LeDuff: I Flew to Florida for the Tucker Carlson Show, Realizing I've Changed Since the Pandemic

November 11, 2021, 10:00 PM by  Charlie LeDuff

Charlie LeDuff on the Tucker Carlson Today show in Florida

I flew to Florida this past week. It was just my second trip out of Michigan since the pandemic began.

It's a weird feeling emerging from the Great Lakes Covid bubble. I've changed. I mean, like, I actually have manners at the airport.

I realize now, standing in Metro Airport, that I'm tired of the pissing and acrimony. (Guilty as charged.) So I let people cut in line. I actually volunteer to check my bag. I let everyone board first. The flight is uneventful and I only lower my mask to sip coffee and nibble fish crackers.

It is only when I land in Fort Myers that I realize what a Ziploc I've been living in. I'm like Rip Van Winkle standing there.

I'm wearing old and inappropriate winter clothes, boots and a blue dental mask that has become something of a second skin. Nobody is wearing a mask in Florida. What a rube, I think, staring at myself in the airport glass.

Why should I be wearing a mask, I wonder? I've actually had Covid. I got the two vaccination shots. And I'm still wearing a mask? For how long am I wearing a mask? But I don't complain. I'm not angry. I've changed.

The hotel is a lonely place. Big and empty and bad sports TV echoing through the lobby. I wait a long time to be checked in. When the receptionist eventually appears from behind a door, she is rude. I may have woken her up. Then the credit card is turned down. She frowns. The credit card gets straightened out, and still she frowns some more.

But I don't complain. Instead, I tip big. Working people got problems too. So you've got to tip them big. That's part of the Covid inflation.

Strange people's problems

Then you've got to listen to working peoples' problems. I don't like to listen to strange people's problems unless I'm the one getting paid. But I don't complain. I've changed. Just happy to be here after two years.

Florida is warm and nice. The highways are clean and lush. In Detroit they're gray now and soiled with litter. I can see why why our governor likes to sneak away every once in a pandemic. I'm not mad.

My driver is Vinnie. He says he's got marriage problems. He's moved out. Or she's put him out. Whichever, he's still out.

“She's from Detroit,” he tells me.

“Oh, that's your problem right there,” I tell him.

“They've got really hard shells,” he tells me. “Women from Detroit.”

“Yeah,” I tell him, “but they're sweet inside like a cherry cordial.”

“That's true,” he says after some time.

Then he calls her.

And I've got to listen, even though I don't like to unless I'm the one getting paid. When Vinnie drops me at the studio, I tip him big for the privilege.

A Kennedy and a Bitcoin billionaire

Tucker Carlson tapes three Fox News segments in a day on this tropical island getaway. I'm going second. I am shown to the green room on the second floor of a whitewashed stucco building you might find in Morocco. I am smoking at the top of the landing when I see Robert F. Kennedy Jr. approaching the stairs. “Hey Bobby,” I call down. “I'm sorry to hear about your dad.” They parole board has recommended Sirhan Sirhan be set free.

Bobby takes it right. Bobby's a nice guy. He loves his children, doesn't believe other people's children should be vaccinated and looks like a seaboard rube standing there in his blazer and tie. People have more in common than different. That much hasn't changed.

And then Michael Saylor arrives. He's the Bitcoin billionaire. I ask him if he's got a spare few bitcoins to give away. He does not. He's dressed like he just stepped out of a Jon Voight picture, dressed in black and silver western wear. The woman in his entourage is wearing a green jumpsuit, the kind worn by villainous sidekicks. I don't feel so bad anymore in my winter clothes.

Then it's my turn to go on. I walk into Tucker's studio. It's done up in a western motif. Pine paneling and a backdrop photograph of Montana or someplace where people dress like Michael Saylor.

Tucker and I do our bit for an hour. Before we do, corporate back in New York tells us through our earpieces that I've got to put my beer in a coffee mug. I don't get mad. I've changed.

A bro' kiss

We talk about unions and world trade and Detroit and when it's over I get up and give Tucker a peck on the cheek. Depending on your point of view, I've either just kissed the devil or the messiah. There is little in-between in America anymore. Things have changed.

But I've known Tucker for probably 20 years now. He's just a man. There are no horns or halos about him. We don't agree on a lot of things. But I respect him. That part hasn't changed.

The next day Vinnie arrives at the hotel to take me to the airport. He's over the moon, a big glowing goof bathed in a romantic yellow haze.

“We talked some more,” he tells me of his wife. “We spent the night together.”

“That's good,” I tell him. “That's wonderful!”

I only tip him a medium this time now that things are getting back to normal. We exchanged numbers, hug and I put on my dental mask.

Good to know you Vinnie, but I can't wait to get home to my Detroit woman.

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