The guy shopping in the produce section annoys me.
Long, stringy hair dangling from his balding pate. Rumpled clothes that haven’t taken a tumble in the washing machine for a discernable time.
And he’s picking up and examining every kumquat in the produce bin and touching and holding every one, like a man obsessed with kumquats. What’s wrong with that one? A bruise, the color, level of ripeness? How it speaks to him, kumquat to kumquat?
Finally I sidle over, pretending to be interested, and say with low-level snark, “Hey, you missed that one over there.”
Our eyes meet.
“Heavy Ed?” I ask with incredulity. I haven’t seen him in years.
He stares me down. “Nobody calls me Heavy Ed. Mikey.”
“I do,” I said with a smile and a pat to his shoulder. “Because you love me. But, dude. The last I heard, you were living in Portland.”
He tried to grimace but I saw that he was smiling. The tough guy thing was an act. “Yeah, well, Portland and a few other places,” he says.
He went on to explain that family issues made him decide to return to Indiana, where most of his family still resided, and he wasn’t going to live anywhere in Indiana but Bloomington. “I try to tell people their, like, stereotypes of Indiana aren’t far off but Bloomington’s the exception. “Ya get to eastern Oregon and it’s Idaho, man. Militia territory. Most people get it when you explain it that way.”
“So,” he says, as we drift toward the organic lemons. “Is our democracy in, like, peril, like they like to say on TV?”
“Yup,” I answer with conviction.
“And the Golden Cow is responsible,” Ed goes on.
“If you’re talking about the ex-president who won’t be named, yeah, in my opinion, for sure. In a broad way. At least in the useful idiot aspect,” I say.
“The guy couldn’t sell Trump airlines, steaks, vodka, casinos, hemorrhoid cream, man. He has a bunch of bankruptcies. He’s proud that he doesn’t pay taxes, when guys like you and me pay our fair share. Nobody in New York would even lend him money because he’s such a scumbucket. How does this guy dismantle the Republican Party and now, like, what do they call it? The Great American Experiment?”
I said I looked at this the other day and the working number of bankruptcies is six but there are reorganizations and definitions of who is invested in what so it’s squishy, like everything about that guy. And the hemorrhoid cream is a bit of a reach, even for you.”
Ed flashed the “Ew” look at me.
“What’s lost in the discussion right now is that Trump isn’t who he seems, especially the presidential role. There’s always the man behind the curtain,” I argue.
Ed’s already nodding agreement. “And Putin is the man behind the curtain, like the Wizard of Oz. I get it,” Ed says.
“It’s also a nice line in a song by the Bears, a Cincinnati band. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…” Except Putin is no bumbling fool. Trump is the ultimate score. He chose Putin’s word over the entire U.S. intelligence community.
“We have to get the word out, man,” Ed said as we blocked the citrus aisle in the grocery store. “Putin’s whole thing is destabilizing American institutions. He’s claiming the last election was a fraud, when every actual examination of it concludes there was no fraud.
“Sucker lost, man. But ya keep repeating a lie, it – well, it doesn’t become true, but in some people’s minds . . .
I agreed and said I thought everyone who agrees with restricting voting rights “stop the steal” need to get out of their propaganda bubble and realize there is no conspiracy here, other than Trump needing to feed his narcisicism and, fool that he is, carry out Putin’s agenda.
“He wants to be like Putin and the other autocrats,” I say. “He wants to be the guy who says ‘I’m in charge. He doesn’t understand or care about the three branches of government. It doesn’t work that way in Russia. Or Turkey.”
I realized that we were being jerks at that moment, blocking an aisle and having a spirited debate better performed over coffee or beer rather than the innocent fruits, vegetables and masked shoppers in the produce section.
“Um, I think we should get out of people’s ears here. Hunting and gathering is hard enough,” I say.
“Yeah, gotta skate anyway,” Ed says. He gives me his cell number and says, “You probably owe me a beer.”
I laugh, happy to see a guy I always thought was a good ol’ hippie with his heart in the right place. Still obsessed with social justice. And still in need of a washing machine and a few personal hygiene tips. 🐝