Baseball Cards & Other Memorabilia:I'm in Bermuda and Rick Lazio Isn't

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I'm in Bermuda andRick Lazio Isn't It's just before fivea.m. last Tuesday, and an unshaven white geezer ambles, not stumbles, into Morgan'sDeli on Hudson St. in Tribeca, with a crooked grin on his face. Mentioning tono one in particular that it's now dark at this hour in August, he whispersto a customer: "You know, this just hasn't been my day." Thatgot my attention, and the cashier's, and then the fellow said, "I'vegot a brand new halogen lamp here, just 10 bucks. Any takers?" No one bites.It wasn't "brand new," and what the heck would you do with abattered lamp at that hour in the morning? The sales pitch continued, finallysubsided, and then he got down to business. "I'm so damn broke. CanI have a cup of water?" he said to my friend behind the counter.
I wantedto spare the cashier the embarrassment of his having to turn the semi-bum down?it'sa strict policy, even when the store isn't crowded, not to dole out freebies?soI gave the guy a buck and directed him to the bottled water section. Whetherhe pocketed that dollar and scraped up some change to buy a can of Bud,I don't know: I wasn't going to stick around for the final act. "Justhasn't been my day," I said to the concierge Boris when I gotback to my apartment building, telling him the story. We both shook our heads.Even though Boris is Russian, he understood when I said that perhaps this gentwas the product of a dysfunctional family, maybe a mother and grandmother squabblingin his presence when he was four years old. Calling all representatives of theGreen Party: have I got a candidate for you!


Last Wednesdaynight I received the following e-mail update on the state of NYPress'deluxe offices from Andrey Slivka. It wasn't surprising: we'reused to almost anything around here, whether it's a fire in the boilerroom, water turned off for 72 hours, elevators that stop and start without biddingbut mostly don't open at all, molehills of cigarette butts in the stairwells.But this was new: "Holy fucking shit! I just saw a fucking roach in theelevator lobby outside the back door. I'm serious. I live in a fuckinghovel in Brooklyn?I'm used to roaches, and I kill huge-asswaterbugs all the time in my shower, with a rolled-up Improper Bostonian.But this one was fucking huge: I thought it was a mouse. Easily the lengthof my middle finger. Holy shit, I've got the creeps. You'd need a.22 to kill that bad boy. We've got roaches at 333 the size of lemurs!"

Well. Nowriter's block/Angry Young Ukrainian angst on that nifty passage. Coincidentally,at the MUGGER household we've had our own invasion of insects, althoughfortunately on a less severe level. It seems that MUGGER III discovered a bunchof tiny ants in the dining room: his mother was horrified, but our bruisin'scamp thought it was all very curious. While Junior took to snuffing the microscopicvarmints with his Star Wars action figures (leading Mrs. M to scold him,"Honey, use a towel, those toys will scratch the floor!"), our youngerson just stamped them out with his bare foot. To which I said bravo, DavyCrockett lives in Tribeca! Soon, MUGGER III was obsessed with theants, wishing they were the giant black ones, and I swear he was about to startnaming them, maybe keeping a few for pets, before Mrs. M called an exterminator.

It remindedme of a time back in '69 when our household in Huntington had ascandalous infiltration of cockroaches in the kitchen. My mom was pissed. Sheblamed my brother Doug: he'd just returned from Baltimorefor a visit, and she suspected that cockroach eggs were incubating in his pileof dirty laundry. Urban roaches on suburban LaRue Dr.? This wouldn'tdo, and so she bought an extra-strength container of Raid and sprayedthose devils in the middle of the night, when they were snacking in the pantry.It got a little obsessive; Mom thought she was in the jungles of 'Nam, wiping out enemy forces. I was a peacenik, of course, and stoned, and admonishedher for the display of John Wayne bravado.


