Monday, July 17, 2006

Personal Asides: Why Eric Zorn and I Couldn’t Have a Deal Cooking…A Perfect Form of Non-Recognition Invented by My Daughter, Mary When She was Four…a Trivia Quiz…and a Sudden Thought


One of this Blog’s best contributors, Bob in P. F., having read the Flashback about my deal with Democratic party publicist Jerry Schaller while I was the GOP flack wherein by staging a back-and-forth for our leaders gained lots of attention for our clients, wonders if Eric Zorn and I have the same deal to get more readers because we bash each other! Two reasons we don’t: Eric doesn’t need readers, conducting an excellent newspaper column and operating a very successful blog. I don’t either, because as an old retired gentleman of a certain age and a long-retired vice president of Quaker Oats, I am ambitious-less and am just glad when I wake up in the morning.

But there’s a more important reason there could be no deal between Zorn and me. In 1957, Democrat Schaller and I were passionate partisans but agreed on fundamentals: winning the Cold War, on moral and social questions as did the overwhelming majority of the American people. We differed on farm price supports, public works, relatively inconsequential stuff now (although it didn’t seem then). While not pretending to speak for Eric, he and I disagree on many fundamental moral and social issues: pro-life, the Iraq war et al for starters. But unlike his views concerning me, my respect for him as an ideological opponent is undiminished and I don’t look up word definitions in Webster before I use the words, insisting that I not be governed by a tyranny of past usage. Since I forgot to link up with him last week, now I will to show his (and his readers’ views of this Blog). Get the one about how anti-Semitic I am because I referenced Shakespeare’s play, “The Merchant of Venice” in an article? The play is now on the liberals’ blue list, I guess. See what I mean?

No Hi!

What do you do when you’re not angry at someone but in mixed social gatherings still don’t want to cozy up because of prior differences? The differences are too important to be brushed aside but you don’t want to be perceived as an old sorehead. And you wish to give him a salute of non-recognition so he and everyone else understands there are important differences between your views and his. The English language has not a means of conveyance of non-recognition. He comes over to you and extends his hand and says “hi” while everyone “hi’s” everyone else, sometimes through clenched teeth. What do you do now?

Unless you slap it or turn away while his hand is extended (which makes you the boorish one) there is nothing for you to do but agreeably swallow your anger and say “hi” back. But our daughter Mary who is now a happy mother of eight invented the only form of non-recognition that could work superbly. Indeed, it is so simple I invite it to any of you who are angered at a (a) spouse, (b) sibling, (c) friend who has disappointed you, (d) lover who has been thoughtless, (e) colleague at work who has been stealing your ideas and running them upstairs to the boss (f) a drunk in your favorite pub who has singled you out for belligerence while all you want to do is enjoy your drink in peace and not make a stir or (g) a blogger who’s called you every name in the book whom you meet quite by accident at a cocktail party and who, because social convention forces it, extends his hand. He says “hi” and you say—what?

Often when Mary was age 4, she and her brother, then age 5, would get into disputes. One time, he forgot about it after a while and came into the room, oblivious that she was still angry and he said, lightly, “Hi!” Her response: No Hi!”

That struck me as a brilliant way to the idea of non-recognition across meaning that you are still full of misgiving and will not be assuaged by somebody who wants to dismiss an injustice he committed against you by simply saying “Hi.” “No hi!” is the perfect way to say his transgression has not been forgotten and it will be quite a while before the word “Hi” can be used in response.

There are several people (Eric Zorn is not one of them) to whom were we thrown together at a social event, I would respond to with “No hi!”…One would be Judy Baar Topinka who in the past has labeled most social conservatives as far-right nuts including, I presume, this Blog, but who needs them for votes this November, “No hi! ”… One would be, were he still living (which he is not) the rigid Benedictine priest who in 1947 tried to throw me out of college as an undergraduate because he adjudged in a letter to my parents that “Thomas seems to be deriving such little benefit and I doubt he will bring credit to our institution.” Proving him short-sighted, I gave the university commencement some years ago, got from some in the audience a standing ovation while still discomfited he, in advanced age, sat on his hands glumly. Accordingly, I salute you, Father, with a “No hi!”…

