|The New Yorker's Patricia Marx, and alpaca, at the drugstore.|
I subscribe to just three magazines: Consumer Reports, The Economist, and The New Yorker.
Consumer Reports, not as a practical tool—it isn't as if I need them to help me choose a blender—as for the magazine's skeptical tone. So much in the media is blathering, mendacious corporate hype, it's refreshing to see scientific sorts asking: is this any good? Does it work? Should you buy it? I enjoy reading the smartly-written publication, but I also want to give Consumer's Union the money, to support what they do.
Reading The Economist is, as I've said before, like having an extra brain. Not only do they bring news of corners of the world that we'd never seem to hear from, hear cries that otherwise would be smothered by our big comfy American blanket, but the magazine applies a keen outsider's eye to this country as well. Even their coverage of Chicago is fresh and interesting.
And The New Yorker. Nothing needs be said. Either you get it or you don't. I've subscribed to the magazine for 30 years, and my father has subscribed to for 60 (and my son Ross, insisted on getting both it and The Economist at college. That's my boy!)
Last week's issue, dated Oct. 20, sat on my nightstand for a few days—I've finally got around to reading Keith Richards' Life and find it hard to put down (like Consumer Reports, it's a question of tone. It isn't what Richards reveals so much as how he reveals it, his voice. I find him as interesting writing about the Boy Scouts as he is writing about the Rolling Stones, maybe more). But I cracked The New Yorker Saturday morning, and was rewarded with Patricia Marx's delightfully-conceived and bravely-executed takedown of emotional assistance animals.
Basically, the American with Disabilities act allows for service animals—seeing eye dogs, monkeys that can do tasks for paralyzed people, that kind of thing. And glomming onto this are self-indulgent pet owners who want to bring their animals places, and pretend they have emotional issues, and get ersatz credentials and animal vests from for-profit groups. Thousands and thousands of people do this, and people let them, because we're trained to defer to anybody claiming any kind of disability whatsoever, however marginal or illegitimate it might be.
Marx skewers this woeful situation by getting a variety of rebarbative animals certified then traipsing around Manhattan with them: a 30-inch long snake, a four and a half foot tall Alpaca, a turkey. She flies with a 26-pound pig, Daphne, to Boston, and takes her to tea at the Four Seasons.
The responses of the flustered clerks, maitre d's and flight attendants are priceless. The story is like Borat, the intersection of generally-polite, generally-accommodating America with Dadaesque insanity. One clerk at Chanel flees the snake but another suggests what snakeskin handbag would best match it, and for only $9,000.
While I have never spotlighted someone else's story on my blog before, I'm spotlighting this one, because it does so many neat things, stomping on a social wrong most people would be too timid to tread gingerly upon (I thought of Patricia Marx as more of a member of the supporting cast at the New Yorker, the woman who did those delightfully droll shopping reports. Obviously I underestimated her; this article, in my mind, boosts her to star status).
Given the way victimhood and disability have seized the whip hand in American culture, I sincerely think Marx's piece represents an important shift in tone: the cresting of a wave, the reassertion of a modicum of balance and common sense, where your needs to bring a service hippo into the china shop are now balanced by the needs of the people in the shop not to share it with your pachyderm.
I'm sure she is hearing howls from those who have had their asses kissed for so long they consider it a birthright, people who feel they are adults in every sense but the chance that their actions might bear scrutiny. So I felt, besides the inherent good of sharing her story, I would add my applause, for what it's worth. It took courage, as good things often do.
Don't take my word. Read her story, "Pets Allowed," by clicking here. It enhances the effect if you share it with someone. I must have read a quarter of the piece out loud to my wife, laughing hard, tears in my eyes. Bravo.