No Animals Were Harmed During This Flight

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

No Animals Were Harmed During This Flight

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

No Animals Were Harmed During This Flight
An email conversation about the news of the day.
June 6 2000 3:59 PM

William Powers and Martha Sherrill

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What's embarrassing about a wine cache? I love my wine and I exhort the Slate multitudes to come by for a glass next time they're in the neighborhood. Meanwhile, I think it's amusing that we're suddenly such big experts on a book neither of us has read. For instance, how do you know Boboism is a paradox? For all we know, Brooks resolves the old conflict and sets all the suffering, self-hating Bobos free.

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Tell you what, after Melville we'll both read Brooks, and then we'll invite him to dinner--I'll break out that bottle of Stag's Leap cab I've been saving--and ask him to place us on the Boho/Bourgeois continuum. I do hope we're selling some books for the guy.

Yeah, our "Breakfast Table" is really low-rent. I think we're supposed to be analyzing important social issues and dissecting news coverage of same, but we keep descending into the frivolous and self-absorbed. We mortify me. Remember when our friends Tony Horwitz and Geraldine Brooks had this gig and exchanged views on Kosovo and the genocidal history of the Balkans? My office friend Judith, a faithful Breakfast Table reader, says theirs was one of the best ever. But then they had the journalist's fantasy: War broke out that week. Let's console ourselves with that.

O.K. Here's the one news story that engaged me today, and it even has a Denver angle. The Washington Post has this funny front-page feature story about a United Airlines flight from Dulles to San Jose that did an emergency landing last Saturday when the crew realized a dog had been loaded into an unheated cargo hold and was probably freezing to death. The flight attendants went to break both the bad news (your dog may be dead) and the good news (we're landing in Denver in an effort to save him) to the dog's owner, and when they found him, he had his laptop open to a large screen-saver photo of the dog, a Basenji named Dakota. According to the story, none of the other passengers complained about the diversion (which surprises me). They found the dog alive, and the crew bent the rules and let him ride the rest of the way with the humans. "As passengers cheered, Bell (the owner) triumphantly carried the dog the length of the airplane," and Dakota slept the rest of the way under some blankets.

I think this is the kind of story that certain of my colleagues in the media police (especially the academic ones) just hate to see eating up precious space on the front page of a great newspaper. They read a story like this and, to borrow an expression from David Carr, they do the church lady thing all over it. Cutesy, insubstantial, dumb. I liked it, especially the screen-saver moment.

In closing for the day, I want to apologize for something. Re-reading our previous exchange, I see I unfairly zinged you for something you didn't do--worry about the appearance of being a Vanity Fair reader. You never said you do that. What you said is you don't want something trashy like a VF Kathleen Turner profile to be the last thing your brain processes before it expires, that you'd rather it be something a little more nourishing, like The New Yorker. It's a nice thought: Forgive me.

BP

William Powers writes a weekly column on the media for National Journal magazine. Martha Sherrill is a former staff writer for the Washington Post, a contributing editor at Esquire, and the author of The Buddha from Brooklyn (click here to buy it).