Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mike Royko & The Royal Wedding

So we're about a month away from the royal wedding, get ready for the media blitz of a lifetime. It's estimated that 2.4 billion people are going to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot. That's 35% of the world's population (which begs the question - what percentage of Chinese and Indian people watch this thing? I'd say it has to be like 2% of China, 10% of India - colonial roots and all, more english speakers - which means the percentage for the rest of the world is like 60-65%. Incredible). TV networks have been leasing balcony space across from Westminster Abbey for 10 years to get prime coverage of the wedding. CNN is sending 400 people over there to cover the event - to put that in perspective they sent 50 to Japan post tsunami. Oh but don't worry, one of them was Anderson Cooper IN HIS CASUAL SATURDAY ATTIRE!!!)

I wasn't even planning on writing this but now I just have to. I saw this clip live and almost threw something through my TV. Anderson: It's a day after an 8.9 quake, thousands are dead, missing and homeless. Lives are destroyed. WHY ARE YOU WEARING A TRACK HOODY? I mean look at his outfit, I'm surprised he found time to take his white IPOD headphones out before cameras started rolling. You're covering one of the great disasters of our time, radiation is seeping out of Fukushima and threatening the entire country. The skeleton crew is in there, basically conceding death, in order to protect the greater good. And Anderson's dressed like he's going to grab brunch in Williamsburg with some friends. I'm sure the decision to dress him this way was the same logic behind Presidential candidates always having their sleeves rolled up ie "we've got a situation, i'm here, i'm ready to get my hands dirty." And while it's predictable I'm ok with it. So Anderson, wear a dress shirt and some khakis, roll the sleeves up and be a professional. I have plenty of friends, I don't have many news anchors I can trust. So be that anchor, stop trying to be cool, stop trying to be my friend.

Deep breaths. So back to the point of this entry. The Royal Wedding is a month away, which made me recall a great article I once read by Mike Royko. He was columnist for the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Sun Times who wrote from the early 1960's through the mid 1990's. My parents gave me a book of his best columns when I was in high school and a few of those columns have really stuck with me.

The one I'm attaching below was written in 1981 after Prince Charles and Princess Diana got married, in what was then the most viewed event in TV history. Knowing, in hindsight, what happened to Charles and Diana makes this article a bit depressing, however that's only when held up to and compared against Royko's own standards (his wife of 26 years, his childhood sweetheart, had died 2 years earlier). It's probably the most optimistic YET rational things about love and marriage I've ever read, and given the timing and the subject matter thought it was worth sharing.

July 30, 1981

A Pact to Cherish

Dear Prince Charles and Lady Diana:

The trumpets have stopped blaring. The incredible crowds have dispersed. Satellite TV has taken a rest. You two have walked up the aisle in the most publicized and widely seen wedding in history.

And now you are what you are: A young married couple. That simple fact seems to have been overlooked by most of the world because you, Charles, are a future King of England, as meaningless as that title might be. And you, Diana, are going to be a queen or whatever the wife of a king is called. As an American, I don’t keep track of such things.

But I do know that you are a man and a woman and have just entered into – as corny as some may find this statement to be – the most serious arrangement, agreement, contract, relationship, or whatever else someone might want to call it, of your lives. It’s not really important that you, Charles, are a prince and king-to-be. And that you, Diana, are a queen-to-be. What I see is something far more important. You are a couple of people who just got married.

That gives you something in common with all the young lovers, and older lovers, of a world that sometimes seems loveless. You’re really no different from the kid from the Southwest Side of Chicago, who is an assistant manager of a pizza joint, and his bride from Oak Lawn, who is going to nursing school. They might not have had the trumpets and the audience of millions. But their vows and their commitment are no different from yours.

That’s because when all the guest have gone home from your wedding; when all the gifts have been given; when all the wedding photographs have been taken; when all the wedding songs have been played; when all the relatives have expressed their optimism or pessimism, it boils down to the same thing: It’s just you and her. Or her and you, to provide balance. It’s the most wonderful thing in the world. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And if you don’t realize that, then you’re missing out on life’s most glorious experience.

That experience is very old. It goes back beyond recorded history. It goes back to some time, before man could write or scratch pictures on walls, when a female and a male found themselves in a cave or in the crook of a tree, surrounded by the dark of the night, giving each other comfort, warmth, and security. This, somehow, became translated into something called love. Nobody is really sure what love is. Shrinks mess around with trying to define it, and just make it sound more complicated that it is. Poets, as neurotic as they are, do a much better job.

I’m not sure what it is myself, except that it leaves you breathless, makes everything else seem unimportant, and can cause you ecstasy and misery and drive you crazy. And also drive you happy. I hope, despite your cool, English manners, that this is what you feel. I hope you both feel crazy and happy.

Be warned: It’s not going to be all kissy-face and patty-fingers and the nibbling of earlobes. There will be times when she’s going to be mad as hell at you. If not, she’s yogurt or you’re a saint. And there will be times when she will drive you up a wall. I hope so, for your sake, or she or you will be about as exciting as a bowl of goldfish. When that happens – yell. That’s right, yell. Tell her you’re mad. And tell him you’re mad. Then get it out of your systems, glare out the windows, breathe loudly through your nostrils, mutter under your breath, take a walk around the block, call a close friend and complain about how impossible he or she is. Sit and brood about how you got yourself into such an impossible relationship. Daydream, if you must, about the perfect man or the perfect woman you could have had.

Then call it a day, say you’re sorry, go to bed, hold each other in your arms, do whatever else is called for, and wake up at the first chirp of the birds glad to be alive, and with each other. You’ll find that to be one of the sweetest moments of your life. Almost as sweet as awakening at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and seeing the other lying next to you, the moonlight playing on the other’s body, and reaching out and gently putting your hand on the other’s hand.

I must warn both of you: You aren’t going to spend the rest of your life, Charlie, lean, youthful, and clear-eyed. And you, Diana, are not always going to have that fresh, ripened-on-the-vine look. One of these days, Charlie, you’re going to be shaving and you’re going to look and look again and say: “By George, I have a receding hairline. And I have bags under my eyes. And a trace of jowls. And my waist seems to be damned near as big as my chest. Can I be getting old?” And you, Diana, are going to step out of the shower and notice that the proportions of your hips, your waist, and your etc., etc., are no longer as perfect as they are now. And you will have crow’s feet in the corners of your eyes. And the sheen of your skin will be something more like the texture of cottage cheese.

But if you haven’t become fools, she will say to you that you are even more handsome now than you were before; and you’ll tell her that she’s more beautiful and desirable than she was then. And you’ll mean it. And if you mean it, then it will be true.

You are really lucky, you know. Not because you’re young and rich and famous. Those are strictly fringe benefits. You are lucky because, I assume, you are in love and are beginning a life together. And that’s more important than anything else you do, your work, your place in history, or the opinions, approval, or disapproval of others. Now when you’re down, someone will take your hand and help you up. When you’re crying, someone will dry your tears. When you’re frightened, someone will hold and reassure you. When you’re alone, someone will tell you you’re not. That, young prince and young lady, matters more than all the ringing of the bells and the blowing of the trumpets. It’s something almost everybody wants, and not everybody has.

So kids, good luck and don’t blow it. And remember: Squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom.

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