Is he here? Is he not here? Trump does the Schrodinger's Cat thing in Vancouver (2007)

“You need to take action to kick ass.” - Bill Zanker, president of The Leaning Annex.

Last weekend I went on a sublime-to-ridiculous journey at Canada Place. The last part of the trip first.

For weeks, pictures of Donald Trump have been plastered across Vancouver media, in ads for The Wealth Expo organized by The Learning Annex. And like anyone else, I’m a sucker for celebrity, even if it’s just a self-inflating magnate with a ‘do from Bizarro World.

The Learning Annex, according to Wikipedia, is a private continuing adult education school based in New York. The organization has offered a wide range of classes, on topics as diverse "Intro to Pole Dancing", "How To Talk To Your Cat", "Make Contact with Lost Loved Ones", "How to Shoot Your Own Live Adult Video", "Discover Your Past Lives - Who Were You Before?" and "How To Marry the Rich".

My wife received free tickets to The Wealth Expo through professional connections, but she didn’t have much interest in attending. But this is
Trump, I protested. Not only does he represent the most virulent strain of self-promotion on the planet, he’s the guy who took the unofficial mantra of the shrinking, outsourced US economy – “You’re Fired!” – and turned it into a pop culture mantra. No one living has done more with less than Trump, and to prove it he’s slapped his name and face on everything from casinos to colognes.

The Donald’s latest book is called
How to Think Big and Kick Ass. I had to admit, while I’ve tried to think big thoughts before, I’ve always been somewhat reluctant to deliver physical or emotional injury to someone to get ahead. Whose ass do you kick to make it to the top, and how hard? Do you use the heel of your shoe, or do you go for a more surgical strike, using the toe of a Prada or Manolo Blahnik? Do you deliver a warning, or do you go for the element of surprise with a pre-emptive ass-strike?

As it turned out, truth is a taffy-like substance to The Learning Annex. The ads for the Wealth Expo were worded in such a way that it wasn’t clear Trump would be physically present. Under pressure from my partner, the kid at the registration desk reluctantly admitted it would be a video feed, and pre-taped to boot. It was only “live” in the sense that some underling pressed ‘play’ on a DVD machine.

With our green sticker badges stuck to the lapels of our coats, we entered a large, loud hall decorated with a few perfunctory Mylar balloons. Hundreds of wealth-seekers mingled as the onstage entertainment system boomed out the opening sequence from The Secret, that multimedia shout-out to moneymaking and magical thinking.

The first speaker we chanced to see, Lee Brower, was introduced as one of the “Secret Teachers” from the The Secret. In his southwestern drawl, Brower offered some folksy metaphysics about moving “from victimhood to victorhood,” and how he learned to read a few pages of the Bible a day through sheer will. (Actually, I would have preferred to see him to bend a waffle iron with his mind.)

Pounding rock music and sirens were employed to inspire wealth-seekers to buy the four-figure “learning materials” on Internet stocks and real estate. Feeling somewhat nauseated, we left after the first few presenters, so we didn’t get to hear a talk on how to “Profit from the Foreclosure Boom.” The collapsing US real estate market still offers one last cannabalistic feeding frenzy, through the purchase of foreclosed properties. The foreclosures are mostly spawn of the variable mortgage rate scam, the greatest white-collar criminal spree since the savings and loans collapse of the seventies/eighties. So sometimes you don’t have to kick ass to profit: there are people out there who’ve had their asses pre-kicked for you.

On to the sublime part. The previous evening at Canada Place, I had a chance to hear a talk by Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now. Tolle’s ideas are the precise inverse of those presented at the Wealth Expo. If you’re always struggling for happiness “in the superficial dimension of experience,” you’re doomed to disappointment, he told the audience. You need to dig deeper. In contrast to presenters at the Wealth Expo, who prowled the stage like dapper monitor lizards, the author slumped in a chair in a cardigan sweater, suppressing indigestion. Here was a middle-aged guy who hasn’t done much to tailor his appearance to his message, perhaps because the message needs so little window dressing.

While “Secret Teacher” Lee Brower spoke of “banking experiences” and using them to your later benefit, Tolle talked about quieting the mind, and appreciating the moment for what it is. As far as I’m concerned, a message endorsing peaceful equanimity certainly “trumps” a message pitching bruised backsides and disaster capitalism.

Geoff Olson