Jewish World Review March 29, 1999 /9 Nissan 5759
Jetlag and English Manners
(JWR) ---- (http://www.jewishworldreview.com)
At 7 p.m., it’s relaxing: Just yesterday Junior and I were trapped in midtown traffic for an hour because of a falling sign near Times Square. Thirty minutes later, trying to hail a cab downtown to the hotel we’d been camping at for a month, I got into a vicious spat with this thirtysomething shrew who tried to snag our taxi. Junior and I were on the southwest corner of 28th St., waiting for our approaching ride; she was on 7th Ave., skittered over and attempted to open the door before me.
"I’ve been waiting longer," she said, giving no brook to squatters’ rights.
"Tough luck, lady," I barked, "this was our corner and besides, I’ve got a shivering boy with me."
The hag was a tough cookie: "Oh, I see, and he looks so disabled. I guess that makes you special because you’ve got a child with you."
I told her to get lost, we traded insults and another guy got into the car. Back to neutral corners, all three of us waited another 25 minutes for an on-duty cab.
But this morning started off on a smashing note, as I logged onto Drudge and The Washington Times and read Liz Trotta’s flattering profile of myself and NYPress. The most satisfying portion was Voice publisher David Schneiderman’s quote: "I am a figure in Russ Smith’s mind. He is not a figure in mine."
As I’ve mentioned many times before, it’ll be a sad day when Voice owner Leonard Stern finally gets down to business and realizes what an incompetent he has running his moribund flagship weekly. I dread the Tuesday morning when Stern gives Dave the pink slip before taking lunch at The Four Seasons.
We made it to JFK with just half an hour to spare, which meant only a few minutes to dawdle in the luxurious lounge of the British Airways Concorde wing.
There was a room set aside for smoking: It’s rare enough that airports permit the socially unacceptable vice, and when they do you’re usually caged like animals in a glass cubicle, filled with refuse and empty beer bottles. That’s not Concorde-style, thank God. There was an oak-paneled room with all the dailies, coffee and bar service, and as luck would have it, I shared a cigarette with Vanessa Redgrave, one of my favorite actresses. I mouthed a silent curse to the malcontent on the street the night before.
Once aboard, the kids were playing with Beanie Babies and a Gameboy while my wife and I tried to read.
Don’t know about you, but I’m getting weary of seeing black celebrities and politicians waiting their turn to get arrested in protest over the Amadou Diallo shooting last month. The pictures in the Post make it look like an ongoing party page: There’re David Dinkins and Charlie Rangel one day; Kweisi Mfume, Percy Sutton, Basil and David Patterson the next. And as always, P.T. Sharpton leading the circus.
Obviously these pols get kid-glove treatment from the cops and aren’t roughed up the way normal civil disobedience protesters are.
Think Chris Brodeur or Robert Lederman would be hauled away in plastic cuffs with Gersh Kuntzman scurrying to record their staged statements?
Granted, the reversal of grandstanding is ironic for Rudy Giuliani, but Sharpton’s obnoxious hogging of the camera demeans a tragic incident and it’s time to stop the charade. At this very moment it’s possible a cop is being murdered in cold blood somewhere in Brooklyn: I doubt Jesse Jackson and Mfume would be on hand for that trial, comforting a widow with three young kids.
The New York Times today featured two front-page stories on the Clintons: a softball article by Elisabeth Bumiller on Hillary’s phantom Senate race, in which the First Lady is portrayed as making calls and crunching potential votes with obscure suburban pols who are delirious for the attention.
What a conniving, ice-cold woman. John Broder, on the other hand, wrote a rather stinging piece about the President, headlined "Clinton Playing Out Presidency In Reveries and a Long Twilight," and draws a pitiful sketch of a vengeful man revisiting the scenes of past glory. He quotes the President speaking before supporters in Arkansas last week, when he had the gall to say: "When you strip it all away, it comes down to that—to humility, humanity, a sense of one’s own mortality and one’s own capacity for incredible dignity and glory." The man’s nerve is shameless.
What in tarnation does Bill Clinton—Bill Clinton!—know about humanity or dignity? He really does belong in jail, but failing that, at least a home for the mentally challenged, to slip into jargon he’d honor.
The boys don’t know what to make of the time change from New York to London. They’re looking for American cartoons, eating fruit and pistachios, squabbling and sneaking into the minibar for Cokes and chocolate bars. It’s 11 p.m. here now and they’re not a bit tired. The staff at 47 Park Street is superlative: from the driver who carted us from Heathrow and gave us recommendations for kids’ activities to the concierge, who helped me hook up AOL, and the room service lady, bearing dainty sandwiches and a niggardly cheese plate, along with a pot of the best coffee I’ve had in ages.
Junior lets me know whenever Clinton appears on tv—he calls him the "Lip-Biter"—and by now they’ve run through the tiny bottles of lemonade.
We’re going to Harrods and Jermyn St. tomorrow and then a scary hour at Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks. It’s a tourist’s trip: Although Junior’s been in London twice before he has no memory of the visits. Good thing, too:
Several years ago, arriving from Germany, our boy barfed in the Mercedes just as we arrived at the Hyde Park Hotel. He had a fever of 104 degrees and we spent the next five hours at the hospital. There was one funny note to that unsettling incident. When Mrs. M called down from our room to ask the concierge to call a pediatrician, the fellow misunderstood and made her an appointment for a pedicure. As for MUGGER III, he’s only been to the Caribbean and was issued his first passport just last week.
My Son the Gentleman
London—Saturday, March 20: It was a discombobulating night, with the boys waking up at odd hours and Mrs. M down for the count, but we rallied this morning and had a simple breakfast: strong coffee with hot cream, fruit, juice and a basket of rolls and pastries. I took Junior to Harrods to buy his first suit, a pinstriped number, very smart, as the saleswoman said, and three bowties to complete his James Bond look.
The cab ride was a revelation for the six-year-old: First of all, the car was black and roomy and the driver knew where he was going. More importantly, Junior marveled at the different sights, so strange it was like Pluto to him: double-decker buses, strange advertisements on the billboards, people driving on the "wrong" side of the street, all the monuments to fallen soldiers from the two great wars, and the half-dozen parks we passed on the way to the maze-like department store.
Harrods isn’t my venue of choice: It’s too confusing and crowded, but for a little fellow, where he could purchase both clothes and action figures, as well as traveling on the fancy lifts—after calling them elevators for half an hour, he acceded to the local lingo—it was two hours well spent. He picked out six ties for me at the Turnbull & Asser booth, and two pairs of cufflinks, and the salesman got just a wee dodgy when I mentioned that I usually shop at Harvie & Hudson.
