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Jewish World Review May 7, 1999/ 21 Iyar 5759


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There Will Always Be a Washington, DC

(JWR) ---- (
AS JUNIOR TOLD ONE of his teachers last Thursday, “The family has a lot going this weekend.”

I’ll say.

As one who’s early to rise and early to snooze, I’m not used to late nights; if you don’t call 10:45 “late,” well, call me an odd buzzard.

The frenzy started on April 29 with a gala dinner/auction for Junior’s school, held at the Yale Club on Vanderbilt Ave. Hillary Clinton was in town, on the east side, continuing her charade of running for Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Senate seat, so it was a human sewer ride for MUGGER the Limo Libertarian Patrician. Trouble was, I couldn’t find the damn shuttle at 42nd St. from Times Square to Grand Central for the longest time; finally, I just got on a train and luckily it turned out to be the correct one.

At the affair, I immediately ran into my old friend Steve Zanichkowsky, which was puzzling, since he doesn’t have children who attend Junior’s school. I thought it was a windowpane flashback and we were at a long-ago NYPress “Best of” party. Turned out he was helping a friend who contributed a piece of artwork for the auction.

After an hour of cocktails and inspecting the items up for sale, the 300 parents trooped upstairs for a buffet dinner and noisy chatter. I happily handicapped Hillary’s phantom campaign for our table, and found that not one of the nine other diners was in favor of her taking on Rudy Giuliani.

“What a strange woman,” said one mother. “She’s trapped in an awful marriage and has no exit strategy,” as if she were talking about the Clinton-Gore war in Yugoslavia. I told the group that Tipper Gore has my admiration for refusing to stand next to Clinton at any official ceremony since the Monica mess, and they were all pleasantly surprised.

Not that I’m hoping, or predicting, a Gore presidency, but at least his wife has a backbone.

Despite polls predicting a Giuliani victory, Hillary can’t let go: Life must be wrenching at the White House. Still, as both the Daily News’ Michael Daly and the Times’ Maureen Dowd pointed out last Sunday, it’s galling that she’s campaigning in New York at the expense of taxpayers.

(The rest of Daly’s column was stupid, and not original: He proposed that Giuliani run for office in Arkansas, in a carpetbagging tit-for-tat.)

Danny Hellman
Dowd was on target: “Hillary is beginning her de facto Senate campaign with a national conversation. If only she wouldn’t. There is way too much talk in this country, too much blather, too much media, too much psychobabble [sorry, Mo, but you’re a prime culprit on the latter]. If she must have a national dialogue, she should make it about how we cope with the schiziness of a President’s wife running for the Senate out of the White House. Or help us work through our anger at the way the First Lady is running a personal shuttle service between Washington and New York, largely on our dime. Give me some closure on that—quick!”

Then the out-of-control bidding began, conveniently staged at the end of the evening when the wine had loosened up the crowd’s wallets. This was a benefit for the school, to be fair, but when a quilt went for $11,000 and a night in a Yankee skybox fetched $6000, I couldn’t quite believe it. But the auction fever was contagious: Even Mrs. M waved her paddle several times, for ridiculous items like a romantic getaway to Highlandtown, MD and I had to gently counsel her that this was not Monopoly money we were about to disperse. Sure, there was a lot of levity in the auctioneer’s patter, but the bean-counters were deadly serious about collecting a closed bid, one too many glasses of red wine or not.

We bought a stool that was made by Junior’s class, with the kids’ handprints on it, and the MUGGER tots were thrilled when they awoke the next morning to find it in their bedroom. As for the silent auction, we picked up a baseball recently signed by Bobby Thompson and Ralph Branca, of “Shot Heard Round the World” fame, for a tidy sum. I’m sure that linked duo is sick and tired of this autograph routine, but one of my brothers is bound to be tickled by the semi-authentic artifact.

I can’t reveal the price, but the bidding was spirited for my contribution to the auction: breakfast with Lucianne Goldberg at the Plaza and lunch with Matt Drudge, probably at some cheap diner that serves a mean grilled Swiss and tomato sandwich. Mrs. M was afraid this uptown crowd would shun the conservative icons, but that wasn’t the case; in fact, at the end, my friend Jonathan Berg beat out all contenders. Jonathan’s a terrific fellow, who’s mighty outspoken, so I’m sure the doubleheader with Lucianne and Drudge ought to be a sizzler on my June calendar.

