The Check Is in the Mail

A concerned

reader writes:

“Dear Diarist: I understand the average American is getting

a $300 tax-rebate check from the U.S. government. Do you have any advice about

what I should do with this windfall? Sincerely, Robert Rubin, Park Avenue,

Manhattan, New York.”

Dear Mr. Rubin: Like most average Americans, I share your

concern. We both know how easy it would be to fritter away this fortune on

something frivolous: 15 shares of Cisco. Six Cohibas. Fifteen minutes for one

of your kids with one of those personal college guidance counselors, who won’t

get the kid into Brown anyway.

But-as I’m sure you’ll agree-we also both know that blowing

the money on any one of these things would be wrong.

For as New Yorkers, we have a special responsibility. To

think not of ourselves, but of the common good. And it’s our civic duty-as they

say in Texas-to prime the pump, jump-start the economy and get America back in

gear, burning domestically produced fossil fuels as we race down that 10-lane

Interstate on the road to financial health again.

Or something like that.

In any case, what follows here is a list of suggestions that

I call “Compassionate Consumerism.”

1) Contribute to Harvey Weinstein’s favorite charity. Buy 30

gift subscriptions to Talk magazine,

and send them to your Miramax-deficient relatives in Kansas.

2) Help the environment. Join the new Bush-Cheney “Adopt an

Oil Rig” campaign.

3) Help the National Park Service. Join the new Bush-Cheney

“Pave Yosemite” campaign.

4) Help lessen America’s dependence on foreign fuel, and

join the new  Dick Cheney “Adopt a Nuclear

Power Plant” campaign.

5) Support international trade. Buy two pairs of Nikes, and

keep a child employed in Malaysia.

6) Reduce unemployment in America. Buy two pairs of Calvin

Klein jeans, and keep Linda Wachner working in Manhattan.

7) Send a generator to your power-starved friends in

California. It’s a crime that little Johnny is forced to read scripts in the


8) Take pity on the less fortunate. Fill the S.U.V. with

high-test and drive out to East Hampton. Use the remaining $27 to rent a

9,000-square-foot house for the rest of the summer-from someone who bought it

last August, planning to cover the mortgage payments by renting it out this


9) Promote mental health. Every time there’s a hit TV

series-from M*A*S*H to L.A. Law to Friends, Ally McBeal , Sex and the City and The Sopranos – The New York Times runs an article about groups of people who get

together and cook special meals while watching these shows. At the end of the

TV season, The Times runs another

article where supposedly legitimate psychoanalysts discuss viewers having

withdrawal problems. Your assignment: Hunt these people down. Take them to

lunch. Encourage them to get a life.

10) On second thought: Take the Times editors responsible for these articles to lunch. Ask the

important question: Do any of these people really exist? Or do you just run the

same article over and over again, with new names and different recipes?

11) Invest in your future. Buy an Aeron desk chair at the

next dot-com bankruptcy auction. They’re the new Lava lamps.

12) Adopt a Baldwin brother.

13) Support the publishing industry. Take a Wall Street

technology-stock analyst out to lunch-Mary Meeker’s probably available-and

suggest that if they want to stay in the fiction business, perhaps they should

consider a career switch-to novelist. At best, they’ll go broke; at worst, only

the reviewers will suffer.

14) Support the National Endowment for the Arts. Help

underwrite the kind of show that Dick Cheney would never see, but would

nevertheless appreciate in concept: Arsenic

and Old Waste .

15) Underwrite a cultural exchange. Give your nanny a

10-second shopping spree at Zabar’s, Barneys or the Burberry store. Afterward,

when she sees what you’ve been paying for things, take pains to make sure there

are no guns in your apartment.

16) Help all New Yorkers. Buy one of those mail-order law

degrees that are occasionally advertised in the subway. Then litigate to have

“living in a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan” defined as a mental illness.

Then sue everyone, for everything, on behalf of all of us, under the Americans

with Disabilities Act. Hey, if it works on the golf course, why shouldn’t it

work on the No. 6 line?

17) Promote sharing. Split a pair of Manolo Blahniks with a


18) Promote friendship. Send one of the pumps to Donna

Hanover Giuliani. Send the other to Judi Nathan. Can’t we all just get along?

19) Help underwrite the

Mayor’s Cultural Affairs Advisory Commission. Use the $300 to have Raoul Felder

slime someone for 15 minutes.

20) Invest in your future, Part II. Buy one of those

subway-advertised high-school-equivalency diplomas. Major in Power Plant

Management. If we’re building 1,000 of them over the next 20 years, you’ll

never go hungry.

21) Cover your bet with the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.

Make that check payable to Mark Green for Mayor.

22) Support the American cattle farmer. Take three friends

to the Palm, and join the Dick Cheney “Adopt a Steak Restaurant” program. Toast

the V.P. with extra butter and sour cream on that baked potato.

23) Celebrate American history. Visit the Dick Cheney

“Middle-Management White Guy Hall of Fame” in Ohio. And stop by the sacred tomb

of the “Unknown Regional Sales Manager” and the “Unsung Junior Vice President

for Marketing.”

24) Promote civic education. Enroll George W. Bush in a

remedial civics program. It’s not that we want to give Our Clueless Leader the

wherewithal to stop moderate Republicans from bolting. But wouldn’t we all

sleep just a little bit better at night if we knew that Dubya’s reaction to Jim

Jeffords’ decision had been just a little bit more sophisticated than, “Really?

He’s switching parties? Tell me: keg or cocktail?” The Check Is in the Mail