing, it was barely moving, was it going to an accident, coming back from a fire, or had it lost its way?

And then there were lights. Visibility returned. But there was barely one lane and it was still four miles to Vail and off in the distance were flashing red and blue lights. Was it a snowplow?

And now I was starting to freak. Would I be able to find the exit?

I highly doubted it.

Who else would be going to Vail? Who could I follow? Wouldn’t they just be continuing down I-70?

There was no lane line visible. I figured I’d keep an eye out for the bending guardrail and try to follow it off the highway.

But then there was a huge blinking sign, whose yellow letters told us Vail Pass was closed, the highway ended here, we ALL had to get off at Vail.

Whew!

But then the car started beeping, telling me people were too close, even though I couldn’t see anyone around me.

And in town an SUV was barreling, could he stop before he plowed into me on the roundabout?

And that guy in the Audi, entering from a side street, was he gonna maintain traction or slide into me?

And now I was alone.

But I was slippin’ and a’ slidin’, only a few feet from home.

But I made it.

Now what?

Do I pack up and leave in the morning or…sit here in Vail?

And if I sit here in Vail, I’m racking up $130 in rental car fees every day.

Telluride is four hours and forty six minutes away.

Montrose is three hours and twenty six minutes, I can meet my buds at the airport there tomorrow…

If they can make it.

Buzz is they’re going to get fifty inches at Wolf Creek.

Now that’s just west of Telluride, but T’ride is  gonna get double digits. Are we even gonna be able to make it from Montrose to Telluride, which sits at 8,750 at the end of a long, winding, two lane road?

My buddies on the east coast are clueless, they think they’re gonna make it, I emailed them and asked for flight info, told them to contact me if their flights were canceled or diverted.

So I’m sitting here wondering whether to pack or to punt.

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Everybody comes from somewhere.

Does everybody feel inferior and inadequate?

I do. My mother always told me someone else was the expert, knew better, and I couldn’t compete. My father would lionize outcasts, with glasses and straight A’s, and it drove my older sister nuts, she still feels like she’s competing with Kathy Eckber.

So when a book makes me feel like I’m not alone, that there are other people like me, I can’t put it down, I smile on the inside, I’ve got to tell you all about it, in case you feel like I do.

Elizabeth Strout is famous for “Olive Kitteridge,” an award-winning book that deserves its accolades. Olive is not lovable, breaking the mold Hollywood and the media tells us art must conform to. I hate when people tell me the characters in a movie are not likable. So many people in the world are not likable, I’m looking for truth.

And they made “Olive Kitteridge” into an HBO movie which I never finished, because the book was private and the film was for everybody. You know how you feel alone, with your thoughts, roaming through society as a party of one? That’s the feeling you got from Olive, you were inside her mind, which got you inside your own.

There was a follow-up book, “The Burgess Boys,” not quite as good as “Olive Kitteridge,” but satisfying.

And now this, “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” there were reviews and features for about two weeks and then nothing. It’s funny that way, how there’s a big hoopla and then silence. If something continues to be part of public discourse it’s a hit.

And I’m not sure “My Name Is Lucy Barton” is a hit.

I can see why. People need a linear plot, they need satisfaction, and “Lucy Barton” does not provide this. You’re not actually sure where it’s going and when it’s over you wonder if you missed something. Kinda like life. Get old enough and so many roads are closed off you have to own your location and that’s freaky, because it’s never where you expected it to be, and so much you wanted to accomplish you never will.

Lucy is sick. She’s in the hospital. Her mother comes to visit her. And you hear about her life.

She grew up dirt poor. People made fun of her.

Have you ever been made fun of? I have, which is why I will never do so. We can’t control our looks, we all commit faux pas, life is a struggle, what makes you so special that you have all the answers and can ridicule others? And sure, there are bullies, deranged solo actors. But so often the perpetrators are the cool club, the winners, the popular people in school. They’re put on a pedestal but they’re rotten to the core. That’s one great thing about graduating, leaving these people behind, and knowing that as you get older people can’t punch you, because it’s gonna cost ’em.