Last Friday night Junior and I went to the Mets-Giants game, and even though the rush hour traffic to Shea Stadium was a nightmare, we arrived at our field-level seats just in time for the first pitch. The vibe at Shea this year is weird: We got in Gate D and then there was a huge line, like at an airport, to get past security guards. I don’t think Slobodan is targeting sports events, but management certainly was thinking that way.

The Mets won the game, 7-2, with a four-run first inning, but Junior and his buddy Jack Courage—how cool a name is that?—were more consumed with the frenzy of a night game, all the visuals and electronic scoreboards tracking the speed of a pitch and the enthusiasm of the besotted crowd. Not to mention cotton candy, Crackerjacks, hotdogs and Cokes. Jack’s father Jay and I had fragments of conversations—baseball history, jobs in college, politics and the like—but it was difficult with the boys jumping up and down at double plays or spectacular catches in the outfield and trying to run down to the dugout to snag an autograph.

Problem was, it was frigid, 40 degrees, and for a spell both of the kids sat on their dads’ laps, but after a while Junior and I called it a night and walked to the parking lot where our friend Alejandro was waiting with the car. Just before we got there a very strange and disturbing incident took place: We were waiting to cross the street when a beer bottle came flying our way, landing, and shattering, just inches from my shoes. Whoa, I thought, this is more like Yankee Stadium, not Shea, and grabbed Junior and got the hell across the street.

Fortunately, he wasn’t too rattled, too busy telling Alejandro about the game and the Mets teddy bear he bought for his brother. I kept thinking about that Molson bottle that could’ve conked one of us on the head.

I told Andrey Slivka about the incident and he responded with the following e-mail: “I’m not surprised about the baseball game. I don’t go to night games for that reason. Who needs it? I do say, though, that day games at Shea are much more pleasant than at Yankee Stadium.

“And it’s mostly only in New York. I remember going to Dodger Stadium four years ago and watching Ramon Martinez pitch a no-hitter. Sat there in the cheap seats with 5000 friendly, quiet Mexican guys in baseball caps and flannel shirts and Dickies—totally enjoyable, no problems. It’s that Nassau County element you get at New York sporting events.

“Go check out the New Haven Ravens—AA team (I think for the Mets) that plays its home games in Yale’s beautiful old stadium in the New Haven suburbs. Really cool. Totally Connecticut crowd, of course.”

The next day we were scheduled to take a short visit to Washington, DC, but events conspired against it. First, and most important, there was a Little League game, and the team’s photo shoot was scheduled for this May Day, which drastically cut our window of making it from downtown to Penn Station in time. Also, my interview with Jesse Jackson Jr. fell through, as did meetings with Virtual Murrell and Tucker Carlson, so we just bagged the one-day trip. Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter was generous enough to invite me to his magazine’s two parties surrounding the White House Correspondents Dinner, which I’d have liked to attend, but sitting around the baseball field, talking with parents, watching Junior make a great slide into first base in the NYPress Giants victorious game against the Quest Toys Astros, was just as satisfying.

(I don’t really know who won, but the kids assured me it was our team.)

I do regret missing Bill Clinton’s joke at Al Gore’s expense at the dinner. The President explained Gore’s absence by saying his Veep was at the Kentucky Derby, but he “claims no credit for siring the winner.” Now we all know that Gore grew up on a farm, and might know his way around nubile barnyard animals, but I’d say that sort of behavior was more Clinton’s style. Cornholing a mare at age 11? That’s Arkansas for you. Also, a buddy of mine reported: “At the VF party, I watched Sean Penn share a joint with some Standard writer—and it was the Standard geek’s pot. And at the dinner, I saw a scene that would have sent you reaching for your Luger and which I found mildly disgusting—Susan McDougal and Sid Blumenthal warmly embracing and chatting.” She’s right: that description alone made me glad we stayed in New York.

At the third base line, I was talking with Bob Franchi—whose son Scott hit a grand-slammer and has the makings of a future Major Leaguer—and it turned out he was from Huntington too; we went to rival high schools. He was at Walt Whitman, I was at Huntington High, and it’s likely that we passed each other—we’re just two years apart in age—at the Walt Whitman Mall, either at Cooky’s buying fried chicken or perusing the rack of $1.99 albums at Sam Goody’s or E.J. Korvette’s. Bob saw his first Major League game at the Polo Grounds, too, in ’62, when the Mets were the comic relief of the sports year and Casey Stengel was the bemused, if frustrated, manager. I don’t remember much of that game, except seeing Willie Mays play center for the visiting San Francisco Giants, and spending several hours alone with my dad, a rare occurrence in a family of seven.