NYPresscontroller Paul Abrams and I took an arduous trip out to Long IslandCity last Thursday morning, a jaunt to retrieve some old baseball cardsI needed for the trip to Bermuda, where my boys and their two cousins,Quinn and Rhys, will divvy them up. We have a bunch of stuff in storageat the Moishe's vast facility, items Mrs. M didn't need forthe new apartment but couldn't bear to part with. Like a set of Alicein Wonderland furniture Junior and MUGGER III used for a few years, oldbaby clothes, lamps, a crib; all expendable if you ask me, but I didn'tcarry the little nippers inside my belly for nine months each.

On the otherhand, there's my own important loot stashed away: oh, some 1500 recordalbums, boxes of books, three trunks of memorabilia from my days in Baltimore,most of it City Paper-related, old paintings Mrs. M did in collegeand on Ludlow St. years ago, a suitcase of ancient Amex and Visareceipts that, God willing, I'll never have to produce for an IRSaudit. Also, several containers of family pictures that are priceless.

Paul hadbeen in Cannes and Nice at the end of July, so we had plenty ofbusiness to chat about while he negotiated the unbelievably heavy traffic fora summer day in New York. I guess the 59th St. Bridge wasgroovy 32 years ago, but it sucks now: it took us forever to get across theugly structure, stopping and starting, as huge trucks took advantage of allthe smaller cars trying to reach their destination. It's always amazingwhen you're stopped on a bridge, or in a tunnel, and you see all thesedamn union workers fucking around, drinking coffee, hauling the occasional cableor hose from one spot to another, and mostly doing a whole lot of nothing.

Once wegot off the bridge it was hard to decipher the directions from the Moishe'ssecretary, and so we got a little tour of Long Island City, tooling aroundon 31st St., 31st Pl., 48th Ave., getting well-acquainted with haunts like Hunter'sPoints Golden Fountain diner, the Y&K bodega, a place that hadthe best-looking watermelons I've seen all summer and this monster Culligantruck that we sat next to for 10 minutes while waiting for a brassy trafficcop to let us through a construction site on the road. I told Paul she'dmake a great sales rep at the paper; this was one mean-looking mama. At onepoint we found ourselves heading back to Manhattan on the bridge, until Paulpretended he was in The French Connection and pulled off a smooth 180-degreebat-turn back to Queens.

We finallyarrived at Moishe's, and man, do they run a smooth operation. Once I paidan errant bill for the last month's storage fee, we were treated like Americanroyalty and escorted by an amiable young hippie up to the third floor and ourtwo lockers. Good thing I wasn't wearing a suit that day: finding the damnbaseball cards was a chore I wasn't ready for. Opening boxes, moving furniture off to the side, breaking the locks on trunks?this was a true pain in theass. And of course I got sidetracked, looking at long-forgotten correspondenceand 45s from the mid-60s. One ancient photo I retrieved was especially dearto me: it's a snap of my dad when he was just eight years old, standingnext to his grumpy father in Beverly, MA, in the year of 1924.It's the only picture I have of Dad as a youth: when he was in collegeat the University of New Hampshire his parents' house burned downand they lost everything of value, which wasn't much, since it was theGreat Depression and my grandfather, a jeweler by trade, was out of work.But all the family photos, save the one reproduced on this page, bit the dust.There's also a terrific shot of my parents right before one of my brothers'wedding in Huntington, at Old First Church, back in '67,and a formal family portrait that was painstakingly done, as I recall, in 1960.

I also retrievedsome of that memorabilia from Baltimore. One summer day in '78 there wasa sausage-eating contest sponsored by Polock Johnny's, a local fast-foodchain, and our photographer Jennifer Bishop captured both the winner,a huge fellow from East Baltimore, and the runner-up, who promptly barfedseconds after she finished her work. I liked Polock Johnny's; of courseit depended on which outlet you patronized. There was a franchise on TheBlock that served up sausages with the works?the only way to eat oneof those suckers?that always left me with a queasy stomach. On the otherhand, my friend Mark Hertsgaard's dad opened a branch onGreenmount Ave., just a block from my ratty apartment, and I ate therethree nights a week without any ill gastro effects. Maybe it was because I alwaysstopped in at Godfrey's Steer & Beer after my Polock Johnnysausage, and had a pitcher or two of National Premium, which undoubtedlykilled any pigmeat germs.

