Hi. I’m Art Buchwald, and I just died

Whose rose garden is it anyway

I picked this one up at the St.Anne second hand book store down by the river. Of course, I’ve known Art Buchwald a long time and I’ve grown to love his brand of humor. Political satirist and syndicated columnist par excellence, he walks you down Washington DC life during the Reagan and (G.H.W.) Bush years with a hilarious form of panache. This book is a collection of the best of those syndicated columns.

Here’s a sampling for you….

(Spoof on one of President Reagan’s press conferences at the White House):-

Q: Mr. President, what about all the new taxes you propose?

A: We are going to bring that up when Gorbachev visits next. If he wants a missile treaty, he better stop fixing our marines with Russian girls in the Moscow embassy.

Though his writing is dated to the 80s, nothing appears to have changed in the current political atmosphere in the US (or anywhere else for that matter). The content therefore is as relevant today as it was then.

Published in 1988, the book lampoons the end of the Reagan era and the beginning of the (G.H.W)Bush era and other subjects like environmental pollution, healthcare, public transport or anything else that catches Buchwald’s fancy. On pollution, he visualizes a conversation between sharks off Cape Cod, naming them Jaws-1, Jaws-2, Jaws-3……

Jaws-1: Don’t go near Long Island. There’s medical garbage dumped there.

Jaws-2: I hear its just as bad off Kennebunkport. You can get violently sick just by nuzzling a swimmer’s legs.

Jaws-3: I’d like to bite the arm off the guy who is doing this. And hear him scream and thrash around in helpless agony.

Jaws-1: That’s all very well but what do we do about food? The people at the beach are just too unsafe to eat.

Jaws-2: That’s outrageous. No one should be permitted to contaminate human beings. They are our meal ticket…….

Buchwald had a dry, delightful sense of humor. During the Eisenhower years, Buchwald published a hilarious take on reporters’ questions about the president’s breakfast habits. The White House Press Secretary, John Hagerty, was incensed and called the article ‘unadulterated rot’. Buchwald famously retorted, “Hagerty is wrong. I write adulterated rot.”

The back cover of this book has a photo of Buchwald playing tennis against an opponent who is not in the picture frame. The caption reads…

Tennis is now a power game in Washington. Those who play it are privy to all the secrets in the country. We cannot reveal the identity of the person playing against the author, other than to say he has his own tennis court in the Rose Garden.

Twice Pulitzer Prize winner and long running political humorist who ran syndicated columns in the Herald Tribune, The Washington Post and The New York Times, to name just a few, Art Buchwald died in 2007, at the age of 81. When asked by a NYT reporter, weeks before he passed away, about what he’d like his epitaph to read, he proposed- “Hi, I’m Art Buchwald and I just died”.

I’ll leave you with some Art Buchwald quotes that I plucked out of the internet…

On President Reagan…”I worship the quicksand he walks on

On nostalgia…..”We seem to be going through a period of nostalgia. Everybody thinks yesterday was better than today. I don’t think it was and I would advise you not to wait ten years before admitting today was great. If you’re hung up on nostalgia, pretend today is yesterday and just go out and have one hell of a time.”

On book reviews…..”Writers are funny about reviews. When they get a good one they ignore it, but when they get a bad review they never forget it. Every writer I know is the same way. You get a hundred good reviews and one bad, you remember only the bad. For years, you fantasize about the reviewer who didn’t like your book. You imagine him as a jerk and a wife-beater, a real ogre. Twenty years later, the reviewer must have forgotten all about the whole thing. But you still remember that jerk and his review.”

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