Not that the team picture was a breeze. As happens when there’s a million six-year-olds involved, not to mention bleary-eyed parents, there was some bureaucratic snafu and our team was bumped from our allotted slot and dumped to the bottom of the heap. Suited Mrs. M and me fine; we chatted and gossiped with friends, glad that it was finally seasonable at the playground, with just a slight breeze off the Hudson, but Junior and his brother were getting antsy. Still, when MUGGER III, who at four is the team’s mascot, was allowed to pose with the team, and raced to sit next to Junior, it did choke me up. As my friend Al From Baltimore says, “It was a great day to be a parent.”

I finally met Dr. Lewis Gross, president of the Downtown Little League, and he was jovial, like a lord surveying the entire acre of baseball activity. He’s not crazy about the adult ads NYPress carries in the paper (not many parents are), but understands the revenue component, and is a faithful reader of this column, so I can’t complain.

Later, the kids were tuckered out so we grabbed a Sabrett dog and some Hawaiian Punches and bought an especially non-violent Nintendo 64 video game (Super Smash Brothers) at Game Park, just below Chambers St. Gabe Wax came over to our loft and helped Junior fiddle around with the new purchase, while MUGGER III played with his keychain collection. Mrs. M hogged Kurt Andersen’s new novel Turn of the Century and I combed the Drudge Report. For a few hours, at least, everyone was happy.

Al From Baltimore Reports

May 1: As I wrote you previously, I had prepared a typically insightful e-mail responding to Andrey Slivka’s take on Littleton. Unfortunately, AOL intervened, and I clicked “no” at a particularly bad time, and my correspondence was lost. I’m still bitter.

To summarize, Camille Paglia had a similar take to Andrey’s, and I thought even better, though even she ends up twisted in knots trying to make sense of Littleton. She acknowledged that the jock culture at Columbine may have contributed to the killers’ anger and alienation, but that kind of “hierarchy” is inevitable in any social organization of human beings. I immediately thought of my recent conversation with Bob >From Baltimore’s delightful and precocious 12-year-old daughter, Madeleine, who told me how her grade is organized into four groups: popular girls, jock boys, cool/weird girls and others. I was startled, because this was exactly how my daughter described the social strata of her sixth-grade class two years ago in a completely different school.

Like Andrey, Paglia derides the jock culture, and then complains that the real problem is that schools provide no outlet for restless, hormone-infused teenage boys. I think that is precisely why so many schools, including the finest prep schools, place such an emphasis on sports. I know that even for my nine-year-old son, sports are an important outlet for his aggression and competitiveness. As a kid who was too small, too scared and too Jewish, I never played scholastic sports, though I would have loved to, and I hated jocks and their culture through college. Still, it seems to me that both in Littleton, where many accuse SWAT teams of having entered the school too tentatively, and in Kosovo, where our unwillingness to accept casualties prevented us from truly helping the Kosovars, we could have used a little more jock culture, men willing to rush in to crush an opponent even before they’ve figured out their “exit strategy.”

Paglia’s solution is that kids should be able to work and have sex by age 14, and then those who can’t make sports teams won’t have to resort to violent video games for an outlet. Camille, come to Baltimore, where thousands of kids are not in school every day, and having sex, too. Our schools aren’t safe and our streets are even worse.

No, what’s missing is the authority of our (adult) culture. When lefties and libertarians, like MUGGER (sorry for the label), say it’s oppressive for the government through its schools to insist on uniforms or some amount of religion to be taught in the schools, we’ve got problems. Even though you, MUGGER, and I have both sent our kids to private schools where uniforms are required and religion is taught, why shouldn’t people who can’t afford to oppress their children as we do have that same opportunity? Even Paglia admits that as a confirmed atheist, she nevertheless sees the need for religion as a bulwark against man’s innate ferocity.

We need adults actively teaching kids the right and wrong way to behave, preventing them from living their lives in video or cyber worlds, and teaching respect for adults and the society and institutions they are passing on.

These “values” become critical for the marginal members of our society, like the Littleton killers. Many people can live life fine without them, but those on the edge need what The Wall Street Journal has referred to often as “guard rails.”

On another, but related matter, Commentary ran an article eloquently summing up the tragedy that will lead to greater tragedy that is the Diallo affair in your fair city. Murder in the precinct where Diallo was shot was down even more (81 percent) than in New York as a whole. The population of all five boroughs is actually growing for the first time in recent memory. But take macho cops and combine with racism and you have fascism on the Hudson.

