Friday, June 10, 2005

Thomas Friedman: Dull and Duller

Thomas Friedman: Dull and Duller.

This week, that's what I decided he should call his autobiography.

My husband Thomas Friedman, what is there to say? Even his tantrums grew boring this week.

He was a roller coaster ride as usual but, as B.B. King would say, the thrill is gone.

Not even when Nicky K and Mrs. Kristof came over was Thomas Friedman amusing.

Nicky's niece was graduating. And back when Thomas Friedman and Nicky K were talking, Thomas Friedman begged and begged to speak at the graduation.

"I must speak!" he would intone over and over until he sounded like Greta Garbo in reverse.

Finally, and not surprisingly, Nicky K caved. But all of that was before they decided to play their own sad version of Whatever Happened to Baby Bobo Friedman? That was the end of everything. Thomas Friedman mocked and ridiculed Nicky K. Now my husband Thomas Friedman loves to upset Nicky K. But he usually stops once Nicky K's lower lip is trembling.

But as you know, it was very, very ugly.

Nicky K was now in a bind because he had arranged for Thomas Friedman to speak. So ego in hand, he and his wife came for a visit.

Thomas Friedman locked himself in the bathroom which he insists upon calling a "home spa."

Nicky K begged and pleaded, weeping against the bathroom door.

At one point Mrs. K and I exchanged a look. It was obvious she wasn't pleased with her husband's groveling.

I jerked my head towards the kitchen and we went in there to talk over pink lemonaide.

She poured her heart out to me and, though we've frequently gone out to eat as a foursome, we were still really strangers.

Listen to her pour her heart out about how Nicky K always buckled made me realize I didn't have it so bad. Thomas Friedman is easy to control. You just push the vanity button. You tell him he's great or you indicate that he's not great. Either way, he reacts and you can control it.
Most of the time.

But Nicky K's spine is apparently a noodle.

Mrs. K offered that every day their paper is thrown not in the house but in a gulley by the drive. The gulley has a build up of water from the spring rains and each day the paper is too soggy to read. Each morning Nicky K will come back into the house in his purple sweat pants and his raggedy, torn Madonna Like a Virgin concert t-shirt. He will say he will handle it but he never does.

Mrs. K finally said she was calling the paper.

"No, no, you musn't," Nicky K . . . well whined.

He would handle it. So he went outside to wait for the paper the next morning. He waved to the kid and in his hand was a crisp twenty dollar bill. The kid came over.

Nicky K offered him the twenty dollar bill and asked that he not throw the paper in the gully anymore. The kid grinned, snatched the twenty dollar bill, threw the paper into the gully and strode off laughing.

Nicky K wept for hours and hours.

I was just about to tell her about Thomas Friedman's frequent fugue states when he began hollering, his voice booming through the apartment, "Betinna! Prune me!"

Sighing, I stood up and walked into the hallway.

"No prune juice for you, Thomas Friedman," I hollered back.

"Great Gods in heaven!" he shrieked. "I will have prune juice! Prune me!"

As I walked over to the door, Nicky K blew his nose on his shirt cuff and rubbed his red eyes.

"Thomas Friedman, you have been in that 'home spa' for almost 1 hour. You obviously have no problems with regularity. No prune juice for you."

He howled like a wounded animal.

Patting Nicky K on the shoulder, I steered him towards the kitchen while Thomas Friedman continued to cry and howl.

"No prune juice until you get your butt out of that 'home spa!'"

"Why do you be so cruel to me!" Thomas Friedman shrieked. "Why! Why! Why!"

"Knock it off, Baby Jane," I told him. "You want prune juice, get your ass out of that 'home spa' and go talk to Nicky."

Thomas Friedman threw the bathroom door open and charged out in his shorty robe and high drama.

Waving around something thing and white in one hand, Thomas Friedman began to pace madly while hissing, "Nicky, Nicky, Nicky! Must everything be Nicky, Nicky, Nicky?"

He made a large clock line movement with his arm on the question. As he waved the hand around, I recognized what he held between two fingers.

"Nicky, Nicky, Nicky, Nick-vil," Thomas Friedman said pursing his lips and popping his eye balls.

Slapping him on the ass, I said, "No Oscars today, Miss Davis, now get your ass in the kitchen and for God's sake, stop waving around a tampon."

Thomas Friedman sharply turned his head and muttered, "Hmmph!"

But he headed towards the kitchen, shorty robe flying up in the back.

