Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Thomas Friedman is the Meanest Generation

Yesterday, we had friends over. Or rather, I had friends over. Thomas Friedman appears to have burned every bridge and tunnel he had. (Bridge and tunnel? I've ghost written too many columns for my husband.) Jane Fonda was going to be the guest on Cover to Cover with Denny Smithson and we would listen at six p.m. and then have dinner.

I think it was probably an interesting interview. I can't tell you that it was because neither I nor my guests could hear most of it. That was due to Thomas Friedman continuing his grudge against Jane Fonda.

"Why doesn't Danny interview me!"

He meant Denny.

"I'm twice as interesting. He wants protest? When I was removed as class treasurer, they accused me of taking the missing funds! Me!, I staged a protest. It lasted two weeks. They reinstated me. They said, 'Friedman, anything to stop the whining and tears.' But that was just there way of saving face!"

Saving face?

I called Mrs. K last Thursday to see how she was handling the news about Nicky K's Pulitzer win. She was thrilled. We spoke about how great it was for Nicky and then, near the end of the conversation, she raised an issue.

Someone had been leaving nasty notes on Nicky K's desk.

"Death to Kristof!" read one. "You are nothing! You will die a nothing! I am rooting for your death! In death, you may remember who your friends were and who the smiley faces who rooted for your crash-burn-smoke were!"


"It's just so strange, Betinna," Mrs. K said. "I mean, the win's good for everyone at the paper. It's free publicity and all."

"Uh-huh," I replied, sweating bullets ("and grenades," if I wanted to write like Thomas Friedman).

"You don't know anything about it, do you? I keep trying to figure out who would leave such things."

"No, this is the first I've heard of it," I said honestly.

"It's just so strange. And they're on 'Saved By The Bell' stationary."

Did she know.

"Oh, gotta' go," I said nervously. "Something's about to burn in the oven."

"Sure," Mrs. K said. "By the way, they had smears on them, the notes did."

She knew. She knew.

"It appeared to be some form of cheese."

Damn him and his fanny pack! He carried that canned cheese everywhere.

"Oh, I see smoke, gotta' run," I said nervously.

"Betinna, Nicky and I both know that Thomas has been leaving the notes."


I apologized, explained that Thomas Friedman was . . . well Thomas Friedman. And that they weren't threats, just "wishes."

She made it clear that she didn't blame me but that before she and Nicky would visit again, Thomas Friedman would have to apologize. An occurence as rare as him airing out his shorty robe.

Which he wore to my party. Jelly stains and all. His consolation to me, what passes for dressing for company in his mind, was to wear mesh boxers instead of a g-string. I know he thinks he's hot, but looking at him, I was reminded of the song in "Pillow Talk" that goes, "He's a rolly-polly . . ."

But how could I be embarrassed by what he was wearing? I was too busy being shamed by what he was saying.

He was full of bluster about his column from last Friday, "The Greenest Generation." He cornered Jess and asked if he'd read it? Jess made the mistake of saying "no." Honesty is never always the last policy with Thomas Friedman. He whipped a copy out of his shorty robe and insisted that Jess read it then and there.

Jess did so and handed it back silently.

Thomas Friedman wasn't going for that. Like Gail Collins mooning over Davy Brooks, Thomas Friedman feels that a compliment and himself must be merged. I could see the car speeding up the ramp, headed for the highway and the 16 wheeler that wasn't going to yield.

"Smell the C20?" Jess asked. "I guess you thought it was funny."

"It was funny!" Thomas Friedman yelled with so much rage that his body shook sending tiny ripples through both his shorty robe and his ass fat.

Jess joined Rebecca, Elaine and Cedric at the table I'd set up buffet style and Thomas Friedman turned bright red.

The doorbell rang and I was thinking, "Saved by the Bell!"

Then, remembering those pictures of Screech and Slater that Thomas Friedman keeps under his pillow, I wiped that thought from my brain. He's taken a photo of Screech with his mouth open and one of Slater standing to make it look as though Screech is before Slater's crouch with his mouth open. When I found it, he was humilated and pouted for a good half hour before assuring me that it was an art project he was working on, a collage when it was completed, and attempted to turn the topic to Gail Collins whose new office nickname is "Ecquine."

I opened the door and there was our new neighbor Wally. I was just about to warn him to stay away from my husband, the second-rate, if not third, Thomas Friedman when suddenly he was upon us, squirting canned cheese in his mouth and extending a hand.

"You read?" Thomas Friedman said through a mouth filled with cheese.

"Lou Reed's here?" Wally asked.

"No," I explained, "he's asking if you read -- and he means his column,"

Wally looked the portly vision, clad in silk shorty robe, up and down before asking if Thomas Friedman wrote for some gay weekly out of Key West?

"The New York Times," Thomas Friedman replied.

"Oh, I hate that rag. Nothing but distortions on battles, distortions on Iraq and war pornography?"

I expected Thomas Friedman to explode but, for once, he surprised me. Which surprised me as well because I feel like I've logged enough miles with Friedman to be an expert and able to point out all the histrionic markers as well as points of intensity.

"See, I do dress snazzy," Thomas Friedman said to me, "He thinks I'm gay. Everyone knows gay men are the best dressers."

"Yeah," I said grabbing Wally's arm and leading him into the apartment, "you're right up there with the Village People."

"They were not gay, Betinna!" Thomas Friedman erupted. "They were not gay!"

Thomas Friedman got over his outrage quickly and was soon sling sass and his ass as he strutted around the room.

Pointing to Wally, Thomas Friedman told everyone, "He wants to Brokeback my Mountain!"

Which was followed, always with, "How about you?"

What initially was greeted with curious stares and the occasional polite laughter (it was a joke, wasn't it?) quickly became a never ending embarrassing moment.

I felt as though I were six inches tall and wished I could hop into his fanny pack, zip it up and disappear.

But I couldn't and, apparently, he couldn't stop shoving his column at people.

We'd missed most of Jane Fonda's interview and I was getting ticked off.

By the time he'd cornered Rebecca and was reading his column, aloud, to her, I'd had enough.

"Thomas Friedman, you have destroyed my party!" I yelled.

He attempted to ignore me and continue reading while Rebecca had that "What Am I? An Asshole Magnet?" look on her face.

"No one wants to read your lazy ass column!" I shouted across the room. "No one cares what you think and they certainly don't care for your shoving your own responsibility off on college students. Save the eco-system? Why don't you think about what you can do instead of telling colleges what to do? Or is this like every other column and our life, or lack of it, in the bedroom? When there's something that needs to be done, you'll just wait to see if anyone else will."

"How dare you!" Thomas Friedman screamed. Tearing himself away from Rebecca's cleavage, he faced me.

"I am a sensitive man! I am touchy-feely! I am a kind hearted soul! That's why, next year, it will be me and not Nicky the K winning the Pulitzer!"

"Not, if you keep writing this crap!" I shot back. "What's up with telling colleges what to do? Have you told the Times how they could be more energy effcient? No. You just want to push the burden off on others yet again."

He called me a few unmentionable names, insisted he was the most sensitive, most caring man alive and turned on Cedric for eating a Ritz Cracker.

"Mine!" he hollered, grabbing the roll of crackers and storming off to the bedroom.

"Was that a floor show or a freak show?" Cedric wondered.

Me? I don't wonder. Every day living with The Meanest Generation is a freak show.