Send In The Clown Redux
Even when in a hotel room in Deerfield, Illinois, I'm never far from the call of duty. And an e-mail from Robert speculating on what may be going on inside the castle walls of the Star Tribune editorial board was enough to stir me to action:
Around a large oak conference table festooned with blank notepads, pencils, and
Starbucks cups sits the editorial staff of the Star Tribune. It is now one half
hour into the meeting, and progress is slow.
They had already posted an editorial on the disaster in Tuesday's edition, but
it was nothing more than standard sympathy coupled with calls for more
comprehensive warning systems. Now, with the death toll increasing by the hour,
It was clear that this was turning into something monumental. A new editorial
needed to be written. This time blame was to be assigned. But connecting the
dots was proving difficult.
"There's got to be a connection we can make!" Shouted Jim Boyd, the Deputy
"If it was atmospheric, it would be a no-brainer" Managing Editor Scott
Gillespie replied, "just yell 'Kyoto' and it's a done deal."
"But, this is geological. I mean, as evil as he is, I don't think even he had
anything to do with this one. But no way are we going to let him off the hook."
"Oh, no, we won't. But it's pretty clear we have to come up with an angle that
makes sense." Scott answered. "Is there anything the U.S. has been doing in the
last four years that could have caused a seismic disturbance of this caliber?"
"You mean like drilling for oil, or underground nuclear tests?" Asked Susan
Albright, The OpEd Editor.
"Yeah, stuff like that. Or that low frequency noise the Navy uses to bother
dolphins. There's lots of things our military is doing to the ground."
Susan took a sip off her Venti skim half-caf one Splenda sugar free vanilla
extra hot latte. "How about something along the lines of global warming causing
the ocean to be more full of water and that made the waves bigger than they
should have been? That way we can nail Bush and the SUV drivers for thousands of
"Or!" Jim perked up. "This is only a foreshadowing of many, many similar
tragedies to come if we don't ratify Kyoto." He was moving his hand from left to
right in the air to simulate lines of type.
Scott pointed at Jim. "Now we're getting somewhere! The 'we're in for a lot more
of this because of Bush' angle!"
"We've got to go with it!" Chimed Susan. "In fact, screw the editorial. This is
totally Sunday 1A. Wait till those idiot suburbanites wake up Sunday morning and
find out what a waste their lives have been."
"There's only one person on our staff who can write this piece with the gravity
and intelligence that is required." Said Boyd.
"A real journalist!" said Susan.
"Someone who knows stuff!" Said Scott.
"NICK!" Said all three in unison.
Jim took a sip of his small skim not so hot extra froth Chai. "This is
beautiful. Not only will he tie the whole thing to Bush and the Republicans, but
he can work in a homeless angle and something about books, too."
"Ahh, the homeless and books." Scott sighed.
"So, where is Nick, anyway?" Asked Susan.
A hush fell over the conference room. Almost imperceptibly, the lights dimmed
ever so slightly. Susan noticed that Scott was staring at Jim. She in turn
looked at Jim too. Jim seemed to be bathed in the glow from a sole spotlight
recessed in the ceiling tile. Jim slowly placed both elbows on the table and
rested his bearded chin on his fists. For the first time, Susan noticed how worn
the elbow patches on his jacket had become in the last four years.
"The truth is," Jim started, "nobody really knows where Nick is. He could be in
a West Seventh barber shop, or a White Castle on University. He could be at a
shelter, or a downtrodden school. He could be at a gala Republican fundraiser or
a Twins game. He could be riding the 17A with laid off union workers or standing
in line with the poor waiting for flu shots."
"He carries no cell phone or pager. He comes in, submits his column, and rushes
back out to the streets. No one, not even Laura, knows where he is at any given
time. He's just" Jim paused, "there."
"Then how will we get him to write the feature in time for Sunday?" Susan asked,
her voice showing concern.
"Don't worry." Scott said. "He'll know. He always knows."
"He knows stuff" Said Jim.