Effing Millennials

Killing time before the board meeting — for Worth Repeating, a Texas Public Radio storytelling project — the twenty-something next to me explained in great detail some factoid that had caught her interest. She’d researched the shit out of it online, she explained, “because, well, I’m a millennial.”

Later, I tried to remember if I’d ever explained any action of mine by saying “because I’m a Gen-Xer.” Had anybody born between 1965 and 1980 said that?

“I maintain this annoying pose of ironic detachment because, well, I’m a Gen-Xer.”

No Country for Old Men speaks to me in a profound way because I’m Gen-Xer.”

“I robbed the Seven-Eleven because I was bored and wanted to buy weed, which is another way of saying because I’m a Gen-Xer.”

Probably not. But I don’t know. Maybe.

I remember where I was when I heard Kurt Cobain was dead. I devoured the emptiness and nihilism of Bret Easton Ellis’s all-too-often crappy writing. I would never, ever, ever presume to speak for “my generation.” In fact, I would never say “my generation,” except with a smirk and air quotation marks.

This is my favorite knock-knock joke:

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Greg who?

Greg Jefferson.

What I find most eerie about millennials is their messianic togetherness — their sense that they are part of a generation with its own values, sensibility, ethos. I’m convinced these kids have been knitted together by the Internet, like the victims in those icky Human Centipede movies.

I’m surely not the only middle-age customer who feels like they need to bring their passport to buy a latte at Local Coffee at the Pearl.

I think that’s one of the major reasons people in, you know, my age range are so down on millennials (born between 1981 and 2000). It’s true. When the conversation among Gen-Xers turns to the youngsters, you’d think their proper name is “Fucking Millennials,” and that the correct pronunciation requires an eye roll.

That’s not true of everybody in my age range, just as it’s not true that every millennial is a smiling agent of gentrification. Some Gen-Xers bought into Whitney Houston’s dangerous belief that children are our future. Others are age traitors who get super-psyched trying to figure out the best way to sell goods and services to these youngsters. Still others feed vampirically off the life force of the young. I recently saw a guy in his late-forties or early-fifties skateboarding at the Pearl. Vans, cargo shorts, tight fashionable tee, and a strong aversion to garlic and wolfsbane.

Then there are the ones who find Gen-X too barren, you know…. spiritually, I guess. Whatever.

When the conversation among Gen-Xers turns to the youngsters, you’d think their proper name is “Fucking Millennials,” and that the correct pronunciation requires an eye roll.

I assume it’s mostly Gen-Xers — the youngster wannabees, detractors, and defenders — who are commissioning and conducting the many tons of research on millennials. On their spending habits, why and how frequently they vote, their views on LGBT inclusion, their love of mass transit (of course), their rejection of organized religion and embrace of magic, etc., etc. Here’s some of the latest research.

As an aside, self-absorbed Baby Boomers didn’t want to know much about Generation X, though after we began taking over the financial markets, they probably wondered how deep our greed and selfishness ran. Answer: see The Great Recession. (Worth noting: the highest goal of the Gen-X protagonists in The Big Short, both the book and movie, was to make money off the housing bubble, not to protect ill-informed, semi-delusional homeowners.)

Anyway, I’m glad we’re learning everything we can about millennials. For their part, they’re not at all surprised the world is endlessly fascinated with them. Their parents made clear to them just how special they were. So they’re going to answer every survey question put to them, for the good of us all. Which works out beautifully. We need to know what we’re in for as they seize power in business, our civic and educational institutions, and government.

Rose was a model Gen-Xer. She could have shared the door with Jack — it was big enough — but she didn’t want to.

It’s already happening in San Antonio.

After an extensive nation-wide search for a new CEO, the directors of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation selected a 29-year-old executive from CPS Energy. Tech Bloc, which represents S.A. technology companies, which means speaking on behalf of a bunch of millennials, is establishing itself as an agenda-setter, starting with its role in bringing rideshare back to San Antonio. The youngsters are also raising their hands for appointments to government boards and commissions and nonprofits, and running for school board seats.

