Brief encounter with Donald Trump on the Garden State Parkway…

I have never rubbed shoulders with celebs, or the rich and famous, and often when I see their pictures in the tabloids, I have to say that I would not know them if they walked into my house.

Two exceptions stand out: David Spade and Donald Trump.

David Spade is unique.  I spotted him immediately getting off of the elevator at the Super Bowl in Miami in 2010. Right away, you say “hey, that’s David Spade”.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s who he is.

The other guy I could pick out of any lineup is Donald Trump.

My wife and I came face to face with Trump back in the early 90’s. In case anyone forgets, Donald Trump, was in deep financial trouble. His casinos were in bankruptcy, and he was in the middle of a messy divorce from his wife Ivana. He was living with Marla Maples, and the courts had limited him to a 300K per month budget.

Around that time, my wife and I visited his Atlantic City casino for the weekend. I don’t recall a lot about the weekend, but I do recall the Sunday morning that we left town.

We’d gone down to retrieve our car from the valet lot, and had handed over our claim ticket to the attendant. We waited for a minute or so, then a phone rang on the valet podium and we were suddenly forgotten and one of the valet attendants said to the other:

“Marla just called…he’s on his way down.”

My wife and I looked at each other. No way, we said. It can’t be “That Marla.”

An instant later, and I do mean an instant, a black Lexus with black windows slid to the curb, and in an almost perfectly choreographed move, an attendant opened the driver’s door, and a second later, Donald Trump, as if on queue, emerged from the hotel, still buttoning his jacket and dove into the driver’s seat and in a peel of rubber raced toward the parking garage exit.

Our car came up next.

“Let’s follow him,” said my wife.

“Follow him?” I said.

“Yes, let’s follow him,” she said, “it’s Donald Trump, I want to at least wave to the guy.”

So we did. Follow him that is. Actually, we were chasing him.

We almost lost him on the crowded streets of AC, but somehow we managed to catch up with him and we hung with him until he hit the Garden State Parkway. Once on the GSP, Donald dropped the hammer and I remember watching the black Lexus pull steadily away from us on the flat plains of South Jersey, dropping easily over a small rise in the Parkway, and when we reached the crest of the rise, we thought he’d be long gone…Donald Trump…but there he was…still within reach, travelling fast but still within our grasp.

“The guy’s gotta be going a hundred,” I remember saying to my wife.

“No, not a hundred,” she said.

Then I told her I was doing damn near ninety five and he was pulling away.

Then we lost him. He was gone…gone like a drunk’s last twenty in one of his casinos, and we forgot all about Donald Trump until we got stuck in traffic as we approached the Raritan Toll Plaza. My wife spotted him first, creeping along in traffic like the rest of us, just to toss his quarter in the basket…one of the great equalizers, toll plazas. We hurried to get alongside, and finally we caught up with him.

Side by side at the toll booths, our car was adjacent to Trump’s. We held our quarter for a half second waiting…then it happened…the blackened window in the Lexus dropped and my wife cranked down the window of our car, and for a moment we were face to face. It was definitely him, the hair – the pursed lips, Donald Trump himself, and our eyes met. My wife lifted an empty plastic quarter bucket that we’d brought home as a souvenir from Trump’s Casino and pointed at it. Trump (of course) didn’t crack a smile…how could he. I saw his hand dart out of the open window and a quarter hit the basket, and we did the same.

We pulled away from the toll plaza. When I glanced to my right, the black window of the Lexus was raised, the man inside obscured. Then we were neck and neck…our Toyota and Trump’s Lexus, and we both hit the gas and we pulled away from the Raritan Toll Plaza under full power. A few seconds after, we split company, my wife and I heading for western New Jersey, and the black Lexus disappearing into the early evening twilight bearing down hard at full speed upon Manhattan.

So that is my one and only encounter with Donald Trump.

Since then, I have followed his career only marginally. Although I confess to watching the Apprentice television series for awhile, I rarely have given him serious thought. But his recent relentless insistence that Barak Obama is not a citizen of the United States is beyond bizarre. Think what you might of Obama, the theory that he isn’t a U.S. citizen has been debunked so many times that only the truly half-baked are clinging to the idea that the President was born in Kenya. But that doesn’t keep Trump from ‘trumpeting’ myth after lie from his very high bully pulpit.

Me, I will always remember him as the guy we chased up the Garden State Parkway,  ultimately to witness  the great Trump sitting in traffic to pay a twenty five cent toll, just like all the rest of us.