What are you thankful for?11:00 PM, Mar 7, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
I'VE MENTIONED LT. RUSSELL BATES before in this column, a Marine pilot, my friend Pete Hamilton's nephew. Pete and his wife, Marcia, brought their four girls out from Connecticut and stayed with us last Thanksgiving, and his sister, Trish, another pal forever, made everyone a fabulous meal at her place ("faboo," as she would say). Russell came up from Miramar to join everyone. In case you've never done it, it's actually great fun when that many people stay with you, assuming, of course, you don't detest them. We have a four-bedroom house (the bar is its best feature, for good or ill), and every couch and pull-out was filled. And there was always someone padding around with a bowl of cereal.
The next day we all drove down to Russell's base, and had enough cars in procession to look like the picnic in "Citizen Kane." We climbed all over the planes and helicopters, and put on the too-big helmets--the kids, anyway; the grownups just took pictures. Everyone got coated, literally, with the ever-present oil mist, and was disgusted by it--the adults, this time; the kids loved it. Then we all checked into a hotel not too far away for the night, with an eye on their renowned brunch the next day. (You know the ones, where you fill up on the first thing you see, and they have an entire room just for rolls. I think the profit margin on those brunches slightly edges out Las Vegas.)
We were lucky, indeed, to be able to stay at a place like that, because it's one of the fanciest joints anywhere, and I know this for a fact, because just as we all got into our rooms, it became clear that I had cleverly left three pieces of luggage sitting next to the front door back home. Nothing important, really, unless you consider all of the kids' clothes and toothbrushes and toys important. (They were covered with oil, remember, and seriously stank.) The Divine Mrs. M. chewed this new information over in her usual thoughtful manner, measured me for a straight right, thought better of it (for the time being, anyway), and exited the room wordlessly for the gift shop. This was not their first time at the dance, and they were filled with everything a stupid family might need. Monogrammed, of course, with the name and crest of the hotel that will mock me forever on T-shirts, shorts, pants, books, and what used to be called "sundries."
Russell came down the next day and joined us for the brunch, and actually noticed how many of us were walking ads for the hotel. But it was a lovely day, and the rest of us caravanned back to our house, while Russ went back to work. I remember glancing at him down the long table, laughing with Katie, Pete and Marcia's oldest. Russ and Katie were always very close, like brother and sister. I've known Russell since he and his brother were toddlers, and he's one of those guys it's impossible not to meet and think, "What a great young man."
WELL, maybe you can see this coming, and, yes, it's bad news. Russell was killed two weeks ago, flying back to base. Just days later his outfit, Squadron HMM-166: The Seaelk, was beginning a larger training mission before deploying to Iraq. Now they'd have to begin it one man short. But first, they had to find him.
It was one of those things where one second he was on the radar, and the next second he was off it. This was on Monday afternoon, February 16, and the Marines sent out AWACS planes and troops. He was young and strong. Maybe he had survived. But the mountains and the desert hold many secrets, and are hard to beat. Two days became five, and five became ten. His mother flew from England, where Russell and his brother were born and raised, to Connecticut, and she and Marcia and Katie flew from there to San Diego to wait and pray.
We all did. Wait and pray. Each day that brought no word, brought something less desired: longer odds. But as I said to Pete, there's never any reason in life not to hope and pray for the best. Especially when that's all you have. One night, after about a week, my wife asked about Russell when our own kids were asleep, and I shrugged and shook my head. And I said, "Maybe there's some old gold miner in a cabin with no electricity who found him and is nursing him back. Maybe this will all be just an incredible story." Maybe.
As it turns out, maybe not.
In the face of not finding anything, a larger prayer meeting was scheduled on the base for Friday, the 27th, but then they found him Thursday, the night before. The meeting was held on Friday, just the same, but now the prayers were for something different.
Kids say the darndest things. And sometimes, they're astonishing.11:00 PM, Jan 25, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
BREAKFAST was a little hectic the other day. It was a school day, but we gave Mommy a break. The Divine Mrs. M., God bless her, was sleeping in, and Daddy was spinning all the plates--literally and figuratively. Normally my wife is up at first light, gliding effortlessly like Donna Reed, dressing, brushing, and feeding the little ones, and getting them out the door with the grace of a ballerina, or at least a "Let's Make A Deal" model pointing to a new set of Broyhill bedroom furniture.
Of course they're mad; wouldn't you be?11:00 PM, Jan 11, 2004 • By LARRY MILLER
WELL, you live, and you learn.
We've all heard that a million times, and said it a million times. And why not? After all, it's true. If you keep living, you keep learning. As the other old saw goes, you learn something new every day.
Naturally enough, the things we learn don't always please us. Here's one I wasn't so thrilled about.
Exactly how long have we been eating cows that were so sick they had to be dragged across the floor just to be killed?
Which calmly leads us to an interesting question: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
Is that a ribbon on your chest, or are you just glad to see me?11:00 PM, Dec 28, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
LENO USED TO HAVE A STORY he loved to tell about his early days at the Improv in New York. An older comic had started hanging around the club; he'd been out of the business for a while, and wanted to get back in. And he had material like, "You ever notice it's always the guys in uniform who get the girls?"
One night Jay and some of the other young comics sat him down and suggested that maybe he should think about updating his act. So the guy went onstage the next night and said, "You ever notice it's always the Green Berets who get the girls?"