We’re not talking generational warfare here. People my age, by and large, never enlisted. With San Antonio’s Old Guard of business, civic, and political leaders either leaving or preparing to leave the stage, the question asked incessantly is who’s going to replace them, besides maybe Graham Weston (who technically lives in New Braunfels) and Lew Moorman?

We don’t really buy into the whole idea of “community” or believe much in the possibility of “improving” said community.

Millennials believe in both, and they feel entitled to lead.

I guess I have to resign myself to following because, well, I’m a Gen-Xer.




Chin Up, Tech Aliens

I started this post last week. The headline was going to be “Calm Down, Tech Aliens.” My big idea was to do some counter-programming to all the excitement lately about the tech industry in San Antonio.

But then news that Rackspace Hosting is in buy-out talks with the private-equity firm Apollo Global Management screwed up the timing. If consummated, the sale of the homegrown Cloud company — the only nationally recognized technology firm based here — will alter San Antonio’s nascent high-tech community in some way, big or small. But nobody knows how yet.

Tech booster unable to contain himself during an Uber ride.

I figured it would be prudent to wait for the story to develop. But after a few days with no new news, prudence is starting to look a little moldy. Blogs need to be fed. People need new stuff to read.

Anyway, the idea for the post started with tweets from Tech Bloc, which is basically the local Chamber of Commerce for software and Internet firms, but more assertive and less politically accommodating than the other local chambers. The tweets show up on my iPhone as text messages every day, several times a day, sometimes within seconds of each other. They’re word bursts about gains made and victories won in our technology sector. Often they’re retweets of stories from the Rivard Report, San Antonio Business Journal, and Express-News.

We’ve had so many “game-changers” I’ve lost track of the game we’re playing.

I was going to start the post by pontificating that this onslaught of positivity was a good and natural thing.

Late last year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that computer and information-technology jobs would be the fastest growing of all occupations, climbing 12 percent between 2014 and 2024. The income for these positions is enviable. Median pay in 2014 was $79,390 per year, compared to a median of $35,540 for all occupations.

Economic-development types would be crazy not to grab for a piece of that pie. Tech companies in SA, which are hurting for talent, would be equally crazy not to encourage the econ-dev types and their local government employers to make our city more attractive to tech workers and entrepreneurs.

Successes and good publicity breed more successes and even better publicity.

But at a certain point you have to check in with reality and its ugly friend, perspective.

This would have been the blog post’s zinger: I would’ve slyly pointed out that we need whatever good news we can get because tech in San Antonio is a sick puppy. Sick as in ill, not awesome.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks up the labor market into 10 broad categories. Its “information” category takes in most tech jobs. In June, tech was one of only two jobs categories that lost ground in the San Antonio area, shedding 3.2 percent of its jobs over the last year. The other was mining, which includes oil and gas exploration. Thanks to the Eagle Ford Shale bust, it lost 18 percent of its jobs year-over-year.

All told, San Antonio ended June with 21,500 jobs tied to Internet and software development, or 2.1 percent of the area’s entire workforce.

Which essentially means we have nowhere to go but up.

That’s what I would have said anyway, pre-Rackspace news. We’ll have to see if even that’s too optimistic.

I Live in SA’s Hollywood ‘Hood

I’m one of the luckier homeowners in my Northwest Side neighborhood. At least my star is still lodged in the collective memory.

I live on Cary Grant Drive.

My less fortunate neighbors’ houses sit on Ernie Kovak Drive, Edie Adams Drive, and a dozen or so other streets named for actors only senior citizens remember.

But the neighbors who have it the worst are the ones who live on streets named after TV and movie characters, instead of the people who played them. As an exercise in empathy, imagine having to say, “I live at  1234 Gomer Pyle Drive” when a clerk asks for your address at the bank or the DMV.

The very worst? Charlie Chan Drive.