Good to see Tony Blair hasn’t wiped out all competitive instincts. We met Mrs. M and MUGGER III at the barbershop, but neither boy wanted to wait for an appointment. Our younger son was also outfitted in new clothes, but he was more interested in the Star Wars gadgets he found.
Right now, I’m off to a newsagent for the tabs, and awaiting a fax from 333 on Clinton’s see-no-evil press conference yesterday. Can’t wait to read how the Lip-Biter dissembled this time. An hour later, I’m back from a jaunt on Oxford St., not far from the hotel and one of London’s main arteries. The fellow from the hotel disagreed, but I’d say in the four years since I last visited this city the street has been spruced up considerably.
Sure, the department stores don’t have the panache of Regent or Bond St., but the indication to me that the economy here is on a par with the States—perhaps even more prosperous, judging from the prices—is that I couldn’t find a newsagent in a mile’s walk. I had to go down to a tube stop, and even that one was more frilly than the down & dirty shops I remember from maybe 20 trips in the past. Obviously, the Pakistanis who ran the crammed stores can’t afford the higher rents; even on Oxford St. I stopped in a Boot’s pharmacy and bought some Cadbury Easter eggs for the boys as well as packets of crisps, the likes of which they’ve never seen before. Oxford St. was a mad hustle, jammed like the streets of Soho or 6th Ave. on a seasonable spring day.
A lot more American franchises have opened in my absence—Sizzler, Pizza Hut and a slew of Wendy’s—but even though there are so many similarities to New York, just the subtle customs and language make it exhilarating to be in another English-speaking country.
The boys were distressed to see a McDonald’s housed in an old pub; the lack of familiar golden arches got their goat. A box of Pringles and some sour apple bubblegum solved that crankiness, however, and I soon retreated to the hotel for a pot of coffee while Mrs. M napped, the guys watched Cartoon Network and I started to leaf through the Saturday papers.
Not that I’m complaining, but much of the liberal press still thinks the GOP is doomed in the 2000 elections. Start with Timothy Noah, the unemployed journalist who now scribbles for the online zine Slate. In a silly bit called "God for President," on March 18, Noah, who admits he’s a Democrat, seems to think that ultraconservative Paul Weyrich’s petulant denunciation of the Republican Party actually has meaning.
What Noah doesn’t comprehend is that the Christian right just won’t play a significant role in the upcoming presidential race. Noah has great sport in suggesting that God make a try for the Oval Office, embodied in Alan Keyes. He writes: "We wouldn’t want Keyes himself allowing that he’s the messiah, of course. That’s way too tacky. But perhaps a whispering campaign could be started. Chatterbox thinks this is just what the doctor ordered for the dispirited Moral One-Third."
Hasn’t Noah been reading the dailies while taking care of his kids and doodling for Slate? Hasn’t he seen what a jackass Al Gore’s made out of himself with the inventing-the-Internet gaffe, and slopping feed for hogs in Iowa? I think the 40-year-old whom Dorothy Rabinowitz memorably called a quarter-wit has been mesmerized by Teletubbies and Lego and is stuck in a time warp when people actually believed Bill Clinton was a trustworthy man.
On the other hand, The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen, generally a weasly pundit who’s flip-flopped with regularity on Clinton in the last year, now realizes that the heir apparent is in serious trouble. He wrote on March 19: "Clinton has Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate and scandalously invited anyone with some disposable income to spend the night in the Lincoln bedroom. His polls could not be higher. Gore used the wrong phone to solicit campaign contributions, and he gets a last meal and visit from the chaplain... What’s worse, Gore seems to be paying for Clinton’s sins—as if someone has to be punished for what Clinton has done, and it can’t be Clinton. The story is in the numbers. Since the scandals, Clinton’s have gone up and Gore’s down. One more Clinton rape allegation and Gore’s finished."
The mantra that’s common to liberal journalists who are quicker than Noah, and know that Gore’s in early trouble, is that the primary season is months away and George W. Bush is untested nationally. That reflects experience from elections past. The difference this time around is that Americans are blaming Gore for Clinton’s criminal administration, and, what’s worse, the Vice President is polling lower than Bush among women.
The gender gap is what elected Clinton twice: If Gore can’t close that margin he might as well plan his lecture circuit as an ex-vice president. It doesn’t help that he seems to make a blunder a day; canny Democrats must be Poed that they’ve put all their money and chits behind a damaged candidate. Too bad Sen. Bob Kerrey didn’t have the balls to challenge Gore: that would make for an enlightened general election.
I’m reading Michael Ellison’s account of the protests in New York in today’s Guardian and it’s a bit dispiriting. Besides calling Rudy Giuliani "charismatic," an adjective I’ve never seen tagged to that stiff, Ellison has great fun with Al Sharpton.
He writes that with "media-friendly symmetry," the third-rate Jesse Jackson—and that’s a stretch—is planning next week to trot entertainers, sports stars and labor leaders in front of Police Plaza to get their plastic handcuffs.
It’s the ’99 equivalent of the red AIDS ribbons I suppose, and is torturing Giuliani on a daily basis. Rudy’s torment doesn’t bother me a whit, but as I wrote yesterday, all this attention on one case of errant cops’ killing takes away attention from other instances of police brutality. But I guess Sharpton doesn’t want to spread himself too thin, so to speak.
I haven’t seen the New York Times account of Clinton’s press conference yesterday, but The Independent’s headline today, "Clinton ducks questions on private life," seems to sum up the reality that no matter what substance the lamest of lame-duck presidents tries to muster, his shattered presidency will follow him till the last dog dies.
Independent correspondent Mary Dejevsky writes: "Although Mr. Clinton was as impressive as ever in the cut and thrust of an unscripted encounter with the Washington media, it was also apparent that the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the impeachment trial that followed had damaged his presidency, despite his acquittal by the Senate in January. He wound up the proceedings after exactly an hour, having faced questions that alternated between high policy and personal matters, some of which he left unanswered."
Clinton still won’t directly address Juanita Broaddrick’s rape charges, referring them once again to David Kendall, the toady lawyer who must wish by now he’d selected another client. And to think that Kendall must have reams of unpaid bills on Clinton’s behalf: not to mention that if Hillary actually makes the suicidal run for the Senate seat in New York it’ll delay her earning some bucks to pay him off. Then again, she might say adios to Bill, leaving him to hit the lecture circuit on his own. He might not fetch the fees once imagined. But I’m a little lightheaded. Of course, Kendall won’t be left in the red: David Geffen’s millions will provide that monetary salve when push comes to shove.
