David Greenberg,

David Greenberg,

A weeklong electronic journal.
Sept. 29 1998 3:30 AM

David Greenberg,

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       One perk of writing for a magazine where you otherwise work, or have worked, is that you actually know a few people who can be counted on to read what you've written. Today I stopped by the Slate office in the Flatiron District. (Yes, such an office exists. This fact for some reason seems to surprise people, as though they thought we all existed only in cyberspace.) Immediately I got feedback on my first "Diary" entry. "Was all that twinism stuff meant to be serious?" my colleague Jacob Weisberg asked me. Not necessarily the feedback a writer wants, but feedback nonetheless.
       I gave Jacob as honest an answer as I could give: yes and no. Very Clintonian, I know. (I could have said, "Depends on what you mean by 'serious.' ") I suppose I don't think twinism is as pernicious a phenomenon as racism. For starters, no slavery, no lynchings, no Jim Crow. I've never been denied a job because I have a twin, nor have my brother and I been forced to drink at identical water fountains. And I certainly hope that no one ever convenes a Presidential Commission on Twins.
       But, yes, I am serious in casting a cold eye on the ways people tend to have a cheap laugh at the expense of twins, or ask us bothersome questions, or even come up to the one of us they don't know and start talking with easy familiarity (well intentioned, yes, but--sorry--still a nuisance after the two thousandth time). When Jon was captain of the Harvard rugby team, he earned the nickname "Redbeard" for the facial hair he sported as a freshman. Not only did the name stick to him after he shaved the beard, but I soon found myself--who has never worn a beard in my life--being given bear hugs on the street by hulking men shouting, "Redbeard!" You see how long your tolerance holds out.
       Anyway, at the Slate office I browsed through the pile of newsmagazines and was heartened to see that President Clinton, Ken Starr, Monica Lewinsky, and the rest of the Flytrap gang had disappeared from the covers this week. Instead we got Oprah (Time), home schooling (Newsweek), and "Best HMOs." (Take a guess which one. Plus ça change ...) Then I went to a regular weekly happy hour of mostly journalist types. Flytrap had dominated the discussion since August, but now everyone was talking about Felicity, the Fed, travel magazines, and Stephen Glass.
       On the way home, I saw that Gray's Papaya, New York's cheap-hot-dog-and-tropical-juice institution, had replaced the pro-Giuliani banner in its window with a sign that said, "Hang in There, Mr. President!" (This must be the most politically engagé cheap-hot-dog-and-tropical-juice institution in the nation.) And when I got in, I found absolutely zero e-mail messages that cited with naive glee a bogus 1987 Ken Starr quote condemning perverts who print graphic descriptions of sex acts.
       Could it be that sanity has returned to the newsrooms of Washington? Yes and no, I suppose. Or depends on what you mean by "returned."