Anotherset of photos came from our '87 "Best of Baltimore" party, arustic bash atop Federal Hill in South Baltimore. The occasionwas doubly celebratory for Al From Baltimore and me: the day beforewe'd sold the paper to the Scranton Times. Just months later, aftertraveling in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Manila, Berlin,London, Athens, Rome and Milan, I moved to New Yorkand laid the groundwork for NYPress.

But inspectingthose baseball cards was, in the slang of my youth, a trip, man. My oldest brother,a Cleveland Indians fan back when that was a lonely passion, began collectingin the late 1940s; I finished about 20 years later. So we've got thousandsof the cards?Pete Hamill and Jack Newfield would weep atthe sight of Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Carl Furilloand Willie Mays?spanning two decades of change in the sport. Visagesof players from the Washington Senators, St. Louis Browns andPhiladelphia Athletics are included. And there's Hank Aaronas a Milwaukee Brave; Casey Stengel in his Mets uniform;a few utility men from the Pittsburgh Pirates; and more damn Yankeesthan you could shake a Darth Maul action figure at.

Here'sthe inside scoop on the back of Topps card #258 from '54; it'sa mini-history of one James "Junior" Gilliam, Brooklyn Dodger:"With just 2 seasons of Organized Baseball under his belt, Jim capturedthe 2nd Base spot in the Dodger infield. A switch hitter who plays the outfieldas well as the infield, 'Junior' was the All-Star 2nd Baseman andthe Most Valuable Player in the International League in '52. With the Royalsin '51, he hit .287, batted in 73 Runs and scored 117 times." Alsoincluded was an easy "Dugout Quiz" question: "What player isreferred to as 'The Barber'?" As Pete Hamill would tell HillaryClinton, none other than Sal Maglie, of the New York Giants.

Personally,my epiphany came when I saw all the Dick Stuart cards. Stu?or, as nasty sportswriters called him, "Dr. Strangeglove"?wasmy first baseball hero, mostly because he hit something like seven homers ina three-day period when I was visiting Boston in '63. He was a hellof a slugger, but struck out a ton and couldn't field for shit; now he'sa forgotten first baseman who doesn't even merit an asterisk in a left-wingbaseball book by the likes of Ken Burns. I've got Stu as a Pirate,with the Bosox, and finally as a Philadelphia Phillie. My mom,bless her soul, didn't share my enthusiasm for Mr. Stuart. Seems that oneyear I wrote him a fan letter, c/o of Fenway Park, and the schlub neverresponded. Mom was pissed: how could an athlete (especially one who probably didn't get much mail) be so insensitive as to snub her baby boy? She urgedme to ditch the lug and find another player who wasn't so mean. "C'monRoovy [her nickname for preteen MUGGER], find another Boston star who'sworth your trouble."

Eventually,as Stuart slid deeper into mediocrity and then retired to open a bar or cardealership (or whatever pre-millionaire baseball players did when their legswere shot), I latched onto Yaz and Jim Lonborg of the "ImpossibleDream" '67 Red Sox, and then Freddy Lynn, Jim Rice andLuis Tiant. Later it was Roger Clemens (but never the choke-artistWade Boggs), and currently, of course, along with Junior, I favor PedroMartinez and Nomar Garciaparra. I've long stopped collectingbaseball cards, although the boys have a notebook full of current players, butat 44 I'm still a fan, even if I don't consider these guys heroes,as I did Dick Stuart in the early 60s. Weird, but a satisfying diversion fromthe news of the day, the idiots in DC government and the media, and theamazing spectacle of the Voice's Cynthia Cotts auditioningfor a job with Talk not only in her own paper but in online zines aswell.

