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Ralph Gardner Jr: And Now For Some Good News

Fresh corn in a frying pan
Ralph Gardner Jr.

Is America better off today than it was one year ago, in July 2020. Absolutely! Prove it you say. This time last year I was glued to my TV, glued being a relative term. Anybody watching TV on a warm summer night, rather than dining al fresco to a chorus of crickets and tree frogs meets the dictionary definition of a loser. Still, it was challenging to go cold turkey completely on the Trump Administration’s nightly ratings grab.

Was I the only one who watched, however briefly and self-reproachfully, his July 4th, 2020 speech at Mt. Rushmore, the one where Republican South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem presented the President with a four-foot replica of the national memorial, with his face added to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt? I didn’t think so.

The best indication that things are improving – stipulating, of course, that nothing approaches in importance the Biden’s administration refreshingly competent job of getting Covid shots into people’s arms – is my own TV viewing habits. I’d be lying if I denied checking out MSNBC and CNN once the mosquitos insist on having their dinner after we’ve had ours but my default channel these days isn’t any of the so-called news sources but Turner Classic Movies.

The channel has steadily lost eyeballs over the years to streaming services such as Netflix but I suggest you check it out. Name another channel on this or any other planet that’s offering a double feature tonight of 1938’s “The Adventures of Robin Hood” starring Errol Flynn and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, the 1968 Dick Van Dyke film? And if you’re an insomniac, Tom Thumb, where a six-inch-tall boy takes on a comical pair of crooks, starts at 10:45 p.m.

My wife typically heads to bed to binge watch some multi-season epic on Netflix, Amazon Prime or HBO Max – offering me a farewell groan when I settle in with, say, Bullitt or The Great Escape (part of a recent Steve McQueen tribute,) Or maybe the movies were on separate nights and I’m conflating the experience. In any case, where else on commercial or basic cable are you able to view a full movie uninterrupted by commercials?

And the experience is supremely escapist. Was I riveted when super fan Karen Snow as part of TCM’s 25th anniversary celebration recalled for host Ben Mankiewicz her memories of watching The Adventures of Robin Hood as a child? Her mother said she could stay up until her father returned from the bathroom. Once he did it was lights out so she didn’t get to the see the whole film on that occasion. Presumably she has since.

But that’s not the point. The point is that with competent leadership in the White House we can afford to take our eyes off the not so slow motion multi-vehicle crash on the Interstate that was the Trump Administration. I’m not going to lie and tell you that I don’t check in with Rachel Maddow or Anderson Cooper occasionally. And while I believe Donald Trump and a grossly polarized electorate remains a clear and present danger – something is seriously wrong when a hair under half the nation voted for the most divisive, arguably incompetent president in American history and may well do so again – there’s just so much Trump bashing you can watch before you get the uneasy feeling that you’re being played for a sucker. Others feel the same way. All three cable news networks are down 30% from the same period last year.

That’s the thing about TCM. It appeals to your better angels. It’s comfort food for the soul. I won’t argue that the Sixties, when I was growing up and my TV watching peaked, including Million Dollar Movie on WOR in New York City, was a bowl of cherries. But at least we agreed on a common set of facts. More fundamentally we agreed on the preeminence of facts. Not everything was spin.

Did I mention it’s corn season? While the world – between wildfires out west, floods in Europe and ransonware attacks all over the place – gives every indication of spinning out of control, there remain certain stabilizing rituals and traditions. Corn is one of them. Like Turner Classic Movies I don’t think that corn gets the respect it deserves. I’m aware that everybody has his or her favorite method of cooking and seasoning it. But my personal opinion is that boiled and slathered with butter and salt, a freshly picked ear of corn merits membership in that pantheon that includes truffles, lobster and mozzarella di bufula.

And if corn is here can vine rip beefsteak tomatoes be far behind? All I’m saying is that it’s a relief to have adults in charge of the government. It’s not perfect, you may not even like Joe Biden, but it’s nice to know that people smarter than you, or at least smarter than I am, are running the place. That if the world blows up it won’t be as a ploy to boost ratings. It’s a lot easier to enjoy an ear of corn under those circumstances.

Ralph Gardner, Jr. is a journalist who divides his time between New York City and Columbia County. More of his work can be found at ralphgardner.com

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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