My piece about the Republican convention is out in Esquire UK. So right away I know how lucky I am. Lucky to witness history up close. Lucky to have an editor like Alex Bilmes who says yes to these open-ended reportage essay thingies. Lucky to get credentials at all, seeing as I missed the deadline by a mile. And lucky to get a sweet AirBnB at the last minute when every hotel room in the vicinity was booked, clear up to the Illinois state line. There were some poor souls paying $280/night to kip on a sofa.
But still, it was a tricky gig.
For starters, it may have been the most covered political convention in American history up to that point – 15,000 media passes. What could I possibly add? And from what angle? This story is bananas on so many levels, it’s hard to know which banana to make my own. Plenty of A-list writers had already ventured into Trumpistan, quill in hand – George Saunders for the New Yorker, Dave Eggers for The Guardian. As Wired’s Oli Franklin-Wallis told me, “good luck following those guys.”
And what was the story anyway? It keeps changing with Trump, each day brings fresh outrage. He steps up to the mic, makes a gif-worthy face and tosses out quote cookies to the yapping press corps. And new cookies render the old ones obsolete. Trump raises the cookie bar. He’s the cookie monster. Already, since the convention, he’s insulted a gold star family, suggested that gun nuts might assassinate Hillary, claimed the election is rigged, and “softened” on mass deportation, which is like Charlton Heston going off guns.
In all honesty though, the greatest challenge was just doing it alone. In the old days, when mags could afford to send photographers, I used to knock around with Chris Floyd on stories like this, which was a total joy. Chris is a great photographer, but that aside, just to have a collaborator and wing man, a buddy who keeps you sane. With Floydy, the wine and cheese event with the Young Republicans would have been less daunting and more of a giggle.
So I made some convention friends instead, some fine people who were up for a restorative drink and a laugh after a mad day of Trumping. Big shout to Evan from Wonkette, Chris from the Memphis Flyer, AJ from Mother Jones and Andrea from Marketplace.
Here are a few snaps. There’s more on my Instagram.
(L) Ginny Greiman, a Harvard Law Professor, who’s starting Professors for Trump: “He probably should release his tax returns yes. But even if he didn’t, I’d still vote for him.”
(L) Dana Dougherty from the Florida Delegation, who brought in her own Trump doll on every day of the convention. Push a button on the back and it says, “you’re fired”. (R) Sunny Houlihan from Maryland, who once worked in Saudi Arabia as a lab tech. “A friend of mine was caned for having exposed elbows. So don’t tell me about sharia law.”
The nastiest rhetoric of all came from some Christian extremists in the Westborough Baptist vein, screaming at the sodomites to repent. Jesus, homo-rage and cops – I must be at a Republican convention.
In the designated protest zone, this guy stands ironically encircled by cops.
(L) some of the delightful badges at the InfoWars rally. (R) a guy who insisted he was a product manager in a Fortune 200 company, and yet here he is dressed as a nun on Game of Thrones ringing a bill and playing “Shame!” on a loop. Hillary as Cersei.
There’s a tradition of daft headgear at conventions. Texas come like a cowboy army, Washington’s got the tree tops hats like cheap car air fresheners. No shortage of #MAGA baseball caps of course, but they’re also quite big on boaters here. Boaters are easy to pin badges too. And they go nuts for badges here.
(L) Mike Fleming, a 54 year old biker from Pittsburgh and (R) Chris Cox, founder of Bikers For Trump: “We’re not racists, we’re patriots.”