GeorgeWill wrote a fine summary about the dispute between the Major LeagueUmpires Association and Major League Baseball in last Thursday'sBoston Globe, although his description of Baseball Americaas the "bible of the church of baseball" was pretty sickening. Obviously,the umpires are men out of time: their salaries are nowhere near the level ofthe pampered prima donnas who verbally abuse them; the instant replays on tvpoint out their frequent errors in judgment; and the days of the hilarious mock-argumentsthat Orioles manager Earl Weaver was probably the last to masterare long gone. The umps are bitter, lazy, unappreciated and out of luck. Frankly,given my opinion of unions in general, I say stop griping and find another job.There are plenty of young men who'd like to replace them and certainlywill. Umpires are just one more casualty of the evolving game; I don'tthink anyone will miss the current crop. And with the replacements, maybe thegames will be shorter, a bonus to anyone who remembers the standard two-hourcontest.

I can'tstand it when The New York Times editorializes about baseball. The shortblurbs are so laborious and studded with cliches that they must be the rewardfor some hack in the overstaffed news department who was reamed out one dayfor a trivial infraction, like forgetting chief Howell Raines' lunchtimeDiet Coke. So on August 6, Times readers, always the victimsof internecine squabbles at the paper, are punished with this statement of theobvious: "Rather quietly, it seems, Major League Baseball has worked itsway through two-thirds of the regular season and is now entering that part ofthe year when each game seems to count for a bit more than it did in the spring."No shit. It's only been that way since Adolph Ochs bought the Timesin 1896.


The firstimpression I had of Talk's debut had nothing to do with the magazineitself, but rather with the rush of other periodicals to fawn over editor TinaBrown and showcase her de facto assassination of Hillary Clintonwithout even reading a copy of the monthly first. And of course the lack ofimagination: Newsweek, The Washington Post, the DailyNews, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, the NewYork Post and too many other hinterlands newspapers to mention all had theidentical headline, "The Talk of the Town." What, did Tina Brown oncework at The New Yorker?

I'llbet that in about 18 months she'll wish she still did.

I obtaineda purloined copy of Talk last Monday afternoon, two days before it wenton sale, but too late for last week's deadline. A fellow from London'sGuardian asked me to write a quick analysis of the issue, but I was tuckeredout and told him to fetch the dictaphone, which he did.

After all,where does one begin? Certainly the most embarrassing element of Talk'sfirst number was Brown's "tb notebook," the essay on the finalpage. That the magazine's editor-in-chief is a crummy writer is no secret;you just have to remember her schoolgirl ooze in The New Yorker overBill Clinton's dashing appearance in the midst of the Lewinskyscandal. The closing paragraph makes it clear that none of her subordinateshave the balls to actually edit their boss: "So here's Talk.We hope you enjoy the conversation. An editor can see only the flaws, but she'sour baby and she's breathing." No wonder executive editor DavidKuhn is rumored to be sending his resume to other publications all overManhattan.

DescribingTalk's look, Brown writes: "Of course, we needed a new format,one that would reflect the accelerated boom and flash of modern American life.Our editorial ideas drew us to the slightly over-size look of the European 'news-yellows,'with their multiple-image covers and glossy photo reportage, along with thetactile, rollable pleasure of their thin, color-saturated pages. That'swhat seemed right: a portable magazine, designed to be read over a coffee orrolled up and stuffed into a gym bag rather than placed on a coffee table tobe admired from afar."

Even ifyou ignore the obvious slap at rival Vanity Fair, what a load of hooey.Talk, aside from the vapid name, does sport a handsome logo (I especiallylike the red background behind the "t") and it's well-designed,with top-flight illustrators and photographers. But spare me all this Euro talkof "news-yellows" and the "tactile, rollable pleasure" ofputting the magazine in your back pocket. In fact, Talk looks remarkablysimilar to The New York Times' Sunday magazine, with a nod to Britain'sHello! The initial heft of the issue (I love how publisher RonGalotti's declaration last spring that he was limiting ad pagesto 100 went by the wayside) makes it impossible to roll up; and I imagine Talkwill appear robust commercially through the fourth quarter. Perhaps in the wintermonths, when the hype has vanished and ad budgets are slimmer, the magazinewill be easier to fold into whatever shape you wish.

