Stepping over discarded juice boxes, half-eaten fruit roll ups, empty sacks of mini-Oreos, a beheaded Furby and an assortments of Bratz, I asked myself, "Betinna, what the hell you getting yourself back in, girl?"
Before I could answer, there was Thomas Friedman, arms akimbo, looking like a smelly yetty, roaring, at the top of his lungs, "Mommy!"
Usually, I just hear that during the gut-check-time sex he's so fond of.
"Betinna," I asked myself again, "What are you getting yourself back into?"
It all started last week. Gail Collins called. She was concerned about Thomas Friedman's columns of late. "America hater" was one of the kinder terms that letter writers had been calling him and she didn't understand his "Third World lust" for Singapore that had so suddenly sprung up.
Could I explain it to her?
I could try. She said we'd meet at Elaine's and gave me directions. I was so excited. I'd heard of Elaine's but Thomas Friedman had never taken me there or anywhere really where you didn't have to carry your own tray to the table.
Turned out, I was overly excited. Elaine's turned out to be not the Elaine's but a woman named Elaine who had a very nice sublet, over looking the park.
We didn't talk much about Thomas Friedman, Gail Collins, Elaine and I. No, we did what women often do when they get together, after the current events, after the politics, we talk hot men. Naturally, Thomas Friedman's name didn't come up once.
Gail Collins has some very interesting choices in men. Carson Daly? Elaine and I both exchanged looks on that one. I mean, I guess I could see the attraction, if I really looked hard enough but he seems so non-Gail Collins-ish. I had to wonder if the fumes from Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock strap had effected her as well?
(Thomas Friedman swears that the fumes from Todd S. Purdum's smelly jock are like a jolt of warm coffee in the morning. He is just sniffing, right?)
After that a long lull set in as Gail Collins had discussed walking hand in hand with Daly back to her place and then tying him to the bed . . .
We were honestly a little shocked. But after we realized it, we all had a good laugh.
"Is it that I'm too old for Carson Daly?" Gail Collins wondered.
I explained that he just didn't seem her type -- which I always pictured to be more Village, more intellectual, and a lot less photogenic. Sighing, Gail Collins said she was a little envious of me because I had seen Davy Brooks in a sock. I tried to assure her that it was a very empty sock but she wasn't having any of that. She likes his teeth. Says they remind her of a hamster she had as a child, Cuddles.
Giggling, she waved a large envelope around. She told Elaine and I that she'd been leaving Davy subtle hints for the last three months. Little posts its on his computer with smiley faces and notes like, "How's my big boy?" She'd even taken to ordering him a sandwich from time to time.
"Are you trying to date him or mother him?" the always to the point Elaine asked.
"Well, he got the message," Gail Collins said a little huffily. "He obviously did because he left me this."
Again she waved the envelope.
"He is the Mr. Darcy to my Miss Elizabeth Bennet!"
Poor Gail, she never looked more caucasion, more white-bread, more in need of some real sex.
I might have said that but Elaine jumped in asking her what he gave her.
"Oh, I never opened the envelope," Gail Collins squealed.
"For a week now, I've carried it around with me and put it under my pillow at night, just feeling him with me," Gail gushed.
See that's the sort of thing that can happen when overly educated, white girls start reading too much Jane Austen.
"What if he was asking you out? What if he was asking you out and he was asking you to go out with him on the night he gave you the envelope?"
"That thought never occurred to me!" Gail Collins gasped.
Course not. She's off in Sense & Sensibility land where they need messengers to deliver the notes. She's so Austen-ized, she's so forgotten that time moves like a Concorde destroying everything in it's wake.
Sadly, I did say that. And quickly apologized for it explaining that if you hang out with Thomas Friedman long enough, you mistake pithy for insight. Or just wordy.
They nodded sympathetically. Then Gail Collins nervously opened the envelope.
"What's this?" she asked holding up a baggie.
Again Elaine and I gave each other a look.
"Oh my God," Gail Collins exclaimed, "I think it's pot!"
Dumping the rest of the contents on the coffee table, she saw the envelope also had contained rolling papers and a note.
"Dear Gail," read the note, "I think it's super-duper awesome that I turn you on and a part of me is so happy and thinking, 'At last!' Another part of me is thinking that maybe you need to turn on, really turn on. Davy B."
Like a rapper, Davy B.
"Do you think it's really pot?" Gail Collins asked nervously. "I can't see my Mr. Brooks smoking pot."
"Oh, he's practically a libertarian!" Elaine snapped grabbing the baggie out of Gail Collins' hand while I grabbed the rolling papers.
