The Breakfast Table

Revenge of the Elderly Black Grandmother-Tang Clan

Dear Merrill,

Greetings and salutations once again from Madison, Wis., America’s (after Austin, Tex.) Second City of Slack. As difficult as this may be for you to believe, I’m actually finding myself jealous of your Bo, Winkie, et al., and wishing I had my own four-dog-strong 6:15 wake-up squad of bounding, tail-wagging quadrupeds to help me out here. A creeping fear worries me that, being a person who normally thinks of breakfast as something you get at a 24-hour waffle place after the bars close, perhaps I’m just not cut out for the whole pithy-morning-punditry-duties thing. Now I feel like I know firsthand just how awful it must be for a person to greet each new dawn with the heart-wrenching realization that they are neoconservative MSNBC talk-show host Laura Ingraham.

The Dalai Llama must be feeling particularly serene this morning with the news that, after a marathon negotiation session of 11th-hour meetings, the way is finally paved for China to enter the World Trade Organization. Everybody seems really happy about this, since it came through at the last minute despite longtime stumbling blocks in the way of such an agreement. Perhaps China threatened to electrocute their testicles and beat their families black and blue if they couldn’t push the agreement through? Let’s hear it for effective diplomacy.

You mentioned yesterday about being filled with repellent hatred and loathing? Yesterday the Journal and today again the Times had front-page pieces on how utterly stupid and pathetic and evil and beneath the dignity of any halfway civilized human being (OK, so they didn’t necessarily use those exact words) the whole “managed” health-care system is. To me, this is like running a front-page article on how “Everybody’s Breathing Air This Fall TV Season,” or the headline “Night Still Following Day for Record Umpteenth Gazillion Straight Week.” I realize this is hardly an insightful observation on my part; after all, the same point has been made by any number of commentators before me, including my mother, the guy who works at the liquor store down the street, and virtually every human being who lives in an even remotely first-world country, but nonetheless whenever I think about this I just want to hit an HMO administrator on the head with a rock until it dies. Then there’s the added insult to untreated ER waiting-room injury of having to watch these Satanic sentimental TV spots for various HMOs, featuring grainy handheld pseudo-documentary sepia-tone footage of some hypothetical multi-ethnic customer base (elderly black grandmothers on rocking chairs with blankets draped over their knees and beaming Asian-American 6-year-olds on swing sets always seem to make an appearance) while muted piano music plays and some studio-musician faux-gospel vocalist breathily intones the company slogan/musical sound bite, informing us all “(Insert Name of HMO here) … We care about yooouuu …” I mean, why not just come right out and sing, “We’re lying … and we’re not even trying to hide that fact from yooouuu …” and be done with it? Who are they fooling, do they think? It’s like the spots were produced by some Orwellian Ministry of Information. I wish that Old Dirty Bastard and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan had celebrated his birthday by mobilizing the relatives of all those elderly black grandmothers to start snapping some HMO ad-exec necks.

Um, I’m becoming consumed by bile here, so I think I’d better go hose myself down or something. Oh, and regarding your last letter’s comment about Gore pinning Bradley to the floor and lying on top of him, its a good idea, but somehow I don’t think it’d work, because that’s obviously what Tipper’s been doing to Al herself since their first teen-age (but presumably non-rock ’n’ roll concert) date.

From hell,