November 14, 2015

Usain Bolt

Those who forget the pasta are condemned to reheat it, said Jon Ronson, a man I’d never heard of until his quip about spaghetti. I read this somewhere, as I’ve never used social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram—and hope never to. Why would I, unless I wanted to make trouble for myself? Not everyone needs to know what you’re doing all of the time. Or anytime, for that matter.

They say the most destructive four-letter word in social media is “send.” (Just as the scariest three words in American literature are “Joyce Carol Oates.”) I recently received an e-mail from a young woman I’ve taken out to dinner occasionally calling me all sorts of names. According to her I had propositioned her and had offered her money. By e-mail, that is. That, I can guarantee you, I had not done, but I didn’t bother to answer, as I had never sent her one in the first place. All this had supposedly taken place by e-mail. The only thing I know how to do is send and receive e-mails. I have no way of knowing if someone used my name to proposition her, or if one can pretend to be someone else while e-mailing. And I don’t care to find out.
       
While I’m at it, I have yet to see a single person reading a newspaper—God forbid a book—while I walk the streets of New York in the Upper East Side every day. But what I have seen are people punching away at those ghastly contraptions they hold while inside Shakespeare & Co., a bookstore I have morning coffee in occasionally. Just think of it: people using those idiotic machines inside a place that sells books. A bit like masturbating inside a whorehouse.

“What kind of person needs to tell another what he or she is thinking all of the time? An idiot, that’s for sure.”

What kind of person needs to tell another what he or she is thinking all of the time? An idiot, that’s for sure. And are more and more people becoming idiotic? Definitely. The other thing I’ve noticed, although it’s been around for some time, is the absence of civility in sports. I am referring to the self-aggrandizement that has overwhelmed almost all sports. I have a friend who shall remain nameless for his own protection. He is the first person you see after a match with a microphone interviewing winners and losers. He probably knows more athletes than anyone else on earth, and this is what he recently told me:
       
The only two who have ever shown any interest in him and his family by inquiring about their whereabouts and the state of their health are Roger Federer and Usain Bolt. I was not surprised at the mention of the former, but I admit I was amazed when he mentioned the Jamaican. Good for him. The fastest man on earth takes the time for the formalities that make us human beings different from the animals we resemble most of the time. My friend told me that once in Beijing he had a terrible cold and tried to keep his distance from those he was interviewing in order for them not to catch it. Not a single one noticed it. His cold, that is. “It’s all me, me, me,” said my friend.
       
Just try it and see for yourselves the next time an interview is being held of some jock. They will bang their chests with their fists, and use the word “I” while glaring at the camera. If they’ve lost there will be more excuses than there are name-droppers you-know-where, and you know the rest. I suppose this comes from the coaches—the solipsism, I mean. I’ll never forget the first time I heard this drivel at Wimbledon. I was there as a spectator and an American male player had lost a match. A man whom I presumed was his coach, unheard-of back then, was holding the player’s head with both hands and repeating the phrase “You’re strong, you’re strong, you’re unbeaten,” and other such drivel. This was back in the ’70s. Now they all have coaches, and at all levels. Instilling confidence is the sine qua non of coaching, hence the solipsism and the me, me, me syndrome. Oh, for the good old days when Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall battled on Centre Court and never looked up to the boxes while punching their chests.
       
I could go on and on. But it would be useless. One cannot bring back the past, and one shouldn’t try. Manners have changed. They no longer exist. Countries like Britain and the United States have media that pollute the culture like never before. A great behemoth of a man—a former basketball star—shoots up heroin, takes Viagra pills, and drinks himself into a stupor until his heart stops while inside a whorehouse. An ugly estranged wife with a propensity for publicity rushes to his side in a Las Vegas hospital. It becomes a stop-the-presses moment. An anxious Anglo-Saxon world awaits with baited breath. Actually, I was hoping that a double suicide would rid us of that troublesome couple, but no such luck.
       
Never mind. Life is still pretty good. Next week I shall be a film star once again. I am shooting a movie with—you guessed it—Alec Baldwin and Demi Moore, directed by Michael Mailer. Two guesses why I got the part?

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