Lucy escaped the hinterlands. And her family never really forgave her for that. They want to keep you down, where they are, where they can continue to pick on you, keep you in your place. She got a scholarship to college and she got married and…

It didn’t solve her problems.

We all think if we reach that threshold, if we get to that point, if we achieve our heart’s desire, we’ll be happy, life will work out. But it doesn’t. You ultimately make the most of what you’ve got, but life has a way of twisting and turning and turning lemonade into lemons.

Not that anybody will say this.

We live in an age of positivity. Keep your chin up, be a winner, like the pop songs.

But inside we despair. We have too many questions and too few solutions. We’re insecure. That’s one thing I’ve learned in life, if someone is bragging about their achievements, focused on their possessions, despite their braggadocio they’re insecure inside, their balloon is always losing air, they’re afraid of being exposed.

Do you make peace with your family?

Do your siblings forgive you for moving on and garnering success or do they still poke at you while asking for money and favors all the while.

You have heroes.

But then you find out that the heroes are flawed.

There’s so much wisdom in “Lucy Barton,” let me extract some gems.

“I have no memory of my mother ever kissing me.”

Bingo, my dad either. Recently my mom has been giving me a peck, it feels good, but the truth is I’m incredibly inhibited when it comes to physical contact. I need a sign, a green light before I touch you. And feeling comfortable with contact…

“Then I understood I  would never marry him. It’s funny how one thing can make you realize something like that.”

Lucy’s in love with an artist. He asks her what she ate growing up. She ultimately told him baked beans, which was a positive spin on molasses and bread. He then asked if they sat around and farted after that.

People are cruel. Not all of them, but when you think you love someone and they treat you badly, when they say something that cuts you to the core, you know you can never spend your life with them.

“…and I see now that he recognized what I did not: that in spite of my plenitude, I was lonely. Lonely was the first flavor I had tasted in my life, and it was always there, hidden inside the crevices of my mouth, reminding me.”

I understand. I’m not sure why I feel this way. Was it having two sisters and a father who was quite the breadwinner but far from a guy’s guy? I am lucky in that as I’ve grown older my social circle has grown, I fear for those my age who are uncoupled, who work in solitude, or maybe they’re just better adjusted than I am.

“I felt that she would leave soon. As has often been the case with me, I began to dread this in advance.”

I had to work with my shrink to learn how to get off the phone. I was thrilled people called me, that anybody wanted to talk to me, I’d listen to them for hours, for the contact, to cement the bond.

And when I feel conversation lagging and the party breaking up, I start asking questions and making jokes, anything to keep it going.

“I suspect I said nothing because I was doing what I have done most of my life, which is to cover for the mistakes of others when they don’t know they have embarrassed themselves.”

I’m always worried someone’s gonna say the wrong thing, make themselves look bad and others uncomfortable. I don’t know why it’s my responsibility, I’m working on letting go, it’s difficult, I don’t want anybody to get hurt.

“How are we going to make sure we do not feel inferior to another?”

When you find the answer, let me know.

But the truth is this is nothing we can learn from another, they can tell us we all put on our pants the same way, yet we still carry the weight of the loser. I’m making progress here too, learning that so many presenting their case with bluster are flawed, that those who succeed in one area are failures in another. And it’s not about putting them down but showing myself there’s an opening for me to play, that I can suit up and get on the field. That’s truly half the battle, so many are too inhibited, they can’t handle the scrutiny, they’re afraid to fail, someone needs to succeed, maybe it can be me.

If you’re looking for business insight, “My Name Is Lucy Barton” is not for you.

But if you feel like you just don’t fit in, that something happened to you long ago and it’s holding you back, you should crack it.

If you believe art is about illustrating the human condition, making you feel connected, and delivering insight all at the same time, this is your book.

It’s an easy read.

It might be too difficult to discuss.

But you’ll treasure it.

My Name Is Lucy Barton

Annapurna

I’ve got to drive from Vail to Telluride.

And I’m becoming more frightened by the minute.

