Sunday, October 9, 2011

All My Children... And a Few More

Joe and his cousin Anna
I just returned from NY where we celebrated my brother-in-law Joe’s 80th birthday (yes, he’s much older than we are). What a great party! My wife’s family is full of energy and the party drew distant relatives from far and wide. Rhode Island, Toronto and, of course, Florida. There was no music or dancing at this party. The music could not have been heard over all the laughter.

Like any Italian family, the more of us you get in a room the more you hear great stories. I have heard them all 100’s of times before. But, they get better every time.

The planning for our trip was juxtaposed with the end of an era. All My Children, a long running daytime soap opera, was airing its last episode on network TV. What’s a soap opera lover to do now that Susan Lucci – perhaps daytime TV’s most well-known star – has faded to black along with the entire Pine Valley community?

Susan Lucci as Erica Cain
One of my favorite stories is about my late father-in-law, Dominick, who lived to the age of 95. He was as tough as any Italian born in the old country but he could also charm the skin off a rattlesnake. I loved him dearly and we still miss him 20+ years after his death.

In their later years, Dominick and his sister Catherine would sit together watching afternoon soaps. This was not idle time. They were truly engaged in the process. You might have thought these soap opera characters were their neighbors or, perhaps, distant relatives. They would swear and curse at the immorality on display. How would they react to Susan Lucci’s character, Erica Cain? They would be spitting mad.

“Che puttana!” (What a whore!)

Note: it is far funnier to hear this story told by my sister-in-law than it is to read it.

Were they alive today, Dominick and Catherine would be crestfallen to hear of the end of All My Children. Where could they get their melodrama fix?

Well, fear not! We have the Republican candidate debates. Well, we call them debates; but, are they really? For the most part, they are sound bite contests. No need to watch. Just wait for the four minute summary on the morning news. They will dutifully show you the “highlights” which focus on barbs and retorts NOT on substance.

But, that’s not the real melodrama. The daily reports of who’s in and who’s out are the real action. Will it be the fat guy from New Jersey? How about the hot chick from Alaska?

This is more fun than wondering if Erica Cain’s daughter is really a lesbian. Is Mitt Romney really a conservative? Moreover, which Republican will the voters kill off before the primaries? We have already seen the rise and fall of both Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry. However, Perry seems like he could come back and cause problems for the main characters. Sort of like when Erica Cain’s thought-to-have-been aborted son, Josh Madden, returned to the show.

The other melodrama? The competition to be the most influential state in the primary season has moved big state Florida to schedule its primary in late January. So, New Hampshire and Iowa will likely hold their main events shortly after New Year’s Day. Too bad. It’s clear that anyone who hasn’t declared is unlikely to jump in now. Fat guy says no. Hot chick says no. They’re spoiling the fun, aren’t they?

Pop star, Rihanna, made several guest appearances on our favorite soap opera back in 06. Couldn’t we have at least one more brief guest appearance? How about South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson who famously yelled, “You lie”, at President Obama during the 2009 State of the Union address? Wouldn’t that drive everyone crazy? Wouldn’t Bill Maher have a ball with that?

Amidst all this madness comes the Wall Street Journal editorial (October 5) which almost, but not quite, names Romney as the best of the lot. They refer to him as a “technocrat” (whatever that means) whose candidacy would give Republicans the best chance of reclaiming the White House – maybe.

Speaking of juxtaposition. The demise of Erica Cain is nearly simultaneous with the rise of upstart, Herman Cain (no relation). The Journal describes him as the “most intriguing” candidate. They were careful not to endorse anyone.

Cain’s 9-9-9 proposal has gotten everyone’s attention. Personally, I love it. It would reduce the government’s misallocation of capital, increase economic growth and employment; more fairly tax the public, attract Foreign Direct Investment and favor exports over imports. And, it has the added advantage of being easily understood by the average Joe.

But if Cain ever made it to the White House, the real soap opera would begin. I am not a lawyer but I think I could translate Cain’s 9-9-9 program into a Congressional bill in two or three pages. What would Congress do to 9-9-9? How many pages would the legislation be after the lobbyists got hold of it?

I am tempted to utter some Italian epithet. But, instead I will simply ask:


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