My subdivision, Oak Hills Terrace, was built around 1974. If the developer had waited another three years or so to break ground, my family and I could have lived on John Travolta Drive or Darth Vader Drive. Then again, it could as easily have been Telly Savalas Drive or Bo “Bandit” Darville Drive. There’s a lesson here for our city about renaming streets or public facilities for people with a shaky claim on posterity.

But I don’t really think much about that. I’ve lived in San Antonio for 16 years, but as a native midwesterner, I still have a hard time getting excited about clashes over local history and street and building names.

Instead, I’m preoccupied with the feeling that San Antonio’s long, complicated, sometimes violent, always fascinating history ended with my neighborhood. Developers took over from there.

Overly simplistic, sure. But the last I checked, the world revolved around me and, by extension, my neighborhood.

Oak Hills Terrace materialized a little north of Loop 410 as the South Texas Medical Center, which is a mile or so to the east, took off and just six years after HemisFair touched off the city’s downtown transformation.

The Med Center is my marker when describing to people where I live.

Every morning, when my wife and I walk our two dogs, we arrive at the top of the hill on Cary Grant Drive. In front of us, the hospitals and medical office buildings that make up the Med Center float over the cluster of trees that separate our subdivision from the next one. As we descend the hill, the buildings sink into a green ocean.

When I tell people about my neighborhood, that’s my mental image. They, in turn, probably picture boxy little houses on the lots that are a sliver of an acre. Which is correct but deficient…  Mofo.

Not that it could be otherwise; the Jefferson-Van Dusen homestead looks from the outside like thousands upon thousands of others. I have a strong feeling that nobody is going to study San Antonio’s residential architecture of the early-to-mid 1970s.

The city’s political and cultural scenes were something else.

Describing San Antonio in 1974 as dynamic is like calling Donald Trump a bit nutso. The Good Government League, the Anglo business-civic group that had run the city for nearly two decades, was splintering and sputtering, well on the way to its collapse two years later. Chicano activism was blazing. Communities Organized for Public Service was beginning to raise hell, fighting for historically neglected neighborhoods’ share of city resources.

The developer of Oak Hills Terrace turned his back on all that. He created an oasis of reasonably-priced housing on what was then the far North Side, and named its streets to remind buyers of frothy moments in movie theaters or in front of the TV, which of course could’ve happened anywhere. (I’m waiting for the developer who will name the streets in his subdivision after porn stars or YouTube celebrities.)

He tried to build a comfy harbor for white flight, though it didn’t hold up over the years — my neighborhood is fairly diverse. Maybe the cheesy street names also made newcomers to San Antonio feel more at home, or the place at least less foreign.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather live on Cary Grant than Whispering Oak or Whispering Elm or Whispering Hackberry or Forest Breeze or Gentle Field of Flowers. At least Cary was real, as far as I know. But clearly none of these names have the weight — the baggage and the cachet — of a Guadalupe or Commerce or Walters.

Sometimes I think of San Antonio as two crates, one stacked on the other. They kind of form a whole, like the North Side and the rest of San Antonio form a whole, but they’re not connected. The crates have a hard time relating to one another, and only on very rare occasions do the crates visit one another.

San Antonio’s balkanization stemmed from a lot of the overlapping factors — the highway system, Anglos’ exodus from the center city and a troubled SAISD, available land on the North Side, the political influence of developers, and infrastructure spending that encouraged sprawl.

This, too, and everything it implies:IMG_0838







Ballad of a Trump Man

I can scrape up only a few possible reasons that Laredo banker Dennis Nixon is co-hosting a San Antonio fundraiser this Friday for Donald Trump.

What makes figuring this out so difficult is that International Bancshares Corp., the Nixon-led holding company for IBC Bank, grew up on the border and its customers are largely Hispanic. Trump would be as welcome in most Hispanic communities as Zika or scabies. IBC became a regional financial-services powerhouse with business on both sides of the border because of NAFTA. Trump talks about NAFTA as fondly as he would Zika or scabies.

trump carzy
Donald Trump makes a kissy face.

