There is no way of escaping The Donald.
American tv channels had been obsessing with the Pope for a few days already when we landed in Chicago. At airports we would watch mute tv screens showing live coverage of places he was about to arrive to or had just left from. In studio the anchor would have the usual number of pundits (three) but now one of them was priest.
This of course meant that the Pope had sucked all the air time from Donald Trump. We had been watching him on mute at airports before Francis had arrived. Now we were almost forgetting that he existed let alone run for president.
Then we check in at our hotel in Chicago and from my room I see nothing but Trump tower across the street and the river. They have even spelled his name on the wall with two-storey high letters lest you forget who was behind the skyscraper.
On the way to Chicago I had met perplexed Americans who invariably brought Trump up when you talked to them. In circles I have been moving here there are not people who understand Trump or his popularity. Or who could think of supporting him.
Apart from the people I made to do that.
I have stopped getting touristy knick-knack years ago but that does not mean I don’t want to have souvenirs from places I visit. This time the choice is easy, a Made America Great Again cap Trump wears wherever he goes. After all, Trump’s campaign is the main thing taking place here during my fellowship, if we forget the Pope. I had started googling places to buy one already when The New York Times declared it the fashion item of the season.
But at the Trump store in the Trump tower on 6th Avenue in New York I am told The Donald is not going to sell me one. Buying the cap is considered campaign contribution and is limited only to Americans. And they would need to register.
Knowing that Donald himself would never give up with such minor obstacle I decide to get one even if that means that I have to turn one of my liberal American friends into a registered Trump supporter (I don’t have other kinds of friends here, I am afraid).
A lawyer friend replies to my text message and promises to get me one. Or so I understand not noting at first that his message is pure Clintonesque. But I do get his hesitation. For him this all is not a joke. And then he has to leave New York so negotiations come to an end.
There are people I am too embarrassed to ask. There are people who point blank refuse.
Until I find one who reveals that his going to be in Midtown with nothing special to do. He says yes but makes sure he’s doing this as a favor.
“I was pretty annoyed with you when I was filling in the form”, he admits when he hands me the cap in Williamsburg hours later. Apparently lots of details were asked. And he knows who’s going to send him email. Again and again and again.
I nod. Sorry about that, I say.
But I have the cap.