Not much has really changed at Cheers, the fabled Boston bar. When Norm walks in, everyone still greets him with that familiar hearty shout: "Norm!" And Norm's still a lovable, beer-chugging, schlump whose signature line is, "It's a dog eat dog world, and I'm wearing Milk-Bone underwear."
Norm's pal, Cliff Clavin, is still an expert on all subjects known to man. And he's still a mailman. As a federal employee, Cliff considers himself something of an expert on the country's financial crisis. In fact, he's become so obsessed with the budget, the regulars have begun calling him "Fiscal Cliff" behind his back.
But Norm doesn't mind. He's used to the blather.
"How's it goin', Cliffie?"
"Pretty good, Normie. Can't complain. I've been thinking about this financial crisis a lot. I think it's about over."
"You don't say."
"Yeah, Normie, it's like with your early cavemen. They went out and hunted for the very food that graced their simple table. Men through the centuries have always been hunters and doers. Cogito, it is not in man's nature to be passive and docile. Ergo, your fiscal cliff crisis solution."
"I don't follow you, Cliffie."
"No one follows that moron," interjected Grover, a new regular sitting nearby. "He lives with his mother."
"As do you, Grovie," Cliff riposted. "That's like the pot calling the kettle drum black. But let me explicate myself further, if I may. You see, your fiscal cliff is a classic example of what I'm talking about. If Congress does nothing, we all go over the edge like Finnish lemmings into the Baltic Sea. The Republicans won't let that happen, because they're all men, you see, genetically incapable of inaction. Your Democrats, on the other hand, are ruled by the feminine gender, who, as everyone knows, have the upper hand, because they are genetically disposed to wait in the cave for the men to come back. And the men know they better not come back empty-handed, if you will."
"That's the stupidest theory I ever heard," Grover said.
"Well, we'll see, Grovie. We'll see. ... You know, Boston is the hub of Boston proper, which comprises some two and three quarter million people ..."
"Get outta here."
"Do you question my figures?"
"No. I just want you to get outta here before you fall off your barstool."
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...