Marlow Goes Off To College
August 30, 1999
Marlow moved into her dormitory room --Hartley 8B9, on the campus of Columbia University in The City of New York (she is a first-year student at Columbia College) on Thursday, August 29, 1999. I helped her move.
If you're a weather junkie, or live in the East, you'll recognize that date as the day of the rush-hour monsoon in Manhattan. Two inches of rain fell between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m., shutting down the entire subway system as well as all Metro North commuter trains. Cabs vanished as they always do when it rains in New York. The 15-minute ride from the Empire Hotel at 63rd and Broadway (across from Lincoln Center) to the U-Haul facility at 11th and 23rd took two hours. The West Side Highway and FDR were closed; 12th and 11th were flooded in several places. Amazingly, none of this made the papers in the West in any way that people noticed.
Eventually, however, we loaded up her suitcases and boxes, cruised onto College Walk (illegally, but no one stopped us) and moved everything into her room. It fit!
Then we bought Marlow a 16-inch oscillating fan (no air conditioning!) and some thumbtacks. Finally, we grabbed waterproof pants (she'd forgotten hers) for her hiking camping trip (she's still in the wilderness as I write these words). I had planned a rather sentimental goodbye. Or at least one where we were both standing up, face to face.
Instead, a Columbia cop waved us away from our attempted wrong-way entrance onto College Walk from the Amsterdam Avenue side. So, Marlow leaned across the wide gap between the two captain's chairs in the front of a U-Haul van, gave me a quick peck on the cheek, and lept out so she could attend a 4 p.m. orientation meeting for campers. I delivered her fan--except the suite door was locked, so I had to leave it in the hall. I hope she--and not someone else--actually got it. I'll find out when she gets back and gets her phone turned on.
I won't see her again until Family Weekend on Oct. 8, and then not after that until Christmas. This is what it is like to become a bit player in the life of your oldest child.
As my mother always said when we were kids, your goal in raising children is to raise them strong and wise and self-confident so they can go out in the world on their own. And yet, when you succeed, it hurts like a son-of-a-bitch.
Web Site of the Week: Frog Blender
August 30, 1999
Joecartoon.com is the real name. It is home of the frog in the blender, gerbil in the microwave, and more. Great fun for the immature and immature at heart.
Adair Lara's Take On Separation
August 30, 1999
Normally, I print only excerpts from columns, but this one is too good and too relevant. I have included a link if you wish to see it in its original context.
You Have to Let Them Go
I WAS WATCHING at Glen Alpine Falls in Tahoe as two kids about 7 and 10 forded a steeply down-rushing waterfall. A single misstep and they would be hurtling down the falls, their tender bodies slamming onto the jagged rock below.
Or so it seemed to me as I watched from below, unable to chew my tuna sandwich. Above, their mother watched, barely visible in a red tank top. I could not see her expression, but I knew from her frozen stance what she was feeling: that she had to trust them, had to let them climb around the falls.
People think that being a parent is a way to express one's natural feelings. I've found that being a mother means getting up every single day and doing exactly the opposite of what comes naturally. You let them cross streets, walk to school by themselves, get on bikes, drive away in 2,000-pound automobiles. There's nothing natural about that. Your heart is lodged permanently in your throat, and yet you are supposed to smile and wave and say, as I do to Morgan as she hits the road, ``Drive recklessly, sweetie. Try to tailgate as much as you can, and exceed the speed limit whenever possible.'' Trying to make a joke of it, because what else can you do? Now Patrick, 19, has just gone off to New York to attend Hunter College. His dad is a wreck. "Patrick's idea of New York is based on 'Friends,'" Jim says grumpily. "Mine is based on 'NYPD Blue.'"
``Why does he have to go, anyway?'' he asked, looking at me as if to say, ``This is your fault. You encouraged him. You took him to that place and made him fall in love with it.''