That is,after you've finished reading "The Hip List," only the most astonishingsnippet of anachronistic window dressing in the first issue. With no explanation,these are a few of the items the Talk staff, aping Egg magazinecirca 1990, thinks are way cool, bay-bay: "Earth tones," "Scabbyknees," "Vietnamese food," "Thick-cut bacon," "swordfish,""Science" and "Potted meat."

The headlinewriting is poor: what smart editor would let the following groaners go by withoutcalling an executive meeting: "Fur Sure!," "Reach Me at the Beach"and my favorite, "The Houseguest From Hell." Then again, when a magazineheads a group of short articles with the phrase "The Conversation,"cliches elsewhere should be no surprise. Aside from Frank DeCaro'sfunny piece "Krav Maga, Talk's resident fat guy fights back,"in which he describes his discomfort at a training center, there wasn'tmuch of interest in "The Conversation." (DeCaro cracked me up withthis paragraph: "For one thing, my outfit was all wrong. I was the onlyman between there and West Hollywood wearing a lavender surfer-boy T-shirt emblazonedwith a row of hibiscus flowers. I wasn't dressed for a fight, I was dressedfor a luau at Harvey Fierstein's.")

Whiner-for-hireJames Atlas mines the same material he's been peddling for yearsnow: how it's just not fair that professional journalists and authorsaren't as affluent as in decades gone by. He complains, in half-jest (andthat's giving Atlas the benefit of the doubt), that his agent is "farricher and more famous than I am." Go into another line of work, Jimbo:you and the reading public will be happier. The New Republic'sDana Milbank, relieved temporarily of carrying Al Gore'swater for TNR owner Marty Peretz, calls in a story about the anchorof New Hampshire's WMUR, Karen Brown, who,surprise!, is schmoozed by presidential candidates and their minions. NYPress'Bill Monahan contributes a throwaway Fodor's travel shorton Gloucester, MA; Roger D. Friedman, a hack writer whosepresence contradicts Brown's ballyhoo about attracting fresh and vitalliterary voices, has a stinker of a publicity tear-out for the Huvane Brothers,who've gone into the talent representation business. Friedman's bestline, in the first paragraph yet: "Either way, if your musical sequelto Bad Lieutenant hurts Ms. Talent's career, you'll find theanswer on the double-quick. You'll never eat anything, at all, in thistown again."

Before takinga look at the two main stories, Lucinda Franks' nauseatingexercise in Hillary Clinton hagiography, and Tucker Carlson's dated-but-studded-with-firecrackersessay about his travels with Gov. George W. Bush, a few other minor quibbles.Galotti was up-front from the start that there would be no Chinese wall betweenedit and advertising in Talk; and indeed the ads disguised as "PocketFashion" shorts in "The Conversation" prove him as a man of hisword. Martin Amis' review of Thomas Harris'Hannibal is three months too late and 3000 words too long; the fake lettersto the editor section, "channeled through Christopher Buckley," isa frightful effort worthy of another defunct magazine, Fame; the full-pagephotos of male celebrities like Hugh Grant, Ricky Williams andHarrison Ford are the sort you'd expect in a prototype, not an actualissue; and the gatefold spread "The Best Talkers in America: Talk Presents50 Big Mouths We Hope Never Shut Up" is another derivative feature, sayfrom Esquire circa 1999. What a waste of three expensively produced pagesto shine up the likes of Alec Baldwin, Martin Scorsese, TedTurner, Gloria Steinem, James Woods, Barney Frank,Beck, Barbara Bush and Arianna Huffington.

And that'sthe basic problem, and the reason for Talk's probable downfall:the magazine and Brown are caught in a time warp. There's no demonstrablereason for this publication to exist, other than Brown's urge for a newproject (whether it was her choice or not to leave The New Yorker isstill open to debate). Recycled writers and artists, pretty pictures, a naughtyGwyneth Paltrow, "The Unsolved Mysteries of Princess Diana,"a nod to redneck culture and that's it. There's not a shred of evidencethat Brown understands she's in a rapidly changing media environment: thismagazine could've debuted at any time in the 90s. In fact, looking at Talkfor the first time since last Tuesday (I never finished the magazine once VanityFair, with its David Maraniss book excerpt on Vince Lombardi,arrived), it already seems like an artifact of a decade that's about toturn over. Brown will go the way of the duo she's so closely identifiedwith: the Clintons.

