Better Living Through the New York Times
Issue # 2
By Rich Wilhelm
March 29, 2000

Every now and then (we're talking about once a year here), I get the urge to pick up the Sunday edition of the New York Times. After all, the Times is the Newspaper of Record and it seems important to get their take on current events and the important issues of the day. So I bought the Sunday Times on March 19th. The problem is, I never actually got to the news section. I was too busy in “Arts and Leisure” and “Sunday Styles”, so I didn't find out what was happening in Taiwan or in that Hillary/Rudy New York senate race. However I did read the following articles. As you'll see I came away from each of these stories with at least one action item, which I was happy about since "action item" is quickly becoming my favorite Y2K phrase, beating out "event movie," which is now just so totally ‘90s. We'll talk about "event movies" another time.

1) Elton John's Standoffish Broadway Immersion with Aida. This article detailed the ever-changing moods of Sir Elton as work progressed on Aida, the new Broadway musical he and Tim Rice cooked up for Disney. The highlight of the article was Elton having a Code Red Hissy Fit, stomping out of a New York City pre-opening performance and flying back to his apartment in Atlanta. This, of course, hurt the cast members’ feelings and cemented Mr. John's well-deserved reputation as an ill-tempered diva. However, my favorite part of the story was the description of a post-show party in Chicago, where regular guests (including cast and staff members of Aida) got to stand around and watch Elton and friends like Billie Jean King celebrate amongst themselves in a special party-within-a-party that was roped off from the rest of the crowd.

ACTION ITEM 1: Listen to Tumbleweed Connection and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy albums and try to remember why I liked Elton John so much in the first place.

ACTION ITEM 2: Write letters to Neil Young, Bob Dylan, David Bowie and other rock stars in EJ's general age group, begging them never to write a Broadway musical, especially not for Disney.

2) The Fast Lane is the Place for Slowpokes. This highly entertaining story detailed Sally Hershberger's many shopping trips. Hershberger is a celebrity hairstylist known for her "signature undone hairdos," and is opening a salon in Los Angeles where people will have the privilege of paying 400 semolians for her not to finish cutting their hair. By the time I got through this three-column story, Hershberger had spent thousands of dollars preparing for her salon-opening soiree, shared a special moment with Lulu and Peggy Lipton at a chic L.A. boutique ("Lulu clapped her hands," according to the story, when Hershberger decided to buy a pair of denim jeans costing $1,100) and had shared her yoga mantra ("Oon namah shivaya") with the manager of Louis Vitton in New York City. All this, and she fretted about making sure her party didn't conflict with Elton John's annual pre-Oscar awards party.

ACTION ITEM 3: Next time I get my hair cut, make sure to give the guy (who, it should be noted, finishes the job) an extra fifty-cent tip to somehow make up for the monumental gap between the usual tip I give him and the huge tip Tom Cruise (or Peggy Lipton or Lulu, for that matter) must be forced to give Sally Hershberger for one of her 'dos.

ACTION ITEM 4: Share my mantra with the next cashier who waits on me in a fast food restaurant.

ACTION ITEM 5: When I plan my 35th birthday party (see ACTION ITEM 6 below), make sure it doesn't clash with one of Elton John's parties. Or he might have a hissy fit.

3) Happy What? You Wish! The agonizing true-life tales of people who can't come to grips with their age and take elaborate measures (including throwing themselves 30th birthday parties when they turn 34) to hide the truth from others. I especially felt for the 22-year-old woman who said, "You can't wait to drive at 16. Then you can't wait to leave home at 18. You can drink at 21. But then after 21, it's all about buying beauty cream."

ACTION ITEM 6: I will be turning 35 in a few months and I fully intend to embrace my 35-ness! When I meet new people I will tell them: "I'm Rich Wilhelm and I am 35 years old, and I don't care who knows!! DO YOU HEAR ME?? I'M 35 YEARS OLD. THAT'S RIGHT!! THE BIG 3-5. GUESS WHAT???? I'M APPROACHING MIDDLE AGE! I REMEMBER WHEN RICHARD NIXON WAS PRESIDENT!! I WAS BORN BEFORE JOHN MET YOKO!! I REMEMBER ELTON JOHN BEFORE HE WAS A BROADWAY DIVA GIVEN TO HISSY FITS! I WATCHED THE BRADY BUNCH IN ITS FIRST RUN! AND YOU KNOW WHAT? I ENJOY BEING 35 YEARS OLD.", etc.

Now I guess it's obvious why I never got around to reading the news section--I was simply too bedazzled by the artsy, stylish stories I did read to go much further. I was certainly impressed but, at the risk of livin' la vida lame-o, I think I'll skip Aida, continue getting my hair cut for cheap right here in Phoenixville, and try to figure out more ways to impress people with how "old" I am.

One final action item though:

ACTION ITEM 7: Buy Sunday New York Times sometime in March 2001.

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2000 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)