New York World

122506 article world New York WorldIt Takes a Pillage, Part I

The scene: late night; a dimly lit room in a nondescript but well-appointed suburban home. It could be almost anywhere such homes are found: Palo Alto, Bloomfield Hills, Chappaqua ….

THE SENATOR (sipping from a gin fizz): Here’s what you’re going to do. Get his schedule. Hour by hour. The next time he’s in New York, we give Al Sharpton the heads-up—have Sharpton meet his fucking plane, for all I care—and we make sure there are photographers there. And then we make sure those photographers snap a photo of him in the same frame with Sharpton. Even better if Sharpton has his arm around him—yes, that would be perfect. The next morning, when that photo hits the papers? Bye-bye, Obama.

THE AIDE: But don’t you think he’ll see Sharpton and run the other way? He’s got to know what a photo like that—

THE SENATOR: Am I hearing a no? Surely I must be imagining it?

THE AIDE: (dejected; mumbles something).

THE SENATOR: Oh good. For a second, I thought a nasty little fly had landed in the room. You know what one does with nasty flies, don’t you? I’ll tell you: You swat them. So hard that they leave just a smear of blood. Now it seems my gin’s lost its fizz—why don’t you make yourself useful for once and get me a goddamn refill. And get me Rupert on the phone.

The Interactive Book

Finally, after video games and real-time computer bridge, comes the first “interactive book.” Pete Felow, a computer analyst and amateur poet in Houston, Tex., felt the time was right for this innovation. “This is the age of interactivity, and it should include one of the earliest forms of information distribution,” he explains. “Besides, this makes a great holiday gift.”

The “interactive book” consists of a book, Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, plus a pencil. “In this way, the reader may respond to the text by crossing out words, writing in her/his own words, or drawing illustrations in the margins,” Mr. Felow remarks. He admits the book itself was chosen partly because its copyright has expired.

Mr. Felow’s publishing company is called Revision Books. “Not only does the reader revise the volume in her or his hands, but we ourselves are re-visioning what a book means,” Mr. Felow says. The kit is available in most bookstores, or at www.revisionbooks.com.

—Sparrow

Mauro of Manhattan

“They’re in the 60’s.”

My Upper East Side girlfriend Marsha is introducing me—a clueless Italian journalist, U.S. bureau chief of my country’s largest weekly—to the oh-so-many Manhattan mysteries.

So, Marsha’s parents are in the 60’s.

“Threefold meaning, Mauro: First, they are 60-to-69-years-old; second, they live between 60th and 69th Street; third, they were young in the 60’s and they still somehow belong there, when they were splendid.” Marsha majored on Jacques Derrida, she loves to deconstruct.

“All three options apply to your parents. But can there be a fourth interpretation, Marsha? Their assets amount to $60 to $70 million.”

“Too specific: Either you are in the tens, or in the hundreds. No way between.”

“And that’s exactly their problem, I understand: very rich, but not enough to be able to afford a private plane. That is, how to be rich while feeling so poor …. ”

“Don’t be always so abrasive, Mauro. Let’s go on with the lesson. It’s not enough to say, ‘I live on East 65’ in order to appear prestigious. You have to specify the Avenue.”

“So, this is their third problem, besides being in the tens but not in the hundreds and feeling plane-deprived: Their penthouse is on one of the 20 right streets, but not at the corner of the two only avenues which really count: Fifth and Park, right?”

“You learn fast. Lexington and Madison are just one inch below.”

“What about all the other Upper East avenues? First, Second, Third …. ”

“The pits,” she smiles, ironic but non troppo, “you might as well live in Carnegie Hill, or move to the wrong side of the Park. You know, my father told me he used to venture here in the West Side only when he embarked on a ship for Europe with his parents in the 50’s.”

“Yes, I know that for some of you Upper East Siders the Park is still larger than the Atlantic. I also know your parents are not pleased their daughter’s boyfriend is Italian, that he is separated but not divorced—because they ignore our law—he is past 40 years old and doesn’t play with money in Wall Street. But the move you made to my flat in the Upper West has killed all their worries: If you accepted you live on this side, it must be great love.”

“Mauro, don’t you forget that you smell Italy. They adore Italy, like Tom Cruise. For them you mean Rome, Florence, Venice …. Not to talk about the Villa d’Este and Cala di Volpe hotels, their favorites. By the way, are we gonna marry there, or on an Italian lake? Como or Bracciano?”

“I never understood your sophisticated New Yorkers’ fixation for these two Italian hotels, there are so many others as beautiful. But, going back to your parents, I know that you told them about you moving to my place only recently. You should thank the disappearance of home telephones for being able doing so. You didn’t have one in your pad, so you went on for months communicating with mom via cell, and with dad by e-mail, pretending we were not living together full time.”

“Mauro, they have invited us for Thanksgiving.’

Cazzo! They’re not going to Florida?”

“Yes. We’re gonna travel there as well.”

“No way.”

“You are so rude, are you holding a grudge against them?”

“No, not at all.”

“So, why don’t you want to meet them?”

“I already know your mother much too well, you’re always on the phone with her. It’s like you never cut your umbilical cord, although your phone is cordless …. ”

“Oh, stop your sarcasm! I’m just in good terms with her right now, and I’m happy for that. So, now they know I’m living at your place, it would be nice if they saw your face.”

“Are you rhyming on purpose, or is it by chance? Anyway, they can meet me here in the city, no reason to go to Florida.”

“I’m going there with them in any case. All America families reunite for Thanksgiving, you know that.”

“Travel safe.”

“I hate you when you’re like this!”

“And I hate the turkey.”

[To be continued.]

—Mauro Suttora