We had dinner tonight at Marco Pierre White’s Oak Room in the Meridien Hotel, currently the most sought-after reservation in London. I’m not much for haute French cuisine—especially after my debilitating stomach flu at Christmas—but going to the kitchen of the controversial three-star Michelin chef is not something to pass up. The Spectator’s restaurant reviewer, David Fingleton, raved about the Oak Room in a March 28 ’98 piece, although I wasn’t inclined to take his words at face value, since he infused the article with "Marco" this and "Marco" that.
Maybe that’s a Brit tradition—being chummy with the chef—but it put me off. For example: "Marco also quotes Salvador Dali at the foot of his menu gourmand: ‘At six, I wanted to be a chef, at seven Napoleon, and my ambitions have been growing ever since.’ Marco was in an affable mood when I visited the Oak Room for a Monday lunch recently..." Nonetheless, Fingleton, whether on the take or not, is correct that White’s culinary skill is formidable.
The sommelier was a bit of a pill, trying to rush my brother for a selection; after four hurried requests he got a little testy, but was brushed off again. Obviously, the staff was trying to flip tables, but as my brother said, "He can come to the table 10 times and if I’m still not ready, he can wait longer. We’re paying for this booth."
(And pay we did: The complete dinner was just shy of £1000, with not all that much liquor consumed.)
But my soup of red mullet with saffron rouille, along with bites of Mrs. M’s foie gras terrine and green peppercorns, was stunning, and that was just for starters. I went on to the pot-roast pork with fresh ginger:
the discarded parts of the pig that White does a Picasso on where other chefs might just throw them away. Didn’t care much for the brain—too sour—but the pig cheeks and tongue were delectable, and mixed with the snow-white pomme puree left me feeling 20 pounds heavier. My brother had the braised pig’s trotter with celeriac puree, while the ladies played it safe with John Dory with chives and ginger and brill swamped in a spinach puree.
As a rule, I look forward to the cheese course, and while the pungent varieties smelled wonderful, and my three companions gorged themselves, I opted instead for a lemon tart the size of Rhode Island, set off with half a hollowed lemon with a souffle inside. Coffee, chocolates, port and mini-pastries followed, and if there’s currently a finer French spot in Manhattan I don’t know of it, including any of Daniel Boulud’s fine restaurants. Smoking isn’t outlawed in the Oak Room, just frowned upon, so on occasion I’d repair to the gents’ cloakroom and then to the bar to have a butt; it was a boisterous, moneyed crowd there, all having an uproarious time on this spring-like Saturday night in flush London. We touched on many topics during the three-hour dinner—our kids of course, schools, relatives, apartment renovations—but I had a lark with my sister-in-law when I mentioned the current Rolling Stone, which has a theme of "Guitar Gods."
(I wonder who has the onerous task of developing these tired ideas, in an age when Jimi Hendrix, or for that matter, REM, might as well be Glenn Miller for all their relevance.)
Teresa and I go back a long way: She and my brother met at the University of New Hampshire in the late 60s, so I’ve known her since I was 15 and love her very much. We’ve shared scores of delightful visits: in their cool San Francisco apartment near the burnt-out Haight in the early 70s; their shack in the hills of Santa Fe a few years later; their dump of a walk-up on Elizabeth St. through much of the 80s (way before that area became chic: the apartment was so low-rent there wasn’t even a door to the bathroom, a feature my late mother found very disconcerting); their loft in Tribeca that I bought when they moved to Bermuda; and finally their four-story 1850s house in London’s Little Venice.
But I do know how to get under Terry’s skin. She has a few sacred cows, and one of them is Joni Mitchell. Joni was featured in this RS at her most pompous, and so I described with relish her entry on "guitar gods," adding that she must be a bitter old hag. Joni writes: "Am I a god? I’m a goddette. I never had a guitar god... I never emulated anybody. My first instrument was the piano, because my first god was Rachmaninoff... I’m a painter first, and a painter—unlike a musician—is driven to innovate, generally speaking. You want to discover." Oh, brother.
Couldn’t she just have said Chuck Berry or Laura Nyro and be done with it? Well, Terry gave me a raftful, right through the chocolates and in the cab on the way back to our hotel. You don’t mess with St. Joni, but I had a ball in the verbal jousting. My brother just groaned, as if to evoke The Great Communicator, "There they go again."
After tucking the boys in, I settled back with William Greider’s (he’s one of my favorite lefty journalists, honest and not self-righteous in the least) take on Al Gore in the same issue of RS. Leadtime kills again: Greider, who probably wrote the essay, called "Al Gore: Method Man," six weeks ago, in the post-Senate acquittal glow for Democrats, couldn’t possibly know what trouble the Veep is in now. And it’s a familiar, if interesting, history of an essentially honest politician’s rise to the cusp of a presidential nomination. He notes what a disaster Gore’s ’88 presidential primary campaign was, especially in New York when he let a by-then unpopular Ed Koch use the race to settle scores with enemies, to the detriment of the 39-year-old Senator putatively from Tennessee (even though he grew up in a DC hotel, as the aristocratic son of a senator).
But Greider, who like many liberals just wishes Gore would loosen up and rid the country’s memory of Clinton and win the election in 2000, lets enthusiasm get in the way of his normally keen analysis. For example, he writes: "Neither an emotive schmoozer nor a reckless risk taker, Gore looks flat-footed by comparison [to Clinton]. If he brings up personal stuff, like his sister’s death from cancer, he’s accused of exploiting his family for political purposes."
Gore’s ’96 Democratic convention address, when he described the loss of his sister to lung cancer, which led him to a bitter tirade against smoking and tobacco companies, was affecting if you didn’t know his history. But it was in previous campaigns, notably his doomed ’88 effort, that he bragged about tilling tobacco when he was a kid, all for the benefit of Southern voters. This was four years after his sister died. So, yes, it was shameless exploitation. The proof of his smarminess was captured by the cockroach Dick Morris in a recent New York Post column, when he called Gore’s ’96 speech "perhaps his finest hour."
It was refreshing to read in Nat Hentoff’s Washington Post column today a full-on defense of Dorothy Rabinowitz, the Wall Street Journal editorial board member who brought the Broaddrick story to the mainstream press, and thus the nation. Hentoff also praises Brit Hume, the Fox anchor who was disgusted with his colleagues for ignoring the story; he then takes a poke at the popes of "responsible journalism," Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach (if I read these horse & buggy prigs quoted once more I’ll scream), who’ve made a cottage industry of critiquing the new media world. Hentoff closes his splendid article:
"That Rabinowitz’s Broaddrick news story has been discounted is a reflection not on her but on her blithely uninformed critics. She has never received a Pulitzer Prize but then neither did George Seldes, who in the 1940s influenced at least a generation of investigative reporters through his four-page weekly, ‘In Fact: An Antidote for Falsehoods in the Daily Press.’"
