It was Halloween in my neighborhood on Lanier Place in Adams Morgan. The goblins, storm troopers, princes and princesses were out in force as darkness was settling on the two blocks, where one finds a turn-of-the-20th-century firehouse and Joseph’s House, the newly renovated hospice for the homeless.
Our neighbors of old and new had already descended on the candy and costume counters at the local CVS and Safeway. Many of them, as always, had turned their homes into haunted houses, some inspired by scenes from “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Walking Dead.”
This was not the New Normal. Even in these Days of Trump, Halloween 2017 was normal, the old and buzzing and traditional normal, in which “trick or treat” still means a little girl with a lit pumpkin or bags for candy saying thank you, and nobody really tricks anybody. The only newish element was selfies — an ingredient not available when the traditional Lanier costume gathering became popular over a decade ago.
At our place, they had put up the skimpy ghost blowing in the breeze, joined by three others hanging angrily from windows. A bloody hand attached to a bloody head reached out from the yard.
Up they came, although a rumored invasion of “Despicable Me” minions did not appear, and so we felt safe. Of a sudden, a giant — and we do mean giant — lizard appeared, mouth wide open, shockingly so. One minute he wasn’t there, the next he was, growling green.
Non-threatening white troopers approached, Cinderella in her many unbearably cute aspects trooped up shyly, with magic wands.
All seemed almost normal, amid the street lamps, the dressed-up dogs, the babies in backpacks, the wagons.
Who was that lurking beneath a tree on the sidewalk?
Could that be?
It sure looked him, looking casual, munching on a sandwich, the irretrievably red tie almost making it to the ground, the mop of orange hair, the dark suit, the shirt.
It was a man impersonating, pretending, trying to be President Donald Trump in our midst.
“Say, isn’t that some guy dressed,” or, as they say, dot dot dot.
The one guy that didn’t show was the guy whose head was spinning. That was us.
That’s why the parade of children and parents, the muted light from the lamps, the costumes, the wigs, the pumpkins, the greetings from neighbor to neighbor, the dressed-up dogs (looking somewhat apologetic, as they always do on this occasion) were like a grab at the old normal.
But that’s impossible to achieve altogether. These days, there’s a simultaneousness to every day, time passing so swiftly that what was urgent yesterday lingers like bad breath for a day and disappears. What was shocking and tragic two weeks ago is barely mentioned.
The political commercials for the governor’s race in neighboring Virginia swamp the airwaves. Never were more frightening words heard — almost every five minutes on local television stations — than “My name is Ralph Northam” or “My name is Ed Gillespie,” followed by “and I sponsored this advertisement.”
Soon this too shall pass — on Tuesday of next week — and the results will be chewed over by politicians and media personalities, who predict and never retract, and smug or chagrined pollsters talking about the future of the major and maligned political parties. Disappearing, too, will be talk of gangs and the picture of the man with the biggest child pornography collection ever.
Some other things will not be gone, but stick around like a broke uncle who shows up on your doorstep to crash on the couch and frighten the children and the president. I refer to Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and his investigation of the Trump administration and possible election collusion with the Russians.
The investigation sprung its first indictments this week and up they popped like a Jack-o’- lantern and the clown from Stephen King’s “It,” most notably former Trump campaign manager and best-dressed-list contender Paul Manafort, his associate Rick Gates and a low-ranking foreign affairs adviser to Trump with the resonant name of George Papadopoulos. This event drove the president to the Twitter machine to demand that Hillary Clinton be indicted instead, on revelations about the Trump dossier and the uranium deal.
This is the gift that will keep on spilling, better than a Hefty bag of Kit Kats. But even in this, the blooming scandals and rash of expert opinions will have to share. No event exists by itself in the Trump age, nothing loses traction faster than what happened days ago and nothing gains more than what’s about to happen. There is no scale. Even amid an avalanche of events past, present and future, the president found time to tweet reams of snark about Michael Moore’s “The Terms of My Surrender” on Broadway.
It’s been over a month since a lone gunman killed 58 people in Las Vegas. When was the last time you heard any coverage about that singular tragedy?
We watched Halloween already filled with the hours-ago news that in New York an Uzbekistan native but legal immigrant had used a rented truck to run down bicyclists and pedestrians in Lower Manhattan, killing eight. Already, the president fulminated about the death penalty for the perpetrator, about changing laws and reviving his merit-based immigration plan, although, with 58 victims, the president had said back in October that it was too soon to talk about gun control. He has kept that promise.
On Halloween, we watched two giant lizards battling in the street. The Donald Trump man standing by the tree had disappeared.
Later that night, a man walked into a Thornton, Colorado, Walmart and started firing a gun, killing three. By that time the streets had turned dark, with only a little light left over for the scrap of paper which said: “Sorry, we’re out of candy.”