So here are the possibilities:

  1. Treasury Secretary Nixon.
  2. He has it all worked out. Get Trump elected, and he’ll build that big border wall. As IBC’s many customers on the Mexican side scramble to figure how to pay for it, Nixon will swoop in with an attractive loan package.
  3. Nixon is one of the many mainstream Republicans who are like the bewildered and totally-menaced Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan’s Ballad of a Thin Man. You concentrate on doing the usual things, like co-hosting fundraisers for your party’s standard-bearer, because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

Nixon is not like Trump. He isn’t a loud-mouth or a racist who questions the loyalty of Mexican-Americans. Nixon doesn’t jump on Twitter or Facebook first thing in the morning to attack his critics or say something horrible. Verbally burning off somebody’s face probably isn’t Nixon’s idea of a productive workday.

But by co-hosting a fundraiser for Donald Trump, Nixon is giving Trump a fistful of passes — for racism, sexism, xenophobia, and making our politics dumber and uglier than they already were — and telling other donors it’s OK to do the same.

He’s also putting his imprimatur on a candidate who would be a disaster for his publicly traded company.

This is how IBC describes its business in its most recent quarterly report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, filed last month:

The Company is very active in facilitating trade along the United States border with Mexico.  The Company does a large amount of business with customers domiciled in Mexico.  Deposits from persons and entities domiciled in Mexico comprise a large and stable portion of the deposit base of the Company’s bank subsidiaries.  The Company also serves the growing Hispanic population through the Company’s facilities located throughout South, Central and Southeast Texas and the State of Oklahoma.

Does this sound like a company that would want Trump as its champion?

Trump clearly wasn’t Nixon’s first choice in Republican primary. He gave Sen. Marco Rubio $6,100 between April 10, 2015, and June 30, 2015, though Rubio’s campaign returned $2,700 for some reason, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In October, he wrote Ohio Gov. John Kasich a check for $2,700. (Personal call: Kasich, yes. Rubio, God no.)

Looking through his contributions to federal candidates over the years, Nixon prefers Republicans but also gives to Democrats, namely Congressmen along the border, where IBC is most active. So, why does his pragmatism fail him in the presidential race?

Last week, Express-News columnist Brian Chasnoff excerpted a fundraising letter from Nixon. He tells potential Trump supporters what to expect if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

“First, we will NOT get the regulatory relief we need to get our economy moving again,” (Nixon wrote), “and second, we will get MORE burdensome regulations, MORE bad decisions from a liberal Supreme Court and MORE spending on social programs, driving us deeper into debt.”

Nixon didn’t mention giveaways to banks in times of financial crisis, like the $216 million IBC accepted from the Treasury Department in late 2008 (and has since repaid). Probably an oversight.

Anyway, maybe we’re getting down to the real reason for Nixon’s support of Trump. Strip away the HYPERBOLE, and you find a lender who is worried about the constraints of Dodd-Frank banking reforms and the cost of compliance, and wants a rollback.

He’s also probably got the face of Sen. Elizabeth Warren scowling at him whenever he closes his eyes. As leader of the Democrats’ liberal wing, the Massachusetts senator –and Wall Street antagonist — would have influence in a Clinton administration. But probably not enough to undo Clinton’s ties to investment bankers and hedge-fund managers.

Which is a problem for Democrats, not Republicans.

How exactly does the threat of more financial regulations outweigh the threat Trump poses to the border economy? It doesn’t, unless you believe that Trump isn’t serious, that underneath that economic-populist shell, a free-trader is waiting to pop out.

Oh, Mr. Jones…


Please Shut Up About Austin


Two weeks ago, Austinites said “screw you” to Uber. Knowing the rideshare company and its smaller competitor, Lyft, would likely bolt if they rejected a rollback of the City of Austin’s regulations, voters said no anyway.