Quinn and Rhys Rule; Searching for Britannia
London—Sunday, March 21: We awoke late, jetlag kicking in, but the first item I noticed on the Drudge Report was Gore trying to defuse his Internet gaffe: Speaking to reporters he said he was up late the night before his infamous interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, "inventing the camcorder." Ho, ho. How many times are we going to hear that lame joke in the next 18 months?
We had to get moving in a hurry to make our 11 a.m. visit to my brother’s house, where he, Teresa and their sons Quinn and Rhys were awaiting my family. The four cousins played together beautifully, and even though Quinn is 11, a tough guy who listens to Fatboy Slim and is a skateboard and soccer king, he was gentle with Junior and MUGGER III.
We gave Rhys a dozen or so bottlecaps for his collection, which now numbers more than 1000, and then repaired to the backyard for a makeshift game of basketball. Junior was more interested in the treehouse and ducking me when I tried to take snapshots; Mrs. M and Aunt Terry chatted and looked at the primrose and hyacinth in the garden, as spring arrives in London about a month before Manhattan. I asked my brother how that pig’s trotter went down from last night and he replied that his gut was a little tender in the morning. Couldn’t have been the scotch or port, I replied, and he just rolled his eyes.
The weather was a fright the entire day, raining briskly at regular intervals, and making it nearly impossible to hail a cab back to the city. Finally, we arrived at the English Teddy Bear Shop on Picadilly, in an attempt to score the Britannia Beanie Baby. Sold out, the clerk said, as if we were daft. She suggested we try a store down by the Ritz, no name given.
That immediately had a bad association with Mrs. M and she had to summon the strength to make the short walk there. Several years ago, my brother, Mrs. M and I had dinner in the Ritz’s dining room, a suave joint, as Junior would say, and though the fish and game were sensational, my wife had just started to reel from food poisoning from a tainted salad niçoise at a bistro in Soho (not far from Coach and Horses, the pub that the late Jeffrey Bernard made famous in his Spectator "Low Life" column) that afternoon.
She was woozy throughout the meal, and then back at the Hyde Park Hotel, with Junior crawling around, had a difficult night that turned into a bedridden morning with frequent forays to the loo. Trouble was, we were on a Virgin flight back to Manhattan that day and she had to weather all the annoyances of travel with an inside-out gut.
Anyway, we found the elusive card shop. There was one precious Britannia
remaining—the wacky phenomenon is a craze here just as in America—and I
had to make a deal to buy 15 other BBs for the privilege of paying £79
for the stupid bear. I missed the beginning of this kids’ fad, but it
has legs, with all sorts of BB clubs on the Internet, magazines—which
Rhys showed off—with no sign of leveling off. In fact, the clever
inventor, Ty Warner, is so loaded now that he just bought The Four
Seasons hotel in Manhattan. I dropped out with the hula hoops, wax
whistles at Halloween and sour orange gum. We’d planned to see
Buckingham Palace but the rain was too daunting and it took another
half-hour to get a cab—on the majestically winding Regent St. yet—so it
was back to the hotel for a takeout meal from American Burger (same logo
as Burger King; must’ve been a copyright problem). The boys were a
little put off that the ketchup is called tomato sauce here, but Junior
liked the fries and the fact that there were eight chicken nuggets in
his packet instead of four. Mrs. M settled down with Under the Dragon:
Travels in a Betrayed Land, a book about Burma; the boys watched
cartoons and played with the BBs while I went through the Sunday papers
and steeled myself to read Marc Cooper’s insubstantial "Postcards from
the Left" in the current Nation.
But Seriously, Taki’s a Swell Chap
London—Monday, March 22: It was a day of sightseeing and shopping. There’s a work stoppage here today, a demonstration of truckers who are protesting an enormous rise in fuel prices courtesy of Tony Blair. As a consequence, it’s very difficult to get around—the drivers blocked all of Park La.—and the concierge blithely suggested taking the 25-minute walk to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards.
Sure, with two tykes in hand. We hailed a cab instead and he knew a few shortcuts and there we were, in time to see the marching bands, white horses and men with Wizard of Oz hats and Japanese tourists. The boys were quite impressed with the palace; less so with the street hotdogs that they spit out after a single bite. Five pounds down the drain.
Afterward, MUGGER III and Mrs. M went off to Harrods, while Junior and I did some gentlemen’s shopping at Harvie & Hudson on Jermyn St. He selected two smart pocket squares to go along with his suit; I picked out boxers, socks, a dozen ties and six French-cuff shirts. To heck with my friend Michael Thomas at The New York Observer; call me a fop, but these are classic threads.
Actually, I’ve been a customer at the shop since ’87 when I bought a green-striped shirt and scandalized the owner by custom-ordering a blue and yellow number that was buttondown, with a pocket. With a shrug of "The customer’s always right," he fixed it up, and I have the shirt to this day, although the collar’s somewhat frayed.
Next, we stopped in the Picadilly Arcade and picked up two hand-painted miniature military figures at The Armoury of St. James’s; green for MUGGER III and red for Junior, and I counseled my six-year-old that these items don’t belong in the basket with all the plastic Power Ranger and Pokemon garbage, but in a safe spot, like his Ted Williams baseball card from ’39, real heirlooms to hand down to their kids. I still have a toy soldier my mother bought for me in Denmark back in ’61, so I hope my boys will have the same reverence for these collectibles.
Junior wanted to rest for a spell, but then it was back out on Oxford St. so he could get a pair of black buckle shoes at Selfridges, a task easily accomplished. By happenstance, we went down to the Bond St. tube stop to find a newsagent, and found a kiosk that sold the coveted Britannia! This one was for Al From Baltimore, whose family is mad for BBs, so I’m a real hero down in the Land of Pleasant Living.
Later in the evening, I had an appointment with Frank Johnson, editor of London’s Spectator, and had a ball discussing British and American politics, the utterly tacky Tina Brown and Harry Evans and the mischievous Taki. I hear from the States that the poor little Greek boy, as he calls himself, is annoyed that I made a joke at his expense in a recent "MUGGER" column: Taki, dude, for a fellow of such worldliness, your skin is thinner than the hapless Randy Rothenberg’s!
