Greetings, esteemed guests and fellow residents!
We are nearly two full months into our new Administration and I haven’t properly welcomed you; where, indeed, are my manners?
If you’ll follow me we can begin the brief tour of our facilities which will conclude, of course, at our world-class bar. <obligatory chuckle>
Please be mindful of the charts in each of our seven elevators as our floor numbers are, of course, not all sequential. After every 8th floor we skip 2, until you reach our executive 40level where that number naturally jumps to 3, but you’ll not need to worry about that as those floors are unavailable to our guests and general public. This system is designed so that the Resort, our guests, and the actions of our Administration may be celebrated in even greater magnitude.
Isn’t it inconvenient, and un-American if you ask me, when you order a bacon cheeseburger at your local Italian restaurant and are refused? For your convenience, the menus in each of our six restaurants are identical, comprised of all The Leader’s personal favorites and reflecting the bounty of our nation’s culinary prowess. Every meal, of course, comes with fries.
We are equipped with two Olympic-size swimming pools, two gyms, and our state-of-the-art entertainment center where you may watch The Leader’s morning briefing each day with your fellow guests in IMAX, as well as “Hondo” and “Field of Dreams” each afternoon at 3 and 6pm, respectively. These are also available, of course, from the comfort of your suite simply by turning to Channel 1.
We pride ourselves here on a certain layer of removal from the rigors of reality and are happy to afford you the same comfort for a low monthly price.
We’ll be sure to provide you with only the most necessary and important information, direct from The Leader, filtering out all extraneous noise and fake news. It is our hope that your stay with us helps you to remember the lavish and undeniable American greatness that so many in our nation have forgotten.
Welcome to The Swamp; would you like a drink?
–Full disclaimer: our water is bottled somewhere between Saginaw and Ann Arbor, but the Leader says the color is the flavor of winning, not a cause for concern.–
As I sat at the bar, lounging half off my stool and picking through peanut shells like the discarded discourse of our once mighty Republic, searching for overlooked nuggets of protein to stave off a booze-soaked hunger, I wondered what direction this assignment might take, what angle or approach might best encapsulate the half-baked newness of the Administration. How does one properly address the scope and depth of their depravity and deconstruction?
The bar rested at a low din, half full and comprised mostly of my fellow new arrivals fresh from check-in. Jetlagged and wearing yesterday’s clothes, they scattered about the gin mill in two- and three-person enclaves, sucking down beers and shimmering pink cosmos. After I’d been nursing my America Lite for twenty minutes or so, the bartender looked in my direction and nearly caught me doodling a profane political cartoon involving The Leader and a blue-ribbon pot-bellied pig (probably only a misdemeanor but still, no one needs to get arrested their first night on assignment). I decided to change gears and switched to martinis, strong and cold as fuck.
The best course of action, I decided, was to make a list of some of the amusing/horribly frightening anecdotes already gifted us by the Administration in their yet short time in office, from which one would be chosen one to begin my article.
One of The Leader’s first Executive Orders, for example, had eliminated several Cabinet Secretary positions, including Sec’s of State and Defense, and created instead a single position entitled simply Secretary (create one, eliminate two) to which he appointed his nephew, who had previously operated a mildly successful delicatessen in north Philly. He often still finds himself publicly bemused that “secretary is usually a job for the ladies”. Obligatory chuckle.
Within a week of taking office, The Leader had fired the White House cleaning staff and had them deported – despite being born in Brooklyn, Cleveland, LA, and the greater D.C. area – because he was “120%, never been more certain about anything in my life” that they were the kingpins behind a terrorist spy network acquiring information through compromised kitchen appliances.
And there was, of course, his EO on grammar, amending the official punctuation rules regarding quotation marks to include what The Leader called “possible alternative meanings”. To him, anything he put in quotation marks was not to be understood literally, but as a placeholder for a truth to be determined later.
Here my pen swung a jagged diagonal line across that entire last paragraph as the bar patron on my right knocked me on the elbow and said,
“Say fella, whatcha scribblin’ in your lil’ notebook there?”
Given his size, his level of toxicity, and his strong Texarcana accent it seemed only pertinent to indulge my new neighbor a question or two. It would also help to keep up appearances if I was seen to be having “normal”, “friendly” conversations with other “guests”.
“I’m a Platinum-level Yelp Reviewer,” I lied to him, “here to write the proud praises of our nation’s crown jewel of hospitality and governance in one.”
Our throne and our gallows in one.
A watering hole, oil well, wishing well, and cesspool in one.
“Let me ask you this, fella-” I continued, “on a scale of Clint Eastwood to eagle with flaming wings, how would you rank your stay here thus far? Would you recommend it more to your Russian business friends or do you find the teenage bikini-clad spring-breakers to be a more appealing feature?”
He blinked twice, stroking his mustache with an unsure chortle and verbal ellipsis. I waited eagerly, wide-eyed and pen poised to write. He made a slow turn back to the Super Bowl replay running on Channel 3.
