America’s mayor, &c.

San Diego mayor Bob Filner


As I noted in a column on Thursday, Eliot Spitzer is running for office again in New York. He used to be governor. A very big deal. He was going to be the first Jewish president, possibly. And then — a “sex scandal.” What a weak phrase. He was patronizing hookers. (I don’t mean he was talking down to them. I mean, he was paying for their services.)

Spitzer is running for an itty-bitty office, relatively speaking: comptroller of New York — not of the state, of the city. Yesterday, I saw him on the street: 68th and Columbus. I have a feeling he was coming from ABC News. As I’ve said before in this column, he’s an impressive-looking dude, in person. Hang on, let me look that up.

Okay, here it is: a column of November 17, 2009. I wrote,

I won’t give you a concert review, but I’ll give you a little social news, out of Carnegie Hall: Covered a Berlin Philharmonic concert the other night — and in the audience was Dr. Ruth Westheimer, looking tiny and spry, as usual. Sitting nearby were former New York governor Eliot Spitzer and his wife. Spitzer looks younger and handsomer in person; his wife, Silda, is an absolute knockout.

Okay, back to yesterday: Spitzer looked at me warily — maybe with a bit of alarm. I’m sure he’s gotten some bad remarks. I passed him without saying anything. Behind me, I heard someone call out to him, “Good luck.” He said, “Thanks.”

That’s all I have to report. Not much, huh?

You may like this even less: My Detroit Pistons have acquired Josh Smith from the Atlanta Hawks. His nickname is “J-Smoove” — “smoove” for “smooth.” Which took me back . . .

Back in my golf days — Detroit area — we’d sometimes say, “I’m goin’ smoove it.” When I said this, I often did not: smooth it. Much talk, little execution. Now and then I was “Jay-Smoove” (if I may). But not often enough to merit the nickname.

More like Jay-Rough.

Anyway, I hope Smith helps us.

Speaking of Detroit teams: It’s amazing that Miguel Cabrera’s stats are so good. If I’ve read the papers correctly, he’s the first player in history to have 90 RBIs and 30 home runs before the All-Star break. Incidentally, I’m referring to tomorrow’s All-Star game as “the Tiger game.”

Why are those stats amazing? Well, for one thing, the guy barely gets a chance to hit. I mean, they walk him all the time. Imagine if he had a full complement of at-bats!

A little language? For a long time, people have made a big deal out of the differences between British English and American English. Too big a deal, probably. Regardless — irregardless! — there are differences, some of them interesting.

The other day, I was reading an article in a London paper, and the writer said, “So is it down to parents to set boundaries for their children in a fundamentally unsafe digital world?” We would say “up to”: “up to parents to set boundaries.”

Down and up. That’s kind of interesting.

This is related to language: In my Thursday Impromptus, I mentioned a famous American animal, whom I called “Smokey the Bear.” I think I got more mail on that subject than I’ve gotten on any subject in ages. People wanted me to say “Smokey Bear.”

Which I know was his official name (to the extent he had one). (I guess his name was “Smokey,” plain and simple.) But I grew up saying, and hearing, “Smokey the Bear.” In fact, I saw Smokey, when visiting D.C. relatives. (No, they didn’t live in the zoo. They lived in the city.)

“Smokey the Bear” is ingrained in my thinking, and tongue. Don’t think I can (or want to) ungrain it.

Let’s close with a reader letter — which relates to another item in my Thursday column. I was complaining about restaurant decorum. In a hot, muggy dining room, I took off my jacket. The waiter told me to put it back on. Which made me hotter.

Our reader says,

Do you know this old joke? A man is eating in a prominent New York City restaurant. He takes off his jacket. The waiter rushes over to tell him to put it back on. The man says, “But the Queen of England gave me permission to take off my jacket.” Understandably skeptical, the waiter denies that this could be so.

“It’s true, it’s true,” says the man. “I was at a state dinner in Buckingham Palace, and took off my jacket. The Queen rushed over and said, ‘You can do that in New York, but you can’t do it here!’”

Catch you soon.