Our way of death.

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.

Posted at 5:52 pm in Uncategorized |

6 responses to “Our way of death.”

  1. Danny said on November 9, 2004 at 6:38 pm

    Reflecting on Arafat’s imminent demise, I recalled an old line from a poem, “Death makes angels of us all and gives us wings where we once had ravens claws.” This was by Jim Morrison.

    I wonder who in the Western world will be remembering Arafat kindly? I know of no good act by him. He seems to be the king of missed chances in regard to the peace process. And that is putting it mildly. And his terrorist credentials are unassailable. Perhaps the best we can do is, “Nothing in his life became him like the leaving of it.” (Macbeth, Act I, Scene IV)

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  2. ashley said on November 9, 2004 at 8:10 pm

    I’m going to be buried…er…interned above ground in either St. Roch’s or St. Vincent DePaul. I’m also going to have a jazz funeral parade by either Rebirth Brass band or Kermit Ruffins and the BBQ swingers. Come join in on the second line!

    If nothing else, it will give my family and friends an excuse to go to New Orleans.

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  3. Neil said on November 10, 2004 at 1:05 am

    Not to make you all feel even worse about not being near a Trader Joe, but our homies at TJ have just offered another wine, Tula Vista Cabernet at $1.20 a bottle. The price is a tribute to the 120 TJ’s in California. I think it’s only being sold at the stores in Southern California. It’s pretty good, as good as two buck chuck.


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  4. Michael G said on November 10, 2004 at 9:15 am

    My wife, who is European, reads the French papers on line every day. She says they’ve been reporting for over a week that Arafat is a veggie being kept on life support while the Palestinians desperately try to figure out what to do next. Point is, I guess, that Arafat has already made up his mind but the implementation of his decision is being held pending “arrangements”.

    Most people in California don’t appreciate how wonderful things are here for the wine shopper. Price, selection and availability are unbeatable. While I shop the web for many things, I’ve never even looked at any wine web sites. Why bother when I can stop on the way home at one of several places offering thousands of wines from countries all over the world? Places where I can always get something very good for under $10. Even the supermarkets have extensive wine selections, often extending over two aisles. I’ll be stopping by TJ’s on the way home this evening. They have a very nice Spanish rioja by Torres called “Sangre de Torro” for $4.99. I gotta be suspicious of a wine that’s only a buck-twenty.

    Charles Shaw Wine is a brand made for Trader Joe’s by Bronco Wine Co. of Ceres, CA. It’s not widely known under its own name but is one of the largest wine outfits in the US fielding a whole bunch of brands. They also have facilities in Napa and Escalon. The guy who heads it is a fellow by the name of Fred Franzia who is related to the Gallos. A nephew or something I think.

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  5. Danny said on November 10, 2004 at 10:52 am

    Michael, you are so right about the wine choices here in Cali. My new favorite red wine, Yellowtail Shiraz. It is from Austalia.

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  6. Lex said on November 10, 2004 at 12:59 pm

    Arafat: Die already. The barbecue has waited too long as it is.

    Children: Victoria keeps insisting she’s not old enough to wash dishes. Some lame-ass excuse about not being tall enough to see over the edge of the sink. Freakin’ kids today…..

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