I used to do long distances all the time, twelve hours at a clip, I just put a cassette in the deck and off I’d go. But that was a long time ago, before Sirius XM, do I upgrade my rental car to include it? I think so. But forget the distance, what I’m worried about now is the snow.

Last January there was nary a drop. But El Nino is causing the sky to dump, the day I leave, and the day before and the day thereafter and…

My buddy Steve was gonna come up from Taos, take me in his four wheel drive, but his plans changed, he’s got to go to Mexico City. So I rented a car.

Oh, I could have flown. But it made no sense. To pay a hundred bucks to ride two hours back to Denver and then pay triple digits to fly to Montrose and still end up almost two hours away.

Or, I could have flown direct, if I’d come from L.A.

But I was too scared.

My hemoglobin is low, and the altitude at Telluride is sky high, so I figured I’d come to Vail and adjust.

Which is how I ended up here, which is how I ended up at Annapurna last night.

It’s an Indian/Nepalese restaurant. I found it on Yelp. We arrived on Saturday and needed lunch and I was looking for new alternatives and Annapurna’s rating was sky high, just like Telluride, ha!

So we went.

I’d like to tell you the atmosphere was a selling point, but it looked like an upscale Denny’s, although there were prayer flags, but food can overcome atmosphere any day of the week. But what do we eat? I know Indian, I’m clueless as to Nepalese.

So I asked Om.

I didn’t know that was his name at the time, it’s just that he was the only person in attendance that looked like he’d come from that region of the world. Yes, it was his restaurant. He told me to get the chicken makhani, and he recommended the lamb skewers too.

But Felice doesn’t like lamb unless it comes as chops, so we ordered some shrimp and some eggplant in addition to the makhani and savored every bite, the food was delicious.

And then Om came to check up on us, to talk.

That’s when we found out his name was Om. Yup, like the mantra. It’s common in Nepal. Where Om would like to go back to live. But he can’t, because the country is in financial straits.

Om and his wife immigrated at the turn of the century. Actually, his wife came first. They settled in Glenwood Springs, which is an hour from Aspen but might as well be an hour from Tulsa, it’s nowhere, how did Om end up there?

Word of mouth. There are a lot of Nepalese in Colorado.

But mostly Boulder. It seemed that they went to Glenwood Springs on a whim, almost throwing a dart, but they stayed there for sixteen years, until they sold the business and tried to move back.

But it didn’t work. The money just didn’t add up.

And it always comes down to the money. That’s how Om ended up owning a restaurant to begin with. You’ve got to put food on the table, pardon the pseudo pun. And you’ve got to send money back to your relatives. Om’s mother had two strokes and is partially paralyzed and his dad has dementia. Om’s brother looks after them, Om has to help him out.

But not only him, Om is helping out people in the village. Because all that money sent after the earthquake? The politicians pocketed it, you can see no evidence of it. Nepal is in bad shape. Right after the disaster people helped each other out, now they’re out for themselves, a cab driver tried to charge Om double to go the two miles from the hospital to his family abode. Om challenged him, and then ended up giving him the 100 rupees and letting someone else take the cab. That’s only a dollar, but that’s a lot in Nepal.

And Om’s daughter is in medical school in Kathmandu.

And his son is in medical school in the U.S.

I told him he must be very proud.

He is.

What’s all this hogwash about immigrants, stealing jobs, ruining the economy? The immigrants come with nothing and work hard and get ahead. If only all the people bitching put their nose to the grindstone.

But Om is less concerned with the politics of the U.S. than the politics of Nepal. He’s dealing with bigger issues. While we’re all on social media bragging about our possessions and experiences he’s earning money to help those who don’t have any, his brethren back home.

Kinda like my ancestors. And yours. Coming to the new land and helping out those left behind.

Which makes my anxiety about driving to Telluride seem inconsequential.

And it is.

But I try to exercise good judgment, I try not to take unnecessary risks. Automobiles are deadly weapons.

I may end up meeting friends at the Montrose airport.

The weather forecast could change.

But right now I’m consumed with the variables.

And the story of Om.

Annapurna Vail