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It was a vile day and I was in a vile mood. Robert Downey Jr., serving a
stiff jail sentence for using drugs, wasn’t a criminal, he was an
addict; there is
a difference. Waco was looking worse for the feds by the minute, and how
about reconsidering the Leonard
Peltier
case? Who ISN’T
lying to the American people?
The pubescent boyfriend of a pregnant 12-year-old blamed sex-education films
for teaching him how to “do it.” Online bidders offered millions for a human
kidney until eBay put a halt to their ghoulish game. After studying glowing
green mice for clues to genetic secrets, scientists did a gene swap making
mice monogamous.

There’s more, and I’m not making any of this up. The Clinton’s purchased a
$1.7 million cottage in a picturesque part of New York state right near
where my brother used to live, and if only he hadn’t died we could have all
been neighbors at the same barbecue. Monica Lewinsky was moving into a posh,
gorgeous $4,000-a-month Greenwich Village apartment where the street address
was 666; is she walking in her sleep, or what? Soon she will launch her own
lipstick line, or design and sell handbags on the Internet, or intern for
the magazine Marie Claire; her mind is like an unmade bed. Meanwhile,
Monica’s doctor dad, irritated by “moronic” fund-raising solicitations by
mail from the embarrassed Clinton camp, has started treating pets with
cancer for thousands of dollars a case, saying pet health insurance
reimbursements were often higher than the human health insurance
reimbursements, and once again trendy L.A. was showing the rest of America
the way.

What a sickening profiteer.

Yes, I was in a vile mood. Vile as the woman who paints a dragon that
comes to life, except the dragon didn’t really come to life, she only
thought it did, which was even worse!
Vile as the morning some nutsy
photographer e-mails me saying he saw me on TV. Yes, THAT VERY MORNING! The
Today Show.

The Today Show? This is news to me. I am HERE so how could I be THERE?

Why was I on, I ask him.

They did a thing on Internet dating, he says.

Ah, the important stuff.

Yeah? I say. That is not one of my current, or even previous, hobbies.
Besides, no one called to ask my permission, so how would they include me?

Your name was there, he insists.

My name? Impossible.

Your name was there, he persists annoyingly. He saw it in a picture of a
computer monitor.

Really? On national TV? In millions of living rooms? I say, envisioning
invasion of privacy and lots of money from NBC.

My name? Or my screen-name? I ask.

Right, he persists, sandwiched between segments of some guy cutting off a
woman’s head and then burying her in a hole, and a sympathetic female shrink
talking about why the women she treats get into these fantasies and let them
take over their lives, they showed MY name on a computer monitor, he says –
yellow type against a black background, he says, when I press him for
details.

So I call up NBC — the peacock network — and they stonewall. And I
start getting steamed after “Allison” this associate producer says, Your
friend is screwy, it was black type against a red background, I think
you would like it if you saw it!

Numero uno, he’s not my friend, he’s just a social opportunist, I say.
And, no, I would not like it at all, not if they used my name on a show
about computer dating — I don’t date computers — and besides everyone
knows my screename. And why was it on national TV, without asking me for
permission, violating my privacy and holding me up to public ridicule and
humiliation?

Well, they weasel out of it, insisting No! It was just a list of women’s
first names, she says, and she reads them off to me, all these silly, frilly
cyber-names. Dozens of willing women waiting to be plucked and shucked by
androids and replicants and virtual lovers, and yes, finally she gets to the
place on the list that says “Mara” — which is me, sort of, but any Mara,
generic Mara, not which Maralyn, not Mara893, not me, not really, since we
all know there are thousands upon thousands of Cyber-Maras waiting for their
Cyber-Princes to emerge from the bull-rushes of Cyber-Space.

Listen, Allison from NBC says, That guy who called you early this morning
and started all this, HE’s the one to blame for upsetting you, she says,
This is all his fault, HE, not NBC, not them. HE should apologize to me!

Like my erstwhile pal Hola Vato the Hollywood screenwriter would say,
This is … this.”

What a novel idea.

It was starting to feel like I was trapped in an Albert Brooks movie. You
know, it was supposed to be funny, but it wasn’t, and I kept getting
distracted by how weirdly insincere the characters’ voices were sounding.

Just then, a neighbor phones me, Do I hear the barking dog
outside?

No, I’m in my padded cell right now where I write, but that must be the
dog that’s being tortured by the criminals across the street whose snotty
landlords say, Whuz the problem they pay the rent?

That is a tragic tale, my friend “Polly” later commiserates.

Thanks. My rant is done, I tell her.

Mine is never done, she replies.

That’s why I like her. But actually, I realize later, it WAS pretty
funny. For a moment there, I was counting my money, imagining — almost, but
not exactly like a Gypsy deliberately slipping on a banana peel, because,
though I am one-sixteenth Romany and one of my 72 childhood nicknames was
Tsiganegeh, that is probably politically incorrect, isn’t it? –
great riches for little effort.

Anyway, so here I am, cheesed off at the world!

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