Michael Kinsley's tenure in Los Angeles may not have gone smoothly or ended gracefully. But I enjoyed being reminded in this week's New Yorker how engaging he is as a writer. The angle of Kinsley's piece is longevity as the final competition between aging baby boomers, since the bumper sticker was wrong: the person who dies with the most toys doesn't win, the person who dies last does. He examines the game from many angles, but I also liked his reflections on living with Parkinson's — "sometimes I feel like a scout from my generation, sent out ahead to experience in my fifties what even the healthiest boomers are going to experience in their sixties, seventies, or eighties." Sample:
During the operation, your head is screwed into a metal frame and the frame is screwed into the operating table. My surgery lasted nine hours, and for most of it I had to be awake, so that the doctors could test the connection, like asking somebody to go upstairs and see if the light in the bedroom comes back on while you fiddle with the circuit-breaker box in the basement. It’s not fun, but it doesn’t hurt (your brain has no nerve endings for pain), and everything except the operation itself is sort of fun. Immediately after surgery, all the symptoms of Parkinson’s disappear—even though the batteries aren’t turned on for a month. The very process of implanting the wires mimics the effect of the electricity from the batteries. Over the next two or three weeks, the symptoms return. Then, when the batteries are turned on, they disappear or are reduced again....
Along with the benefits, there are some minor nuisances. At the airport, I can’t go through the metal detector. Instead, I stand spread-eagled while the T.S.A. man feels me all over, using (he assures me) the back of his hand for “sensitive areas.” I am supposed to keep my distance from refrigerator doors—especially those big, heavy Sub-Zero refrigerator doors that virtually symbolize yuppie desire—because they use strong magnets to stay shut, and these can interfere with the batteries. I can usually get a rise out of my wife by walking innocently past our refrigerator and pretending to be sucked toward the doors and pinned against them. When I wanted some wireless earphones to use on the exercise machine, every brand I tried crackled with interference. I finally figured out why: my built-in antennae. This is all a small price to pay.
Remember this? Back in 2006, Kinsley recommended the L.A. Times forget trying to be overly local and instead concentrate on being a national brand that competes on foreign and Washington news and owns coverage of entertainment and celebrity culture. Of course, he never really lived in L.A.