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Off the top of my head, natural (Johnny Ketchum)

The Surreal Life
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Things are getting a little kooky in Baltimore. That's all I'll say for now.

Meanwhile, Espirit d'escalier, Part II. Here's a tough lesson: If there are people in your life who have consistently patronized you, there is nothing you can do or achieve that will change that. Trust me on this. Here, with names and details changed to protect the smug, is a recent exchange in my life.

Man #1, a man who has previously said, more than once, that he hopes that one day I will write a "real" book: How are things going?

Me: Very well.

Man #1, voice plummy with doubt: Oh really?

Me: Yes.

Man #1, voice now taking on the tone of an adult talking to a little girl who believes in fairies: Did you get a nice review?

Me: Yes, but . . . well, if you read the New York Times Book Review on Sunday, you'll see.

Man #1: Oh, did you manage to get a piece on the Times? (I've written for the Times twice in my life, which I am pretty sure puts me up on this guy, 2-0.)

Me: No. Just check out the book review, you'll see.

Man #1: What will I see? (If he had added,"snookums" to the end of this sentence and chucked me under the chin, it would have seemed perfectly natural at this point.)

Me: I made the list.

His companion, Man #2, then tag-teams it: Hey, don't break your arm, patting yourself on the back.

Actually, I still don't know what I wish I had said. Suggestions?

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