Him again.

What sort of hot-times-in-Tijuana photos must Bob Greene have in his possession to hold the New York Times op-ed page editors in his sway? With all the fine, fine writers available in a country of 300 million souls, why is he the designated correspondent from the land between the coasts?

There must be a better way to start a Thursday, which holds little promise of being a very good one, than with Bob doing his faux-naif hayseed act in New Orleans.

After first noting that the city’s convention center is hosting its first back-to-business trade show this week — the American Library Association; hi, Connie! — he takes note of the obvious:

Last September, if you had dared to suggest that by June this city would be playing host to genteel trade shows inside this building, shows punctuated by the lilting sounds of laughter and music, you would not have been believed. The convention center, as much as the Superdome, was New Orleans’s symbol of wretched helplessness, of utter degradation.

Noted, Bob. Although I would have believed this second-person “you.” This country has a long history of swift repair of disaster areas, when we’re motivated to do so. It took about that long to cart the wreckage of two 110-story towers off a 16-acre site in lower Manhattan in 2002; what’s some new carpet and Sheetrock? But I digress. Let’s join Bob in slack-jawed wonder: …to walk through the newly reopened parts of the 3.1-million-square-foot complex next to the Mississippi River was to shake your head at what has been shaken off.

(I wonder if he’ll share some details, what we journalists call “color.” Looks like we’re in luck.)

“Never Have Dry Skin Again,” a sign at a booth offering moisturizing lotion invited. “Need Relief?” beckoned another booth, promising cures for “bunions, corns and calluses.” The business of the convention was books, but no potential want of the out-of-towners conducting that business went unaddressed. The Massage Break booth, “Targeting Convention Tension,” offered rubs of the neck, back and shoulders, for $35.

I feel like I’m there! More, please!

Actually, I’m in awe. Note that Bob manages to get in the name of the Massage Break booth, its marketing slogan, and the fact it offers rubs of “the neck, back and shoulders,” along with the price. As though, without these details, we might have trouble imagining such a thing, or could dangerously assume that the rubs were of other body parts.

Where there was hunger and thirst, now there is abundance: more cold bottles of designer water, soft drinks and juice, placed in coolers every few dozen feet, than the visiting conventioneers could possibly drink; so many restaurants and food stations that there were seldom long lines. Where the refugees waited days for someone to feed them, the Allegro Pasta booth now offered linguini with a choice of marinara or Alfredo sauce.

The contrast…my head is spinning! There’s water now? And food? Where only six months ago there was hunger and thirst? I can’t believe it. (And more padding, too: Not just water, but “soft drinks and juice;” not just linguini, but “a choice of marinara or Alfredo sauce.”)

Connoissseurs of Bob may suspect we’ve stumbled across what we journalists call his chosen padding device motif. This is how the pros work, children. Such exquisitely chosen nuggets of pure irony will drive his point home — that once this was a place of misery, and now it’s a convention center again.

The floors of the convention hall’s far concourses have been polished so ferociously that they gleam…

At one booth, personalized business cards, designed and printed within minutes while you waited, were offered for sale. …

Where in September exhausted people prayed for rescue, a wheel-of-fortune game was now being played. …

There are moments of actual human contact; Bob gets quotes from a cashier and a security guard. The latter was trapped in the center after the storm: “We just kept thinking, ‘Maybe today is the day someone will come and get us,’ ” he said. “You can’t erase those memories.” Now, you take this the way you want — after all, Bob is a best-selling author and NYT op-ed contributor and I’m unemployed — but if you had an actual eyewitness to that experience in front of you, talking, wouldn’t you try for a better quote than the one we heard over and over and over again while the event was going on?

OK, a quibble.

I think it would have been fun to hear from a librarian, too. Librarians are smart people, though. One might make a rude comment about Bob’s career arc or the quality of his work. Probably safer to stick with security guards.

