The Breakfast Table

Where’d You Go? Out. What’d You Do? Nothing.

Dear Rick–

While I was out to lunch Yeltsin quit. Fox reported it, the Internet was full of it, and there were several messages on my machine to that effect. I turned on the TV and he hadn’t.

While I was out to lunch to Dow went down over 300 points. After I got back it went back up to 233.

While I was out to lunch Clinton did not make a Mea Culpa mention in Worcester in front of Teddy Kennedy, who didn’t have to do it either.

While I was out to lunch my e-mail delivered an excellent description of the “character arc,” for which I thank you kindly. Now it all makes sense. I liked that explanation. I find it interesting that characters have to arc in the first place. There is some psycho-sociological message here that I’m going to have to think about. Can’t one have a character which doesn’t “arc” at all?

While I was out to lunch I got my first “hate” call of the week (and it’s Thursday already!) One Mrs. Herman Farcas (I have caller ID) of Brooklyn wanted my assistant to ask if “Mrs. Goldberg is happy she is a laughing stock because she is jealous because President Clinton didn’t go with her.” That is a direct quote. She was assured that I would be asked the question when I returned to the office. The majority of those calls come from area code 718 (Brooklyn/Coney Island).

I think the reason big weather, big floods, and big crashes make headlines is because there is a cynical implication that the payoff is going to be stories and pictures of the terrible human tragedies you refer to. Other people in trouble make people who aren’t feel good. My friends in the news business pray for nasty human tragedy stories at Christmas time, for instance. People who are warm and cozy like to read about and watch people who aren’t. It makes them feel smug. During the huge forest fires in Florida, I asked the managing editor of a local paper why it wasn’t on the front page. His reply: “They are in the wrong part of Florida.” In other words, New Yorkers’ relatives live further south. The question I dislike the most is asked whenever television covers a tragedy. It is the inevitable Today Show question, and it is always directed at the mother of a dead child, the widow of a plane crash victim or some poor soul whose farm and life lies under thirteen feet of black water. “How does it feel?” I usually shout my answer toward the TV screen, and it contains obscene language.

Your researcher on speed who cures cancer is an interesting fellow but he’s not an athlete. Athletes are supposed to personify the highest in human physical achievement and the role model breaks down when they enhance their performances by artificial means. Think of how the East Germans were vilified for stuffing their Olympic contenders with steroids. I remember the old Robin Williams joke about wishing sex was an Olympic sport just to see what the East Germans would do with their women. I would assume that the researcher doesn’t know that curing cancer is a given when he drops some speed before he enters the lab. Therefore he is giving in to human weakness if he feels that his skills aren’t sharp enough already to do his work. Saying that doing drugs is okay if you accomplish something wonderful while you are on them, I think, sends the wrong cultural signal in a society. Someone has got to take the responsibility to be in charge of those signals. Here’s a cultural signal a five-year-old recently sent to her mother, a neighbor and friend down the hall. Halfway through her Fruit Loops the other morning she asked, “Mom, why does President Clinton need some oral sex?” Like I say. Someone has to be in charge. Ask me another question. This is fun.

Now I’m going to go find out if Yeltsin has changed his mind–again. When I was in Moscow recently, Chuck Norris was opening a bunch of nightclubs. Maybe he could meet Clinton at the airport this weekend instead.

There had to be some politics in that last letter. Are you sure there wasn’t? I never stop talking politics. Well, hardly ever. Would you like my pot roast recipe instead? Maybe I could send it to Mrs. Herman Farcas of Brooklyn and truly confuse her.