Can I give you a definition of a fun evening? Dinner at the home of Bob and Becky Kevoian, in Indianapolis, with dozens of their friends, in support of National Review. If you ever have a chance . . .
Bob is a national radio star — one half of Bob & Tom. He has a signature hat, an L.A. Dodgers cap. That got me to thinking that I should wear a Detroit Tigers cap more. Becky is a singer. Their home is like Thoreau on Walden Pond, but with amenities.
Most of the guests were business owners, who are sick of being demonized. By whom? Well, by the president, the Democratic party, and the culture at large. These business owners employ people — often hundreds or thousands of people. They create new jobs, new wealth, new security, all the time. They pay millions upon millions of dollars in taxes. They give millions upon millions to charity.
How are they the problem, again?
I agree. I also think that almost everything said about Hispanic immigration is true — positive or negative. Everyone has a different emphasis.
I talked to a man who was telling me about a particularly nervy politician — I can’t remember who. Anyway, this fellow has “[family jewels] the size of church bells.”
How did I live this long in America without hearing that expression?
I talked to a man whose dad lost everything in 1929 — everything. Was flat on his back. Had nothing. He rebounded, after a while, but a lot of people were crippled, mentally, spiritually, and financially, for life.
I think how relatively easy our current hard times are.
I also think of something that Eugene Genovese told me — the great historian who died a couple of years ago. I interviewed him about a year before. Let me quote a little of the ensuing piece:
Genovese is unwilling to call himself a free-marketeer, believing that the “logic” of the free market “leaves an awful lot of people in the gutter.” But he would support most free-market measures, because “the alternatives are dreadful.” The policies of such politicians as Mitt Romney and Chris Christie strike him as sensible.
He also said he liked Ronald Reagan’s idea of a “safety net” — a “social safety net.”
Anyway, the party at the Kevoians’ was full of great American spirits (and I’m not talking about the liquor). Afterward, Becky and one of her friends — female friends — were comparing their guns. Not their muscles, but their firearms. To see these two feminine ladies discussing the fine points of Glocks and so on was a hoot.
Becky is part of a trio called the Fun Girls — they are indeed fun, and their music goes down real good. It’s hard not to smile when you listen to it. Hard not to groove to it. Check out the Fun Girls here. And, incidentally, I think the Andrews Sisters would love them.
Here is an American phenomenon: You get into a cab somewhere, and the cabbie’s credit-card machine just happens to be broken. Damn. You’ll have to pay by cash. Funny how those credit-card machines are breaking down all the time, huh?
I wonder: If you had absolutely no cash, would the machines experience a sudden healing?
This particular cabbie was very entertaining, though: a sports sage and a political sage. We talk about the Pacers and the Colts, the Pistons and the Lions.
Then he says, “Mitt Romney should run again. He’s no dumb-a**, and he has plenty of money.” He further says, “Who’s that Spanish guy down in Florida?” Marco Rubio. “Yeah. You better watch him. He’s dangerous. Talks real, real good. He’s going to take some blacks, and he’s going to take some whites, and he’ll take all the Spanish.”
By the way, it’s cheering to see a Ronald Reagan Parkway, here in Indy.
At the airport, a not-very-pleasant experience. I am a rare defender of the TSA, I would say. I think they have an essentially thankless job, and that they mainly perform it well. I see them in action several times a month, I guess. I have about 14 good experiences to every bad one. And much depends on the attitude of the passenger, I think. Some people arrive with a chip on their shoulder. Anyway, I can write about that some other time.
On this morning, I put my hands up (the “surrender position,” Mike Huckabee calls it). The agent doesn’t like the way I’m doing it. I’m not sure how else he wants me to do it. I’m genuinely puzzled (and very polite). He says, with sarcastic meanness, “Come on, it’s really not that hard. I got all day,” etc.
A varsity-level jackass. I would have liked to see him fired on the spot. An agent behind him has seen all this take place — and she is extra-warm to me as I pass through, as though in compensation.
Further on in the airport, I see an ad of an interesting kind — the kind that takes on a competitor directly (or slightly indirectly, in this case). It is for Pepsi Max, and it says, “Too much taste to be called a Zero” (a reference to Coke Zero).
