The Breakfast Table

Labor Day Special

By way of acquitting our obligation to Slate, we convened an unusual, in vivo session of the Breakfast Table at the Corner House Inn, in picturesque Sandwich, N.H. Also present were Margo’s companion, Ron Weintraub, one of Boston’s leading cardiac surgeons, and Alex’s wife of 16 years, the shadowy Mme K.

Our waiter’s name was Matt, and there were no specials. Introductions were in order. Alex correctly noted that Ron’s status as a senior surgeon at a Harvard teaching hospital would afford him access to Harvard’s superbly appointed squash courts, and angled for an invitation. Ron replied that, yes, this was true, but that press of business had forced him to give up squash. (Alex had no such problem.) Margo correctly noted that Mme. K. had served in the legendary United Press International Moscow Bureau with the famed Henry Shapiro, who had once helped Margo’s journalist mother slip into a Soviet mental hospital.

Inevitably, we talked about Flytrap. Margo and Alex pretty much shared the view that Flytrap had been plenty of fun, and tax-paying Americans had gotten their money’s worth from Tripp, Lewinsky, Clinton, Starr & Associates. Ron, who called himself a “bleeding heart liberal,” argued eloquently that the affair had besmirched virtually every institution in America–the presidency, the judiciary, Congress, and the press–and he felt Ken Star’s prosecutorial excesses were to blame. Mme. K. and Margo noted that Clinton had brought many of his troubles on himself.

During the Flytrap discussion, Ron and Alex discovered they both admired former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. Ron had known Dukakis since their days at Brookline High, a breeding ground for bleeding heart liberals. (e.g., Ellen Goodman.) Biking in Boston recently, Ron had seen Dukakis patrolling his neighborhood, spearing litter with a long, spiked stick, and properly disposing of the trash. Unbidden, Dukakis also paints his neighbor’s mailboxes. Margo said that talk-show producers have been eager to book Dukakis for some Clinton-trashing, but that Dukakis has ducked them all.That’s why “We Like Mike.”

No other current events excited our fancy. Margo wanted to talk about Sen. Moynihan’s appearance on This Week, but Alex remarked–haughtily, in the view of many–that his wife’s New Hampshire home didn’t have a television.

Bookchat ensued. Margo challenged Alex on a recent book suggestion: Mark Kramer’s non-fiction account of the lives of two surgeons in White Plains, N.Y., Invasive Procedures. Clearly, neither Margo nor Ron enjoyed the book as much as Alex, who has told everyone,including the author (when they were on speaking terms) that Procedures is one of the best books he ever read. (It turns out that Ron attended medical school with one of the two surgeons portrayed in Kramer’s book.) Ron promises to send Alex one of the best books he’s ever read, an analysis of the Dow Corning breast implant litigation by Marcia Angell, the number two editor at the New England Journal of Medicine. Alex suspects that a business writer friend of his built an addition onto his New Jersey home using the proceeds from the kind of shoddy journalism that Ms. Angell condemns in her book. But so it goes.

Margo noted that even though Alex had said he would file a report from the actual breakfast table to the Virtual Breakfast Table, he had taken no notes during the conversation. Alex replied that Globe columnists never took notes, and had an unimpeachable record of accuracy.

We parted as friends, hoping to meet again in a few weeks to savor the oxen-pulling contest at the annual Sandwich Fair.

We told our waiter Matt to forward the bill to Mr. Michael Kinsley, America’s foremost magazine editor.

Curiously, he had no idea who we were talking about.