When we first heard the reports of what they had been planning at The Swamp, most of us thought it satire, too ridiculous even for the realm of political untruths. It entered a new reality, one that remade itself in whatever image it desired on a daily basis. Like a socio-political human centipede ever trying to become a butterfly…
Each day at the crack of 10 am, the Leader would assemble what remained of the free press – mostly pro-Administration bloggers and a rotating cast of aides to the former journalists now hiding in sanctuary cities – on the front lawn of the Resort so his spokesperson could come out and berate them for what The Leader had seen on cable tv that morning. The weathermen always got it the worst, despite the fact that the weather in North Florida never changed, outside of the cataclysmic hurricane season. But whenever a meteorologist’s report was found by The Leader to be “fake”, the running “joke” was that he/she was purposely reporting the weather incorrectly to screw up The Leader’s dress patterns. It stopped being quite as “funny” after those first two weathermen went missing.
When they flattened the old Capitol Building and moved the entire government to a condemned wing of the Resort, we all jested that the Leader would drive the bulldozer himself, The Sultan of Smarm grinning foolishly as he drove over our decimated notions of democracy. It turned out, instead, to be the First Lady’s corgi, Milhous, but else than that we were spot on. Maga maga bobaga.
And then it happened. Neither I or my 5-gallon amigo could have foreseen it and I couldn’t tell you really even what time it was as not a single clock could be found anywhere inside the Resort, a holdover from The Leader’s time in the casino business. Just as I was considering heading to my room and fighting it out with my laptop, in strode The Leader himself, face bulbous and boisterous and wrangled into the smug “Come on, seriously?” expression for which he had become so famous.
He was surrounded not just by the “Secret” Service but also by a dust cloud of hangers-on, bumbling assistants, and semi-distant relatives. And there was, it seemed, a disturbance afoot, an air of commotion as if something had just transpired and his aides were not yet sure how to handle it. He waved wildly, tiny hands in big gestures, first motioning to his swarm that he wanted to take the large table in the corner, then in the direction of our friend the bartender, vaguely indicating that he would be requiring service.
The consternation in The Leader’s brow was equally obvious to my cowboy bar neighbor who remarked,
“Wonder who stepped on The Leader’s dick today?”
“Yeah, I’d like to a fly on the wall for that tongue-lashing.”
“A barfly, ha!”
We turned to each other, eyebrows raised, and simultaneously grabbed our cocktails to move across the room and “innocently” hover near the action.
Not every member of The Leader’s staff shared the same level of concern. While the senior policy advisor ran around kicking nearby diners to different tables and taking their chairs, other aides laughed and took selfies with those seated at the bar. Greg, the agent who carries the briefcase with the nuclear launch codes, commonly called “the football”, became an overnight Instagram celebrity. In one shot, Greg and my new cowboy friend can be seen pantomiming comically frightening expressions towards the football, as if it were set to blow, the layers of irony too disheartening to properly unravel.
With the next day’s briefing, the country would learn that Russia was “secretly” planning to annex several of the former Soviet republics and had begun moving troops to their Western border for the initial assault. If you happened to be in the bar that night, though, you could have drank straight from the news spout as it trickled, watching and hearing first-hand as the Heads of our State debated the issue and our response over rounds of Fireball.
Amidst the frat-boy kerfuffle, it wasn’t difficult for me to unceremoniously slide into one of the empty red-cushioned seats behind The Leader, playing the role of dutiful aide and begrudgingly downing shots of cinnamon whiskey offered my way. I jotted notes for what would be an unpresidented (sic), inside-look at the gears of our government as they turned.
The Russian Ambassador, who now traveled as part of The Leader’s inner circle, was quick to downplay his nation’s action as a gag, good-natured international ribbing that was part of a centuries-old joviality in the region.
The Sec of Energy kept managing to look up from his ongoing Twitter war with the Speaker of the House just in time to not get caught by The Leader, offering a “You’re absolutely right, sir” the way a football-watching husband does to his bestie-bashing wife.
Greg danced around the bar with the football like he was Elwood Blues.
Not wanting to arouse suspicion, when The Leader blindly instructed me to go order another round “on the company card” as he put it, I did so immediately. Along with the round of shots – and a cranberry soda water for the press Secretary – I ordered myself another martini, downed it, and headed for the door.
Chuckling and slurring to myself in a state of half-inebriation, I made my way down the glittering hallway to the elevator atrium. As I attempted to decipher the chart for just what floor my room was actually located on, I could feel the eyes upon me. In truth, I think that sense of distrust was pointed in all directions; suspicions were the new salutations at The Swamp. I would need to craft and don a different armor if I was to survive this climate. The air here was too thick for fedoras and comic book tshirts. I would need a sharkskin suit.
The feeling here is both tangible and visceral, washing over you even before you’re off the plane, as soon as the wheels touch the tarmac. It’s also visible from the airport, though a large portion of Ocala National Forest had to be cleared to allow for that patriotic, unfettered view. There on the horizon, beyond the continuous rise of sulfer and slime it seems, a giant gold(-plated) quadrangle cuts the grey sky. Like the fucking Wizard of Oz or something. Except there is no wizard and not even a guy behind a curtain fervently trying to be a wizard. Nay, no such joy of character or narrative structure makes its home here. Here we just piss on things and vomit out whatever decrepit concepts gurgle into our poison-soaked minds, too sentient to be undead, too shrill to be human.
There was a time before all of this that I thought maybe the chasm was narrowing, that perhaps the swing of the pendulum had reached its crest and its force would slowly recede like a tide. It’s clear to me now, not just from what we’ve done in the election but in the ugly American visage now freed from all kinds of dark corners, that we’re just getting started. Welcome to The Swamp.