No one isbetter at creating hype than Tina Brown: the last two weeks are ample proofof that valuable skill. But once the buzz has died down, once the original staffturns over, what will become of Talk? Not much, I imagine, because asMichael Wolff pointed out in an excellent Aug. 9 New York column,co-owner Hearst won't be nearly as indulgent of Brown's expensivewhims as her previous employer, Conde Nast. Sure, the first issue ofTalk sold out everywhere (especially in New York and Los Angeles),and it probably will for the second issue as well, even though the projectedcover star Johnny Depp doesn't match Hillary Clinton's sicknewsstand appeal. I'll be very curious to see next March's issue:either Brown will get a grip and concentrate on the magazine's actual content instead of hype, or it will ultimately fail. Bet on the latter.

As for Franks'piece on Hillary and her husband's tortured childhood, it's safe tosay that this Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist won't be taken seriouslyagain. In an article that was obviously approved of, if not actually vetted,by the White House (Sidney Blumenthal is at last let out of thedoghouse!), Franks' work is shot through with hyperbole and embarrassingadoration. As well as with mistakes. For example, she writes: "The onlypeople who have not lashed out at [Bill Clinton] in public are those he hashurt most deeply, his wife and their daughter, Chelsea." What about AlGore, the last victim of the scandalous Clinton regime? Yes, after great urgingby his campaign staff, he recently condemned the President's moral behavior.But after Clinton was impeached, Gore said his boss would be remembered as oneof America's greatest presidents. Franks boosts Hillary's supposedcommon touch with the recollection that in Ireland she drank from a "chippedmug," just like the locals. The following quote could be my favorite: "Inthe Middle East, throngs of villagers come out to cheer her. Hillary'spopularity is rooted in something more than her celebrity status: she has actuallychanged people's lives." Like whose?

As Brownsaid on Good Morning America last week, "What you feel is this isa couple who share the passion for the world, for doing good for politics, formaking life better for other people. This is their great bond, and it reallyhas brought them together with almost a sort of spiritual intensity." MaybeTina's right: Sexy Sadie, where did you go?

Luck isa key component to any winning presidential campaign, and George W. Bush hasa truckload of it. Had Carlson's feature on him not been eclipsed by Franks'idolatry of Hillary, the tabloids would've made sport of the Texas governorfor using the word "fuck" so frequently with a journalist. But withall the First Lady psychobabble hoopla (you'd think Baby Bill was the victimof a two-way strap-on session with his mother and gran), the story was mostlyignored. Not in the Bush camp, however. You can be sure the candidate was givena stern dressing-down by the organization's leader, Karl Rove. Don'tget too comfortable with reporters. Watch your mouth. Don't make too manyfunny jokes. In reality, it was a good lesson for Bush: he might've beencocky after Lois Romano's and George Lardner Jr.'sseven-part series in The Washington Post didn't lay a glove on himand actually lifted his profile. For example, Hardball's ChrisMatthews was approving: praising Bush for quitting drinking cold-turkey,saying that a lot of men have the same problem and will admire the governorfor his tenacity. And besides, said Matthews, an inebriated Bush was just stickingup for his dad when he verbally attacked Al Hunt in a Dallas restaurantin 1986. That's family, the talk-show host implied. Rev. GeorgeWill, never a fan of any Bush, was clucking in his priggish way onThis Week last Sunday, complaining that GWB's language wasn'tpresidential; never mind that he and countless colleagues rush to bend overfor Sen. John McCain, who's probably a lot more profane than Bush.

But don'texpect any more close-up and personal pieces about Bush in the future.


I'vehad it with the absurd tax debate in Congress. Let Bill Clinton vetothe toothless Republican package, blame it on his granny and table any actionuntil the next administration takes over in January, 2001. Gov. George W.Bush will reveal his own tax platform later in the year. If he's electedpresident, and Congress remains controlled by the GOP, sensible legislationwill be passed.