Enough Bob, then. I should just be grateful that he hasn’t come to Detroit yet, where Martha Reeves, once leader of the Vandellas, now sits on the city council:

Where once she sang “Dancing in the Streets,” now she presides over pothole maintenance on those same streets… She once crooned that she had “Nowhere to Run,” and today she cannot run from constituents… She said her love was like a heat wave, and now a heat wave is cause for concern in a city like Detroit…

Best not give him ideas.

Actually, if you’re in a pissy mood today, this is bracing. Via FWObserved, a new owner of one of the Knight Ridder orphans, rips Prince P. Anthony a new one:

On one of his first visits to the Star-Telegram during the spring of 1997 after buying the newspaper, Ridder sent the executive suite into a tailspin. Publisher Wes Turner had been on the job only a few months, and here he was in the midst of his first corporate dilemma. His new boss was irate.

Ridder’s golf clubs were missing!

Ridder had come to play golf. And as he left town, he had directed that his clubs be forwarded to his next destination.

But the paper had shipped the clubs to the wrong city.

Hands were wrung. Brows were mopped. A sense of imminent doom hung over the newspaper while personnel searched for the chairman’s lost clubs.

No resources were spared. Surely, a newspaper that can uncover crime, graft and holes in corporate résumés can find the chairman’s prized clubs.

And so they did, just (one can only hope) in time for Chairman Ridder to make his next tee time after giving one of his holier-than-thou speeches on the urgent importance of good journalism.

Hee. He came to Fort Wayne once. Hands were wrung and brows were mopped, certainly, but mostly: Asses were kissed.

Oh, stop it. How about some tasty bloggage:

A still-employed Chicago Tribune columnist, Eric Zorn, cuts to the heart of it in his reaction to Barack Obama’s dumb speech earlier this week: Strawman to Barack Obama: Uncle!

You all enjoy. I’m off to do a rewrite.

Posted at 9:51 am in Media |

23 responses to “Him again.”

  1. mary said on June 29, 2006 at 10:56 am

    The whole faux hayseed genre is interesting. It can be useful in bits and pieces, but in the hands of Bob Greene and other guys who want us to believe they are just like you and me, but a little folksier and a little smarter, it grates.

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  2. Connie said on June 29, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Yeah, but it was Bob Greene that first brought me here. Here is a much better column by a local in the Times-Picayune: http://www.nola.com/rose/t-p/index.ssf?/base/living-0/115138792210710.xml&coll=1&thispage=1 . NOLA was absolutely wonderful, all the locals made it clear they were delighted to have us there. The signs of damage are all around, and many places in the French Quarter and CBD haven’t opened yet. Best food experience: http://palacecafe.com . The crabmeat cheesecake appetizer is to die for. Best experience: getting to witness a romantic marriage proposal at the next table in a courtyard restaurant. Heat and humidity were awful, but we knew that. My husband has posted a few pics at http://elmores.net/round-here. Had a wonderful time, and I’m glad to be home.

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  3. brian stouder said on June 29, 2006 at 11:12 am

    Eric Zorn, cuts to the heart of it in his reaction to Barack Obama’s dumb speech earlier this week: Strawman to Barack Obama: Uncle!

    “dumb speech”?

    Honestly, I’m taken aback at the outright dismissal of Obama’s speech, by Zorn and others. (his comment section after that piece was much better than Zorn’s column)

    Zorn (goofily) asserts

    If you think stealing is wrong because it says so in your scripture or because common sense tells you it’s wrong or because the Ouija board tells you “no” when you ask it if you should swipe something, it’s all the same to us as long as you don’t steal.

    See – now how ELSE would a reasonable person in fly-over country interpret this supposed equivalency between Ouija boards (for example) and their deeply held faith? At best, this is dismissive, and at worst it is in fact hostile to the idea that people’s faith deserves respect – even (maybe especially) during a political debate.

    The idea that this demand is hostile to religion is a common and popular strawman — I understand why Obama is espousing it as he sidles toward the political middle — but it’s also completely wrong.

    “completely wrong”?

    I could agree that “the idea that this demand [that political positions not rely on religious beliefs] is hostile to religion” CAN be wrong, and is in any case almost always more complex than that…but “completely wrong”?