In Littleton, they’re ready to screen every kid for psychiatric difficulties, install metal detectors, bomb detectors, cameras and cops in every school to prevent a recurrence of their tragedy. In New York, the liberal mainstream wants to do away with a preventive policing strategy that has saved more than 1000 lives a year. My recollection is that the ACLU opposed metal detectors in airports because of privacy/civil rights concerns. Can we please have a little common sense? May 3: Sorry to hear about your aborted trip to Washington. I used to call those “setback days,” days when I was reminded that my kids had not quite made it to adulthood.

The day Lucy made the decision to go to Haverford, a giant weight was lifted from her back. She seems happy about it. I told her how easy college is, that it’s mostly free time and it’s easy to waste a lot of it. If there’s not enough to stimulate her, she’s got to make it happen. Yet another reason to hate Clinton and the war in Kosovo—Jesse sticking his nose in to get on the front page of the papers. The Republicans are blowing big time an opportunity to maintain their perceived edge in foreign policy. I just read The American Spectator and it’s pretty much their antiwar issue. By the way, what did the North Koreans, Vietnamese, Iraqis, et al., ever “do to us?”

Al From Baltimore is a semi-regular feature in MUGGER. Al is an old college roommate of MUGGER.

JWR contributor "Mugger" -- aka Russ Smith -- is the editor-in-chief and publisher of New York Press. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


05/05/99: Colorado Exploitation: Why Can’t CNN Just Go Home?
04/30/99: John John: I’ll Moonlight, Too
04/28/99: T.J. Walker’s The Man!: A Former Clinton Disciple Repents
04/23/99: Baseball and Politics
04/21/99: Sharpton’s Nostalgia Trip Is a Bust: The Backlash Is Immediate
04/16/99: Notes From A Baltimore Hick: Pressing My Nose Against the Window
04/14/99: The Bush JugGoreNaut Continues; Send Sharpton to A Rwanda Fat Farm
04/09/99: John McCain’s Moment
04/07/99:The Media Flips: It’s No Longer "Just About Sex"
04/05/99: The Gore Republic Gets Dressed Up. So What?
03/29/99:Louder Than Bombs: Jetlag and English Manners
03/26/99: Hollywood’s Horror Show
03/24/99: Black Ops Mark Vietnam War, Class War & the POW/MIA Issue
03/19/99: The Wealthy Survivor
03/17/99: Clinton’s a Broken Man: The GOP’s Huge Opportunity
03/12/99: Like Father, Like Son: New Hampshire in Another Era
03/11/99: Who is Dorothy Rabinowitz?
03/10/99: It’s George W.’s to Lose
02/26/99: Springsteen Ain’t No Chopped Liver; Vanity Press Musings
03/05/99: This Must Be the New World: The Mainstream Is Left Behind
02/26/99: Hillary, Juanita & Rudy Kazootie; First Baker, then Rich and Soon Lewis
02/24/99: The New Yorker Takes the Local: Mister Hertzberg Strikes Out; A Search for the Clemens Upside
02/19/99: The Howell Raines Conspiracy
02/17/99: History Lessons: An Immigrant’s Advice
02/12/99:The Man Who Owns the World
02/10/99:The Impeachment Trial Splatters: Lindsey Graham Emerges a Hero
02/05/99: A Slight Stumble for Bush
01/29/99: Rich Is Back in the Tank
01/29/99: Not So Fast, Mr. & Mrs. Pundit
01/27/99:This Is Not America: Clinton’s Set to Walk and Party On, Suckers
01/25/99:Sniffles and High Fever: Kids Say the Darndest Things
01/20/99: Whole Lott(a) Waffling Goin' On
01/14/99: Senator Hillary Rodham in 2000: The First Step Back to the Oval Office
01/08/99: Drudge Is the Hero
01/06/99 : MUGGER & the Martians
12/30/98 : Last Licks of ’98: Some Heroes, Several Villains & Many Idiots
12/17/98 : Boy Mugger's obsession
12/11/98: Irving’s the King Wolf
12/09/98: What do Matt Drudge and Tom Hanks have in common?
11/26/98: Starr’s Magnificent Moment
11/18/98: Who could have imagined!?
11/11/98: Send Dowd Down to the Minors
11/05/98: Feeding Gore to a shark named Bush
10/30/98: "Pope" Jann and his rappers speak ---it's time for fun again
10/28/98: Lowered expectations, but the GOP holds the cards
10/23/98: Speaking from Zabar’s: Michael Moore!
10/21/98: Bubba redux? His uptick won't last
10/16/98: Gore for President: The Bread Lines Are Starting to Form

©1999, Russ Smith