Ah, Pepsi, the scrappy Avis of soft drinks.
Go now to London, please. I’ve told a story about an Indy cabbie; here’s one about a London cabbie:
He spends the ride talking about muscle cars — Mustangs, Camaros, and the like. His seven-year-old son is wild about them. The driver shows me a picture of his son, standing in front of a classic, muscly ’stang. I know a little about these autos, coming from southeastern Michigan as I do.
At the end of our ride, the cabbie says something rather touching — and full of meaning, sociologically: “You can always count on Australians and Americans to be on the same level as us.” Yes, there is a world of meaning in that sentence.
It’s about 57 degrees on this night, and the air is lovely. The windows in my hotel room don’t open. And the air in the room is lousy. I don’t want air conditioning. I want air.
I call down to the desk. No, the windows can’t be opened. “Health and safety.” It’s the law.
I think of my late friend John Gross, the critic, the man of letters, and one of the most civilized people who ever lived. About five years ago, he said, “You know how screw-in-a-lightbulb jokes are rather silly and tiresome? But I like this one, because it puts the story in a nutshell: ‘How many health-and-safety inspectors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?’ ‘None, it’s too dangerous.’”
I also think of a superb — typically superb — Mark Steyn column: in which he talks of being at a family funeral, where a health-and-safety rule came up. It had to do with carrying a coffin up a path, I think. Mark and others were able to overcome this rule.
For the last many years, a British motto has been, “It’s ’elf-’n’-safety, innit?” That has got to go, for Britain to be properly Britain again.
This has its American analogues, of course, which I will address soon . . .
I see a street called Broadway, here in London. And I think, for the hundredth time, “We don’t really have place names, or street names, of our own.” Well, occasionally we do — Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. But you know what I mean.
I also see a street called Jewry — that’s putting it bluntly.
Not far from Jewry Street, I eat in a fantastic restaurant, which serves things like peas and ticklemore. (The latter is a kind of cheese.) On the menu, I see “Deviled Duck Hearts.” No, sorry, this is Britain: “Devilled Duck Hearts” (two l’s in that first word). I ask, “What are ‘devilled duck hearts’? Are they deviled duck hearts or something else?” In other words, are they literally deviled duck hearts, or is the phrase a metaphor — like “Baked Alaska” or “pigs in a blanket”?
They are, in fact, deviled duck hearts. We have to try them. My friend and I decide it’s a matter of courage, as well as curiosity.
And they are delicious — prepared with know-how, as the waitress later points out. You don’t just open up a duck and gulp down its heart. The deviled hearts have some kind of excellent sauce. And they are served with a green — I forget which — and these latke-like things.
Skip now to dessert: Burnt Malt Creme. (I think I have that right.) This is positively ambrosial, and I give it the highest praise I can muster: How can a dessert that’s not chocolate be so good?
In the subway, I hear an announcement: “Owing to a strike action tomorrow . . .” I smile a little. Many years ago, in America, we started saying “due to,” in place of “owing to,” which used to mean something else. The distinction has been lost, in our tongue. Anyway, this is an old, not very important debate . . .
Somewhere in Kensington, I’m surprised to see a man I know: Bartók, the composer. There is a marvelous statue of him, thin, elegant, smart, stylish — like the man. How unexpected. I have no idea what he’s doing here, apart from the fact that he is great, and statue-worthy.
Speaking of great and statue-worthy: There is an evening for Paul Johnson, the historian, journalist, and all-around thinker-writer. It is a book launch, a concert, and a tribute, all in one. I’ve written a little account of it for The New Criterion’s blog, here. I wish every fan of Paul Johnson could have been there. For that, we would have needed a metropolis or two, not merely the 20th Century Theatre in Notting Hill.
On the plane home, I see a headline in the Financial Times — the headline, a banner headline (if that’s the term): “Barclays to set up a bad bank.” I think, “Gee, that’s a little judgmental. Is this a news article or an editorial?” Of course, the financial-world term “bad bank” has been unknown to me until now. The article says that the departure of a key Barclays official “was the result of the vast regulatory burden [the bank] faces in the US.”
Great. Oh, I have so much more to tell you, y’all, but this has been a long Impromptus — too long. I’ll see you around. Thanks.