Friday, August 05, 2005

Thomas Friedman makes the party by not attending

"Too Much Pork and Too Little Sugar" is my husband Thomas Friedman's latest. He wants to be "with it" and "happening," he told me. He wants to be "in the mix." He wants to be "relevant, you know, like Jess." See the thing is that our upstairs neighbors Jess and Ty are having another Friday night bash. Thomas Friedman's been dropping hints all week that he wants to go.

Yesterday, he cornered Ty in the elevator practically begging for an invite. Ty looked at Thomas Friedman, then over at me.

"Bettina's always welcome," Ty said nodding to me, "but you really stink the joint up."

"'Stink the joint up?'" Thomas Friedman quoted back. "Is that good?"

The doors opened to our floor. I rolled my eyes at Ty and grabbed Thomas Friedman by the elbow to prod him on out of the elevator. Still trying desperately to be cool, Thomas Friedman was tossing out anything that popped into his mind, not unlike one of his op-eds actually.

"Catch you on the flipper, fro," Thomas Friedman offered trying desperately to be cool.

"Fro!" Ty hollered as the elevator doors started to close, "What the f-"

As the doors closed and the hum told us that the elevator was moving upwards, Thomas Friedman kept punching the button repeatedly.

"Wait!" he screamed.

Finally giving up, Thomas Friedman looked near tears.

"We were connecting, Bettina," Thomas Friedman whined. "Me and the housey were connecting!"

"Homey," I corrected as I unlocked the front door.

Thomas Friedman hates to be corrected because, of course, Thomas Friedman is never wrong.

"Fine," he huffed. "Me and my perps were connecting."

"Peeps," I corrected and then thought maybe "perps" was the correct term for guys who choose to hang out with Thomas Friedman.

All through dinner, Thomas Friedman kept bragging about how he "stinks up the joint." He was sure that we'd be attending the party tonight.

I finally had to set him straight. I could've let him continue to be confused but, to be honest, some days my only joy comes from popping his inflated ego and watching the gas fly out of the old bag.

Thomas Friedman refused to believe me.

"Bettina, I know you think that because it's 'your people' that you know everything, but you don't. 'Stink the joint up' is like when a Fro tells another 'Dude, you are b-b-a-a-a-a-d-d!'"

"First thing," I informed Thomas Friedman, "it's 'bro,' not 'fro' which could be seen as racist. Second of all, bros are not generally surfers and don't tend to refer to one another as 'dude.' Third, 'stink the joint up' means just what it says."

Thomas Friedman pushed the peas around on his plate for a few minutes then complained that he was tired of 'soul food.' They were green peas. We ate them with broiled halibut and arugula salad. This was hardly salt pork and molasses, as I informed Thomas Friedman.

"Salt pork and molasses," Thomas Friedman repeatedly slowly. "I like that. Pork and sugar."

"Salt pork and molasses," I corrected him.

"No, Bettina, pork and sugar. It works better that way."

Apparently "Nutbush City Limits" is a song that never made it onto Thomas Friedman's iPod.

When I said that, he suddenly exclaimed, "Technology!"

No, I corrected, Tina Turner.

But then I grasped that Thomas Friedman wasn't really communicating with me. He was writing his column in his head. The usual free association amalgam that either frustrates readers looking for a consistent argument or delights lazy minds.

"Lord, help me," I prayed this morning as Thomas Friedman handed me the paper, the main section, opened to the op-ed page.

Hadn't I done enough already? I'd fixed his bacon and sausage because he must have both, says he's doing Atkins, but I haven't seen him drop one pound. I'd whipped up his garden omelette. Yes, I'd even "pruned" him, making him a glass of freshly squeed prune juice.

All I wanted right now, at that moment, was to sit for a second and drink my cup of coffee in silence. That was obviously not to be.

"Wow, I am so relieved" is his opening. He was nudging me expectantly as he stood beside me.

"Biting wit!" he exclaimed. "Devastating sarcasm! You think only those TV reviewers you're so fond of can do that? You're wrong!"

Thomas Friedman was referring to "Veronica Mars is from Mars" which is a hilarious TV review I made the mistake of showing him. Now if I read a strong op-ed, I know not to show it to him. He gets very angry. "I write better!" he will insist convinced that noting strong writing by someone else means he's a lousy writer. He is a lousy writer. But that's not because others are better than he is, that's due to the fact that he is a lousy writer.

I know not to mention Alessandra's writing in his own paper unless I'm bored and wishing to a see a snit fit.

"Alessandra! Oh she's so cool! Oh she's so funny! Oh she is so with it! Alessandra? Salamander! That's what I say, Bettina, Salamander!"

So it was my mistake to show him the review. It was so funny that I felt it would make even Thomas Friedman laugh. I forgot that the entire world is competing with Thomas Friedman.
In his mind.

"The World Is Flat!" he will cry proving that even at his most melodramatic, he's still trying to hawk that book that has made him the laughingstock of the book world. "Trade barriers and information ones have opened up! Everyone is competing with me, Bettina! The entire world is competing with me!"

Good news for the world, it's winning the competition.

His very weak attempts at devastating sarcasm couldn't prompt laugher on a playground, not intended laughter at any rate.

From sarcasm, he immediately slides into his version of Medowlark Lemmon mode as he begins globe trotting around the world, tossing out anything, hoping something might stick.

"Pork and Sugar" is the only thing binding his free association together. There's pork in the energy bill (not the only problem with the bill) and there's sugar in Brazil. As anyone who's suffered through Thomas Friedman's writing knows, he will get from point A to point B, and do so in the random, rambling manner that will weaken any point that might be in his argument.

As I continued reading, desparate just to get the end of the damn thing, I thought to myself, "At least he's not attacking anyone this morning."

Then I came across his continued war on Islam. If there's anything he hates more than the French and America, it's Islam. I think the hatred of the French goes beyond our visit to the French bakery that went so badly. I think it also has to do with the fact that while the French are known for their cheeses, they tend to look down on cheese in a can. Thomas Friedman takes it very personally when his personal taste is called into question.

But he had more to complain about and whine about and you know he was going to shore his xenophobic, freakish rant on something. No surprise that today it was 9/11.

Reading his hectoring on the topic of 9/11, I was reminded me of something Mrs. K said the other night on the phone.

"Bettina," she said in a delicate tone, "I really think he believes that everything in the world not only happens to him but that it happens only to him."

I think Mrs. K has a good point.

"Did you love it?" Thomas Friedman asked, grinning broadly.

As I attempted to search for something, anything, I could praise, I quickly realized not to even bother. When it's time to praise Thomas Friedman, you have to jump in quickly to get ahead of him.

Not wanting to compete, I grabbed my cup of coffee and tuned him out so I could enjoy this moment of peace while he carried on listing all of his accomplishments.

This afternoon, he cornered Jess in the lobby. Once again begging for an invite to the party.

"Party?" Jess asked. "There's no party."

As Jess beat a hasty retreat, Thomas Friedman seemed perplexed. Was it all a misunderstanding?

Of course not. There is a party. It's ongoing as I write. And we can hear the people above us dancing, laughing, having a good time.

"How is that possible!" Thomas Friedman roared.

Because you're not there, I thought to myself, because you're not there.