James Wolcott, wordsmith of the gods
Used to be, when someone retired or something was cancelled, that was it, goodbye, sayonara, sorry to see you go, don't forget your scarf. Now everyone and everything gets an eternal farewell tour, or an endless sendoff at the departure dock. When long-running shows such as Dick Van Dyke or Gunsmoke went off the air, they simply went, there wasn't a national period of rumination and speculation as to what the last episode would hold for the characters "we've come to love." But ever since the last episode of M.A.S.H. was inflated into a cultural event, we've been subjected to closure on the installment plan. Hush-voiced announcers perform a solemn countdown in the network promos. "Only five more episodes of Friends before Ross stops whining forever..." "Only two more episodes before Star Trek: Enterprise faces its final frontier..." I thought CNN had cancelled Crossfire and The Capital Gang, yet everytime I stumble across their time slots, they're still on, as if nobody told them to clear out their yogurt cups from the green room minifridge. We'll never get rid of them.
This is why I dread the last year or so of Alan Greenspan's tenure at the Fed before he retires in 2006, assuming he doesn't ascend to heaven before then in a cone of light. Otherwise, we're stuck watching him shuffle in slow motion to the exit like that geezer Tim Conway used to play and listening to him mutter his fubsy equivocations as elected officials and a bovine press cling to his ankles begging him not to leave. What will we do without your guru wisdom? your guidance? No one in the history of public service has woven a thicker aura of bogus infallibility than Greenspan, which is why hail to Senate Democratic minority leader Harry Reid for blurting the bitter truth and calling Greenspan "one of the biggest hacks we have here in Washington."