Oh, sorry, sir, I didn't mean to--Say, aren't you . . . ?11:00 PM, Dec 14, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
AH, SADDAM, SADDAM, SADDAM. What has it all come to, eh, my friend? All those palaces, all those solid gold toilets, all those deliciously terrified looks in people's eyes. All that hard work, and you just wind up looking like Jerry Garcia after a show.
Grifters, bunko, Wesley Clark, and more.9:00 AM, Dec 8, 2003 • By
THE DAILY STANDARD welcomes letters to the editor. Letters will be edited for length and clarity and must include the writer's name, city, and state.
With respect to the Stephen F. Hayes's response to Newsweek, I was surprised that Isikoff had used Vincent Cannistraro as a source (Newsweek's "Case").
Isn't there a better way to lose weight than dieting? Sure--just stop being "fat."11:00 PM, Nov 30, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
I KNOW EVERYONE is supposed to think about Thanksgiving before it happens and be consciously grateful prior to the feast, but I always reflect on my blessings afterwards, when we've eaten our fill and must begin the hard work of getting back into the shape we were never in in the first place.
This year, through no fault of my own, I actually didn't eat too much.
Crime is not cute; real criminals are frightening.11:00 PM, Nov 17, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
EVERYONE'S SEEN "The Sting," because it's a great movie. Well, I guess not everyone, but you know what I mean. And it's still a great movie. Newman and Redford are wonderful (I've always wished the two of them had made more together), and the rest of the cast is as good as it gets: Robert Shaw, Eileen Brennan, Charles Durning, Harold Gould, Ray Walston, Dana Elcar, and many others. The great George Roy Hill directed--he passed on not too long ago--and David S. Ward wrote the script.
I saw it again last week.
On strike with Ralphs in California.11:00 PM, Nov 2, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
I WALKED A PICKET LINE THE OTHER DAY. I'm not a member of the union that was on strike, and it's not my line of work, anyway. I don't believe I've ever walked a picket line before, although I think I drink enough so that maybe I have and can't remember. (Just kidding. Sort of.) No, I never did. I walked this one, though. It seemed like the right thing to do. So I went there and walked. I'm going to do it again.
I know some of you are checking to see if you accidentally logged onto the Mother Jones Newsletter. You haven't.
With one tiny exception, of course: The citizens of California.12:00 AM, Oct 1, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
FIRST OF ALL, I could be wrong on this.
By the way, have you noticed how rarely most people ever admit they were wrong? What's the big deal? Why don't more folks enjoy saying, "Well, I guess I was all wet on that one." I love being wrong. Seriously. I like getting ideas and pitching them, and if they ultimately (or even immediately) don't hold water, I try to learn something from my mistake and pitch another one. Most people never reassess their opinions on anything: movie reviewers, political pundits, wives . . .
Remembering a guy I really, really liked.12:00 AM, Sep 22, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
I MET JOHN RITTER for the first time two-and-a-half years ago when he and Henry Winkler were ending their hit run on Broadway in "The Dinner Party." The rest of the cast, the great Len Cariou, Penny Fuller, Jan Maxwell, and Veanne Cox were staying with it, and Neil Simon offered Jon Lovitz and me the chance to step in for Henry and John, which, as you may imagine, took almost three tenths of a second to accept.
Lovitz and I went to see it as soon as we got to New York and went up to the dressing rooms afterwards to introduce ourselves.
Death does not go away; time does not heal murder.12:00 AM, Sep 11, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
I TAKE A BRISK WALK around the neighborhood every morning. I love those walks. They loosen my back and get the blood pumping and on mornings after I've had a few drinks (never more than 20 days a month; well, not never, but rarely; oh, skip it) they clear my head.
Olympian good health, though, is not the only benefit. There's kind of a Jeremiah Johnson-thing that happens when modern man slips into his Nikes and heads off alone into the dawn's early light, The Big Lonesome, just a short, suburban left and right from the 7-Eleven.
No matter how bad it looks for him, no matter how many political flesh wounds he suffers, Gray Davis isn't dead yet.12:00 AM, Aug 22, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
THIS IS LARRY MILLER, your Special Man On The Street, Self-Appointed Hollywood Recall Election Correspondent, reporting live from the rooftops of Universal City. Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. America, and all the ships at sea. I can see the lights of the explosions below me in Encino. Oh, the humanity! No, wait, that's just the premiere of "T3." Where was I? Ah, yes, the state is ablaze on the left and the right, and I feel like Raymond Burr leaning out a window in Tokyo narrating the carnage before being knocked through the uprights by Godzilla.
Or someone with a better build.
Californians have always been crazy, but this is getting nuts.2:00 PM, Aug 8, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
COME ON IN, the water's fine!
Well, it's a national story now. Isn't this fun? I don't know about you, but I can't recall (so to speak) ever giggling as much about a political story. I got home yesterday, turned on the tube, and there he was, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a really nice XXXL blazer, saying, "Yah."
Were you surprised? I was. (Maybe that's why I cackled like Margaret Hamilton.) The Divine Mrs. M. was knocked off her pins as well. When I told her, she said, "No!
Think California's getting a new governor? Don't hold your breath.12:00 AM, Aug 4, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
ANYONE WHO THINKS Gray Davis's goose is cooked knows nothing about Gray Davis.
Oh, it's in the oven, all right (his goose, that is), and it's been basted, and it's been going for a while. And the table is set, and the guests are seated, and they're all smacking their lips.
But it is by no means cooked. In fact, the Republican party of California has just handed him oven mitts and offered him a chance to take it out.
And I think he will.