Of soup stock and TV shops

Dan Rodricks

November 12, 1990|By Dan Rodricks

More Moments of Greatness . . .

Starving artists all over the country apply to the National Endowment for the Arts for money. And the NEA gives a $50,000 grant . . . to the Rouse Company! For art . . . in shopping malls! (And here we were thinking those Rouse shopping malls were already themselves Works of Art!)

Great. Just great. To promote its new multimillion-dollar Marine Mammal Pavilion -- that great Aquatic Anachronism at the Inner Harbor -- promoters for the National Aquarium have come up with an exciting new poster showing two silhouetted bottle-nose dolphins jumping through the waves on a sunlit sea. Dolphins in the wild! Exciting! "If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in the water," the poster says. How romantic. How utterly ennobling. Too bad the aquarium's dolphins will be stuck in a tank. And they'll probably never live in the sea again.

Wonderful.

Arizona legislators, their consciences stirred awake by dollar signs, vow to enact a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in the hopes of salvaging chances of playing host to the Super Bowl in 1993.

Swell.

My pal, Joey Amalfitano, waltzes down the street in the rain. It's Saturday. He's in a good mood. He's doing that rainy-Saturday thang. He's in Govans. He stops in front of a newspaper box. He slips a quarter and a dime into the box. The box won't open. Joey grabs the box and rattles it. The box won't open. He punches the coin-return button. The dime comes back. But not the quarter. So he puts another quarter and another dime in the box. This time . . . the box still won't open. And this time, when Joey punches the coin-return button, nothing happens. But Joey, unperturbed, continues his Saturday strut. He approaches another newspaper box. He slips a quarter and a dime in the box.

Same baloney. Different box.

I decide to make chicken stock. I take a 10-quart pot, a dead chicken, lots of carrots and leaks and onions and herbs. I make a fantastic broth. It simmers for hours. It steams up the windows in the kitchen. The whole house smells like chicken stock. At midday, I prepare to separate the liquid from the solid ingredients. I clear the kitchen sink. I place a colander in the kitchen sink. I pour the contents of the chicken broth into thecolander . . . and down the drain!

Great. Just great.

Joey Amalfitano is in the market for a TV set. He sees one advertised at a local department store -- a 25-inch RCA for $375. "That's about as cheap as I seen 'em," Joey tells me, then puts on his jacket and heads for the department store. By the time he arrives in the electronics department, however, someone has placed a little red sign on the marked-down RCA: "Due to circumstances beyond our control, this item is no longer available."

Terrific.

On his way out of the store, Joey spots another TV for sale. It's a 25-inch RCA, for $299. A fantastic buy! Joey examines the tag attached to the TV set. "Repaired," it says. "Has remote. No box." Joey is interested in buying the set but curious about the nature of the repair. "If someone had dropped the thing, I wasn't about to buy it," he says. So Joey asks a clerk if he knows what had been wrong with the TV. "I have no idea," says the clerk. "You'll have to talk to the manager. He'll be back in a half-hour."

Swell.

Joey returns to the department store an hour later. He finds the electronics department manager. The electronics department manager is busy stacking shelves with videotapes. He appears to be thoroughly unapproachable. Joey approaches. He tells the manager that he is interested in buying the TV set. But what was the nature of the repair? "I have no idea!" the manager snaps. "I have no idea! They just brought it in like that!" Come on, says Joey, you don't know what part of the TV needed repair? "I have no idea!" the manager says again. Joey tells him the remote control handset is missing; does the manager know where it is? "I have no idea! They come in here and open things up and take things! I have no idea!" And with that, the electronics department manager walks away.

Great. Just great.

At his post-election press conference, the governor of Maryland says: "I won! You know, I won! I know it's hard to believe but I did a right outstanding job. You say, aw, it's tough, well, I'm . . . you know, this is the last time as governor but not my last time. I feel very comfortable, I did all right. . . . Sort of apologizing that I won. Well, I won."

Well, that's great. Just great.

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