Uber lost the referendum because voters detested the company’s strong-arm campaign tactics, which brought into sharp focus just how arrogant and strong-armed its business tactics have been.

But I’m going to exercise my blogger’s prerogative and offer up another, deeper reason, without any evidence whatsoever.

Many of the voters who rejected Uber’s ultimatum were fired up by the frustration of living in Austin these days. They are tired of the traffic that’s wasting more of their time and creating more air pollution. Their neighborhoods are being overrun by newcomers with little history in Austin and no sense of the place. As their homes value rise, their property taxes eat up more of their money.

For Austinites on the margins — most musicians and artists, servers and bartenders, hotel workers, and mechanics — the city has become hostile territory.

The reality of Austin is increasingly at odds with natives’ memories of Austin.

What’s changed is that Austin’s one of the big deals in the information economy. Apple, Google, and Facebook operate there. So do Ebay/Paypal, Oracle, Silicon Laboratories, and Applied Materials. San Antonio companies such as Rackspace Hosting and the cybersecurity firm Denim Group have a presence there because they need to access the city’s tech talent — it’s still way harder to come by in SA.

The impact of this growth shows most dramatically in Austin’s housing statistics. The city’s median home value last year was $227,800, according to the U.S. Census. San Antonio’s median? Just a shade more than half that — $114,600.

An aside: we’re hearing that San Antonio is a “city on the rise” much less often these days, for a few reasons. The biggest is that then-Mayor Julian Castro took off to fulfill his real ambition — to make Julian Castro a true national Democrat. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad “city on the rise” as a brand is withering away. I suspected that, to the people who repeated COTR ad nauseam, San Antonio would look an awful lot like Austin when it stopped rising.

Not that that’s even possible. Technological preeminence is not in San Antonio’s DNA.

Invisible in Austin: Life and Labor in an American City, published in September, gives a good historical rundown of Austin’s exceptionalism. It started after the Civil War with Austin leaders keeping tenement housing and other kinds of public housing out of their city. They didn’t want factory workers mucking up the place. Factory owners got the hint, and manufacturing never became a major part of the local economy.

Attempts to exclude the great unwashed didn’t stop there. 

“Historically, there has been a consistent failure on the part of city actors to make affordable housing a necessary part of urban growth in Austin,” wrote the authors of Invisible in Austin, which profiles 11 people struggling to survive their city’s economic boom.

Austin’s development was anchored in the University of Texas and state politics and government. From there, you get the idea — brain power, research capacity, and the rise of “the creative class.” It’s a short jump to tech Mecca.

And to Tesla Model S sedans cruising down Congress Avenue, the best concoctions that mixology has to offer, and glitzy condo highrises overlooking a city whose culture is under new management.

Uber and Lyft were at the heart of it all. They made up the transit system for the new elite.

On May 7, Austinites stuck with more of the downside than upside finally had a chance to act collectively, and they did a William F. Buckley Jr. They stood athwart history yelling “Stop!” 






The Middle Class Is Leaving the Building

OK, it’s not exactly breaking news that the middle class is dwindling. But it’s nice to pick up new details every now and then so we can gauge how screwed we are as a nation.

Last week, the Pew Research Center published another link in the increasingly long chain of evidence that our country is, in fact, in a bad way. Between 2000 and 2014, Pew found that the middle class lost ground as a percentage of the population in 203 of the 229 U.S. metropolitan areas it studied. That’s out of a total of 381 nationwide.

What’s middle class to Pew? Annual income of $42,000 to $125,000 in a household of three.

These people in the middle weren’t disappeared by the government (not directly, anyway) or aliens. Some of them climbed up and some fell down. The number of lower-income households increased in 160 metro areas. The number of wealthy households increased in 172 metro areas.

So the country is getting both richer and poorer, and the bridge of the middle class is looking dodgy.

