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.