In the meantime,I can't let a few opinions go without note. I love New York'sCharlie Rangel as much as the next political observer?he'sconsistently entertaining, has a Hollywood raspy voice and seems likea hell of a guy?but his Washington Post op-ed piece on July 20 wastypical of the demagoguery that Democrats foist on a disinterested public. Rangelwrites: "[GOP Rep.] Bill Archer says that if 'the money stays in Washington,the politicians will surely spend it.' It's unfortunate that Republicanshave resorted to such a cynical argument to justify his unwieldy tax package.If they are right, it means we are stuck with massive debt, Social Securityand Medicare problems forever because, according to their logic, politiciansare simply unable to act responsibly."

Charlie,they're right. Politicians, on both sides of the aisle, are irresponsibleand will spend any money available to them for their pet pork and entitlementpackages, instead of returning money to the taxpayers.

And an Aug.2 Baltimore Sun editorial on the estate tax inadvertently made a verygood point. "In reality," the piece read, "most wealthy peoplehave taken a variety of steps to protect their estates from taxation."That's right: because they're forced to in order to protect theirfamilies. Eliminate the estate tax and the result would be not only the fairretention of a lifetime's earnings, but less billing hours for lawyersand accountants. Sounds quite pleasing to me, if not to the Democrats who counton their campaign contributions.

In Newsweek'sAug. 16 edition, the Jonathan Alter-mentored "ConventionalWisdom" spouted the same line, proving that the weekly by all rights shouldhave this tagline under its logo: "An Unofficial Organ of the DemocraticParty." The dig read: "Tax Cut: People don't want it, Greenspandoesn't want it, but GOP's gotta have it. Typical." Typical onlyof yet another publication distorting the Fed Chairman's remarks abouta proposed tax cut.

Finally,in his syndicated column last week, Bill Buckley cut through the classwar rhetoric and delivered some plain facts, according to IRS filed taxreturns. Buckley finds that 10 percent of the American population is paying60 percent of the taxes; 50 percent of the country's citizens are paying4.6 percent. He adds that in 1995, "48 million Americans paid zero tax."Minority Leader Dick Gephardt can rant all he wants about the poor andmiddle class getting screwed by the Republicans, but the figures don'tadd up.

Of course,Gephardt has a new ally in turncoat Michael Forbes, the Long Islandcongressman who became a Democrat a couple of weeks ago. Forbes, who isbound to be defeated in his 2000 reelection bid?the state and nationalGOP organizations will make sure of that?wasted no time in ingratiatinghimself to President Clinton, the man he voted to impeach just last December.On Capitol Hill last Thursday, accompanied by Gephardt and Sen. Tom Daschle(the party's new hitman), Forbes addressed the person he once said "hasalmost retreated from any sense of remorse." Forbes: "Mr. President,your own tireless and dedicated work... has earned the Democratic Party thetrust and the confidence of a majority of Americans... You have talked to Americaabout what unites us, while the opposition talks about what divides us. You,sir, have talked about the next generation, not the next election. Thank youso much for your leadership."

At lastcount, Forbes had not yet withdrawn his endorsement of Gov. Bush.


It'strue that Mrs. M and I don't often venture too far afield on the nightswe go out to dinner; by the end of the day we're both bushed and the thoughtof traveling uptown to favorite spots like Cafe Trevi or Victor'sCafe 52, checking our watches to make sure we're home by nine to relievethe sitter, just isn't worth it. And it's not as if there's ashortage of fine restaurants in Tribeca. (Now if only neighborhood activistswould relax a bit and stop throwing up roadblocks in front of other commercialenterprises who want to occupy abandoned buildings?say a Borders,Barnes & Noble, Gap or movie complex?we'd be onour way.)

