Thursday, March 02, 2006

A "social lunch" at the New York Timid

Life with Thomas Friedman. It's never calm. It's never rewarding, but it's never calm.

So Gail Collins is having some problems with his columns and calls us both in for a meeting because she seems to think she and I are still friends.

"Bring your wife," she tells Thomas Friedman. "It's really more of a social lunch."

The first topic on the list is his column from yesterday, "Who's Afraid of a Gas Tax?"

"Uh, the whole paper, fat ass!" Gail snaps at him.

Obviously, her idea of a "social lunch" differs from most.

"Well, I had a problem the week before," I offer spearing my salad and wondering who told Gail Collins that a salad qualified for "a lunch." Especially a salad that consisted of nothing more than iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing.

I look up and see Gail Collins is glaring at Thomas Friedman and he's got his beady eyes fixed on her unibrow.

"You are supposed to make the world safe for neo-liberalism," Gail says not blinking. "You are not supposed to advocate higher taxes."

It was like watching two wide-eyed cats as both continued to stare without blinking.

I study them for a few minutes as I try to eat the "salad."

"Gail, this isn't really cutting it."

"What's that, Betinna?"

"Look at this," I say waving my fork over "the salad."

"You have to request tomatoes! They are extra!" Gail Collins snaps, pulling open a drawer in her desk, grabbing her purse, digging around for something and then slapping a bit of a tomato on top of the lettuce. One. A single slice.

They really go all out at the New York Timid.

Pushing the plate aside, I clear my throat with the hope of catching their attention.

But they're doing their war dance and I think they're strangely excited by it.

"Okay, in 'Empty Pockets, Angry Minds,' my husband Thomas Friedman --"

" 'The great Thomas Friedman'," Thomas Friedman corrects me.

"Don't push it," I reply. "In that column, he wrote about the desecration of the Koran and trotted out the tired fiction that the Newsweek article on the Koran led to violence."

"Betina, I'm working from a list here," Gail huffed. "I will get to the positives shortly."

"But Jon Lee Anderson disproved that fiction."

"Who?" they both cried out as though we were doing call-and-response.

"Jon Lee Anderson."

"I really don't know that name," Gail Collins snapped.

"He writes for The New Yorker."

"Nonsense, Jane Mayer is The New Yorker!"

"Okay," I say determined to make this point, "Karzai was out of the country, he was here in the United States. The night letter was a call to violence while he was out of the country."

Gail looked at Thomas Friedman, he looked at her, they both started giggling.

"Silly, Betinna, you shouldn't believe everything you read unless it's in the New York Timid," Thomas Friedman giggled studying his salad.

"Oh, heavens yes!" Gail Collins giggled. "Dear Betinna, always so easily taken in!"

Thomas Friedman began chortling and the less said about that the better.

So they knew nothing of Jon Lee Anderson's article? I guess they hadn't assigned a reporter to do a book report the week that story ran in The New Yorker?

Having bonded over a common enemy, Bully Boy and the Shi'ites proceeded to . . . Woops, Gail Collins and Thomas Friedman found themselves in harmony for the rest of the "lunch." He asked for more ranch dressing, she drug out her purse again and tossed him a few packets. They muched like two cows grazing. I found myself thinking of the Nina Simone song "Pirate Jenny" and how I could apply it to my own life.

As lunch wound down, Gail pulled me aside to tell me that her efforts weren't working on Davey Brooks. How strange, she was telling him that she was really, really into animals -- large farm animals? Yes, she had.

"I'm beginning to think he doesn't like animals," Gail whispered.

"Oh, I'm sure that's not the case, Gail. You just need to try harder. By the way, congratulations on the new hire. Linda Lavin was always so good on Alice," I said sailing past a very confused Collins.