    Another fellow – who UNsuccessfully ran for the US Senate from Illinois, back in the day (but who did make it to the White House) would certainly disagree with THAT proposition!

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  4. nancy said on June 29, 2006 at 11:17 am

    And coming from Greene, it’s such a big fat lie, too. He’s the upper-middle-class son of suburban privilege, went to an elite university (Northwestern) and found work immediately upon graduation at a big-city newspaper. He was always ambitious and a striver. And yet he styles himself as some sort of starry-eyed hick from “small town” Ohio. Saying his suburb, Bexley, is a small town in Ohio is like saying Evanston is a small town in Illinois.

    What really grates are the valentines he writes to these Great Plains hamlets. “What a wonderful place to live!” Greene exults, before high-tailing it back to Chicago.

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  5. Danny said on June 29, 2006 at 11:56 am

    The thing that gets me about the Zorn column is that it is an absolute excercise in futility. I mean, I guess Eric has to write about something, but in this day, writing about what a politician has to say on any issue is like writing about which way the wind blows at any particular moment. Except the speech is much less important and blows more than the wind.

    When I listen to a politician, I really have no idea what they are saying anymore. It’s like they think we are all idiots and can’t see the truth. Thanks for telling us Eric. I dub thee “Captain Obvious.” As for the other swipes you take at religion, get in line. Glad that term “secularlist” works for you – “for now.” Let us know when you come up with a better more palatible term and we’ll all fall all over ourselves to please you.

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  6. MarkH said on June 29, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    Brian, well put. I’m with you on this one.

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  7. alex said on June 29, 2006 at 12:11 pm

    Brian, I see where Zorn’s coming from and like him I also find Obama’s posturing offensive.

    It’s been my experience that nonbelievers are expected to humor believers, but believers don’t have to reciprocate the courtesy. The ouija board comparison may rankle, but believers think — and feel free to say — far worse about nonbelievers.

    Frankly, I think the Dems need to quit wasting their time and credibility by pandering to flag-wavers and Bible-thumpers who will never vote for them anyway. And that goes for Evan Bayh, who’s also fast losing my respect in this campaign season.

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  8. mary said on June 29, 2006 at 12:49 pm

    I’m with you and Eric, Alex. I remember having a discussion/argument with a woman once who truly felt all morality comes from God. I’m fine with her believing that. She was not fine with me disagreeing, thinking that whatever path we take to our moral beliefs is fine. Basically, I was being told I had no morality if I did not share her beliefs.

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  9. joodyb said on June 29, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    i’m never happier than when you are ripping Bob. thanks for making my dreary week.

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  10. Danny said on June 29, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    This might be surprising to some of you, but I kinda agree with your sentiments in regard to the morality issues.

    After many years of thorough reading of the Christian scriptures, I think it is fair to say that they are not a morality tale. By this, I mean, the point is not to get believers to behave in moral ways in order to earn redemption (a very common misconception). The point is that we live in a fallen world, are utterly corrupted, cannot follow the rules, and have only one hope, forgiveness. All behavior lends nothing to earning or maintenancing salvation. Behavior should only be an indicator of ones status (e.g. you will know them by their fruit).

    So yeah, I too have a little rpoblem when someone syas that their morality is definied by one scripture or another and that even though we live in a pluralistic society, everyone should follow those rules.

    OTOH, Mary, I think what the person who you argued with did not articulate well, is that there is, very arguably, the existence of Natural Law and Truth. If one is a theist/deist, one can attribute these laws to their Maker. But it is inarguable that stealing, bearing false witness, murder, etc are wrong and that is why these are codified in our domestic and international laws.

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  11. brian stouder said on June 29, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    If you have a fast connection, go to Obama’s site, and watch the speech for yourself. If Zorn (or Nance for that matter) watched or read the whole speech, and yet still reduce their whole reaction to it as “dumb” – then more is the pity


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  12. Maryo said on June 29, 2006 at 2:48 pm

    Such exquisitely chosen nuggets of pure irony will drive his point home — that once this was a place of misery, and now it’s a convention center again.

