American pie

Missy Votel - 10/22/2020

It was the stuff of weenie mountain biker nightmares. Coming home from a glorious Sunday ride in the Gulch, we decided to go out the backside and ride home along the river. As we crested the last steep, rutted gravel road before reaching a flat landing and then the highway, we saw the flags waving. Then came the big trucks and the crowd of people, gathered around a speaker. 

My heart sank into my thankfully un-Lycra’d chest. Much to our dismay, we had accidentally ridden directly into a Trump rally. 

To say a couple of two-wheeled, fanny-packed, funny-shoed interlopers stuck out was an understatement. Needless to say, I was a little nervous. Would we get coal-rolled? Heckled? Chased and savagely beaten with our own pumps?

One thing’s for sure – after a good three hours in the saddle that day, I wasn’t about to ride back down that hill. So we pulled our helmets down low and tried to nonchalantly pedal through.

Of course, as evidenced by the fact I am writing this today, I survived the party crashing. But, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I stole a curious glance at the crowd as I rode by – as I’m sure they did to us. It’s rare you get such an up close look at the “other,” let alone happen into the inner sanctum of Trumpliness. 

Yes, I do know some Republicans. I even consider a few to be my friends. In fact, up until the last election, my own dear father was a card-carrying member, and I wouldn’t doubt it if there was a photo of Ronald Regan on his nightstand. (In his defense, he also has one of JFK hanging on his office wall.)

But the Trump phenomenon is something I fail to grasp, no matter how hard I try to walk in the other guy’s MAGA hat. Sure, I love my “freedoms” and my gun, a Red Ryder Daisy rifle. I bristle when anybody dares to tell me what to do and probably own way more camo than a girl should (I like to think of it as the “new neutral.”)

However, I also drive a sensible Subaru, have been known to eat tofu and own several pairs of Birkenstocks – including a pair of “Birken-Crocs.” I would rather juggle an armful of groceries than accept a plastic bag and have no problem putting a cloth mask over my face when I go out in public. I think police should stop killing innocent, unarmed black people and am saddened and disturbed when I see people in our own town, waving Trump flags and protesting an indigenous people’s march. People, I might point out, who lived here first and make the Southwest the amazingly unique, rich and diverse place that it is. 

I guess that makes me a sissy, “libtard” or a snowflake (which might be true, as I do not tolerate heat well.) Of course, there’s plenty of name-calling and scorn to go around for the other side – although these days, “Trumper” usually suffices.

Which is all really sad when you think about it. Has the situation in our country grown so untenable that all we can resort to is name calling and insults, like a bunch of schoolyard imbeciles (which technically, is also an insult)?

But here’s the thing, when we’re done chanting whatever the slogan du jour is until we’re red in the face and blind with rage, have we ever sat down to just talk? That is, from a safe distance and with proper ventilation? Because we might be surprised to find out the other side is not as awful, evil or disillusioned as we think.

Take my new friend, who I’ll call Eric, because that’s his name. We met recently when he had the misfortune of sitting down to enjoy his pizza at a large outside table at the Enterprise in Rico. Little did he know he was about to be invaded by a posse of ravenous, PBR-swilling female mountain bikers. We had just ridden over from Durango and perhaps did not have the best of manners or smell all that great. (Let me preface this by also saying Eric bore the telltale signs of being, well, “one of them,” with a flag shirt and a Texas accent. Profiling maybe – but for the sake of the story hang with me here.)

Anyway, after five hours of consuming nothing but bland sawdust passing as “energy bars,” we were circling his pizza like vultures. In our defense, it was pineapple and jalapeño, a chick magnet if ever there was one. It was at this point that most men in Trump Nation or otherwise would have gotten the hell out of Dodge, and roared off in their monster truck before losing a limb.

But you know what? Eric not only stayed but shared his pizza with the dirty hippie chicks. Gladly. Before long we were chatting it up – and although the stereotype proved correct, it was OK. Turns out he was a cool, normal, interesting person – and we actually LIKED him. He had recently moved to the area and was drawn here for a lot of the same reasons we were: the mountains, beer, pizza, beer and pizza in the mountains. We talked about our families, our jobs and rearing teen-agers, our other jobs. (*Little known fact, Eric was one of the original “Pawn Stars” which scored him even more points.) We even somehow convinced him to drive us to the hot springs – which was totally PG, this is a family paper after all – and the trailhead the next morning, saving us a grueling, hungover 8-mile ride on the highway.

In other words, he treated us like friends. In fact, the “T” word never really came up, except when he offered me a Trump facemask. I briefly considered it, for the irony alone, but then politely declined saying something about liking my teeth. This comment, incidentally, launched a discussion about our candidate’s teeth and plastic surgery, and his candidate’s, well, everything else.

Then we had a chuckle and left it at that, realizing that neither point could be denied. In the end, he would vote for the orange guy, and we would vote for the guy with the taut eyelids. And hopefully, we’d still all be friends – or at least civil.

Because as a wise friend pointed out, it’s all about finding commonalities – things you agree on, even if it’s just pineapple and jalepeño on your pizza. Sure – to take the pizza analogy further than it probably should go – there can be some crusty, burnt, undesirable parts around the fringes that leave a bad taste in your mouth. But for the most part, maybe we all sort of meld somewhere in the greasy, cheesy, messy middle, no matter how you try to slice it.

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