I admit it. I love Dave Barry. I don’t know his politics, and I don’t care. What I love most about him is that he has accomplished that rarest of rarities: he has cashed in on being himself.
Square. White. Male. Funny. That combination is enough to get you brought up on a hate crime charge these days, but he’s made it work.
We live in ridiculously convenient times. Think about it: Whenever you need any kind of information, about anything, day or night, no matter where you are, you can just tap your finger on your smartphone and within seconds an answer will appear, as if by magic, on the screen. Granted, this answer will be wrong because it comes from the Internet, which is infested with teenagers, lunatics and Anthony Weiner. But it’s convenient.
Today everything is convenient. You cook your meals by pushing a microwave button. Your car shifts itself, and your GPS tells you where to go. If you go to a men’s public restroom, you don’t even have to flush the urinal! This tedious chore is a thing of the past because the urinal now has a small electronic “eye” connected to the Central Restroom Command Post, located deep underground somewhere near Omaha, Neb., where highly trained workers watch you on high-definition TV screens and make the flush decision for you. (“I say we push the button.” “Wait, not yet!”)
A while back, my daughter asked me to help her with her math homework, which involved doing long division without a calculator. There was a time, somewhere around 1963, when I definitely knew how to do long division; I figured this knowledge was still lying around in my brain somewhere. I mean, I can remember many other things from 1963. That was the year when the Beach Boys came out with their album Surfer Girl, and I can recall every word from every track on it, including an obscure and genuinely idiotic song called “Our Car Club,” which contains, among other lyrics, these:
We’ll get the roughest and the toughest initiation we can find
And if you want to try to get in we’ll really put you through the grind
‘Cause THIS club’s the VERY BEST!
I haven’t heard “Car Club” for decades, but I typed those lyrics without looking them up. My brain stashed them away in a safe place, in case I would need them someday in a lyrics-related emergency.
My brain did not, however, elect to save the instructions for doing long division. So when I tried to help my daughter, I was useless. I had a vague recollection that you start by dividing the littler number (or maybe just part of the littler number) into just the first part of the bigger number, then you multiply something and then you put the result down below. But I wasn’t sure where down below, exactly, you put the result, and I had no idea what you did with it after that. ‘Cause THIS club’s the VERY BEST!
I tried for several painful minutes to show my daughter how to do long division, at which point she gently told me I should go back to watching “Storage Wars” and she would figure out long division on her own. And she did. I don’t know where she got the information. Probably from the Internet. Possibly even from Anthony Weiner.
See? Where’s the effort in that? And I mean that as the highest compliment I can offer. He even quoted a forgettable Beach Boys song without effort. All he has to do is remain open and aware of the world around him, and collect the particular insanities of the day that amuse him: instant column.
I don’t read him often anymore, but he hasn’t lost his touch. Which is why I don’t read him often anymore. He has totally monetized being Dave Barry. The bastard!