I warned Johnson to watch Taki on his notorious double-dipping of material for columns, just as we do with Alex Cockburn. Johnson scoffed at all the attention Marco Pierre White has received in London and wished that those "damn French" would just keep their Michelin stars in their own country.
Although he agreed with me that Pat Buchanan is a witty and often brilliant commentator—Johnson’s shared lunch with the erratic populist/isolationist—he knows there’s not a chance Pat the Water Rat will slow down George W. Bush, whose inevitable ascendancy isn’t at all dissimilar to Tony Blair’s in England a few years back.
Sure, the liberal press will try to smear Bush, like they did his father, but the country is so ready for a change from the sleazy Clinton-Gore administration that it doesn’t matter how well the economy is doing. The unfairly maligned John Major, who got slaughtered by Blair two years ago, also had a robust economy in his pocket, but the results were fixed a year ahead of time.
Before I went to sleep I read The New Statesman, the pinko magazine in London that’s similar to The Nation but printed on much classier paper.
Maybe that’s why they’re chronically short of cash and about to go out of business. Doesn’t explain The Nation’s plight...but I’ll leave that alone for now. Andrew Stephen’s "America" column was of interest, in that he stuck up for Clinton because he and Hillary don’t exploit Chelsea the way that previous presidents have.
True enough, the picture of John-John under Dad’s desk in the Oval Office was a publicist’s coup, although recently I do think the Clintons have used Chelsea as a beard to mask their troubled marriage.
But Stephen was on a tear about Al Gore, not only mentioning the famous tobacco speech, but also his ’92 address to the Democratic convention when he spoke of his only son’s brush with death in a car accident. It was moving, I think, and if that was an isolated burst of public parental sorrow, we could let the Veep off the hook, but of course he’s made a habit of it. Stephen writes about that speech: "Then the boy was ushered on to the stage to roars of acclaim. It was all truly nauseating: not just the use of a family trauma for political soap-opera ends, but the invasion of the little boy’s privacy…
"That boy is now a teenager who—at least partly because Gore used him as a political pawn when it suited his own ends—most of Washington feels free to gossip about. The Washington Post reported that the boy has since become involved with drugs. His school then refused to make him a prefect."
Stephen, who has no use for Republicans, senses like most journalists that Gore is dead meat. He concludes: "I still have my doubts whether Gore will make it, though; and, using my patented acid test [exploitation of a politician’s family], he doesn’t deserve to, either."
Even more interesting was the appearance of Richard Ingrams, a well-traveled Brit journalist (London’s media community is just as incestuous as Manhattan’s; worse, if that’s possible) whose very name causes Taki to gag.
But Ingrams’ "Diary" in The New Statesman is brilliant, and I do applaud the magazine’s editor for running the piece, since it attacks the politically correct weekly in a savage manner.
Ingrams writes: "I think I am right in claiming that this is my first ever contribution to the New Statesman in over 35 years of journalistic activity. I have, however, regularly applied for the editorship, along with my friend Auberon Waugh, whenever it was advertised. Hitherto neither of us has been successful.
"The idea behind these applications was to expose to ridicule the impression given to gullible members of the public that the job was genuinely open to all comers." Well said. It’s as if John Strausbaugh put his hat in the ring for editor of The Nation or Village Voice.
A Hearty Welcome at Le Bristol
London & Paris—Tuesday, March 23: Today the boys cracked. Actually, it was probably Mrs. M and I who went bonkers since they had a great time misbehaving for about 16 hours straight. It was a travel day, on to Paris, which meant a lot of hectic packing in the morning, the suitcases tougher to close because of all the merchandise we bought, mostly those damn Beanie Babies. I’d recommend 47 Park Street as a superb boutique hotel to anyone traveling to London: The tab, while stiff, like everything in London, is still more affordable than the well-known and grand spots, say the Connaught or Claridge’s. At 47, they’ll shop to fill the kitchen when you give them a list, the room service is quick, the concierges snap to when a question arises and there’s not a bit of the disquieting lobby hustle and bustle of a larger establishment.
Our driver to Heathrow, Peter, was a very nice gent who only bristled when the name of Prince Charles came up. Junior was talking about seeing Diana on a postcard and Peter became a touch dewy-eyed and then went into a rant: "That thick Charles, he’s so bloody stupid, an olive short of a pizza, wouldn’t you say? Does he really think he’ll ever become king? Why won’t he be a sport and stand down for his son? Because he’s dumb as a brick."
Once at the airport the kids wouldn’t cooperate at all: sitting on the luggage at the check-in counter, picking up too much candy at the gift shops and shaking up their Cokes so they’d fizz all over the plane. Mercifully, it was only a 50-minute flight to Orly, but then our driver to Le Bristol had a radiator problem so we had to wait for another car. It was a pretty ride into Paris, with spring bursting minute by minute and the boys were mesmerized by the rounded-corner architecture, all the monuments and the gold domes of government buildings.
The Bristol is a splendid hotel, certainly my top choice in Paris; my brothers prefer the Ritz, which is absolutely snazzola, in MUGGER III’s lingo, but I find their rooms too precious, like jewel boxes, so that you’re always bumping into some ornate decoration. The Bristol lobby is grand and has a glass elevator that the boys loved riding up and down; instead of "L" for the lobby, the ground floor was labeled "RC," which my sons quickly dubbed "Rat Cage."
I had a dilly of a time setting up AOL here, but the concierge was up right away, gave me a local number and I was on my way to Kosovo. We had a chilled bottle of champagne waiting in the deluxe junior suite, as well as a basket of fruit and a tray of petits fours; say what you will about the French (although the chambermaids were particularly sweet to our boys), when it comes to putting on the dog in the kitchen or a hotel room these cats are tops. The kids were pissed that all the tv channels were French-speaking, save CNN, and so they wrestled, told wiener jokes and stayed up half the night while Mrs. M and I tried to enjoy a delicious room service meal of salmon tartare with olive tapenade, lobster bisque, onion soup and saffron risotto with king prawns and shellfish juice.
At one point, while I was trying to write, Junior
pinched MUGGER III, which caused an enormous commotion and I told them
in no uncertain terms that Parisian toys were out of the question unless
they went to sleep immediately. MUGGER III said, "Hey, you can’t talk to
us that way. Watch your booty, man." Who knows what that meant, but it
did crack me up.
