The Right Coast

September 18, 2005
Family life update (thank you New York Times)
By Tom Smith

There's something wrong with the pool system. The pump seems fine, so I thought I should clean out the debris basket, a procedure which involves turning off the pump, unscrewing a giant plastic plug, and removing by hand the dog hair, dead amphibians, and small toys that have accumulated in the mesh. You remove the plug with a thingamajig, which was missing of course. Had it been used as a weapon in a kid battle and misplaced? Picked up by the tree trimmers when moving limbs? You just have to deal with these things with the Zen of home ownership. Pounding your head against the edge of the pool does no one any good. But just in case, I went inside to ask the ever capable young William -- an unusual 9 year old, to whom you can give instructions such as "go to the garage and get me the power drill and the 2 1/2 inch deck screws" and he will actually do exactly that -- if he knew where the thingamajig was.

He did not, but he and his brothers were eager to announce their find in the Men's Fashion section of the the New York Times. Here was an ad for Diesel Jeans which showed a young man or maybe woman, it was hard to tell, in jeans only, being whipped by two topless women, each in said jeans. With the whips, they were playing tic tac toe on the man-woman's back, having left the game enscribed there in quite realistic looking welts. Yet the man-woman was smiling; what jolly good fun. "That's just so gay!" said Patrick, in astonished disapproval. "It's not gay, it's just sick," corrected my lovely wife Jeanne. "Gay" seems to be a term of disapprobation for anything sexually suspicious in the school kid set. I decided I might be able to get the plug out with a pipe wrench and went back to the garage. "I guess now we can't leave the Times sitting around," I said to LWJ. "We have to move to a cabin in the woods," she said.

The magazine section's cover story in on Bono, the singer for the rock band U2, who spends his time campaigning for aid to Africa. While it was definitely an egregious puff piece, it was not as sickening as it might have been, though I admit I could not get all the way through it. It did cause me to wonder what is so distasteful about celebrity do-goodity. I decided it has to do with people who have their cake and eat it too. As the story makes clear, Bono lives high, with a house on the Riviera, the finest wines, and all of that. Yet he has time to tell the world more money must be sent to the governments of Africa. If the money went directly to feed the starving children, he would probably be correct, though his example would be more impressive if he gave of his financial assets as much as he does of his precious time. The annoying thing is that the advice he gives seems often enough to be wrong, as far as his mandate to increase foreign aid goes. About debt relief, I might agree with him; I'm not sure.

The article depicts the rich and powerful gathered at Davos, just enraptured by their own wonderfulness and good intentions. And yet, if you were just to announce to the Davos crowd that everyone who had a net worth of more than $100 million would be taxed $1 million each to wipe out the remaining amount due from African countries to the US, which Bono wanted Congress to do, you would have raised more than the amount needed, (about 450 million USD) or else caused a stampede for the doors that would have killed a lot of rich people. All those hangers-on would have been left with no one to hang on to. Rich people being rich is easy enough to ignore, their posing as moral giants begins to get annoying, but their doing so by advocating actively destructive policies begins to make me downright testy. Why can't they just settle for being rich and morally trivial and leave the rest of us alone?

The pipe wrench did work, I cleaned out the filter, but the creepy crawler was still very slugish. I did the wise thing and said to hell with it. Something was probably stuck in a pipe, quite possibly one of the frogs Patrick has been keeping in the pool. With luck, it will decompose and professionals will not have to be paid to get the obstruction out.

Postscript: Patrick advises he was not keeping the frogs in the pool; he released them from their tank, and they went to the pool on their own. He offers this link to a remarkable picture of a Komodo dragon eating a monkey. Also, he knew where the thingamajig was.