At the Dive Bar Next to the Trump Protests

One rule: Don’t talk about them.

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On Tuesday, as a crush of media convened in Collect Pond Park to report on Donald Trump’s imminent arrest, a woman in police officer costume stood smiling, draped in fake hundred dollar bills to represent the hush money Trump allegedly used to pay off Stormy Daniels. “I wish this would happen,” she said, referring to a perp walk, “but it’s probably not going to happen.” Another man told me that he was pleased to see the law closing in on Trump. He held a street sign that read “Ambivalence Road.”

“At the heart of the matter, I think the law should take its course,” Dick Averns said, explaining that he had traveled from Calgary, Alberta, on his way to a wedding in DC, to attend today’s protest. Trump, he said, had “legalized the system beyond its real purpose.” 

Two blocks away, a languid-looking man guarded the door at Whiskey Tavern, the closest bar to the Trump gathering. It’s nothing special, in the perfect way a reliable dive should be. I moved to present my ID but the man indicated that there would be no need. “You’re good,” he told me. 

“Oh no, do I look that old?” I asked out of a habit I am actively trying to drop.

“No, I said you’re good.”

As I settled into a seat at the bar, wondering if I should order the special of the day, a cheeseburger and draft beer for $15, a bartender approached. We greeted each other warmly; I figured it was okay to ask if he’d be willing to chat about the show across the street. The bartender, a man named Colin, bristled and nervously declined. So I started to chat with a Queens man named Albert, who told me he works nearby. “Subdued” is how he described the scene unfolding outside the Manhattan courthouse. Albert seemed a touch disappointed but made clear that he was grateful for the lack of violence outside. I agreed.

Before I could continue, Colin approached once again, this time to shake my hand. He then politely asked if I could stop talking to people about Trump; the other bar staff, Colin indicated, wanted me to end the Trump talk as well. I was here to cosplay as a reporter for the day. But not before I would ignore my life’s commitment to being a decent bar attendee. So I obliged.

Moments later, a young man in a leather jacket and thick-rimmed glasses walked in.

“Fucking crazy man,” he told Colin. “Can I get a shot of Jameson? A single shot.”

“That Trump stuff is fucking nuts. I don’t care about the politics, fuck politics. But the event itself.”

He tried to continue but got promptly cut off.

“We’re not talking about this,” Colin said, again politely. The young man, who later identified himself as someone who works for Facebook and is hoping to move back to New York, seemed to find the instruction amenable. He proceeded to order some tacos when an older man joined us at the bar. To the apparent satisfaction of the young Facebook employee, he too brought up the Trump protests.

“We’re not doing this,” another bartender, a woman, quickly cut in.

I could sense that this was turning into a theme, so I asked for the check. “I’m curious though, are you just asking them to stop talking about Trump because you asked me to stop?” I asked Colin.

He assured me that was not the case, that the staff had prepared for today by hiring security, pointing to the bored man up front. “No one with a sign is going to be let in today,” Colin added. 

I paid for my meal and headed out. Colin wished me good luck.

As I left the bar, I came across a middle-aged man wearing a red MAGA hat eating a slice from Baxter Street Pizza. Two NYPD police officers were inside, marveling at the mountain of red pepper flakes another patron was showering onto his pizza. When I asked if they were here for the Trump protests, they said yes. They seemed to wear an expression that mirrored my own thoughts. That the so-called protests, more of an open call for a wacky performance art piece, were simply something to get through.

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