My Stomach and Europe Erupt
Paris—Wednesday, March 24: It was a strange, strange day. The family is fatigued from living in hotels the past five weeks and so the boys were alternately angels and darn monsters. I awoke at 6 and found Drudge’s screen half-filled with Kosovo bulletins. My immediate reaction: five or six dead Americans and Clinton’s a draft-dodging coward; if the military operation goes off without a hitch he’ll gets the Nobel Peace Prize that Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter predicted he’d snag for that bogus Mideast "settlement" last year. I was able to work for a few hours while Mrs. M and the boys slept; had too much coffee and wound up with a bellyache that lasted the entire day. Might’ve been those prawns and salmon mousse that I wolfed down on the British Airways flight to Paris; like a total pig, I ate Junior’s too.
But we soldiered on after breakfast. I told the boys that the bread in France is the best in the world—the fries too—and for once they believed Dad entirely. When MUGGER III bit into a pastry filled with chocolate you’d have thought it was Christmas Day.
I asked for a bottle of Evian but the room service operator misunderstood me and I got a bowl of nasty-looking porridge instead. We hailed a cab to the Eiffel Tower and Junior made a rather astute observation: "Dad, how come the cabs in Paris and London are so clean, the drivers nice and they don’t smell like in New York?" I didn’t want to get my Tourette’s going about our Indian friends so I made some chit-chat about how in London a cabby’s work is a noble profession where the drivers have to take a rigorous test (although that’s declined in recent years, Londoners tell me) and in France...well, son, I can’t figure that one out.
We got to the Eiffel Tower, which stunned the kids, but didn’t go to the top because, just like Madame Tussaud’s in London, the line stretched for at least half a mile. We had lunch at a Maxim’s outpost—crummy croque monsieurs for the grownups and MUGGER III, just fries for Junior—and then boarded one of those midsize boats that glide along the Seine for an hour. Not a cruise in the Nation sense where has-been columnists get sloshed all day and hold forth for small audiences on tired commie and feminist politics, but a gentle ride where we could see the sights. We passed the Musee d’Orsay, where I hope we’ll convince the boys to visit tomorrow, and so many famous bridges and gargoyles that the boys were agog at the grandeur of the city.
Junior asked why there wasn’t graffiti everywhere like in New York as well as newspaper boxes filled with NYPress. Well, I explained, the French can make fries, monuments, cheese, wine and swank hotels, but when it comes to eclectic journalism, they haven’t a clue. Maybe someday you’ll change all that.
That phony baloney explanation made him very happy and me too: My bellyache even subsided for one exquisite parental moment.
Unfortunately, there was no bathroom on the boat, so I was in a bit of trouble, but was able to hold out until after we disembarked and the boys and Mrs. M went for two rides on an antique carousel. Junior was wearing his Harrods suit with a red pocket square and looked like a real fop atop the bobbing horse; MUGGER III was perched in an elephant throne and happily waved and waved to me as he circled around each time. I went back to the hotel and napped while the rest of the family went to Hermes, Mrs. M’s favorite pharmacy in Paris—where she picked up several animal-shaped barrettes—and of course a toy store. Now we’ll need another suitcase to bring all this loot home. I skipped dinner but the boys finally ate something healthy: yogurt, oranges, plums and scrambled eggs with tomatoes.
They wore their new French pj’s and were actually calmer than the night before, which was a blessing as I communicated by instant e-mail with Matt Drudge. He warned me to get out of Paris; the cops were everywhere outside, since French President Jacques Chirac’s residence is a block from the Bristol, and numerous embassies are also close by. Mrs. M curled up with Julie Burchill’s new novel Married Alive. She’s not impressed so far: kind of like a British Bret Easton Ellis, with even less depth, was the scathing critique. She’d finished her book on Burma and was looking for meatier fare than the vacuous Burchill could provide.
I still had a lot of reading to catch up on, particularly about Al Gore. Apparently in a Sioux Falls appearance Monday, Gore, according to Associated Press reporter Mike Glover, "decided to share a secret with some giggling first-graders. ‘I had a really neat treehouse when I was growing up on the farm.’ For a few minutes as he opened yet another campaign day, Gore the candidate turned into Gore the teacher, Gore the student, even Gore the grieving son... He beamed as he walked into a gymnasium at a Sioux Falls elementary school filled with squealing youngsters. ‘I need somebody to give me a high five,’ said Gore, as he plunged into a crowd of toddlers."
Then Pinocchio Gore took over as he accepted the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, and spoke about his recently deceased father, yet again evoking personal loss. "Gore said in an interview that he finds it tough to talk about himself and break through the legendary stiffness. ‘I’m not used to it because the way I was raised you don’t talk about yourself too much. But in a campaign, you’ve got to introduce yourself and the experiences which have shaped your life." Jesus, Gore might not have Clinton’s "charisma" but he’s got the lying act down pat, considering that he evokes family tragedy every chance he can get.
In today’s Washington Post, Michael Kelly scalds the Veep for his increasing number of fibs. He begins by quoting Gore, in an Iowa stump stop, about his father: "He taught me how to clean out hog waste with a shovel and a hose. He taught me how to clear land with a double-bladed ax. He taught me how to plow a steep hillside with a team of mules. He taught me how to take up hay all day long in the hot sun."
No mention of
tobacco tilling this time. Then Kelly begins his parody: "It wasn’t yet
dawn, a good two hours to go till first light; but young Al was already
up, out of his warm little bed high up in the eaves of the Fairfax Hotel
on Embassy Row. He could see from the frost on the windowpane and the
ice in his wash basin that it was going to be another cold one. Al
shrugged. He didn’t care. He had work to do, no matter the weather. That
was the Gore way... Al thought of the day that lay ahead. Farming was
hard work, backbreaking hard, and it never stopped. But it was good,
honorable work, and there was money in it too. ‘And there’s money in not
doing it too,’ Al’s father, Senator Al, liked to say. The Gore spread
ran from the rich bottom land down by the State Department, up through
the loamy meadows of Massachusetts Avenue clean to Spring Valley. And
every acre of it was not farmed; it was subsidized instead."
NATO Takes Over, Reluctantly
Paris—Thursday, March 25: The boys slept better last night, a welcome oddity on this trip, but I didn’t, which was fine since it gave me time to check in on Drudge and obscurestore.com. Funny thing happened: When I went back to sleep in the boys’ room—Junior had already staked out the center of the bed in the master bedroom—it was freezing.
In the morning I found out why: The window had been open all night. I’d told MUGGER III last night that Irving the Wolf, who usually camps out at the top of the Eiffel Tower, was going to visit that night and kiss him. He’s banned from the Bristol, you see, after a bout of diarrhea 15 years ago, that seeped through his pants and stained the purple carpet. I explained to my younger boy that the wayward wolf shouldn’t have drunk those 16 Kronenbourgs, combined with rich French food, but he wouldn’t listen. Sure enough, Irving came to see my li’l nippers, but on the sly.
