Who Doesn’t Mind See-Through Walls, DecoBiking to Work and Living in a Cardboard Box
“It’s quite apparent to me,” said Commissioner Wolfson at the recent city commissioners retreat, “that our next manager is going to have to be way more open-door with us than was Jorge Gonzalez.”
“I second that,” Commissioner Tobin chimed in. “We need somebody who’s going to keep his door open to us.”
“You wanna remove his door completely? Will that make you happy?” Mayor Bower asked sarcastically.
“Hey, now there’s a thought,” replied Tobin.
“I was just pulling your leg!” Matti cackled with a shrill laugh.
“No, hold on, mayor,” Wolfson jumped in. “That’s a novel idea. I like it. Why don’t we just have the door to his office taken off its hinges? That will send an unmistakable message – better than anything else I know – that we mean to have an open-door manager.”
“Oh, get outta here, Jonah,” retorted Matti.
“No, madam mayor, I like your idea. Seriously. Door gone.”
“Okay, no door,” the city clerk, scribbling down their criteria suggestions, confirmed.
“And what about transparency?” Commissioner Weithorn interjected. “We need to emphasize transparency.”
“Right. How ’bout we replace the walls to his office with plexiglass?” suggested Tobin.
“What?!” Matti exclaimed.
“Yes, mayor,” said Wolfson. “I think Ed’s onto something. Knock down his office walls and install those glass, see-through partitions like they had on The West Wing. Why not?”
“You like all this, Deede?” Matti asked.
“I gotta say I do. I want transparency this time. And if we can’t get it any other way – ”
“What is with all of you?” Matti shrieked. “Next thing, you’re going to want to dictate the color of his carpet or the style of his office furniture!”
“There’s an idea,” chimed Tobin. “How ’bout we get him an executive chair that, if we don’t like him, we can press a button and – BOOM! – he gets ejected out a 4th-floor window?”
“ED!” blurted Matti. “This is CRAZY talk!”
“Matti, baby, I’m just kidding. Don’t be so serious. Jeez.”
“Can we – without, of course, requiring that whomever we select be from a certain ethnicity – expect him or her to be comfortable sipping a café con leche at the window counter at David’s Cafe?” Commissioner Exposito suggested.
“Or at least know what one is?” added Wolfson.
“Well, as long as you’re specifying a stipulation like that, Jorge, may I put in my own request?” Commissioner Libbin offered. “That he or she be equally comfortable with sitting down to, say, a Passover seder among some of my constituents?”
“Not to mention,” Commissioner Gongora tossed in, “I want to see our next manager on top a float with me and the mayor at next year’s Pride parade down Ocean, so he or she’s got to be okay with the LGBT community.”
“You just gotta try to one-up me, huh?” shot Libbin.
“I wasn’t one-uppin’ you, Commissioner,” Gongora hit back. “I was just adding my –”
“Grandstanding for the public, that’s what you were – ” Libbin replied.
“And you weren’t?” retorted Gongora.
“Listen, you,” Libbin fired back.
“JERRY! MICHAEL! Pleeease!” Matti interrupted. “I haven’t even left yet and you two are already fighting for my seat! Aye-yi-yi!”
Tobin spoke up. “I’ll tell you something else I’m not happy with. That $20,000 annual car allowance. We gotta change that, people.”
“Yeah, I don’t like it either,” Gongora agreed. “Is there any way we can drastically reduce that without forcing our next manager into the indignity of having to tool around in a used jalopy?”
“Michael, I don’t see why we even have to dole out a car allowance,” Tobin replied. “I’d just as well rather have us save the twenty thousand and give him an allowance to rent a DecoBike for his official travel. That’s good for at least the nearby vicinity – to Lincoln Road and what-not. Plus it sets a good, healthy example for the public. For longer trips, let’s issue him an annual pass, good for any of the county transit buses.”
“Wait just a minute!” Matti erupted. “I’m not going to let the manager of this city make do with riding a bike or taking a bus to work. Come on!”
“Listen Matti, don’t get your panties all bunched up over this,” Tobin replied. “You’re not going to be here but another year – or shorter, depending on whether you’ve got up your sleeve some other statehouse seat you’re thinking of ditching us for that you’ve not told us about.”
“The rest of us,” Tobin continued, “have got to work with this new guy – or gal – in the long-run, long after you’re outta here. So I say we make him use his own car, or lease his own vehicle, or figure out some other form of transportation than us paying him thousands to ride in style.”
“I personally prefer the bike or mass transit options,” Gabrielle Redfern butted in.
“Ma’am, please,” interrupted the retreat moderator. “Commissioners only. This isn’t Sutnick Hour.”
