The Breakfast Table

Timothy Noah and Marjorie Williams

Dear Tim,

Let’s not hurt each other. If you know what I mean. Nice little marriage you got there; shame if something happened to it.

That out of the way, it’s exciting to be launching into this breakfast-table chat with you. Talk around our real breakfast table, as any parents of two small children could attest, concern the merits of Lucky Charms vs. Frosted Flakes, and whether Tiny Alice can be taught not to wipe her hands on my bathrobe, and where Willie’s [expletive] sandals are, lest the Efficient Mother we share carpool with turns up to find him once again unshod. At these times, your game tries at discussing the news of the day tend to come at me as simply another layer of the morning din. I’ve had entire months in which it seems like you’re trying to tell me, every morning, that Red Skelton just died.

So…I’m relieved that the president’s trip to China is over, and we won’t have to chew over all that low-fiber, empty-calorie coverage. I’m as cautiously-pleased-moderately-approving of the trip as the next person, but do admit that the press seemed even more than usually anxious to justify an over-commitment of resources by filling column after column after column with Frosted Flakes.

What do you make of the National Education Association vote not to merge with the Teachers Federation of America? I glean a fair amount about union politics from this morning’s coverage. But what I didn’t get is enough help discerning whether this is a good or a bad thing for anyone hoping to coax a reform or two over the ramparts.

My favorite story in this morning’s Times was the forthcoming California referendum on the practice of exporting elderly horses to feed the epicures of Europe and Asia. (You tell me, California Boy: Why does everything get done by referendum?) It’s one of those satisfying fights between adversaries who are evenly matched-rhetorically, anyway. One of the promoters of the ban, noting the cruelty of shipping horses to the knacker in crowded conditions, says that “Horses get very territorial and have a personal space issue.” The general manager of the firm that slaughters and ships the horses sniffs, in return, at the preposterous notion that horses should be seen as “companion animals.” He asks, “Does that mean everybody’s going to be walking their horse around the block before work in the morning? Or taking it to the 7-Eleven to pick up a quart of milk?”

Hard to get back to work on the Monday after a holiday. But we must count our blessings: we could be feature writers saddled with finding Silver Linings Amid the Smoke in Florida Fire.