Another Messy Summer

And so it is high

summer. It’s that time of the year, in early August, when all that surrounds us

is in full bloom. The garden is ripe. The vegetation is lush. And for a moment,

just a moment, at dusk nature itself seems to pause and sigh, catching its

breath, as if to say that God’s work here on earth is finished, forever.

It is a time to count our blessings.

Let us, for example, give thanks that none of our daughters,

or friends, has decided to become a Washington

intern. And let none of us look

askance at Monica, or Chandra, or even Heidi Fleiss, and ask, “Hey, what exactly

is up with all of these Jewish doctors’ daughters from California,

anyway?”

Let us give thanks that we refrained from buying that

converted loft just north of Chelsea,

for lo, it appears that the real-estate market truly has peaked.

Let us give thanks that we are not as doltish as Senate

Majority Leader Tom Daschle thinks, with his ridiculous,

smirking assertion before the television cameras during the week of Aug. 1 that

“I haven’t discussed Gary Condit with any of my colleagues.”

Let us give thanks that if Michael Bloomberg’s stalled

campaign for Mayor teaches us anything, it is that Jon Corzine was an anomaly,

and that it is still easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than

for a rich man to buy his way into public office in America.

And let us not look upon Rudy Giuliani with scorn, at least

not for now, as we ponder whether he might be next in line to be cited for one

of his infamous “quality-of-life” violations, given the petty crimes he’s

committed against his family. And let us not wonder-or even begin to

speculate-about the kind of emotional graffiti that defaces the darker corners

of his heart.

Yes, it is high summer in America:

a time to rejoice, to sing the praises of our bounty.

Let us give thanks for Al Gore’s newly grown beard and for

Charlie Rangel’s endless hyperventilating on television. For if nothing else,

they remind us of the genius of Chuck Jones’ Warner Brothers cartoons, where

both men would seem to be right at home alongside Yosemite Sam and the Road

Runner.

Let us not castigate those men of a certain age who now

claim that “I was too young to remember the first days of MTV,” when we are

fully aware they had a crush on Martha Quinn in 1982. For lo, they are

suffering from a dreaded midlife crisis that no Wu-Tang Clan logo-bearing

baseball cap will ever be able to cover.

Let us take pity on Tina Brown, whose

juvenile-no, make that grasping-attempt to create buzz for Talk magazine by publishing a fashion spread with models portraying

the Bush daughters in jail will certainly be seen for what it is:

Grasping, transparent, venal and

unnecessary.

For surely, even as she tries to turn the magazine into a

slick-paper version of The National

Enquirer , the real target here is George W. It’s bias and bad taste rolled

into one: For we all know that three summers ago, she would never have run a

picture of a model portraying Chelsea-in Jimmy Choo shoes-about to walk in on

her father getting a blowjob in the Oval Office.

Yes, let us give thanks for all these things, and more.

Let us take joy in the efficiency and compassion of Dick

Cheney’s health plan; and let us pray that someday all Americans-and not just

the Vice President-are covered by an H.M.O. that never raises questions about

the cost.

Let us not condemn the self-promoting souls who found it so

vitally imperative to write those “we were incredibly close” eulogies to

Katharine Graham. For we recognize that they cannot help themselves-and alas,

this is only the East Coast manifestation of the long-established Hollywood

tradition of picking up the phone, calling everyone you know and sighing,

sadly, “What a pity. I just had lunch-talking about a deal-with Jack Lemmon …

River Phoenix … John Belushi … James Dean ….”

Let us give thanks to Roger Ailes and Fox News’ Paula Zahn,

whose use of psychics in their coverage of Chandra Levy’s disappearance has

only served to make the late screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky seem even more

prescient. For it was a full 25 years ago that Chayefsky’s

nightmarish screenplay for the film Network

predicted that soothsayers and psychics would eventually turn up on the nightly

news.

And yea, let us give thanks for new words and phrases that

have slipped into the American vernacular during the most recent summers past.

Let us revel in how easily they now roll off our tongues: Debris field. White Bronco. Low-speed chase. Cadaver-sniffing dogs. Clinton fatigue.

Accelerator/brake-pedal confusion.

Yes, let us take a moment and find the joy in these dog days

of summer.

Let us be thankful that no one we know has a desire to

appear on the reality-based television shows Fear Factor , Jackass or Survivor .

Let us exult in the new multi-thousand-dollar

stainless-steel Weber grills and Viking barbecues; for they restore our faith

that in America,

even the most primeval ritual-grilling meat-can be improved beyond all reason

and sanity.

And let us not look upon the endless Friday-night traffic

jam to the eastern end of Long Island as a burden, but rather as a piece of

audience-participation mixed-media installation art: the 50-mile brake light.

Yes, it is high summer in America.

Bill is in Harlem with a book deal, Hillary is in Washington, Madonna is starting to look like Bette Davis,

and Marlon Brando is on-screen, redux, in his last great role-before he pissed

his career away and became a boor. And somehow, somewhere in this great

metropolitan area, there are people who are willing to spend $2,500 to see

Michael Jackson in Madison Square Garden.

Let us avoid gloating upon the misfortunes of those who earn

their living balancing on the thin velvet rope of publicity.

For summer in America

is still about hope and innocence and possibility: first love, a first kiss, one perfect day at the beach.

Autumn is the far more appropriate season for Schadenfreude .

And fall, as we all know, is but a mere three weeks away.