I wish Yasser Arafat would make up his mind, so to speak. You wonder why journalists are so cynical? Try being around a newsroom during a deathwatch. The first wire-service bulletins move: Famous Person is “near death.” Eyes move immediately to clocks, to triangulate this news, and the inevitable next step, with the nearest deadline. Space is cleared. Videotape is edited. Advance copy is edited. A headline is roughed in. Graphics are commissioned. And then we wait.
Deadline passes. Another day passes. Pretty soon the mood of grim respect begins to crumble. “Is Famous Person dead yet?” you ask your next-desk neighbor. “Not yet,” he says. And you wait some more. A certain gallows humor emerges. “No, he’s not dead yet. But Francisco Franco is still dead.” Ha ha ha.
I have no idea what’s going on in Paris. It sounds like Mrs. A is having a teensy freakout, perhaps waiting for her husband to wake up long enough to spill the Swiss bank account numbers. “He’s going home,” she said sometime today. (Well, yessss, in a manner of speaking…) Everyone else says he’s “near death,” the same as last Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and then, today, he “worsened.” Worsened! I thought he was as bad as you could get and still be alive! Gruesome updates move on the wires and web. Today’s NYT: As Yasir Arafat lay in a deep coma on the verge of death, one of his top aides described his condition as “critical,” but said that his brain, heart and lungs were still functioning and his removal from life support systems ruled out. Yeesh.
I don’t know why, but I’m reminded of Ted Williams, who died pretty quickly, but had to suffer the indignity of having his children literally fighting over his corpse. There was Ronald Reagan and his monthlong funeral. Princess Diana. All things considered, I think Edward Abbey had the right idea. His friends spirited his remains to his beloved desert, where they carried out his orders, to wit:
He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake. No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag… Disregard all state laws concerning burial. “I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.” said the message.
Listen to me. So grim. Of course, it is November now, which always reminds me that life is an unending parade of misery and strife and then you die in your own arms, not that I am being overly dramatic or anything. Check back with me in February, when I start feeling sort of human again.
But. We will not let that get us down. I didn’t tell you what the highlight of our trip home from M’waukee was: A stop at Trader Joe’s in Northbrook, just off I-94, where we gazed upon the amazing sight of…a tower of Two-Buck Chuck (three bucks in the Chicagoland area)! And a sign! $35.99 a case! A case!
We bought three. November has only 30 days, but still.
Today Kate and I took a walk together. “Tell me something funny that happened in school,” I said.
“Nothing funny happened in school,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“Mommy. What’s yours?” By this time we were speaking in English accents.
“Me? That’s an unusual name. I’ve never met a child with such an unusual name.”
“It’s always been my name. My name is Me. Very unusual, I grahnt you.”
I keep asking if she wants to take acting lessons. She keeps saying no. When she’s plainly ready to take her place in Hollywood and start pulling her weight around this dump. Not to mention move her parents to a milder climate where the sun doesn’t go away for five months straight.