Monday, June 4, 2012

I can't believe I forgot Carl Bernstein

This was one of the best ones.  I'm actually going to paste this into my earlier post about celebrity writer encounters, but I figured, for people who aren't obsessively reading that post over and over again (and why?), it might be easier to find here.  So:

Carl Bernstein, reporter. April 2007
I was in Sag Harbor to write a story for the Escapes section (R.I.P.) about a rich guy's vacation home. At first I thought it was Bob Weinstein, the movie producer, but then they said no, it's a different Bob Weinstein. As it turns out, this Bob Weinstein probably has much cooler furniture -- not that I'm familiar with the movie producer's furniture, but this Bob made a pastime of scouring antique stores and Manhattan flea markets for mid-century modernist pieces: Eero Saarinen tables and whatnot. So I'm in Sag Harbor to see this house, and we decide to take a walk over to a design store that he particularly likes -- partly so I can get more of a sense of his decorating sensibility and partly, I imagine, so he can get his friend's store in the paper. In the store, a sort of schlubby older guy is browsing the driftwood candle holders or whatever, and I think, "That dude looks familiar." Bob Weinstein apparently had no such thought, but being in a chatty mood said something about the weather. They before you know it, they're hitting it off, going back and forth on the virtues of in-town vs. waterfront property in the Hamptons.  (As I recall, the feeling is that waterfront is nice but then you've got to worry about global warming.) All the while, my mind is locked in on a question: "Hey, is that Carl Bernstein?" I didn't want to interrupt, for some reason, and we're actually about to leave the store, when finally Bob Weinstein introduces himself to the guy. And the guy is like, "Nice to meet you. I'm Carl." I finally can't take it anymore, and say, "Carl Bernstein?" He says yes and I say, Oh hi, I'm a reporter and a big fan -- Watergate, etc. -- and I'm writing a story about this guy's house ... pointing over at Bob, who has kind of a blankish look on his face while he tries to remember who Carl Bernstein is. He eventually caught up, though, and I think we then talked about whether Hillary Clinton was going to get elected president. (Did Bernstein say no? I think he might have said no.)  And then Bob Weinstein, having fully recovered his bearings, invited Carl Bernstein back for a tour of his house. Bernstein -- who if he wasn't wearing flip-flops might as well have been -- said what the heck, and we all trouped over there on some narrow village street, and checked out the work in progress on the pool house. The Hamptons are so weird.

Cool story, bro

Really fascinating reading about this guy's day at the Johan Santana no-hitter. Though maybe next time they might consider giving that precious Sunday-paper real estate to ... someone who likes baseball? ... and cares to explain it to his kids? ... and knows how to read the scoreboard? ... and is AWARE THAT HE'S WATCHING A NO-HITTER? Otherwise, solid stuff.*

The crazy thing is that, just off the top of my head, I can think of another person who was at the game with his kids, who satisfies all of the above criteria, and who happens to be a professional writer and contributor to the Times. But not a staff writer, so probably nobody thought to ask for his impressions. Sigh.

Which reminds me, did I ever mention that I'm in this book?  I had avoided buying it for years, because somehow paying for edited-down versions of my own work, shortly after the section in which that work appeared was eliminated to save the publisher money, didn't seem palatable.  Also, in the introduction Anna Quindlen, who seems nice, made a point of saying that all stories in the book were written by Times staffers. Ha ha ha, I wish, right?

Anyway, I finally caved and bought it recently, and it's a pretty good read and a lovely keepsake.  I'd suggest purchasing it the way I did, by letting Amazon find you a used copy online. It's a fraction of the price, and you know that at least some of your money is going to support a business that really deserves it: A used-book store. They are a dying industry, after all.

* Not really. (Just so as not to be a complete hater, I should acknowledge that the same reporter has written really, really good things in recent months.  Just not this.)