"Nice tattoo," I told the cabby. "I'm a big fan of Betty Boop, particularly the early years. That's Pudgy, in case you didn't know."
"Hah?" he said, jabbing at and missing the ashtray with his Rum Crook.
"The dog who's rather energetically pleasuring Betty from behind there on your bicep, my good man. Pudgy's his name. Listen, I write a blog, maybe you're familiar with it, and I was curious what you and the boys at the airport were saying about Ann Coulter on the Today Show last week. Because
Screw it. I've got a headache. And I can't remember the last time I rode in a cab--I flagged one downtown once and the guy got cheesed when he found out I hadn't called in, because they don't do flags here!--and when I do travel it's generally to someplace where the lack of cabs is part of the larger point of going there. I have become a fan of the Discovery channel game show Cash Cab, hosted by the standup Benjamin Bailey or Bailey Benjamin--his hack license/credit goes by pretty fast. It's a good show, and you New Yawkers are real cool an' stuff, and it's the only game show where someone wins 750 bucks and you're excited for them instead of thinking how cheap the fuckin' producers are.
And I've got my own cabby of sorts, the Star's sports columnist Bob Kravitz. I've never met Mr. Kravitz. We've traded emails a couple of times over things he wrote. He can be counted on, once or twice a year at least, to reveal the zeitgeist as an aside. The most memorable of these, and the occasion of our first email exchange, was his response to criticism of the precedent and bounds-of-decency shattering excessathon that was the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake City Games, which ran, "The world can kiss my red-white-and-blue ass."
So far as I'm aware, the world took a pass. This was less than half a year beyond 9/11, and one made allowances for silly and impotent public jingoisms. I don't remember now what our emails said. I do remember the ones from a year earlier, when BIll Clinton attended the 500, which gave Kravitz a chance to do a Clinton Cock joke, to which I responded that I looked forward to George W. Bush attending the race so the Blue Angels could honor him by flying over in the Missing Man formation, and Bob caught the reference (older readers may recall that Bush's TANG years were not much publicized somehow in 2000).
So, when Bob Kravitz uses the phrase "mouth-breathing, Ann Coulter-reading morons" I suppose I'm given pause in wondering why Today has her on in the first place. An NBC spokesman said she's "news," but clearly not everyone so described gets a ten-minute segment in which to peddle her merchandise, and few if any others are so described because they find ways to repackage slime every year or so. The question shouldn't be whether NBC will ever book her again. The question is why they did so this time, and why, if Matt Lauer is so outraged on behalf of the survivors of 9/11 victims it comes out only now. The cabbies of America are way ahead of you, NBC. Even the sportswriters have caught up.