Dreams of future, past

Why, then, did we all care so much? What had he ever done to inspire anyone to anything, except maybe to be born handsome, rich and with a famous name? Wasn’t this another Diana, a summer tragedy seized upon and inflated by the media when little else was going on?

Wasn’t this the death, shocking and untimely to be sure, of a person who, in the final analysis, was mostly famous for being famous? Yes, he was the hunky publisher of a glitzy political magazine, with contents sometimes important, sometimes tasteless.

Well, yes. But no. Naturally, those things are all in some measure true.

Yet it does matter. The thought that life could be better, Paul Simon sang in "Hearts and Bones," "is woven indelibly into our hearts and our brains." We are nothing, after all, without a shared culture. This weekend I found that my college students, most of them born long after the event, remembered the little boy saluting his daddy’s casket.

When his daddy died, some of his aides collaborated on a memoir called Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye. Yet we did feel we knew President John F. Kennedy, however much our illusions have been shattered by later tell-all books.

His son, now, was another matter. Yes, his life, while protected to a remarkable degree by his mother, had been under tabloid microscopes from birth.

Yes, we saw him talk about his career and his family and his magazine. We knew his even more mysterious blond wife, though nobody claimed to really know her.

Now, they never will.

Somehow, I think a lot of people unconsciously, down in their bins of buried hopes, dreams and memories, expected this man, someday, would step into the arena, and that he would play some part that would affect our destiny.

Occasionally, he seems to have thought that too, toying with the idea of running for office, just as his dad toyed with becoming a journalist.

Now, we’ll never know.

When his father died, his mother said two profound things. "Now he will never have to grow old," she told one interviewer. To another, she said her husband now was a myth, though he would rather have stayed a man.

Father and son. We do know that the younger man spent some years searching for the older. Now, they are linked forever, in our historical pantheon, by more than a name.

Casino Code Blue: The gaming control board did something right last week: They held up the planned July 26 opening of the MGM Grand Casino. The director, according to newspaper accounts, said more time was needed to make sure everything was ready.

The board will vote again a week from now. Whatever they do, however, I doubt the city will really be "ready." If we are to have casinos, a major effort should be required to educate people about how to get there and where to park. The city needs to perform a serious study to see how casino traffic will affect traffic flow. More than one merchant along the Lodge is seriously worried about what casino culture will do to her or his business. Some are planning, discreetly, to leave the city.

Even when City Council is satisfied everything is as ready as any supporter of soul-destroying parasitic economic activity could wish, it should require every casino operator to advertise heavily rules, directions, and standards of behavior.

Let’s see how willing creatures such as Gil Hill, who took tens of thousands of casino dollars for his last campaign, are to make sure MGM and the others are good citizens.

Exclusive offer: Hard though it may be to believe, I have been accused of being a nasty, bitter little cynic. Now is the time to prove it is not so. Anyone who feels his quality of life has been damaged by the delay in the casino opening is welcome to come to my house and throw $100 in my garbage can. Every 20th person who does so will get back $1,000 from me. This is far better odds than you’ll ever get from MGM Grand. Unfortunately, I can’t sell you a drink, but you can use my garden hose, free.

Area Code Blue: You have to marvel at the morons who oversee the nation’s telecommunications system. Starting next spring, we get yet another area code – except this one is really calculated to drive you insane. Some people who live in the area that is now 810 will get a new "overlay" area code, 586. Except that there will be no geographic boundaries; you can and will have two lines in one house with different area codes.

Apart from total confusion, you eventually may have to call information all the time (which costs 85 cents or so a hit) to find out what Bubba from the Clem’s area code is, even if you know his phone number. Naturally, if we let them get away with this, more overlay area codes will be on their way for Oakland and Wayne counties, too. Here’s the solution: Implant a microchip in the jaw of every baby at birth, giving him or her five permanent, 20-digit phone numbers (home, car, computer, beeper, fax) that will follow ’em throughout life. Or scream at your congressoid, and get them to beat the hell out of the idiots at the North American Number Plan Administration. Now.

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