The Bristol continues to amaze me: We had a sumptuous breakfast of cheese omelets with bacon and sausages, croissants and hard rolls, o.j., coffee, Rice Krispies and a bowl of oranges and grapes. Soon after, the flowers were changed in all three rooms, along with new packs of gorgeous wooden matches, which I snagged for my briefcase, and a Herald Tribune was delivered in a heavy plastic bag, as if it were a precious document, because of a drizzle outside.
Later, after lollygagging around—it’s tough to get an early start with our tykes—we took a cab to Montmartre, a tourist trap of the first order, but the kids liked it especially when some huckster nicked us for 100 francs for their silhouettes. Actually, that was pretty cheap and they’re cute. Not so charming was when Mrs. M discovered her pocketbook was opened while we waited on line for ice cream and frites. That gave her the creeps, so while Junior was in rapture over both food items—"You were right Dad," he exclaimed once more, "Paris does have the best fries and sweet foods in the world"—we hailed a cab and tried to stay as long as possible at the Musee d’Orsay.
It was packed, but we negotiated our way to one of my favorite pictures of all time: Henri Fantin-Latour’s Un Coin de Table, from 1872, with the dissolute Rimbaud at a table with Verlaine and other bohemians of the day. It’s the image of Rimbaud that Enid Starkie used on her splendid biography of the poet, and I remember it nostalgically, I guess, because Al From Baltimore sent me a postcard of the work some 23 years ago when he and his future wife Dina took a long tour of Europe.
On the way, I was somewhat taken aback seeing Gustave Courbet’s L’Origine du Monde from 1866, a beaver shot that would class up Esquire, Time Out New York or Details by a hundredfold. MUGGER III saw it hanging on the wall, as some Japanese students giggled, and said, "Dad, look it’s a bagina!" We hurried along, but soon both boys had tired of the cultural experience so we ventured back to the Bristol while Mrs. M escaped to Louis Vuitton.
It was disappointing that our museum visit was so short, but it’s a different kind of vacation for my wife and me now that the boys are little men. In the old days, before parenthood, we traveled around the world without a care, imbibing freely on airplanes; taking long lunches at Taillevent in Paris and then walking it off by strolling on the Champs-Elysees; luxuriating in the hospitality and splendor of Bangkok’s Oriental Hotel; and spending a lovely Christmas Day in Vienna, sneaking out after lunch for a viewing of Henry V. We’d eat smashed artichokes in Rome; ice cream sandwiches and swordfish in Palermo; and casually walk at night in a dozen different cities, stopping at bistros and cafes for coffee, Campari or the local beer. Snaking along the streets of Hong Kong, among the men selling birds and women shucking shellfish in tubs of water, we’d marvel at the tall modern buildings, with workers incongruously laboring on bamboo scaffolding.
In Buenos Aires we ate steak every night and went to the races; while in Sardinia, when Mrs. M was pregnant with Junior, we simply relaxed and read books for five days, while enjoying the local wines (at least I did) and bouts of sunshine by the pool. We’d go to the theater and movies in London, spend hours in the pubs drinking and reading, and made a regular pilgrimage to our favorite Indian restaurant there, in Bayswater, The Standard.
That was until Mrs. M, this time with MUGGER III in her belly, got sick after some mutton vindaloo and now that landmark has been forever erased from any London itinerary. But it’s a different, and more rewarding, life now and I look forward to when the boys are a bit older and they start discovering more on their own in Europe or Asia, besides toys, frites and candy bars with strange names. Junior’s right on the cusp of lasting more than an hour in a museum: Next year he actually wants to visit Ireland and Germany, along with a return trip to Paris.
I took the boys out for a walk later in the afternoon, stopped in at an antique shop to buy a Limoges box and then finally found a kiosk around the corner from the hotel. We bought some candy bars, the European Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and then went to the Pharmacie International, across from the hotel, to buy some presents for the boys’ teachers. We’d been in a number of times, so the patient ladies knew what troublemakers the kids were, but when they started to wrestle on the floor the brakes were put on. I tried to hurry up the credit card process, and then I heard a slam against the glass door, MUGGER III knocking his head on it.
A huge welt sprung up immediately and Junior felt guilty as sin for his part in the fiasco, but after a few tears and an ice pack back at the Bristol my youngest was ready for a dinner of cottage cheese, another omelet and of course frites. My salad niçoise was a wonderful meal, with more anchovies than I’ve ever seen on one plate, along with spaghetti Bolognese; and Mrs. M picked contentedly at her broiled Brittany lobster with currant sauce.
I’ve had CNN on intermittently, hearing about the NATO raids and figure that Clinton, who probably couldn’t locate Kosovo on a map two weeks ago, and the allies won’t keep up the bombing for a long period of time, and so it won’t be effective. It’s as if the Serbs have been preparing for this action for months, waiting for the military airstrikes and then will arise like cockroaches, bragging, "That’s all you’ve got?"
I could be wrong, but getting Boris Yeltsin and the Chinese all stirred up, not to mention the rest of the world, and then not taking Milosevic out, makes NATO and the United States look somewhat impotent—a symbol of the do-nothing Clinton presidency and his muddled foreign policy.
Like most Americans, I support our armed forces, and the President, and just hope the unprecedented NATO attacks are effective. Being relatively close to the battle, it’s easy to imagine a wider war breaking out if the assault goes awry, with Italy, Turkey, Albania and Greece all getting their noses out of joint. Ground troops are necessary to end the conflagration, so for God’s sake get it on: The U.S. doesn’t need another dictator toying with a timid president.
Everyone has a different opinion. If the U.S. is getting involved in this European tragedy, why hasn’t the country intervened in Tibet, Africa, North Korea or anywhere else where random slaughter occurs? Still, with Clinton evoking Hitler, the Holocaust and the dread word "genocide" in his addresses to union groups, the nation and reporters, I agree with his decision. It’s true that Clinton has almost zero credibility in the world theater and seems to change his rationale almost daily for deploying forces, but with so much carnage right in front of our eyes the world’s only superpower has to act.
And it’s not as if the GOP has acquitted itself well on the Serbian debacle either. The Republican senators who oppose action are doing a crummy job explaining why the U.S. should sit on its hands, when for the last 50 years they’ve vigorously supported almost every intervention around the world. Their rhetoric is isolationist (did Pat Buchanan become their leader overnight?) and sounds like that of the pre-Clinton Democrats. If something’s changed, the GOP’s leaders need to say what it is.
