Monday, December 2, 2013

Exorcised Over Slimming Down

I was lying in bed one morning last week (I’m really not a morning person; I can lounge in bed for hours after I wake, though this morning, feeling guilty for all the great food I ingested over the weekend, I pushed the covers aside, got up and reluctantly exercised for 30 minutes, though it turned out I hadn’t gained an ounce). Anyway, as I lay in bed last week the phone rang. 

I didn’t recognize the caller ID number. Often, I’ll disdain answering, fearing another robo-calling telemarketer sales come-on, despite our number being on the so-called “Do Not Call Registry,” which seems to have lost its efficacy this past year. Anyway (second time I’ve used that term), I answered and was rewarded with a call from a former business partner with whom my magazine produced several conferences. Though he knew I had retired from the publication several years ago, he was seeking answers. Why, he wanted to know, had his most recent issue floated down to his desk when dropped instead of making the thud it would previously generate from freefall?

It was a painful discussion, details of which I will not catalog for you. Instead, I refer you to the front page of Monday’s New York Times for an article on the decision of New York magazine to reduce the frequency of its publishing cycle( And when Gilda came home tonight, she lamented how thin Country Living and her other magazines had become. I tell you, it’s not a pleasant time to be a print journalist. I get exorcised over the forced reduction in size—page-wise and staff-wise—that has afflicted my profession.

As if I didn’t need anything more to discourage me, Thanksgiving weekend shopping proved to be lackluster. I’m still a student of retailing, so the shortfall did not please me, though I will admit I am not a fan of stores that chose to open on the Thursday holiday. Nor am I a fan of Black Friday doorbuster sales that reduce our collective dignity. Yet, when you read or hear about fast-food and retail workers who have difficulty providing for their families based on their low hourly wages, it is easy to understand why many are desperate to work these hours and why others in similar financial straits are eager to grab these “bargains.” 

It also makes you supportive of the $15 an hour wage fast-food workers are seeking. I’ve written before that it is a red herring argument to assert restaurants would close down or lay off workers if the minimum wage is raised. Yes, prices may have to rise, but only by a few pennies. Wouldn’t it be worth it to be able to look a counter worker in the eyes when ordering a Big Mac and fries?

Our country has evolved into a service-oriented economy. We cannot afford to let the service class fall into a state of servitude. For more on this issue, read Paul Krugman’s column (

Monday’s mail brought a flyer for a new production of Tom Stoppard’s first smash play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. As I wrote back in 2011 when Stoppard was a guest of Leonard Lopate of NPR, I had a special moment when I saw the play in the summer of 1968. On a day off from summer camp, my friends and I scored front row seats to a matinee.

Rosencrantz, or was it Guildenstern?, fell into my lap during the performance. They were standing near the edge of the stage apron bantering their Stoppard lines when all of a sudden Rosencrantz, or was it Guildenstern?, lost his footing and tumbled towards me. My reflexes were only 19-years-old at the time so I managed to thrust out my arms to cushion his fall, and save myself, and the actor, from agony. I quickly pushed him back on stage, without so much as a thank you from Rosencrantz, or was it Guildenstern?