Reality Ain't What It Used to Be

MARTIN J. SMITH

December 30, 1992|By MARTIN J. SMITH

"What?'' you say, slapping your forehead. ''What next, a cat-loving Democrat from Arkansas in the White House?'' Then you pick up the paper and, whoa! Unbelievable! Socks Clinton is getting a litterbox at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue!

''What happened this year to life as we knew it?'' you say. ''Whither have fled the unshakable institutions of my youth?''

You feel disoriented, feverish. The thermometer reads 98.6, which would have been fine until this year, when scientists questioned whether that, indeed, is the normal temperature. So now you're wondering if maybe you're sick and if maybe a glass of milk would help, when suddenly you remember that Benjamin Spock flap.

What did the good doctor say? Breast-feed kids until they're 2, then ''forget milk altogether.'' Low in iron, high in fat and can be contaminated with antibiotics or too much vitamin D.

OK. Ix-nay on the ilk-may. You've always trusted Dr. Spock.

Or should you? The dairy farmers say he's nuts, and one condescending dairy economist noted: ''Dr. Spock is somewhere in his late 80s.''

Typical special-interest reaction, you think, until you read that many pediatricians agree.

Dr. Spock? Around the bend? Lord have mercy. What next? Schwinn bankrupt? The ''Tonight Show'' in trouble? See-through colas? Defecting Republicans in Orange County? Stylish, well-built American cars?

Nah. About as likely as Howard Stern becoming a top radio personality. Or Warren Beatty a devoted husband and father.

But thinking about it makes you hungry. A burger would be nice. So you drive to McDonald's where, what's this? America's House o' Ground Beef is test-marketing a vegetarian burger?

''Hell froze over, right?'' you say to the counter clerk. ''Now I suppose you'll tell me Woody and Mia won't last. Or Di and Fergie will get caught with their knickers down. Or Ted Kennedy's a teetotaler.''

''I wouldn't dare,'' the clerk says with a knowing smirk. ''But Letterman's leaving NBC, Iacocca's leaving Chrysler and Mick's leaving Jerry.''

You feel dizzy. Things seem to be spinning out of control.

''What's left?'' you scream as you run into the parking lot. Lifting your eyes heavenward, you beseech the Creator: ''Tell me, Father, what became of the life I knew, where presidential candidates avoided talk shows, Boy Scouts believed in God and the line between TV sitcom characters and national policy debate seemed so clear?''

Comes a woman's voice from above: ''Father?''

Martin J. Smith is a staff writer with the Orange County Register.

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