Why are we still defending Taiwan? Since World War II the U.S. has supported, imperfectly, the spread of freedom against totalitarian regimes. When we don’t, the results have been horrible (Rwanda), or when we fail (Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia) worse still.
I’m in agreement with yesterday’s Wall Street Journal editorial, headlined "The Next Kosovo." Of course it’s anti-Clinton, but forget about that for the time being and concentrate on what I think is a cogent call for action: "Let’s review the bidding. We know now, without question, that Slobodan Milosevic, almost like Saddam Hussein, is a creature of relentlessly predatory impulse who lives to make war on all around him. And we know that of all the endless attempts to get him to ‘stop the killing’—the phrase that now serves as the start and finish of Western foreign policy—the only time Milosevic stopped was when the Slovenian army defeated him and when the Croats and Bosnians acquired the military means to defend themselves on the ground.
"Kosovo is not an accident, it didn’t just happen. It is the product of
mistakes. The biggest mistake is assuming that by ignoring a problem,
the West in general and the U.S. in particular can stay uninvolved. The
lesson is that this is not an option, that in today’s world the real
option is learning how to involve sooner, smarter and therefore
Back to Work and Tribeca
Paris & New York—Friday, March 26: It’s time to go back to America, and though we got a wake-up call at 7 a.m.—our driver is scheduled to pick us up at 8:30 for an 11 a.m. Concorde flight out of DeGaulle—it wasn’t necessary since Junior and I have been awake since 4:30. Last night, MUGGER III lit up our hearts: He’d decided to sleep with Mrs. M and me, but after five minutes said, "I’m going back to our room because I love my brother so much and I want to be next to him. He’s so handsome and smart and I just love him."
Everybody checked one more time for errant items of clothing—Mrs. M had expertly packed the night before, and slipped the maid 65 francs to raid the cleaning closet for a few extra Hermes bars of soap—coins and toys, and then we departed for the airport.
But not before reading a devastating attack on Clinton by Charles Krauthammer in today’s Washington Post. He writes about the speech the President gave to a union group the day before his remarks to the nation. "[It] appeared to be unscripted. It was Clinton being Clinton. It has to be read to be believed. For incoherence and simple-mindedness, for disorganization and sheer intellectual laziness, it is unmatched in recent American history.
"Clinton’s first stab at telling us ‘what Kosovo is about’ is this: ‘Look all over the world. People are still killing each other out of primitive urges because they think what is different about them is more important than what they have in common.’ But if that is what Kosovo is about—an inability to ‘just get along,’ to quote Rodney King—why are we going to war? Cruise missiles are an odd instrument of social work…
"What then? Clinton makes a halfhearted attempt to show that it’s about our economy, stupid. ‘If we’re going to have a strong economic relationship that includes our ability to sell around the world, Europe has got to be a key.’ Our economy demands a ‘Europe that is safe, secure, free, united, a good partner with us for trading.’ Okay. But what’s that got to do with Yugoslavia? How is it that during the Bosnian war, a far more savage conflict involving three European countries, the United States enjoyed its greatest peacetime expansion in history, a boast Clinton never tires of making?
"Perhaps realizing that he is on soft ground here, Clinton immediately switches rationales. ‘And so I want to talk to you about Kosovo today but just remember this—it’s about our values. What if someone had listened to Winston Churchill and stood up to Adolf Hitler earlier?’
"But if Serbia’s Milosevic is Hitler, how come this Hitler has been our peace partner in the Dayton Accords these past three years now? Never mind. When in doubt play the Hitler card. No matter how ridiculous the analogy. After all, Serbia has no ambition to rule a continent, nor the power to do so."
I quote Krauthammer at length not just to demonstrate that Clinton is a woeful leader, but to illustrate just how many opinions there are in the media about Serbia and the atrocities now transpiring there. Men and women who agree or disagree on various policy issues, with usually just two positions staked out, are all over the map, so to speak, on this issue. I’m unsure as well: but with the prospect of Milosevic joining forces with Saddam Hussein, and then possibly the Russians and Chinese, I don’t see any choice but to deploy ground forces and wipe him out.
I’ll end the war roundup with this absurd quote from Walter Shapiro’s USA Today column yesterday: "No decision better illustrates Clinton’s largely untapped ability to grow in office than his steely determination this week regarding Kosovo." Terrific. Is Shapiro serious? He’s praising a president for "grow[ing] in office" when his term has almost expired?
We hadn’t been on Air France’s Concorde since ’94 and back then the plane was definitely showing some wear and tear. It didn’t help that the pilot turned back to JFK after 15 minutes, telling the passengers that he was dumping all the fuel over the Atlantic because of a brakes problem. We then waited another four hours for a different plane, thus negating the incredible savings of time, and finally arrived at the Bristol at 4 in the morning, with Junior’s busted stroller with our bags. Air France was chintzy in recompense: a $100 gift certificate for each passenger, nada for the stroller they ruined.
Anyway, in the past five years the airline has resuscitated itself and the lounge at DeGaulle was delightful. While Mrs. M and MUGGER III went on a hunt for last-minute souvenirs, Junior played his Gameboy and I had a croissant and two cups of espresso chased by three Perriers. As I was picking up the dailies I ran into an old friend I’d met at numerous dinner parties of my older brother, and then scanned the dailies.
London’s Guardian was especially strange: Like the other papers, the front page was consumed with NATO news, but at the bottom was a large ad for Blur’s new CD, while the top banner toasted itself for several recent awards it had won. It was a weird juxtaposition with a four-color photo of a factory burning.
The three-hour trip home was smooth: The kids were on remarkably good behavior, and I immensely enjoyed the tin of Russian caviar—I snagged MUGGER III’s as well—and crayfish salad. I didn’t have much use for the filet mignon that followed, but soon enough we were back at JFK at 8:45 a.m., just over two hours before we left Paris. Driving back to the city we ran into some inexplicable traffic—why people were crowding the Midtown Tunnel on a Friday morning was beyond me—and I spied an horrific billboard on the way touting Michael Moore’s new Bravo show. Welcome home, I thought.
We arrived back at our new Tribeca penthouse—Mrs. M was disturbed that
not that much was completed in her absence—but I was happy to be finally
free of hotel life. After some cursory unpacking, I headed off for a
full day of work and managed to make it through the day without falling
asleep. I caught up on stacks of mail, downloaded my usual reams of
newspaper articles and listened to each department chief spell out the
horror stories while I was away. Actually, this week’s NYPress looks
terrific and led me to believe I should take the family on vacation more
03/26/99: Hollywood’s Horror Show