That's when I remembered, again, going to New York with Patrick when he was 15. He loved even the fact that the deli man was rude to him. I remember, though, watching him trip down the subway steps at 42nd Street as he went off by himself to find a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village to write in after declining to come to a play with me. And I had to just let him.
Patrick himself accuses me of wanting him to go to a nearby junior college, living at home where I can see him every day, where he can come down and borrow my gel and say, ``Hi, Mama,'' in that tender way of his, where I can tell from the way he's digging his spoon into his Honey Nut Cheerios that's something on his mind, and we wait until everybody else is gone, and talk.
``I don't want you to be gone,'' I say, ``but I want you to go.''
He smiles. I tell him about going to Paris when I was 20, deliberately sending myself to a place where something could happen to me. I remember standing at the bow of the ship taking me across the English Channel, the spray hitting my face, and feeling exultant, as if I could see the whole world spread out in front of me. For the first time in my life, no one knew where I was.
I was not thinking about my mother, who had had no say in the matter of whether I could take myself off to Paris or not. I was just going, and that was all.
I remember being 20, and scared -- I cried all the way to the airport, my sister and her boyfriend looking at me curiously -- and how my tears stopped the moment they left me alone. That was 27 years ago, but that girl in her ridiculous long leather coat and her heavy red corduroy suitcase looks at me from across the table and says, ``Don't you have some frequent-flier miles he can use?''
SO HE WENT. I couldn't think of what else to say in the airport, so I reminded him to always look behind him when he was about to leave a car or a room, to see if he was leaving anything behind.
We had to break it to him that we won't be setting him up in an apartment of his own on the Upper East Side. He has a couch in Queens for a week, and then it's up to him to find a place to live.
And all this is fine with me. I'm glad he's gone. Really.
My thoughts returned to the woman watching as her two children played on the rocks amid the steeply down-rushing falls. I realize it only looked that dangerous from where I stood on the rocks below. The mother watching had done what mothers do, assessing the pleasure and adventure against the risk, and let them go.
The Top 14 Little Known Items in the Marlboro Miles Catalog
August 30, 1999
It will be a while before I make the list again; I didn't have much time to write while I was in NYC the last two weeks.
[ The Top 5 List www.topfive.com ]
[ Copyright 1999 by Chris White ]
14> Complete framed collection of Surgeon General's warning labels
13> Treadmill with built-in ashtray
12> 100,000 miles: Upgrade to First-Class Chemotherapy
11> Jackie Gleason's "Wheezin' to the Oldies" workout video
10> 500,000 miles and a $10,000 contribution: The Senator of your choice
9> Oxygen Tank Racing Stripes!
8> 100 miles: Bumper sticker saying, "You can have my cigarette when you pry it from my feeble, trembling hands."
7> 100,000 miles: Iron Lung
250,000 miles: Platinum Lung
6> "Marge Schott Hacking Up Some Greenish Shit" Screensaver
5> "What's That Lump?" board game for the kids
4> 80,000 miles: Marlboro Man ballet shoes and tutu
3> "Nice 'n' Pink" lung rouge
2> The "Cougher" -- Lights on... *cough* *cough*, lights off!
and Topfive.com's Number 1 Little Known
Item in the Marlboro Miles Catalog...
1> 1,000,000 miles: John Wayne's bronzed lungs
Selected from 145 submissions from 53 contributors.
Today's Top 5 List authors included:
Chris Gleason, Gaithersburg, MD -- 9
Paul Schindler, Orinda, CA -- 9
How About That Broadway?
August 30, 1999
First of all, Kudos to my brave and talented friend Dan Rosenbaum, whose showcase I attended last Thursday. The Arc Of A Love Affair was a first class piece of solo singing, in a lovely little lounge just west of Broadway. I wish I had the nerve and talent to perform like that. A few standards (One More For The Road), a few oddities (Popsicle Toes), added up to real entertainment and talent.
