Finding The Way To A Man’s Heart

It is often said that “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” but I think I have discovered a new way today to at least one man’s heart, one that doesn’t require any time in the kitchen, though in his case one can use the kitchen, albeit in a novel way.

The man’s heart I sought was that of a newspaperman who happens to own a dog. And I did find a way to his heart, though I stumbled into it.

For example, if you can’t stand the heat and you know he has a dog, then you can stay out of the kitchen. You just need to say nice things about his dog, or write about his dog.

Or you can just go into the kitchen to get a bone that you then give to the man’s dog, as it really is true that “the way to a dog’s heart is through his stomach.”

I could have found the way sooner had I recalled that newspapermen know all there is to know about “man bites dog” stories, so you just need to write a post in which “man writes of dog.”

I learned all this earlier today when, after completing my last few posts, I sent the following note to Peter Applebome of the NY Times:

Peter,

I’ve just published a few related blog posts that may be interest. Look for the mention of Atlanta in the first.

https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/pinhead-zone-tailspin-zone-bill-oreilly-felled-by-foot-in-mouth-disease/

https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/peter-applebome-soldiers%e2%80%99-portraits-make-the-costs-of-war-more-visible/

https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/what-will-become-of-journalism-and-journalists-in-the-internet-age/

I’ve mentioned the work of your colleague David Brooks in the recent post

https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2007/09/28/tikkun-olam-give-where-giving-is-due/

as well as the older

https://daveshields.wordpress.com/2006/10/09/on-baseball-steve-ogrady-david-brooks-a-bartlett-giamatti-red-smith-lou-gehrig-et-al/

My mentions of Tom Friedman are voluminous. I’m but one member of cult Tom Friedman.

Your latest column is very good, as are all the rest.

Keep up the good work.

thanks,dave

Though I didn’t check my email for some time, when I did I noted he had responded within seven minutes, as follows:

dave: thanks for this. enjoyed reading it and completely thrilled to see the mention of walter.

how long have you been doing this?

By the way, I knew he was talking about his dog, and not his brother-in-law.

I once asked Peter why he called his dog Walter and he responded the dog was named after his brother-in-law. That’s when I first appreciated he had a droll sense of humor. For example, here are some of the things Peter can say to his dog, or to his brother-in-law:

Walter, time do do your business.
Heel, Walter.
Bad dog, Walter.
Oops, sorry I kicked you, Walter.
Chew on this old bone, Walter.
Walter, if you pee on the rug one more time then out to the porch you go for the night.

I then realized I had unconciously used an approach I first read about many years ago in A.J. Liebling’s wonderful book, “The Earl of Louisiana,” where he relates how he introduced himself to Earl Long, who was running for re-election as Governor of Louisiana; by way of background, one of his opponents was Jimmie Davis, a well-known singer who went on to win the election: [1]

“Governor,” a reporter queried, “what is your personal opinion of who’s going to win this election?”

“I am,” the seated orator replied without hesitation. “Uncle Ear. It’s going to be a case of Katy bar the door. Little old Dellasoups Morrison will be second.”

“And third,” pursued the questioner.

“Jimmie Davis, if he stays in the race,” the man who picked himself said. “And little Willie Rainach and Big Bad Bill Dogg a dogfall for fourth.” In country wrestling, a dogfall means that the men lose their footing simultaneously and both go down, which makes that fall a draw.

“We are going to have a party tomorrow, a homecoming party for the press,” he said. “and you all are invited. Going to have something for everybody — religious music over here on one side of the room and honky-tonk on the other. But no Bedbug Blues — that’s Jimmie Davis’ tune.

There was a good deal of the discourse that I have not recorded. Carried away by the stream of idiom like a drunk on a subway train, I missed a lot of stations. [2]

Somebody asked the Governor what he thought of the Luce publications’ having asked for a change of venue to a Federal court in his libel suit for six million dollars. He said he didn’t care what kind of court the case came up in.

“They going to find themselves lighter and wiser when it’s over,” he said. “The Luce people have been going on too long picking on people too poor to sue them, and now they’re going to get it in the nect. Mr. Luce is like a man that owns a shoestore and buys all the shoes to fit himself. Then he expects other people to buy them.” [3]

This was the best thing said about publishers, I felt, since I myself wrote thirteen years ago: “To the foundation of a school of journalism for publishers, without whichno school of journalism can have meaning.”

I put all my admiration in my glance and edged my chair up to the end of the Governor’s sofa. When I try, I can exude sincerity as a lama can spit, and the Governor’s gaze, swinging about the room, stopped when it lit on me. My eyes clamped on it in an iron grip of approval.