Zeroing in on the San Antonio area’s numbers, they weren’t too shabby compared to the study’s broader findings. Yes, our middle class slipped, but only to 52.6 percent of the population in 2014 from 53 percent in 2000.  The good news: the percentage of lower-income San Antonians dipped to 29.1 percent from 31.8 percent, and the number of richer hpuseholds grew to 18.3 percent of the population from 15.3 percent.

Texas’s other major metros — Austin, Dallas, and Houston — each saw more significant shifts than San Antonio, demonstrating once again that ours is the Ford Focus of regional economies. Nothing to brag about, but it’s reliable.

Houston’s wealthy jumped to 23 percent of the population in 2014, before the price of crude plunged, from 19.4 percent in 2000.

Dallas’s middle class dropped to 50.4 percent from 54.5 percent 14 years earlier — certainly not because they all got richer. In fact, the number of Dallas’s low-income households (now 27.6 percent of the population) grew faster than its wealthy households (now 22 percent).

Nationwide, all but three of the 10 metros that lost the most economic clout were in the Rust Belt states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio — the ones punished most by plant closings and manufacturing job losses.

But they don’t have a lock on wage stagnation, job insecurity, and status anxiety. There’s plenty to go around.

Donald Trump is counting on it.


Trump’s Heartland

A china plate with a painting of President John Kennedy, Jackie, and the children hung in the place of honor above Grandma Mabel’s TV in the family room. She kept Kennedy’s autograph in her jewelry box. Scrawled in green ink on a grimy piece of plastic, my grandfather scored the autograph when Kennedy made a campaign stop in Muncie, Indiana, my hometown, in 1960. Grandpa Dale, who died of lung cancer when I was three or four, was a sheriff’s deputy at the time, assigned to Kennedy’s security detail.

Grandma had been a stay-at-home mom, raising their only child, my mother, Jerri. But she took on odd jobs as a bookkeeper. One of them was for the United Auto Workers Local, to which my grandfather belonged when he worked at BorgWarner, which manufactured transfer cases and other auto parts. I have a vague, probably unreliable memory of going to the Local’s headquarters with her one day to drop off some papers. I remember a lot of brilliant, gauzy sunlight in the room, which is why I think it’s unreliable. I see the room in my mind in the same reverential way she talked about the UAW.

She knew just about every Democratic officeholder in town, and she served as an election judge for the party, election after election.

Despite everything, my grandmother would have voted for Donald Trump in Indiana’s pivotal May 3 primary if she’d been alive. She would have helped seal his claim to the GOP nomination.

Grandma died unexpectedly late in President Bill Clinton’s first term. At 86, she took a nap one day and her heart just stopped.

She remained thankful for FDR and the New Deal throughout her life for saving her and her people from extreme poverty. But under Clinton, the Democratic Party embraced Wall Street and made a religion out of globalism. Its concern for the collapsing, blue-collar middle class was fake. I can’t imagine what she made of her party as she read the newspaper or watched the news with the volume turned almost all the way up.

A little more than two years ago, my step-father died of throat cancer. I flew into Indianapolis from San Antonio the day after to help Mom. She and a friend, who drove an old pickup, met me at the airport and drove me to Muncie at dusk. Louise took what I’d always thought of as the back way into Muncie, through Daleville and over country roads. Myself, I would’ve taken the highway in. The area had been hit with its worst blizzard in years and the narrow roads were iced over, snow swirling over their surfaces. It was dark when we drove into Muncie, and there were few streetlights on the road we were on. But it didn’t matter. I’d made only a few visits since moving away in 1989 with my wife and our kids — first to Bloomington, then Indianapolis and San Antonio, where we live now. But I’ll always know State Road 32.

To the right stood a long, low pitch-black rectangle against the piled snow and lesser darkness. That was the BorgWarner plant that closed in 2009 and remained empty. On the other side of the road was the cemetery where Grandma and Grandpa were buried. The plant had hung in the background, with all the shiny cars and trucks in the parking lot, when I visited Grandpa’s grave with Grandma.