Weithorn spoke up. “As long as we’re discussing taking things away, I’d like to propose we take away that $24,000 annual housing allowance.”
“Atta girl, Deede,” Wolfson put in. “Can we just find him a good-sized cardboard box – the kind refrigerators come in – and fix him up in a corner of the municipal parking garage?”
“WHA – ?!” exclaimed Matti.
“Just kidding, mayor.”
“Jonah, would you reconsider your not running for the Steinberg seat?” asked Matti.
“Why? You don’t want me around here?”
“I didn’t say tha – ”
“No, but it was what you were thinking. You want me out of your hair.”
“Look, Jonah – let’s get back to the criteria, can we?”
“We’ve got to rethink that pension package,” Weithorn said.
“And do we really need to be forking over $26,000 a year for his health insurance?” Wolfson asked. “Wouldn’t a first-aid kit and a bottle of aspirin do?”
Guffaws broke out from all, except from Matti, who shot Wolfson a dirty look.
“And what about this $3,700 cell phone stipend,” asked Gongora. “I mean, come on. $3,700?”
“I know: Let’s give him rolls of quarters – a thousand dollars’ worth – and let him use pay phones. We’d save the city $2,700 right there,” joked Tobin.
“I want him to be solidly against Urban Beach Weekend,” Libbin chimed in.
“Gotta be firmly against corruption,” Wolfson submitted.
“And pro-police,” added Tobin.
“But not if they’re crooked,” volunteered Gongora.
“Well, he’s got to fix it so that the bad ones are sent packing,” Exposito offered.
“It’s important that he be business-friendly,” Libbin threw in. “A friend of the Chamber.”
“And strongly for historic preservation,” declared Matti. “A friend of the Preservation League.”
“And live within city limits,” Weithorn contributed.
“Well, if we give him that cardboard box and set him up in the parking garage, we’ll definitely know he’s within city limits,” Wolfson snickered.
Laughter went up around the table.
“Jonah, Jonah, Jonah,” an exasperated Matti muttered, shaking her head. “You got all that, Mr. City Clerk?” Matti inquired.
The clerk read back to them from his notes.
“Wanted: City manager for a municipality of 88,000 residents and with a $424 million operating budget. Must be comfortable working in an office with no doors, transparent walls, appreciate Latino, Jewish, and gay customs, foods, and lifestyles without necessarily being Latino, Jewish, or gay; make do without a car allowance, possibly settle for a DecoBike and a bus pass; be anti-Urban Beach Weekend, anti-corruption, pro-police, anti-bad cops, pro-business, pro-preservation, be a fixer-upper, and live within city limits. Did I get it all?”
“Sounds good to me,” the mayor answered.
Nods of approval registered from around the table.
“Now’s the hard part,” Tobin summed up. “Finding the right candidate.”
At that point, the city attorney leaned over and whispered to the city clerk:
“No, the hard part will be finding anybody who in their sane mind would ever want this thankless, pressure-cooker job in the first place.”
To most, Lee Rich‘s name wouldn’t ring a bell. But this one-time ad agency exec, who died last Thursday in Los Angeles at 93, crossed over to become one of TV’s top producers. Leaving advertising, he co-founded Lorimar Productions and, in 1972, introduced America to a poor, Depression-era Appalachian family from the Virginia foothills, headed up by a couple named John and Olivia Walton. Catapulted by the phenomenal success of that series, he eventually introduced TV viewers to yet more TV families, including –
A filthy-rich, modern-day family of Texas oil tycoons, the Ewings.
A spin-off series about couples who lived in a cul-de-sac community called Knot’s Landing.
A widowed Sacramento newspaper columnist and his family of eight children (if that weren’t enough).
So, while you may never have heard of him, the programming he produced came into our homes, each week, for years, in an era when there were still but a handful of channels and before the vast TV viewing audience was splintered among a multitudinous array of hundreds of different cable, satellite, and digital options. Whether you recall tuning in to see who shot J.R., or to hear John-Boy and his siblings call out their “good nights” to one another, you have Lee Rich to thank.
In this week when the word has been put to (over)use thanks to a certain infamous atrocity on a pedestrian walkway of the MacArthur that has only reminded the world just how nutty/loopy/crazy/wacky/irredeemable Miami and Miamians are (some most among us, anyway), I am thoroughly sick and tired of the strange, inexplicable fascination with, concept of, and term itself, zombie.
Here’s one definition: “The body of a dead person given the semblance of life by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose.” Well, I say enough. Stick it back in the ground, cover it up, and let it rot. The word, the concept, the fascination – all of it.
Don’t even get me started on an equally vacuous pop-culture fascination, that with vampires. Arggh!