I inched forwarder, trying not to startle him into putting a cop on me, and said, “Governor, I am not a newspaperman. I am with you all the way about publishers. Nor am I primarily interested in politics. I came all the way down here to find out your system for beating the horses.”

An expression of modest disclaimer dropped like a curtain in front of the cocky old face.

“I got no particular system,” he said. “I think I’m doing good to break even. I think horse-betting should be dissected — into them that can afford it and them that can’t. I think if you can afford it it’s a good thing to take your mind off your troubles and keep you out of the air.”

“Do you play speed ratings?” I asked. The Governor, is his eagerness to talk simultaneously about all phases of handicapping, choked up — it was the bronchieactis– and began to cough.

Quickly I offered him a lemon drop and he accepted it. Once it was in his mouth, I knew, from my experience among the Arabs in the opposite end of the interrupted sea, that I had won. He had accepted my salt, now he would reciprocate. The bronchieactasis struggled with the lemon drop for a moment and then yielded.

Liebling had come to the news conference knowing his man. And knowing that man, he had found a way to the man’s heart.

Knowing my man I inadvertently discovered the way to his heart.

In any event, I did find my way, for if you read his reply you will find that Peter Applebome, an experienced reporter and columnist of the New York Times, said he enjoyed reading several of my recent blog posts.

This is the second such approval of my writing, the first being that of Ari Goldman, himself a former reporter for the NY Times and now a professor at Columbia’s school of journalism (has any publisher yet attended it?), as reported in my post On the escape velocity from obscurity. [3]

Though I am not as big a fan of racing as A.J. himself, I have been to the races myself in years past: at the State Fair in New Mexico, at Santa Anita racetrack in California, and at Belmont racetrack on Long Island.

So long-time readers of this blog can appreciate that I see a trifecta in sight.

Yes, it’s taken a year, but my biggest long-shot to date may soon pay off. It can only come if the New York Times prints a certain phrase, or if a certain comment is posted to one of my posts. Only a fellow colleague of Mr. Applebome can make this happen.

Will he? Won’t he? We shall see, as it will be easy for all the world to confirm if my long-shot crosses the finish line.

We shall also see if Mr. Applebome can identify the colleague and suggest to him what he must do. All the answers can be found in previous posts in this blog.

To answer Peter’s question, I’ve been writing this blog for just over a year now. You can find a list of all my posts at Posts. You can learn the date of each post just by holding your mouse over it. This will also cause a small snapshot to appear, as described in my post WordPress August Wrap-up: Game, Set, Match.

Peter, I warn you there are a lot of posts. By my accounting this will be the 339th post in this blog. So I am going to give you and other curious readers a hint. That man’s name can be found in my note to you.

Let’s see if you can become my way to his heart. If you correctly identify your colleague I will send you instructions to forward to him on how he can complete this important task.

I would prefer that he do so in printed form, so I can read it in one of the daily copies of the Times that are delivered to my driveway each day. I say this because one of the most impressive pieces of technology I have ever personally observed was a Linotype. Though no longer in use, it converted bricks of lead into type that was used to print newspapers. To see ore turned into prose by the Linotype operator was magic indeed, much less romantic than today’s use of a word processor to send a story on its way.

If my mention of hot lead doesn’t give you and your colleague a rush of affection for me then I fear I will not get my trifecta. However, I remain optimistic.

By the way, I make no secret of the way to my heart. You just need to compliment me on my handwriting. I will know you are lying but I will accept the compliment with grace. To see why, just search this blog for the word “sheldon.”

Also, Peter, if I find any poop near the bottom of the driveway in the near future, I’ll know the name of the dog — or brother-in-law — who will be held accountable.

My wife and I saw Walter looking out a window a few nights back while on an evening stroll. We saw Walter wag his tail, at us or, more likely, a squirrel.

We all know by his writing that Peter is a great writer, so I wouldn’t be surprised that he is so smart that he has taught his dog Walter how to read. I do hope so, as Peter would then have a path right to the heart of the Pulitzer Prize Committee.

I can write the citation now:

This year, for the first time in its history, a special Pulitzer Prize for Outstanding Innovation In Journalism is awared to a man and dog. Both are named Walter, and both come from the same family, yet the dog is not the man’s dog but the dog of the man’s brother-in-law.

While some may see this as a belated apology for our allowing a Yellow Dog Journalist to serve as chairman of the prize committee, no one can question the award is well-deserved, as the Walters are the joint authors of the first Op-Ed piece piece published by the New York Times to be written by a man and a dog, “The Inside Poop On Why We Pooped On Dave Shields’s Driveway.”

