An Odd Bradley Event
Bill Bradley’s New York backers are steeling themselves for a thumping in the March 7 primary at the hands of Vice President Al Gore. And it all looked so good once. Just a few months ago, he was even with or even ahead of Mr. Gore in the polls. Now he’s far behind. But even before he decided to steer clear of New York in favor of a six-day visit to Washington State, something seemed … not quite right.
Let us go to Feb. 2, the day Mr. Bradley kicked off his New York effort with a morning rally at the Judson Memorial Church at Washington Square South. There were lines outside the church going around the block. The media showed up in force. In the end, though, the gathering rode that fine line between “innovative” and “crazy” in political campaigning.
Early in the event, Manhattan-based actor and activist Ron Silver sounded an off-note when he slipped, saying how excited he was to be “working to elect Mike Dukakis.” But the climax came, perhaps, when singer Patti Smith, in a denim jacket with her long hair tied back, walked slowly to the microphone at the center of the risers where the minister usually delivers his sermons. A crowd of about 700 people, mostly students, shifted uneasily. Some of the 50 suited politicos and celebrities behind Ms. Smith began to fidget. In a loud, angry voice, to the accompaniment of a guitar, she began singing her anthem, “People Have the Power.” Mr. Silver swayed rhythmically off to the side.
Behind Ms. Smith, New York Knick hero Earl (The Pearl) Monroe, who was feeling ill, steadied himself. Nearby, ex-Mayor Ed Koch stood slouched by the podium.
“The people have the power to redeem the work of fools!” thundered Ms. Smith.
The cramped and overheated crowd tentatively clapped along.
Things did not return to normal when Mr. Koch took the microphone several minutes later and gave an exhortation laced with fire and brimstone. “Everyone raise your right hand,” he instructed. “Get them up! I–state your name–do solemnly swear … to vote for Bill Bradley … and to bring 10 people to the polls … who have also sworn to vote for Bill Bradley … so help me God !”
Some of the pols on stage exchanged worried glances.
Finally, Mr. Bradley took the stage. He thanked the church leaders for hosting the event as well as those who had shown up. He turned to his left. “Mayor Koch,” he said, “I think you’ve gone a little too far with your TV role.” Mr. Koch shrugged.
Mr. Bradley began a story about Lyndon Johnson. Some N.Y.U. students in the crowd headed for the exit.
Jack Lechner was sitting at a table in the lunch room of his new office on Hudson Street, drinking a glass of orange juice and talking about his most trying week. That was the week Mr. Lechner, the head of the film arm of a company called @radical.media, moved 12 Zenith TV sets into his West 110th Street apartment. Mr. Lechner, a Yale graduate with a beard, used to be a vice president at Miramax Films. He planned to watch all 12 TV sets for a week straight. Mr. Lechner is no fool: He did this with a book contract from Crown Publishers in hand; the result of his effort is scheduled to be published in October.
After an electrician rewired his place for the 12 sets and some delicate negotiations with Time Warner Cable, he was ready to go. He awoke before 7 A.M., took a shower, got dressed, took a seat on the couch and started watching. He watched all 12 sets for seven days straight, 12 hours a day, stopping only to eat, sleep and walk the dog. He ate a dozen TV dinners.
Mr. Lechner grew up in Arlington, Va. His mother has spent the last 47 years as a producer for a quiz show for high school students called It’s Academic ; he spent his youth on a game show set. As a kid, Mr. Lechner read a book called Seven Glorious Days, Seven Fun-Filled Nights , by an author named Charles Sopkin, who lined up six television sets in his own New York apartment in 1967, watched them for seven days and wrote about it. Mr. Sopkin died in 1994. Mr. Lechner called Mr. Sopkin’s son before he started watching TV.
Since the TV sets were all the same make and model, the 12 remote controls he had were useless; if he tried to change one channel, all the televisions would change, too. So he had to get up every time he wanted to switch channels, which he thinks may have kept his muscles from turning to jelly.
By the third hour of watching the televisions, he began to get depressed. Delivery men took one look at him and assumed that he was a pervert. Those who knew him just stood in front of the bank of televisions and didn’t say a word.
There was some joy. He looked forward to an NBC soap opera called Passions , in which Juliet Mills plays a witch who lives in a New England town with a doll-come-to-life named Timmy, played by a dwarf with a speech impediment.
Mr. Lechner watched the Playboy channel one day for 10 hours. He felt despair while watching Night Calls , in which two women in lingerie take sexually explicit phone calls from lonely people and act like they’re sexually excited.
He liked Pokémon .
He kept his Macintosh Powerbook running at all times and took 250 pages of notes. By Wednesday, he stopped getting dressed and stayed in his bathrobe. He noticed there are more infomercials on at 11 in the morning than late at night. A show he saw on the Disney Channel made in the early 60’s taking viewers on a tour of Tomorrowland nearly made him cry; it talked about jet packs and monorails and something called a “people mover.”
On Friday he started to rebel. Finally, he muted every television and read almost every word in The New York Times .
But soon enough, it was back to the TV in an especially intimate fashion: Earlier this month Mr. Lechner was a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire . He won $125,000.
Eye Surgery Papers
Everyone with lousy eyesight by now has either gotten laser eye surgery–Lasik, as it’s known–or at least considered it. The nonstop ads on A.M. radio and in the papers tell you it’s a 15-minute outpatient procedure. There are the happy testimonials. But there are occasional, shall we say, snafus in the eye surgery racket. Between 1 and 5 percent of all people who get the surgery have complications, but as the informed consent waiver for one Manhattan eye surgery clinic shows, those complications can be grisly. To the document:
1. Post-Operative Side Effects, Adverse Effects and Complications: “Persistent pain is uncommon following Lasik and may indicate a disturbance of the epithelial protective layer, displacement of the corneal flap or possible infection and should be evaluated promptly by your doctor. Corneal infection following Lasik is rare but very serious and can potentially result in corneal scarring requiring a corneal transplant and in very severe cases, infections can even result in blindness …”
2. Refractive Complications: “Refractive problems that may be encountered include too much correction, too little correction … Differences in refraction between eyes is termed anisometropia; this is most severe when only one eye is treated, and may result in a loss of depth perception, eyestrain, headache, double vision and the need for contact lenses. Both farsightedness and anisometropia may result in worsening of pre-existing muscle balance problems, causing an eye to wander more or produce eye fatigue …”
3. Corneal Flap Complications: “The primary benefits of Lasik are related to the creation of the protective corneal flap. The corneal flap must be of clinically adequate quality, thickness and size to proceed with laser treatment … Corneal flaps are routinely hinged either nasally or superiorly beneath the upper eyelid. A corneal hinge is not required for good visual result, but a hinged corneal flap is more secure and typically heals faster and more smoothly…”
For all of its benefits, laser eye surgery’s drawbacks are oddly graphic (the image conjured is somewhere between Nazis having their faces melted in Raiders of the Lost Ark and the razor-to-the-eye in Un Chien Andalou ). Chances are you’ll be O.K., but just remember, it’s your corneal flap on the line.