    Just a technicality, and MHO, but I happen to think convention centers by their very nature are places of misery.

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  13. Dorothy said on June 29, 2006 at 2:53 pm

    Agreed Maryo. I’ve worked at a few shows when I was employed at a quilt shop. The cement floors are exhausting to stand on, the lighting is crap and it’s usually freezing in those caverns. They definitely aren’t known for their ambience.

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  14. Jean said on June 29, 2006 at 3:09 pm

    And the Morial center is one of the worst, ambience-wise. I’ve covered two medical meetings there and you can get your daily exercise just by walking from one end to the other.

    May I never have to go back there. May I never have to read anything by the Bobster EVER again.

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  15. mary said on June 29, 2006 at 3:56 pm

    I did three days at the Anaheim Convention center last month, and there were massages and hand lotions and all the same stuff there. Bob doesn’t seem to frequent conventions very often, if he’s dazzled by these things. Ooooh, water AND juice, in one place. Can you believe it.

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  16. Dorothy said on June 29, 2006 at 4:29 pm

    Yeah but I’m willing to bet Bob’s shared in a massage or two at one time, doncha think? But not the on-the-spot kind they give at convention centers.

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  17. mary said on June 29, 2006 at 5:04 pm

    True. Even fake hayseeds need to get a little stress relief.

    On a different, retro note, I just went native here amongst the nurses and bought a pair of crocs at the hospital shop. They are indeed very comfy and airy. Mine are black, though, keeping with my business attire. No neon pink ones. Actually, black was the only color they had in my size. Big feet, you see.

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  18. Connie said on June 29, 2006 at 6:02 pm

    You are right Jean, the Morial convention center must be a mile long. And of course my conference is always on the far end from my hotel and the central business district. I have 4 toe blisters. My record is 9 when ALA was in Toronto in 2003. I went to see a podiatrist then and she said I just had convention goers feet syndrome and to not worry about it.

    And Dorothy, a quilt shop? Have I ever seen you in a booth at a big quilt show? Paducah perhaps?

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  19. brian stouder said on June 29, 2006 at 9:03 pm

    “I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

    from Obama’s dumb speech, wherein he seems to be making the very point that Zorn wishes he made

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  20. Dave said on June 29, 2006 at 10:14 pm

    Learning ol’ Bob was from Bexley always cracked me up when he wanted to be like all the common folks when it wasn’t so but learning that not only was he from Bexley but he was a part of the Lazarus family well destroyed his common touch for me. This I learned from reading his grandmother’s obituary several years ago, a grandmother born in Hartford City, IN.

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  21. Danny said on June 29, 2006 at 10:35 pm

    from Obama’s dumb speech, wherein he seems to be making the very point that Zorn wishes he made

    That pretty much nails it. Guilty of not even listening or reading that to which he has a predisposition to complain about. Good work.

    I say that not so much from the standpoint of Eric being made to look foolish, but more from the standpoint that lazy journalism is a result of lazy journalists. It’s a problem. And it’s a big part of the reason that the internet is kicking so much ass.

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  22. Dorothy said on June 30, 2006 at 8:30 am

    No Connie, I never went to Paducah. Maybe someday. I did work at a show in Columbus, OH twice, though. As a favor for my old boss. The shop (Quilters Corner) is in Finleyville, PA. She knew I lived in the Cincinnati area and asked if I could help out for a convention when they worked at a big show there. It was fun to go back and help, even though I felt like a dunce and was not up on the newest block-of-the month patterns and fabrics, etc. But I was always a good gusher – I can oooh and ahhh with the best of them over wonderful fabrics!!

    BTW I took a look at your pictures. Very nice ones! I have mine at flickr – including quilt pictures. truvy57 is my user name there.

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  23. Mary Lee said on July 19, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    >hot-times-in-Tijuana photos

    Hee. It’s got to be something like that. Nothing else could explain it.

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