Yet another would be the president of the advertising agency Simmons & Simmons who assigned me to write dog food commercials in 1951 with the proviso that the slogan must be, “Dogs drool for Perk” with the photo of a great slobbering hound that he insisted must stand in a frame on my desk to give me inspiration. To you sir, wherever you are and whether you are alive or dead: “No hi!”—and that also to the dog you came in with...To the business manager of the St. Cloud Times who said I would never make more than $67.50 a week no matter what I did because I was non-deferential, a prediction that was accurate: a loud and brackish “No hi!”…

To one ex-superior in the corporate world who kept his staff eternally on edge with vitriolic threats to fire them all, deriving perverted pleasure in seeing some (especially those with wives and young children to support) squirm: a very hearty raspberry-flavored “No hi!”…To a deceased secretary of commerce who had me fired by the president because I would not grovel as did the other assistant secretaries: wherever you are, today sir, a very loud disgusting sound similar to what emits when a heavy pair of buttocks comes down on a whoopee cushion: “no hi!” And to the same man when he later became finance chairman for Nixon’s reelect committee, came to Chicago and in my presence intimidated the head of a steel company with knowledge of a possible EPA sanction which could be alleviated if the executive made a massive contribution, which the executive was forced to do: once again, sir, the same kind of whoopee cushioned “No hi!”…

To the ineffectually weakling, guilt-ridden liberal non-entity head of the Southeast Asia section of the Peace Corps in 1970. He surrendered an entire 6th floor without struggle to a grungy crew of peacenik ex-Corpsmen demonstrators acting up during the Days of Rage. The group occupied the floor, flew a Viet Cong flag out the window and, after a struggle, came dangerously close to capturing the Peace Corps director and me with the goal to hold us as hostages in a backroom at 806 Connecticut avenue N. W., Washington, D. C. until the U.S. evacuated all troops from Vietnam. To him a loud scatological and near-pornographic “No hi!”…To the Honorable Eddie Burke who ordained that he will not talk to me until I apologized for a long ago column concerning something I have now forgotten, a very pompous, stuffy but nonetheless firm “No hi!” Not so with his wife Anne, the newest state Supreme Court Justice, whom I admire on some (not all) matters and who gets a “hi!”…

You get the drift. Now it’s your turn. Whether you know the recipient or not…or whether you’re just ticked off mightily at somebody…list in Reader’s Comments who you would address your “No hi!” to. You’ll feel better when you do.

Trivia. Gentlemen, Stop Your Search Engines.

During the Cold War sixties, there was a professor of physics and mathematics at MIT, who was also gifted with a sublime sense of humor. He recorded several ditties that were superbly ironic. One was about the threat of missiles and involved a German-accented man singing this refrain: “One the rockets go up/ Who cares where they come down? It’s not my department” says__________. Who is he imitating: what rocket scientist? And for extra credit, who is the composer and song satirist?

Sudden Thought.

Are there any women who read this Blog? It just occurred to me that nearly all the respondents seem to be men. Of course that also seems to be the case with a another popular blog which, I am quick to say, is very, very, very, very good. But if there are women who read this and they want to admit it, welcome!


  1. "It's not my department" , says Werner von Braun. It's a song by Tom Leher.

    It might seem like cheating, but my father played a few Tom Leher lp's when I was a kid.

    As for female readers, both my sisters read the Blog. "Hi" (not no hi) to both.

  2. I would have been surprised had you and Zorn been in cahoots, but the overwhelming irony of those exchanges appearing simultaneously with the presentation of your reminisence of Schaller led me to comment.

    Are you familiar with Michael Hiltzik's suspension from the LA Times for using pseudonyms on his blog to address critics? (See .)

    Here's a "no-hi" to all the otherwise affable sales people who attempt to sell maintenance agreements immediately after presenting their pitches on the magnificence of their products, then 14 months later tell customers to call corporate hq when the product goes on the fritz through normal use 2 months after the labor warranty expires.

  3. The rocket guy, of course, was Werner Van Braun. Did Professor Tom also pen "Watch Wold War III on Pay TV", a line recalled to mind as I watch explosions in Beruit on Fox TV.


  4. For the "No Hi!" list: How about each restauranteur who ejected the St. John Cantius breakfast group before we found a secure home at the Windy City Cafe?