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Idle Observations


Things noticed with the aid of an unfocused attention span:

• Pigeons will not pick up pickle slices. Do you doubt? Toss away the rest of your sandwich in small bits. Meat, bread, even tomato will end up in the pigeon digestive system. Not pickle.

• "Celebrity" has become a generic term for a certain tribe of people who have certain cultural identifying marks, e.g. "That Hungarian stole my luggage!" or "Those Masai look ready to hack us to pieces." But the term has become so all-inclusive as to be meaningless, i.e. "I don't know the name of a single one of these celebrity contestants. What are they, celebrity cashiers?"

A good rule of thumb is that half the people you will see tomorrow fit the contemporary definition of celebrity. The ones who shouldn't are those who are asked "Are you a celebrity?" or "Wait. Don't tell me ... OK, tell me." Nor are those who do the asking...

• If you are suffering from low self-esteem, tune in the next time Maria Sharapova plays tennis on television. Maria is unusually lissome, especially for a Russian, the type of woman you keep looking at even if she's with a large date. But even better are her yelps every time she hits a groundstroke. Close your eyes. You haven't had a woman make those kinds of noises in your room since ... since when?

• When I was a kid, the most famous Hillary on the planet was not a piano-legged politician, but a lanky New Zealander who had just become the first man ever to conquer the highest point on that planet by climbing Mount Everest. I think it was the last unconquered milestone left for humankind on the face of this world, and we haven't been the same since. Nowadays, we see Everest "climbed" by an assembly line of millionaire auto dealers and plastic surgeons. A few years ago, I met a lovely Spanish waif who had overcome the world's most famous mountain peak; she looked more ready for a martini-and-oxygen bar, and I have no idea what her name is ... Oh, Everest. To be brought so low!

• You see Leonard Bernstein or Herbert Von Karajan or some philharmonic conductor wrapping his arms around himself in a sincere embrace of his favorite person in the entire world. Or other gestures worthy of the flight-deck officer on an aircraft carrier. ...

Then look at the musicians, none of whom is even casting a glance at that ham in a tuxedo up there on the podium. Are classical conductors worth what we are paying them?

• Thought while watching yet another of these post-touchdown end-zone celebrations: With everyone striving so hard for originality, can it be long before someone poses as a cheat during an algebra exam or a serial masochist? I saw a guy in the last Chargers game pull a move that resembled nothing so much as a key scene in Brokeback Mountain. But this originality is needed; without fresh celebrations, football fun all turns into the dump-Gatorade-on-the-coach routine, and we can all attest to how boring that can be. ...

• Have you noticed that guys like Scott Petersen can murder their wife and child for reasons of convenience and yet get 70 to 80 letters a day from admiring ladies, while guys who put one admirable day after another turn out their lights on no one, one agonizing night after another?

• I don't mind tattoos; in fact I like 'em well enough to own a few. But they are overdone and usually done without much imagination; I refer to the barbed-wire-around-the-bicep and the crypto-Chinese-characters-around-the-triceps that are everywhere. So are the huge color tableaux rising out of the back of so many girls' jeans these days. (Are we permitted to try to peer down those jeans to see the rest of the tattoo or pretend not to notice?) Anyway, in ink, less is more. ...

• And while on the subject of uncovered flesh, how's about all those bare midriffs out there running from bust to lower pelvis? Now I virtually worship washboard abs and flat tummies, but most of what I see spilling out of these low-riders resembles Roseanne Barr more than Salma Hayek.

Do these people have access to full-length mirrors?

• On my last trip to the bookstore, I could find no significant fiction, or non-fiction, either. Only memoirs. Eighty-seven of them, including ones by an investment banker, pizza-baker and a retired skateboarder still in high school. Once memoirs were the providence of people who'd made their mark on the pages of history, like maybe Charles DeGaulle or Charles Lindbergh. Or at least someone who'd spend a large chunk of a long life doing something exotic in some exotic place like, say, Forty Years a Madam in Mandalay. But no longer. Simply live long enough to learn at least some of the rules of grammar and punction and you, too, owe the world a "memoir." We can fit you on the bookshelf right there between the Rhode Island beekeeper and Forty Years a Girl Scout Troop Leader.

The preceding are offered as observations gathered during a period of idle poverty. A period which began sometime in the middle of third grade.

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