This year’s award for Best Columnist goes to Peter Applebome and The New York Times, for his accumlated body of work, and especially for Mr. Applebome’s columns inspired by his dog Walter, “Dog Flogs Blog” as well as what is without question the finest single column ever published, the work of Thomas Friedman notwithstanding, “Dog Writes Times.” [5]

Notes:

1. Long is an interesting figure. He was the son of the Artful Demagogue Sen. Huey Long, and on the surface seemed to have been cut from the same cloth, yet Liebling found Earl to be ahead of his time in matters of race. Long died shortly after the election that he lost.

The book is one of Liebling’s best. They all are. Usually I can copy a few words from a column, or a section of a Wikipedia article, directly into a blog post by using cut-and-paste with my mouse, yet I had to type in this quotation word by word. I haven’t read Liebling much in recent years, and doing this reminded me just how great a writer he was.

2. I am one of those people who consider themselves a native New Yorker because of their great love for it. Yet not all natives have the same emotional attachment. One of Liebling’s first books, “Back Where I Came From,” published in 1938 (I have a complete collection of his works; my copy of this book is a first edition.) begins as follows:

People I know in New York are incessantly on the point of going back where they came from to write a book, or of staying on and writing a book about back where they came from. Back where they came from, I gather, is the American scene (New York, of course, just isn’t America). It is all pretty hard on me because I have no place to go back to. I was born in an apartment house at Ninety-third Street and Lexington Avenue, about three miles where I now live. Friends often tell me of their excitement when the train on which they are riding passes from Indiana to Illinois, or back again. I am ashamed to admit that when the Jerome Avenue express rolls into Eighty-sixth Streeet station I have absolutely no reaction.

I had a similar encounter with a native. Once, when in need of a cab on Park Avenue on a rainy night in the height of rush hour, I saw daughter Jennifer, then about fifteen, step into the street and raise her hand. I admonished her by saying, “Let me do it. Only real New Yorkers know how to hail a cab.” She replied, “Dad. I am the real New Yorker. I was born here. You weren’t.” A cab stopped for us moments later.

3. This is one of Liebling’s more memorable aphorisms, as is, “”Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” He wrote an occasional New Yorker column about the press for many years. Called, “The Wayward Press,” its name was the inspiration for the name of this blog. Liebling is not too well-known these days, but I’ve never met a reporter who wasn’t familiar with his work. For example, Ari Goldman smiled as soon as I mentioned the name of my blog.

4. — deleted —

5. Many, including myself, would argue that the Time’s has already published Op-Ed works that had a dog as their author, as demonstrated by the doggerel prose found therein, but that is a matter of opinion.

6. It is interesting to speculate on what might result if Peter actually could teach, with dogged determination, Walter (the dog, not his brother-in-law, whom I assume is already literate) how to read. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Peter summoned before a Grand Jury convened to investigate why he had not first shared this innovation with the Department of Defense, as was done many decades ago by B. F. Skinner in his experiments that attempted to train pigeons to aim weapons.

I can see it now:

Mr. Peter Applebome of the NY Times, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize, was called to testify early today before a Grand Jury.

Mr. Applebome valiantly defended The Freedom Of The Press by responding to every question with the same response, “It’s the dog’s life. Ask him.”

Followed by:

Walter Applebome today became the first dog ever called to testify before a Grand Jury. He replied to every question with a dogged stare, sometimes in silence and other times barking. It is surmised that his owner, Mr. Peter Applebome, while able to teach Walter how to read and how to take paw to keyboard, was unable to give Walter the gift of speech.

And the best one possible, with the immortal headline:

Dog Bites Congressman

During today’s appearance before a Special Investigative Session of the U.S. House of Representatives, Walter The Dog became the first dog ever to be summoned to testify under oath before Congress.

Walter was accompanied by his attorney and fellow dog, Clifford, who required a special seat to accommodate his large body.

Walter’s family was present. The family is unique in that it is the first family ever to have received three Pulitzer Prizes, including what is believed to be the first Pulitzer Prize ever awarded to a dog, though this remains the subject of heated debate.

Walter responded to repeated and dogged questioning by becoming the first dog in history to bite a U.S. Congressman while Congress was in session.

Walter than ran out of the chamber, wagging his tail. The Congressman was later heard to say, “Doggone it. It’s a good thing the dog is gone.”

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3 Trackbacks

  1. […] The NY Times, or at least one of its reporters, has also recently had some good things to say about me, too. Smart folks, those NY Times […]

  2. […] Republican Leaders Revive Dogged Inquiry: WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho today announced that he has just acquired a dog and has named it after his brother-in-law. He said, “I urge my fellow four Republican Senators to name their dogs after their brothers-in-law, acquring both a dog and a brother-in-law if necessary, as it has been shown that doing so is the best way to reach the heart of the American electorate. […]

  3. […] Finding The Way To A Man’s Heart […]

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