Within one 18-hour period I went to a dinner party where Noel Coward and New Yorker articles were discussed and then went to a luncheon where Proust was the subject; I tried desperately to contribute but could not find the material needed so clogged is my brain with topical trivia and news factoids. Can you imagine — I was actually forced to listen and learn?
As articulate as I can be on news — basically regurgitating what I've learned from Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann (I draw the line at Lou Dobbs since all he ever talks about is immigration) — I was blown away by the dinner guests who shared anecdotes about the theater and talked about books they'd read as well as written (okay I've co-authored two gift books now translated into Portuguese) while we sat in the candlelight at the kitchen table eating paella with mussels and a fluffy pudding. All of a sudden it was midnight and no one had discussed money or Madoff once.
And as if to prove this wasn't an isolated case, I took two dear friends to lunch the next day who both shared a love of Proust and were positively ebullient that he could talk about a cookie — a Madeleine to be exact — for forty pages. Once again I was out of my element trying to remember any funny story I could recall about a Fig Newton or Oreo.
For eight years now we've discussed Iraq and economic meltdowns, Bernie Madoff and everyone's pre- and post-net worth, waterboarding and climate warming. During that time, I've read Oprah's book club selections and watched everything with an NBC as a suffix. I've fed my brain with every ticker symbol and tracked LIBOR ratings as they rose and fell.
Taking our cues from the top and listening to a President hard-pressed to get a sentence out without a goof, I believe we got lazy. There was no need to stretch our brains and read the classics again or push ourselves to do anything but stay glued to the news — after all if he wasn't too bright and we were economically fat and happy, why bother but I always got the feeling I needed to know every detail just in case he needed my help in making a decision.
And then the change began; I actually went out and bought Team of Rivals knowing Obama read and valued what he'd learned from the book. Okay so it's not beach reading but I know it's good for me even if the pages get wet and I seem to have to re-read each one a few times. For the first time in ages, I've felt the need to feed that Sahara brain of mine with the equivalent of intellectual vitamins and historical pro-biotics.
We have a very smart first family and I don't want to be left behind. Maybe I don't have to be involved in every last news item because someone I respect is now running the show and he doesn't need my help.
My short term goal is to make it through a day without checking the Dow Jones. My long term goal — to finish "Team of Rivals" while the President is still in office.