A tornado never hit Muncie when I was a kid because, according to legend, Chief Muncee had blessed some bend of the White River, which runs through town. I was always fuzzy on the details. Nevertheless, I imagined a magic, invisible wall with tornadoes slamming ineffectually against it. It’s too bad Chief Muncee didn’t foresee deindustrialization. Protection against that would have been a much better gift.

That said, he may never have even existed. I learned recently there’s no solid evidence that Chief Muncee was anything other than a myth. Despite our many mobile homes, maybe we just got lucky with the tornadoes.

Muncie, a city in East-Central Indiana that made auto parts and other stuff, went to shit as manufacturing moved overseas and automobile production in the United States shifted to the Sunbelt states where labor was cheaper and non-unionized.

A low point was in 2009. A few minutes into a phone call with Mom, she said the mayor was talking about turning off hundreds of streetlights because the city couldn’t afford to keep them on. As Mom laughed — a “What can ya do?” kind of laugh — I imagined Muncie collapsing into darkness, with the streets lorded over by stray dogs and hopeless, violent teenage boys in muscle shirts.

Thankfully, the city council somehow found the funds to keep the lights on and stave off chaos for a while.

In 1970, the year after I was born in Ball Memorial Hospital, the Muncie area’s population was nearly 130,000. By 2015, the number of residents had dwindled to a little less than 117,000 people. Income is even grimmer than the population loss. Muncie has a median household income of $30,530, with one-third of the people living in poverty. The unemployment rate was 6.3 percent in March. Statewide, it was 5 percent.

I don’t know how much of Muncie’s troubles registered with my grandmother. Surely she noticed the anxiety setting in, felt the decline, despite the bulwark of her habits — the meetings of Amaranth and Eastern Star, her weekly hair appointment, her scheduled trips to the store. If nothing else, she experienced the trouble through my mother, who was divorced with me and my sister in tow, a drug addict, and either unemployed or underemployed, depending on the status of her luck.

Mom died of heart failure on January 30, 2015. She was in the throes of delirium tremens, and died alone in the bathroom of her small, heavily-mortgaged house. After a few months in Indiana state prison for theft in 1988, she beat drug addiction but years later had become an alcoholic.

Throughout my childhood, much of which I spent at my grandmother’s pink-and-white house on Hollywood Avenue, I watched her grow bitter. Never toward me, though. We watched the Cincinnati Reds together. We’d each have a Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza, she’d give me a frosted glass of beer, and we’d watch the game. She gave me quarters to read and to tie my shoes. But Mom was something else. My grandmother’s disappointment and confusion — how could her daughter turn out that way? — poisoned their relationship. So did my mother’s addiction to Valium and other prescription drugs, and her constantly bleeding my grandmother of money.

As Grandma’s bitterness deepened, her body began failing. Her hearing got worse, and she experienced stiff joints and mild vertigo every now and then.

I imagine her personal turmoil made her see Muncie’s decline more acutely. Everything was going to pot, as she’d say.

Muncie and the thousand cities and towns like it are the Waffle Houses at which Trump feeds. Disillusioned and angry, longing for a security that had been real but that’s gone now, the hurt raw, not eased much by Jesus. Suffering is not a virtue in Muncie.

My grandmother would have said, “Yes, finally — someone who knows what he’s talking about. Why can’t we be great again?”

The wall would have made good sense to her, and so would the ban on Muslims.

Trump’s racism would have pulled a trigger in my grandmother’s brain. She was too ladylike to ever say “nigger,” at least in front of me or my sister. But she routinely referred to African Americans as “jiggs” and “blackies.” Whenever Jesse Jackson appeared on TV news — which he did much, much more in the ’70s and ’80s than today — she would go apoplectic. Apart from the racism that was in the air in Indiana at that time, I think she blamed the break-up of the New Deal coalition on MLK and his disciples, including Jackson, and black nationalism, though she wouldn’t have thought about it like that.

In most ways, Trump would have been her man.