September 15, 2004 (#35), (and before ...)

Dear faithfull,
Today, I was strolling up Seventh Avenue, having just finished a perfect wonderful breakfast alone. In an attempt to improve my language skills I've been reading Seta by Alessandro Baricco in Italian which usually involves many trips to the dictionnario. I take it to this simple pleasant american bistro and sit there while be attended to by a darling waiter who is certainly young enough to be my child. Sweet thing. I chastise him about the metal in his eyebrow and he wings it back about the crooks in my seams.

So I leave this pastorale and continue up Seventh Avenue when I have to stop to adjust my shoe and I hear behind me the following:

"I want to go to Las Vegas just to go the the New York part"

Oh dear.

This is disturbing on so many levels. But perhaps I can relate them all.

I was dying to retort, "you ARE in New York". Why would you want polyester when you already have cotton? Why would you want carob when you have chocolate? Why from concentrate when you have fresh squeezed?

Now, I understand if you don't have New York or can't possibly visit it then perhaps the Las Vegas theme park might be a consolation. But really, if you live here, what could you possibly be thinking?

My head was swimming as I became overwhelmed. I stumbled eastward mulling the possibilities and what they meant to us, americans, as a people. I crawled down the sidewalk with the weight of my musings and barely was able to slump into my elevator, jam the key in the lock and rise to my abode.

Abattoir helped me out and got me settled as I limply tried to protest that I was fine. Truman, ever faithful whimpered to see me so chagrined.

So what was the cause of these histrionics?

America avoids reality and we fear success.

Perhaps it's the ghetto I live in, but let me offer you my observations.

Headphone and cellphones are constantly attached to our ears. What better way to distance yourself from where you are than to put on a headset and completely block out your hearing (or at least confuse it). It's like living in a movie with a soundtrack of your choosing. A lovely thought perhaps, but why miss the sounds of where you are (pleasant or unpleasant) ?

And cellphones. Ugh. There's no going back, but really, my new sport is to try and listen in on as many conversations as I can to find out if anybody is really saying anything or just wasting time. It's become like a headset, something you do in order to forget where you are and what your are really doing.

Gracious, now we even have to have video screens in our cars so our passengers can avoid talking to one another.

I'm a little harsh, I know, but it rings of truth.

Continue to consider reality television.

It's hardly reality at all. Real people put in unreal situations. And what really brings in the ratings and pickups for the next season? Failure.

Who wants to see their next door neighbor really eat slugs and love it and continue to jump out of a plane without a parachute and be fine. The big ratings come with the vomit and the broken bones.

Some might say, well at least it's real, but it's not. Our society doesn't eat slugs or jump out of airplanes without protection as a matter of course. We are setting the characters up for failure and rewarding the failure with ratings. (and I suppose I could argue that the sponsors are basically betting all this negativity to sell their soap, but I would have to start polishing my tinhat).

Which, my sweet darlings, is how I explain the current president's popularity.

President Bush II is the reality show president. A real person in an unreal situation. We expect his failure and we will be rewarded, which makes for good programming.

Why do we find this rewarding? It makes us feel less like non-achievers. When you neighbor eats slugs and smiles, you begin to feel less human, but when he upchucks, you completely identify with him, think you'd probably do the same, wonder if you could do better and then sigh realizing that you don't have to tackle that problem.

So it is with this presidency. As he sputters and starts, as he looks terrified while pounding the podium, as he makes bad decisions, as he confuses and turns the issues, we feel all these same emotions. We think if we were up there we'd probably find it difficult too, make wrong decisions, but secretly we'd wonder if we'd do any better and then turn back to our lives thankful we don't have to make that choice.

Happy that it's someone else taking the heat, we never wonder why we put someone like that in that position. Why not put someone who is used to eating slugs on tv to show us how to eat slugs successfully. Or at least someone who isn't averse to eating slugs; someone who has the capability to eat slugs.

Someone who has a chance of succeeding. My theory is that in some perverse way we really don't want to watch someone succeed because then you might have to admit that you aren't all that you can be.

It's all about success. People who run everyday but are vegetarians are not good candidates for eating slugs, they are good candidates for running.

But they don't make for good entertainment on your headset.