In the kitchen he eventually made up with Nicky K but not before he spent the better part of a half hour sitting on the kitchen table with his knees widely spread in an attempt to harrass Mrs. K and Nicky.

When I called him on that, he giggled coquettishly and tossed his hair back, attempting to call attention to the highlights he had put in this week.

Finally someone noticed them.

"Are you getting more gray hairs?" asked Mrs. K.

Thomas Friedman glared at her while sucking on the tampon.

I handed him his prune juice hoping it would persuade him to put down the tampon.

Either Thomas Friedman screeches in a high drama burst that causes his shorty robe encased body to shake -- or the the even keel Thelma Ritter-style manages to calm him down. Part Bette Davis, part Marilyn Monroe, part Judy Garland, part Sharon Stone and full time creepy, I had to remind myself I was married to this Sybell-like bundle of joy who at any moment might begin acting out the monologue of his favorite scene:

Oh look at you painted up in your little halter top, you're nothing but a litle slut. I'm a Puerto Rican lady senor. You're nothing but a little slut Sybill Ann Dorsett. I'm not a slut. I'm not a slut. I'm not a slut. I ain't no slut!

That can be very embarrassing when we're walking through Central Park and Thomas Freidman is in the mood to "bask" in the "stares of recognition" from others. I always tell Thomas Friedman that they are not looking because they recognized him but because what Molly Shannon can get away with dressed up in a Catholic school girl uniform just comes off bizarre when spewing from the mouth of a stocky, middle-aged man screeching those lines in a public park. The question is, is the hommage to celluloid bitch goddess an act or is it the real thing?

The last comment was made by Nicky K, whispered to his wife but overheard by Thomas Friedman who cocked his head and looked off in the distance as he sipped on the prune juice.
I could just the clunky wheels in his brain attempting to get rolling as he considered whether there was a column in that statement.

That's how it always is when you live with Thomas Friedman, every moment, every scene, he's wondering whether, "Is there a column in this?" Early this week, while watching a grieving Nick Newman return to work on The Young & the Restless, Thomas Friedman got that look.

"Thomas Friedman, there is no column in this," I cautioned.

"But Betinna," Thomas Friedman said, "Brad is telling Nick that he should be at home mourning while Nikki is asking Victor if he's offered to help Nick through this. And all the time Nick is maintaining that he has to be at work because he can't go home and open himself up to those feelings. Don't you get it? The world is flat. The message is all there!"

Thomas Friedman is always looking for a way to promote his own book in these columns. But I told him that he was not going to rip off The Young and the Restless and, besides, he is not grieving. Muttering and ripping at a frayed edge on the front of his shorty robe, Thomas Friedman finally agreed with me.

To distract him, I asked, in my best Dustin Hoffman, "Are you trying to seduce me, Thomas Friedman?"

This so amused Thomas Friedman that he laughed so hard and so long, he began wheezing.

After his coughing fit passed (maybe he should switch to filtered tampons?), he was still beaming.

"Fine, I will do it," Thomas Friedman declared.

Nicky K was happy. Until Thomas Friedman guzzled down the prune juice as though it were a vodka martini.

We knew it was time for a visit with the Albees -- very Who's Afraid of Thomas Friedman and the Big Flat Earth? - so after Nicky K had repeated, "Thomas Freidman is a great man, I am not fit to walk the same earth as Thomas Freidman" for the tenth time, Thomas Friedman finally gave Nicky K a bear hug.

Still hugging Nicky, Thomas Friedman looked at me and Mrs. K, and said, "What can I do? I'm just a people person. Now we shall all go out to eat to some place really special."

"McDonalds?" asked an excited Nicky K.

"Even better," replied Thomas Friedman. "We will all go to Utterly Delicious!"

Knowing we were far more likely to end up at the usual deli on 2nd Street, I didn't share Nicky's excitement. No, I did not dance from foot to foot murmuring, "Utterly Delicious! Utterly Delicious!"

Instead, I just advised Thomas Friedman that if we were going anywhere, he better change out of his shorty robe and into some big boys pants. Looking at the expression on Nicky K's face, I knew he was so happy to be friends with Thomas Friedman again that he'd once again tossed aside his critical thought facilities. But I noticed that Mrs. K was staring a look that seemed to ask, "What fresh hell is this?" She is still to new to the antics of Thomas Friedman to realize that they are best greeted with a yawn. Or, as Thomas Friedman has been known to snarl, "Fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride."