Diary of a Mad County

WEDNESDAY Aug. 25 Through circumstances created by severe health problems, a stuffed parrot and my wife's uncanny ability to browbeat hotel-reservation takers, my family and I have spent the past few days at the exclusive Montage Resort on the Laguna Beach coast. It's the kind of place where you eat $15 fruit salad as one of the Maloof brothers, who own the Sacramento Kings, saunters by just about the moment the two thin women—their dog in a purse—say to each other: "Whaddya wanna do?" "I dunno. How about Miami?" To which the skinnier one—by a rib—flips a phone, says, "Yes, I'd like two business-class tickets to Miami. What? No, just staying the weekend." People go to the Studio restaurant here and eat $45 spare ribs, drink $500 glasses of wine and, rumor has it, peruse a cognac bottle worth $13,000 (though, for that money, I'd demand they put something in it.) Clearly, we don't belong here and I've been on my guard not to seem too excited or too grateful of the staff's attention and toadying. But what's most disquieting is the cheerful manner of the rich people who do belong here. I've watched them play with their kids, kiss their spouses, take time to talk to and tip the staff—very disturbing. Like most Americans, I believe part of God's covenantis that rich people get to have all the money only because they get an equal amount of misery: drug addiction, broken relationships, Don King always on the phone. But these people, these rich people, looked anything but miserable, you know, save for the flat, dry flecks of death about their eyes. It didn't seem fair and raised the age-old question: "What the hell, God?" And then I thought of that soul-soothing passage in Paul Bowles' hilarious The Sheltering Sky: "Isn't everything easier if you simply get rid of the idea of justice altogether? You think the quantity of pleasure, the degree of suffering is constant among all men? It somehow comes out in the end? You think that? If it comes out even, it's only because the final sum is zero." The rich are different. They're happy.

THURSDAY Aug. 26 George W. Bush, who was born happy, is very happy this morning since all his hard work and accomplishments have been rewarded by inching ahead of Democratic Presidential candidate/specter John Kerry in an LA Times poll. And why not? Bush's war in Iraq has been such a rousing success it's been held over for months. The economy? Those tax cuts are so popular that a study released today shows that about another million people will be taking advantage of them since they now live in poverty, the third straight year of strong growth in the poverty/despair market. Despite all that good news, the big mover for Bush is that Kerry didn't get wounded enough during the Vietnam War. Those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads are taking their toll, and while some say they shine a light on Kerry's war record, I believe they really shine on a light on what liars Americans are. Support our troops! Support our troops! Yeah, and then George W. Bush—MIA from the Texas Air Guard—starts smearing troops like John McCainor Kerry, people, and everyone joins in because we use veterans in this country like Handi-Wipes, there to serve our self-righteous/political agendas: the only good soldier is one serving the interest of the business community. Still, Bush can't get too happy about today's numbers. He was leading in most polls when he lost the last presidential election.

FRIDAY Aug. 27 Yeah!The NFL may come to Orange County! Fans, who supported the last NFL team all the way to St. Louis, can barely contain themselves as they exclaim, "It better not be the nasty-ass Chargers!" Wooooo! Others rejoice, "Traffic's going to be a bitch!" Boo-yah! Still others are excited by the possibilities. "Is this going to mean I won't get to see as many games on TV on Sunday? Because I totally dig getting all those games on Sunday." The point is? Georgia Frontiere is a freak.

SATURDAY Aug. 28 Turns out we're all rich. Why just today in Newport Beach, working schlubs are lining up at the local Porsche dealership to check out the new 911s. Meanwhile, in Borders Booksat South Coast Plaza's Crystal Court, folks are getting their 100 Best Spas book signed by author Pamela Joy Price. See, in my day, regular working folk didn't go to spas; mostly they watered the lawn and had heart attacks. Mostly. But now everyone can buy SUVs and fill them with $2 gas and go to spas because, as we all know, we're all going to be rich. After all, tonight's lotto is worth $100 million.

SUNDAY Aug. 29 Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters ends, which reminds me that as my family was leaving the Montage, we drove by the Pageant grounds and my daughter asked my wife about it. "Oh," my wife said, "it's where real people re-create great paintings. You'd like it—for a while." . . . So, on the last day of competition, a religious extremist finally disrupts the Olympics. A defrocked Catholic priest in a kilt tackles a Brazilian marathon runner, who was leading the race at the time, to prepare ye the way of the Lord—clinching the race for the Italian who was in second place (CIA got nothing on the Vatican). People are asking why people weren't suspicious of the guy, but be fair: What's unusual about a priest in a skirt straddling a young man trying to run away?

MONDAY Aug. 30 The War on Terrorism—a Quinn Martin Production—has been such a success that Bush says today it'll have an indefinite run.

TUESDAY Aug. 31 So apparently local fast-food slinger Carl's Jr.'s ads have impressed competitors enough that behemoth McDonald'sis trying the winning formula of presenting its food in an unappetizing way enjoyed by social rejects. But whereas the Carl's louses come off as loveable, ill-equipped slobs, the McDonald's bunch are more of the paranoid-schizophrenic variety seeing as they are actually afraid someone would want to steal their nasty-ass "chicken." What's incredible is that McDonald's seems to play on this point, as their commercials point out that nobody, in fact, wants their nasty-ass "chicken," that adults who eat McDonald's tend to do so alone while talking to themselves. You know, like Georgia Frontiere. . . . In separate terrorist attacks, eight die in a Moscow subway station, 16 die on two Israeli buses, and 12 Nepalese are killed by Iraqi insurgents. George W. Bush: a man of his word.

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