I was supposed to be in Washington this weekend for the inauguration of the first female president.
As a political reporter for 30 years in Arkansas, I covered the Clintons and knew how they operated. They could get dirty, real dirty, and they could take out their enemies. With that in mind, I was pretty sure Hillary Clinton would be the 45th president. It almost seemed like her destiny, come hell or high water. And surely, Donald Trump would eventually hang himself the more he talked about pussies.
But fate had different plans in this brave new world that resembles a science fiction movie more and more by the hour.
Maybe it was Russia, Wikileaks, or FBI Director James Comey that put the dagger in Hillary’s campaign. Or perhaps Hillary missed the mark by ignoring working class Americans in places like Erie, Penn., and Mobile, Ala. Hell, maybe the United States wasn’t really ready for a female president. I know, I know, she won the popular vote by more than three million votes, but it’s not her inauguration occurring on Friday. It’s Trump’s.
I was so ready for four years of Hillary. I had a blog ready to launch about her the minute she gave her acceptance speech and a list of scandals to investigate. It was going to be the 1990s all over with Fleetwood Mac as the soundtrack. Wrong-O.
As the country reeled after the election, I pondered what to write. Editors told me, for now, that they were preoccupied with the Trump transition. Translation: No room for any of my possible story ideas, which meant no money for me as a freelance journalist.
Everyone I talked to in those post-election days wanted to be drunk or high. As the weeks passed, and Trump continued to tweet and failed to unify the county, people became more anxious. Some moderate Republican friends and every Democratic friend said the same thing: Donald Trump is driving me to drink. Or take Xanax.
Lightbulb moment. When Donald Trump gives you lemons, make lemonade. With alcohol, of course.
In the 1970s, when I was a little girl, my dad traveled a lot on business, and my mom and I often traveled with him. We often dined in swanky restaurants with fancy bars that had mirrored walls and plush carpet,and I always begged to go into the bars and watch the bartenders mix their magic with their mesmerizing shiny bottles.
Later, in the 1990s, I worked for the largest state daily newspaper in Little Rock. Always afraid I would be fired for not playing the male patriarchy chess game with the Southern belle demureness the male editors expected, that ran afoot in the newsroom, I decided I needed a trade besides writing to fall back in case the employment rug was pulled out from underneath me. I was never fired, but I did write a story about bartending school for the newspaper.
In 2005, a project fell into my lap to write a cocktail book because of my bartending experience and my weird penchant for collecting vintage cocktail books. That book, “1000 Best Bartender’s Recipes” has sold more than 35,000 copies. People love to drink, what can I say.
That’s especially true in uncertain times like these. A man who has never held public office and knows nothing about the way the government works will soon — in a matter of hours as I write this — have the most powerful job in the world. Oh, and the nuclear codes. If that doesn’t make you pick up a bottle of vodka, nothing ever will.
I’m an indie author. I long ago shunned agents that took too much money for too little work and publishers who wanted all your rights and didn’t want to pay earned royalties. With independence comes a price, too. It’s not easy to get word out about your work. Media often don’t see you as legitimate because you’re book didn’t come from a publishing house so they won’t review it. Bookstores won’t carry your book because they don’t get deep discounts from distributors.
But as a total DIY author, I can write what I want without my trademark snark and sass being watered down by editors to please corporate publishers. I can also write quickly and publish it on Amazon without going through a million hoops with an agent and an editor pondering whether an idea is a good one or a stinker. It’s complete freedom. It’s hard work. But it’s freedom to express, and we certainly need more of that as we transition into Trump’s America.
As writers, artists, and creative types, we also need to channel our fears and frustrations into our arts whether writing a cocktail recipe book, creating murals and collages, or composing songs. We must fight light in the darkness.
But first, a drink.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of Trumping and Drinking: 100 Cocktails for Donald Trump’s First 100 Days. She writes frequently for The Christian Science Monitor, The Economist, The Daily Beast and numerous other publications. She is also a contributor to the Amazon.com bestseller, Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox (She Writes Press) Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.
Image courtesy Suzi Parker