Secret Pop

Jan 6, 2005

You see a doll on a music box that's wound by a key.

I usually enjoy watching CNN while I'm on the treadmill at my gym. I crank up the iPod and read the closed captioning and shake my head at the typographical errors. Today, all CNN was talking about was the tsunami. Or I suppose it can rightly be called The Tsunami now. Proper name. No mistaking it. It made me feel bad. Running in place in my expensive gym with my expensive MP3 player and my expensive shoes. And watching that horrific footage of all that brown water sweeping over a bridge, swarmed over with people running like ants. Ants who were suddenly not there anymore. But just as I felt my humanity catch in my throat, I was brought back to my crabby senses. The monitor with CNN on it did not have closed captioning, so I could only read the ticker and the main captions, which were for some reason all alliterative. "Turning the Tide." "Walking the Walk." I was becoming annoyed. Who is writing these? And why do they think a catastrophic international natural disaster is the time to break out the Hallmark card-writing skills? Ooh, and that first one has a bit of a pun in it, too. How cleverly inappropriate. What cheek. I started making up my own in my head. "Harbingers of Hope." "Doctors of Disaster." "Healing the Heartbroken." "Mopping Up the Mess." Well, those writers at CNN get my goat, but they are clearly better at this than I am.

My mom told me that my aunt, who is from Taiwan, once gave this advice: If you see the tide draw out very far -- much further than it normally does -- and you see the fish jumping on the sand, this means something is wrong. Don't go and pick up all the fish. Run. I guess this is some longstanding Taiwanese wisdom about knowing when a tidal wave is approaching. And I guess there is some risk that Chinese people will always choose poorly and opt to get all the free fish.

On another monitor, Jane Pauley's show was featuring a family whose toddler daughter had fallen in the swimming pool when unsupervised. And everyone panicked in the saving effort. The 7-month pregnant mother went into early labor. The grandfather had a heart attack. They must have been monopolizing every EMT vehicle in their county. And I was really upset that this was going to be my running fare. A bunch of images and sentiments to choke me up and make me feel grateful to be alive. But then it turned out that everyone was okay. The fat parents were seated on the stage, and the grandpa came out carrying the two young children, the near-drowned girl being very healthy and normal except for the fact that she doesn't speak yet. Once I knew they were all okay, I felt free to resent them again.

I should also note that the president of Doctors without Borders, a Rowan Somebody-or-Other, was being interviewed on CNN, and I couldn't help but notice how handsome he was. Also, the doctor the CNN cameras were trailing in Indonesia was in admirably good shape and rather handsome. And I wondered if it helps to be cute when you're a doctor. I suppose it does. It seems to help in virtually every other profession. Except maybe begging. I guess I'd be less likely to go under the knife of some Quasimodo-ish fellow. Much as his Harvard diploma might look authentic. And I wonder if that's smart. I think, in general, ugly people have a rougher time of it. Whereas good-looking people get cut a great deal of slack. Slack that may mean your cute doctor might not have really done so well on his medical boards. He just dazzled the proctor with his all-American smile and thick head of hair. Your ugly doctor, on the other hand, well, he probably had to work extra hard. He probably got picked on in class. If there was a John Houseman-esque instructor in his college, he probably got called out all the time and had to be extra prepared, because no one really wanted him to succeed, least of all the former ugly duckling professor who saw too much of himself in the uncomely lad. Anyway, I think some research should be done into this. I'm not planning any major medical procedures, but when I'm due for one, I'd like to know if I should sign up with Doctor Kildare or Doctor Moonface.

I sound glib, but the tragedy in South and Southeast Asia really breaks my heart. I get upset that U.S. news agencies are telling so little of the local story. I talked with Adam last night and agreed that the coverage was slow to make it to air because of how far down the pigment ladder those brown-skinned people are. And that's really shameful. My mother is Chinese and my father is Russian Jewish, and if something happened to me, I'd like for it to have been newsworthy BEFORE the wires picked up that my dad is from Philadelphia and therefore a bona fide American. And if nothing newsworthy ever happens to me, I'd like to be summarily executed and buried at sea. Preferably while I'm still somewhere in the neighborhood of my prime.

Beulah called me early this morning -- early like seven a.m. early -- to ask me questions about debate format. (I was once on my way to becoming CEDA royalty.) I told her what I remembered and then tried to go back to sleep, as I had been up reading until nearly four. But shortly after I walked my dog and got back under the covers, I heard the smack of auto on auto followed by a very long and uninterrupted horn honk. Another accident on La Cienega. There was no chance I would be getting back to sleep. So I snuck out of bed with Audrey uninformed and under the covers, and I got into my gym outfit and headed out. I saw the mess of the accident right up my street. There was an ambulance there. And police officers. And a lot of traffic bottlenecked around the scene. But it wasn't in my path, so I resolved not to be a lookieloo, because people who delay me with their curiosity when passing roadside atrocities make me wish I had Plasticman's arms and the ability to reach into their vehicles and just snap their necks. It was unusually early for me to be out. For some reason, I'm always extra proud of myself when I'm up early. It might be a sign that there's far too little to be proud of in my actual life. But I'm going to see about making today more productive than it might otherwise be. I'm preemptively certain that I will find myself, six or seven hours from now, shaking my head and wishing I hadn't set myself up for failure. But goalsetting is the first step towards not rotting away in your chair.

P.S. I burned nearly a thousand calories on that treadmill. Isn't that just tits?

Yearning. Yearning. While I'm turning around and around.

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