To reach Trump Tower we fought our way through the Christmas shoppers on Fifth Avenue. A police officer asked our business. “We want to see the Tower,” we replied, sheepish, rubbernecking foreigners hoping to catch a glimpse of the President-Elect or his ghoulish retinue. He let us through. Unusually for a residence, Trump Tower is open to the public. When it was built in the early 1980s, city authorities allowed it to be built so high—58 storeys—only if there were shops in the atrium. The public’s presence now costs the city a $1m a day in security.
It turned out we has missed some action. In previous days, Bill Gates and Kanye West had arrived to dispense their wisdom; but now, like many wealthy New Yorkers, Trump was sunning himself in Florida. We wandered round looking for things to mock. Naturally, we were spoiled for choice: the gold-plated elevator doors made famous by Nigel Farage; the Ivanka Trump jewellery range; the Donald Trump fragrances (“Success” and “Empire”); copies of his books, including Trump: The Best Golf Advice I Ever Received and a 50 Shades-style novel called Trump Tower, co-authored with Jeffrey Robinson—“the sexiest novel of the decade.”
The Trump Grille or Grill (the spelling is uncertain) looked fairly empty, but we weren’t keen on the $18 taco or much else on the menu. An Indian-American shopkeeper tried to sell us a “Make America Great Again” red cap for $25. Before the election it might have been a funny gift; now the joke had turned bitter. Most people trudging through the atrium looked bored. There is much less to Trump Tower than initially meets the eye. Passing three sad-looking journalists sitting opposite the golden elevators, we went into the street. A small but loud group of protestors shouted anti-Trump slogans. Most shoppers walked past oblivious.
A couple of nights later we had dinner with some New Yorkers, and the election came up fairly quickly. One of our number was an African-American accountant, born in Queens, but now living on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. He was a political junkie who had been following the election closely. Now he was listening to a podcast that went through all the US presidents one by one, looking for the worst, trying to find crumbs of comfort in the Republic’s survival.
The discussion turned to…