(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
I heard it’s about to be leaked, so I’ll come clean: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and I held secret talks to ensure more sympathetic coverage in my columns. In return, he’d try to help me get my parking space back.
Bibi let the right people know he had asked Sugar Daddy Sheldon to foot the bill for a column called Affable Old Man. It would go easy on the PM, if not praise him to the high heavens. He was going to shop it around to the country’s news outlets, which like all media – and media consumers – these days, are eternally grateful for free content.
The prime minister knew word would reach me. And he knew I had no stomach for a pink slip while looking down the maw of retirement. So the calls started coming. The number was blocked, but the voice was Netanyahu’s.
TO FORESTALL the leaks, here are some highlights.Bibi:
How are things over there? Can’t be good. Industry’s full of layoffs and cutbacks. Maybe we can help each other.Grumpy:
What can I possibly do to help you? Bibi:
Forget about me for a second. I know you’ve heard the scuttlebutt about a less-grumpy old man. Actually, an affable old man – came up with the name myself. And it’ll be free. Publishers jump at freebies. It doesn’t have to happen, though. I can call Sheldon and wave him off.Grumpy:
Obviously, there has to be something in this for you.Bibi:
You think I make calls like this out of the goodness of my heart? Grumpy:
Well, uh... not really.Bibi:
Can you imagine having members of your own cabinet bad-mouthing your policies and hinting every Monday and Thursday that no government is forever? Can you imagine me, an MIT graduate who knows how to look and sound the part of a world leader, needing a zhlub like David Bitan to keep my coalition in line? Can you imagine investigation after investigation into everything from bottles to cigars? Maybe Milchan bought Sara expensive jewelry and cases of pink champagne, but that’s her problem. Let ’em indict her. But I love this job. I want to keep it.
[It was clear that the prime minister’s agony over the prospect of an end to his tenure was approaching my own dread of a daily commute by light rail.] Grumpy:
Okay, let’s say you call off Adelson. But I’ll need more. I liked my parking space. It wasn’t reserved, but there was a space. No matter where I ended up, it was never more than a minute’s walk to the elevator. Now it’s gone. Cutbacks.Bibi:
You have a car and a driver, and you get as close as physically possible to any entrance. You have shooshoos who open the doors and escort you all the way to your destination, and they shove the hacks and deadbeats out of the way. You know how much this convenience means on a hot or a cold day, a day you’re up to your neck in work, a day you can’t be bothered to wait for a train or a bus – and then have to fight to get through the doors and find a place just to stand where you won’t be jostled by rambunctious kids heading to school or be privy to the sordid details of someone’s phone call or his five-day body odor. Can you remember what that’s like? Bibi:
Well, uh… not really. But that’s all you’re asking for? A parking space? Grumpy:
That’s it. I’m not even asking for the shoo-shoos.Bibi:
Okay. I can have my people make a phone call or two.Grumpy:
And the quid pro quo? What exactly do you want? Bibi:
No more columns about cigars. Bottle returns. Meni Naftali. Flip flops on policy. Outbursts in cabinet meetings. Cartoon props at the UN. Churlishness and arrogance. Warnings about Arabs coming out to vote in droves. Yair’s shiksa girlfriends. People calling me chickenshit… especially people calling me chickenshit. [I began to get the drift.] Grumpy:
So you want me to dial it back.Bibi:
Yeah, I guess you can put it that way.Grumpy:
By how much? Bibi:
From a 9.5 to, say, a 7.5. That should do it.Grumpy:
Pretty tall order.Bibi:
And one more thing. My combover. And the way I’ve been going darker, away from the silver. I liked the silver, even with the occasional magenta highlights. It was distinguished. It gave me an aura of respectability, even gravitas, like an elder statesman. But Sara says it was too elder – it made her feel old. And Sara can be persistent. So just drop it.Grumpy:
Come on. You were asking me to dial it back from a 9.5 to a 7.5. Now you’re looking for a 5.5. That’s pretty steep.
[There was silence on the other end. It went on. It didn’t sound promising.] Bibi:
My hair’s got to be part of the deal.Grumpy:
Look, I have to retain at least a shred of independence, if only for appearances. No can do.Bibi:
Forget it then. I like the sound of Affable Old Man. Enjoy the light rail. Click.
THAT’S ALL that happened. There was no deal. I’ll just have to take my chances with the pink slip and suffer those commutes with the hoi polloi. But I’ll still have Bibi. And I can always dial it up to a 10.