But forsome reason we'd never eaten at Sosa Borella, a charming Italian/Argentinebeanery just south of Canal St. on Greenwich. Kind of hard to find if you'reunfamiliar with Tribeca?those who use Nobu as a landmark would bestumped?and I have no idea if it's been "discovered" bythe city's dominant food critics. I suspect not: we ate there twice lastweek and it was just half-filled, although I'm told it's jammed atlunchtime with nearby office workers. In any case, Sosa is a jewel, much inthe way that Mexican Radio in East Soho is: comfortable, reasonablypriced, staffed with courteous help and a chef who delivers terrific food. I'vehad two of the char-grilled, thin pizzas, one with beef Bolognese, plum tomatoand gorgonzola, the other topped with sausage, arugula, artichokes and havarti.The grilled shrimp Caesar salad scored with one of our companions on Fridaynight, as did the grilled mozzarella, and roasted beets with goat cheese.

We'vesampled several pastas?fettucine with shrimp, penne with mushrooms andchicken, ravioli with spinach and ricotta cheese?and all are recommended.The hungry diner goes for the parrillada, an Argentine mixed grill with a delicioussausage, chicken breast and short rib, along with a tomato salad. Or the tunasteak with tomato-chimichurri sauce; or else, alternatively, the filet mignonaccompanied by sauteed spinach and mushrooms.

Sosa Borellasimply isn't to be missed: I'll bet that even a number of Tribecansdon't know about it, and I hope that changes, because the owners theredeserve Danny Meyer-like success.

At Fridaynight's dinner there, we even had a little political talk after Jeffand Amy Koyen's description of their Alaskan tripand John Strausbaugh's presentation of his photos fromUmbria. Our friend Rick, while cutting through a short rib, out ofnowhere said, "Oh, you mean that cokehead George Bush?" I guess TomDaschle has reached out and touched my lawyer friend. Or maybe Rick'sjust having sympathy pangs for Lamar Alexander, the once mild-manneredpresidential candidate who now rails that money is the ruin of politics, anddamn that well-connected son of a president, anyway!

I won'tpredict the finish of this Saturday's straw poll in Iowa, otherthan to predict that whatever Bush's eventual showing, it'll be deemeda disappointment by the press. Frankly, I don't agree with those crybabyGore partisans that the Texas governor has received an extendedhoneymoon from the media, but it's certain that a contrived "spontaneous"backlash is in the works for Bush. Better now than later.


It'sonce in a pink moon that I take the side of the New York Times editorialpage over its far superior counterpart at The Wall Street Journal,but on the controversy regarding gays in the Boy Scouts, put me in theTimes column. It's a stupid debate, only made worse by talk-radiohosts like Sean Hannity bleating Gary Bauer-like acrimony on theair. Last Wednesday, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that the BoyScouts can't exclude gays from its ranks. Sounds fair to me. The Scoutsargue that it's a private organization, even though it's had 87 millionmembers in its history, and that it's having its First Amendmentrights violated. Seems to me that we've been down this road before, yearsago, with racial disputes. What private club today would have the balls to publiclysay, for example, "We exclude blacks, Asians, Jews and Poles"?

The Journal'seditorial, which appeared last Friday in its "Taste" section, reads:"Parents want their sons to be Boy Scouts not because they are bigots butin large part because of the moral values this private organization stands for.Surely families have rights too?notably the right to freely associate withwhomever they wish." What baloney. I was a Boy Scout for years, as weremy four brothers, in Huntington's Troop 12. My parents didn'tencourage scouting to instill "moral" values; that was their job.Rather, they wanted us to have another outlet to meet new people, one that wouldinclude hiking, learning to tie knots, identifying flora and fauna and writingessays on citizenship and history. Besides, as my mother used to say, one moreextracurricular activity would help on college applications. I didn't carefor the militaristic tone of the Scouts?in the late 60s, it was deemeda pretty uncool group?but I made a lot of friends, some of whom were probablygay. I wouldn't have known or cared.

Obviously,any scoutmaster who molests or harasses his charges needs to be dismissed?sameas any teacher or anyone else in the workplace. Otherwise, I just don'tsee the problem. As the Times wrote on Aug. 5, "The organizationwould serve its mission better by ending its ugly prejudice against homosexuals,and adding to its list of Boy Scout qualities the virtue of tolerance."

August 8

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