MY FIRST resolution for 2019 is “Lighten up. When someone asks you how you are, say ‘Never better’ and say it with conviction, make it be true.”
And my second resolution is: “Don’t bother fighting with ignorance. It doesn’t bother him, and you wind up with stupidity all over you.”
So I ignore the government shutdown and write about the one-ring circus I saw in New York last week, under a tent by the opera house. It was astounding. The beauty of backflips and the balancing act in which a spangly woman does a handstand one-handed on a man’s forehead. The perfect timing of clowns and the dancing of horses, a bare-chested man suspended on ropes high above the arena as a woman falls from his shoulders to catch his bare feet with her bare feet and hang suspended with no net below. A slight woman on the flying trapeze hurling herself into a triple forward flying somersault and into the hands of the catcher. I have loved circuses all my life. This was one of the best. A person can pass through the turnstile in a sour mood and the impossible perfection of feats of style brightens your whole week.
I write about the goodness of the neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurant, than which there is nothing more comforting. You walk into one and you know immediately that you’re among family. An old waitress walks over and says, “Where’ve you been keeping yourself?” You’ve never set foot in the joint but she still misses you. It’s not your family but with time it could be. The food, by whatever name it goes, whatever cuisine, is comfort food. You walk out, comforted, and here you are in Brooklyn, and you have no intention of ever living here, but it strikes you as a possibility.
I could write in praise of my Apple laptop, on which, yesterday morning, I wrote a long e-mail pitching a movie I’d like to write, and I got so engrossed, writing a thousand words that turned into two thousand, I didn’t notice my laptop wasn’t plugged in until suddenly the screen went black. I plugged it in and rebooted. A minute later, there was the e-mail recovered from the darkness. Some genius had designed a crucial gizmo that forgives dumb mistakes. This is like powerful magnetic shoes that prevent you from dropping a big rock on your foot.
Out on Long Guyland last weekend, I saw a man with a big grin who introduced himself as Jackie Martling, the Joke Man, and we stood and fired jokes at each other, and he knew mine and I knew his, and we laughed and laughed. Great dumb jokes like “She was only the stableman’s daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.” Or the blind man who picked up a hammer and saw. The man walked into the bar with a handful of dog turds and said, “Look what I almost stepped in.” I used to have friends who told jokes at parties. They’re all gone now. Only Jackie and I remain. Today, at a party, people sit slumped in a circle complaining about Mr. 45.
People forget that, two years ago, he started out as a joke. As inauguration approached, a story went around about Russian prostitutes in a Moscow hotel room performing (alleged) bodily functions on his person as recorded by (so it was said) the KGB, all of which was leaked to the media, and suddenly people were passing puns like water and referring to the Republican potty — the story made a big splash, very amusing to an Episcopalian like me. Apparently, if you’re in Moscow, it’s not like Peoria. Scantily clad girls kneel over you, doing their business, saying: “You’re not just a man, you’re a nation.”
At a news conference, the Man denied all, of course, standing at a podium the size of a urinal with the sign “Office of the President Elect” on it. President-elect is not an office; it is a person waiting to take office. The sign belongs in the Smithsonian along with Lucy’s “Psychiatric Help 5¢.” He looked as if he still couldn’t quite believe that he was Number One.
After that came the ugly stuff, corruption, brazen lying, sheer unadulterated sleaze, and so forth. And tedium set in. The man is no whiz and in two years or less he will go and stop weeing on the people, and that will be a great relief. Ciao, baby.