What do I do when I'm not swimming or noticing specific drivers doing U-turns on Sunset and thinking about the next story I'm doing on driving in L.A. and why it is not unlike writing in L.A.? (Next time.)?
So what I do, most of all, is work with some of the most talented, interesting, productive real writers in L.A. Some of them are Veterans and all of them are Veterans of life.
Now and then I'd like to introduce you to a writer you don't know yet, present a piece of work I really love.
Sallie Merritt Green is a tall blond woman very much like Anne Price, my best friend in college. Sallie is smart, witty, composed, laughs well. You like her right away. She does what she says she will. And brings this perfect five inch cheesecake each week. Its under crust is chocolate.
Sallie read Rules of Engagement this last week. This is an original, wise reflection. I am presenting it for its original approach.
This is writing I love because it is never obvious, never easy. I love writing which sends me to Google, or, yes, to my father's Encyclopedia Britannica. This piece is also sending me to Whole Foods on Thursday night. I will ask Sallie which branch. And whether it has the sesame blue chips I need to have when I watch Law & Order: SVU. I may call my next SUV after Olivia. But that's another story:
This is Sallie's - with great pleasure:
Rules of Engagement
Or Why Democrats Should Behave Like They're in Whole Foods
on a Thursday Night
Machiavelli said, "Make mistakes of ambition and not mistakes of sloth. Develop the strength to do bold things, not the strength to suffer."
Congressional Democrats would do well to heed such advice as they face the mid-term election in just over a fortnight. President Obama's approval rating may be at an all-time low, but he got the Affordable Care Act passed and it's working. Millions of people currently have health care who didn't have health care a year ago. Sure, it was hard, and there were some bumps in the road (can you say "worst website EVER!"), but America has inched a tiny bit closer to the national health care standards set by countries like Sweden, the United Kingdom, and even Canada.
This is a giant feather in the Dems' cap and what are they doing with it? Nothing. Not a darn thing. Congressional Democrats are letting the Republicans drive the story points in almost every race across the country. OK, we better beef up our armed forces otherwise ISIS is going to hit U.S. soil TOMORROW. But, wait, we can't forget about closing our borders so that Ebola doesn't wipe out half the population. Or maybe the best course of action is to reduce taxes, allow open carry, ban gay marriage, and put prayer back in schools. How about that?
What the Democrats need to do is pretend they're at Whole Foods on a Thursday night. What they need to do, right now, is imagine themselves turning their Prius/Volt/Tesla into the store's parking lot, only to realize, too late, that they turned down the parking aisle in which a medical-marijuana-toasted, middle-aged dude with no back-up camera on his beat-up, copper-colored Saturn repeatedly backs out of, and then into, a compact space that's too compact for his mid-sized sedan. When faced with this situation, any self-respecting Democrat would see danger ahead and spy the hipster family walking straight towards their aisle carrying a mere two bags of groceries. Most intelligent Democrats would immediately turn on their blinker so as to warn all around them that they "own" the space soon to be vacated by said hipster family. If anyone else dare get near the soon-to-be-empty space, all REAL Democrats would honk and curse out the window to warn off the predators. But when faced with an opponent from the opposite party, no, they simply sit silently in their car and wish the crazy medical-marijuana-man away. It ain't gonna happen. Ever.
What Congressional Democrats need to do, now, is go on the offensive. They need to remind Americans that the President's party kept its promise to provide affordable health care to all. They need to remind Americans of the ridiculous lengths the Republicans went to to scare people into thinking the President, and his party, were going to turn this country into a Socialist state. You don't hear Republicans referring to "Obamacare" now, do you? No, because they study Machiavelli and they know that "fear preserves you by a punishment that never fails." Yep, the Republicans have the fear thing down. They realize Americans aren't fearful about health care anymore, so they've turned our attention to ISIS and Ebola and higher taxes.
What the Democrats need to do, now, is use Machiavelli's principles to direct voters' attention to the fact that Republicans tried to block their access to affordable health care. When they lost that battle, Republicans even tried to reverse the Affordable Care Act. What Democrats need to do, now, is remind Americans that if they vote for a Republican, they are voting against access to vaccines for children, cheaper medications for seniors, and wellness care for all Americans. What Democrats want is to be loved by their constituents, but Machiavelli tells us that it's better to be feared than loved because love is fickle while fear is not. Machiavelli is right.
The Democrats have the killer instinct in them. They do. They have searing ambition, which can blind them to the thin, gray line between ethical and unethical. Democrats have the potential to subsume their interest in others to their interest in themselves. But they have a problem. Their Achilles heel is they want to be loved. Their need for love seriously hinders their chances of winning the mid-term elections.
What Congressional Democrats need to do, right now, is pretend they got that parking space from the hipster couple and they are in line at the deli counter in Whole Foods on a busy Thursday night. There's a confused, old man, with dirty pants, in front of them and he's just put his little paper number on the deli counter for a second while he digs in his sticky pants pockets for a snotty hanky, or something. What Democrats needs to do, right now, is quickly switch their higher number with the dirty man's lower number, which is the next one due to be called. If the smelly, confused man realizes something is wrong, the Democrats need only to begin ordering loudly and then answer an imaginary call on their Bluetooth earpiece.
I know the Democrats can do this. I have seen them at Whole Foods on a busy Thursday night, doing whatever they need to do to get their artisanal ham and hand-crafted, soft cheese. I have seen them.
It is better to be feared than to be loved.