On Saturday Night we tried to see Chicago, Annie Get Your Gun and Ragtime. All of them were sold out. So we made reservations. What we did see was:
Chicago: I saw the original 25 years ago. This version really is rather anemic by comparison. It is the stripped-down "concert" version. Sandy Dennis apparently doesn't "do" the Sunday matinee. Still great songs and an amusing book. It would be nice to see it actually staged again, with sets and things like that.
Forbidden Broadway: I love Ethel Merman in the second act, even if hardly anyone knows who she is anymore. This is two actors and two actresses doing sketch-length parodies of Broadway shows of the present and near-past. This is the fourth time I've seen it. I never get tired of it, and they keep it constantly up to date. It is nasty and funny, and you should really go, especially if you like Beach Blanket Babylon, which it resembles in concept.
Miss Saigon: Madam Butterfly with helicopters and machine guns. This was my second viewing. It is a perfectly tolerable piece of theater, but nothing to write home about. No hits, nothing to hum when you leave the theater. Some clever set pieces, some clever sets, and of course the helicopter landing on stage. A downer.
Ragtime: I didn't see it, but Marlow and Rae did. They like it. I liked the book. I hear it will run forever. I'll say a little more about it when I finally see it myself.
Sidemen: Talk about downers. This is a straight play about the decline and fall of horn-playing sidemen, and spans the era from the late 40s to the 90s. The narrator is the son of a famed but virtually penniless trumpet player. If you're looking for something serious that isn't a revival, this could be the play for you. Especially if you've ever played an instrument or known musicians.
END OF August 30 COLUMN
August 30, 1999
START OF August 16 COLUMN
August 16, 1999
Taking A Week Off
August 16, 1999
Well, this is the moment I have been preparing for for almost two decades. Not CMP's last summer conference/editorial awards banquet--that's this week. Next week, on Thursday, August 26, Vicki, Rae and I will help Marlow move into her Columbia dormitory room. As a result, I won't be here to do this column next week. I know you'll find some other way to while away your time.
Second Thoughts On A Last Laugh
August 16, 1999
I had three "last laugh" political items here last week, and my friend and colleague Jerry Pournelle took exception to almost all of them. I knew, but had forgotten, that he's been a personal friend of notes.
I think it would be salutary for all political commentators to be reminded from time to time that these are not abstractions we are writing about, these are living, breathing, fallible human beings, with friends, relatives and feelings. I feel rather certain that, after all his time in public life, Newt Gingrich has developed a thick hide. It is apparent his friends have not.
Newt Gingrich was my friend for 20 years, and while I don't defend everything he has done, surely he deserves that the truth be told about him, not endless repetition of stories spun up by political enemies.
In particular: Newt married his teacher, a woman older than he, and for whatever reasons it didn't work. Divorce proceedings began. It was then found she had cancer. There were discussions of divorce papers while she was in hospital, but that was by prior arrangement: they had papers that had to be signed, and there wasn't any other place to talk about them.
I'm no great fan of divorce, and I grew up in a time when it was considered impossible for a divorced man to become President. I wasn't unhappy with that tradition.
But it happens, and sometimes it gets ugly; and some people do things in particularly cruel ways. Had Newt actually waited until his first wife was in hospital, then served her with papers as she lay there unaware, perhaps he would deserve the contempt you hold for him. Perhaps, although I do not agree at all, he deserves contempt (as against opposition) for other reasons. But he doesn't for that reason because it didn't happen that way.
I saw more of Mary Ann than Newt after he became Speaker - he was soon surrounded by a palace guard and the only way I could see him was to go to Washington and sit in his office until he arrived - and they are both friends, and I am sorry to see them part. I know nothing of that situation, but I doubt you know a great deal more, and since Mr. Gingrich resigned as Speaker and has left the Congress, I am not sure it is very much your business any more.