Gail Collins was still in the nervous land of "Should we" when the first joint was rolled.
By the time we smoked the second, she was telling us about college and how she always wanted to experiment but the one time she did get high, on Whippettes, she tried to see Fantasia but was so stoned she ended up in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.
"Since that day," Gail confessed inhaling deeply, "I never can hear 'Somebody to Love' without picturing how it would sound if Katharine Hepburn had sung it."
We erupted into a giggling fit.
Gail got serious after ten minutes and reminded us that there was the big protests going on in D.C. that weekend.
"How bout we go!" she squealed.
Elaine was saying it would be like Boys on the Side and Gail was swearing it would be like Three on a Match via Wild in the Streets. She said she would say she was doing research for the paper and all expenses would be covered.
Turn down a free trip? Not Thomas Friedman's wife!
So off we went for activism, protest and fun. Everything was great. The plane trip, the hotel. Then it was Saturday, time to hit the rally and march and we needed to take to the train.
One cop nods to us and Gail Collins goes into a panic.
We told her to chill but she said, "They put Judy in the big house for holding her tongue! Can you imagine what they'll do to me for holding!"
Off she ran to the ladies' room to flush down all the pot. The trip never recovered. As Elaine said, "She's easier to take stoned."
And she is. But scared straight, she's a frightmare. It's easy to see how Thomas Friedman can bully her so, she can be a real nervous Nancy.
Even with the stash all sadly gone, Gail Collins is still freaking out as we wait to board the train.
Suddenly she bolts and runs over to the cop from earlier.
"Officer! Officer! Arrest me!" she screams attracting curious glances while Elaine and I try to act like, "Who is that crazy woman?"
The officer tries to humor her but she starts screaming that she is a drug traffikker!
"The hard stuff!"
Guess if you've only ever done whipped cream until now, pot is the hard stuff. But the officer, seeing himself with a big bust and hearing all her talk of bringing it into the city -- "Oodles and oodles of it!" -- starts dreaming promotion and before you know it, she's handcuffed and the officer's pulling her past us.
"I'm so sorry," she keeps repeating as she passes us causing the cop to stare us.
To cover, Elaine offers, "That woman was trying to sell us drugs! She said she had them hidden inside her!"
"What?" Elaine asked looking at me, "She flushed the stash."
Yeah, she did. So she did have it coming.
So Elaine and I did the big activism. We saw Jessica Lange speaking out loud and proud, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney, Jess Jackson and many others but most of all Cindy Sheehan, so small up close, but so powerful.
Even without the pot it was an amazing experience and one that I will never forget.
Not in the "I will never forget" way that Gail Collins is with the cavity search she had before being placed in a holding cell. She's trying to forget that. This, the activism, was something I always want to remember.
A lot of people are upset that the Times didn't cover it too much, the protests. Well they'd placed all their hopes on Gail's big piece and she ended up missing everything. At first she even refused her one phone call saying, "I need to suffer."
Then they put her in with Big Wanda and she was begging for that phone call. The Times sent down Floyd Abrams to spring her but by then she'd missed everything.
She apologized profusely and attempted to make it up to us with a Sunday night on the town, but I am a married woman. Elaine and Gail aren't so they and Floyd and Danny Abrams painted the town "Nancy Reagan red." That's what Elaine called it, rolling her eyes when she said it.
She said she ditched them because although Danny has a "cuteness" he also sheds like crazy (he was wearing an open collar) and every other sentence from his mouth is a whine of, "Well I got a TV show, Daddy! That should count for something!"
Sniveling really isn't Elaine's style. ("It's so Republican!" she said shaking her head.)
But Gail saw the sunrise with the two and we don't know what happened after except that she was spitting up hair balls the whole flight back. When we tried to ask her about what happened when she took them both back to her hotel room, she'd mutter "You don't want to know" and grab another inflight air sickness bag.
So while I was out in DC doing it up proud, Thomas Friedman got a little jealous the way he usually does. In columns like "The Endgame in Iraq" he's taken to claiming that he's actually in Iraq. While the landlord told me that it had kept Thomas Friedman inside the apartment (no more baying at the street lamp), it would probably be a good idea if his postcards from Iraq weren't postmarked NYC. I'm honestly surprised he didn't claim to be the march. But he's caught the spirit in his own demented way.
Or that's what I tried to tell myself as he wrapped himself around me and I tried not to focus on the fact that he'd obviously not showered since I left.
"Come on now," I said holding my nose and attempting to steer him towards the bathroom, "The endgame ends in the shower."
Todd S. Purdum
The New York Times
Like Maria Said Paz
The Common Ills
The Third Estate Sunday Review