Are you implying that "once a politician always a politician": that politics like Herpes is forever? If so, you will find yourself with a much worse brand of politician than we have now, if such is possible. The problem with politics is that most of the people who thirst for political office ought not have it, and most of those who ought to have it very much want to stay out of politics, or get out once they got in. George Washington with his "Eight years of splendid misery" comes to mind. When I was a lad it was traditional for some of the leading people of the city to serve a term or two in one or another city office, including perhaps City Council, then get out and never go back to political office. Women served on the City Beautiful Commission (which had some real power, despite the colorful name) without pay, which generally meant they were wealthy, but they didn't make a career of it.
It seems to me you are saying that one makes a career of politics, and can never leave once embarked: like aristocrats or royalty. I hope that doesn't happen to America. We could use more, not fewer, amateurs in government; indeed, were it left to me, I'd look for ways to get government out of the hands of the lifers and back into the hands of people too busy with real lives to make a career of governing other people.
Mr. Gingrich may not be perfect in his personal life, but then neither are many of those who really are career politicos. Senator Kennedy comes to mind, but one might think of others in both parties. Surely you are not proposing that the next election, like Clinton's first, be fought out on "sleaze factor" lines? I think the Republican National Committee would like nothing better.
As to your animus toward Kenneth Starr, you reduce a rather complicated subject to a simple situation of personalities, and I doubt that's a correct view of the world. Consider only one incident: Whether or not making a hundred grand out of a thousand dollar investment involved criminal activity, surely major investigations have been launched on far less spectacular grounds? And for all that one might want to believe in the Clintons, they did put Webster Hubbell in as the acting Attorney General of the United States, and I cannot think anyone would be proud of that achievement.
In any event, Newt Gingrich, for all his personal faults, has put forth a fairly consistent set of views about America and the nature of government. It may be right, it may be wrong; but surely his thoughts are more interesting than the details of his marriages? Particularly since you have at least one of your major stories flat wrong.
Most of Jerry's points are excellent, and I can't quibble with them. I wish only to append two remarks of my own. It was not my decision, nor is it my delusion, that Newt has chosen to continue in a political life, by giving partisan political speeches and maintaining a PAC that could easily be converted into a vehicle for a run for the presidency.
And while I agree he has put forth a fairly consistent set of views about America and the nature of government, I think Jerry would also agree that Newt has been a hardball political fighter. As a matter of political choice, he slandered some very good Democrats, individually and collectively, by flat-out calling me and every other Democrat in this country "anti-family." Not just once, but time and again. That's not fair, it's not right and it isn't true. His two divorces would be his own business, if he hadn't spent his whole term in the House trying to make the personal into the political, climaxing with an impeachment which was, at its core, about sex. It wasn't about lying, it was about sex. And just as Henry Hyde's sanctimony makes his six-year "youthful indiscretion" (committed when he wasn't much younger than Clinton is now) fair game, so Newt's constant attacks on Democratic "family values" make his family values a fair matter for comment. His decision to continue to fight the war of politics by other means makes him a fair target.
All of which said, Jerry knows more about Newt and his first divorce than I do, and while the fundaments of the story remain the same (the divorce couldn't wait until she got out of the hospital?). I stand corrected and chastened. By the way, the fact that his first wife filed court papers claiming Newt was not meeting his child support obligations still stands.
I will stand by what I said about Kenneth Starr. My examination of his public acts indicates that personal animus is the only reasonable explanation. Why else would he mistreat Monica Lewinsky (refusing her counsel), file the flimsiest federal cases brought in this century (against the advice of his staff) and advocate impeachment before Congress (against the advice of his ethics advisor). He knew better. But Clinton offended him, and that set him off on a crusade. Well, Clinton offends me too, but not as much as Starr offends me.
He will slink from the public stage with a batting average that would get him kicked off the country's worst AA baseball team. Thank goodness the American conservative movement will arrange a cushy job somewhere to support him comfortably while he licks his wounds and writes books attacking the Clintons until he is old and gray. Or maybe George W. can appoint him to the Supreme Court.