Barry Smith: Irrelativity
Aspen, CO, Colorado
(You probably heard already, but in case you missed it, what follows is a transcript of the press conference I held late last week.)
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press,
“First of all, thanks for showing up on such short notice. I realize that skywriting is an unorthodox way to announce a last-minute press conference, so I appreciate all of you for your commitment to staring at the sky all day. I, uh … so, excuse me, everyone. We’ve now officially started, so if you can make your way forward from the pastry tray and have a seat. Thanks.
“The onslaught of coverage of Lance Armstrong’s alleged doping scandal has affected our society in ways that we may not even be fully aware of yet. As this hero, this icon of human potential, has more and more accusations heaped upon him, it has made many of us paranoid. Doping paranoid. Whenever we see someone doing something exceptionally well, even if it’s a non-sporting activity, we now immediately assume that they too are undergoing a strict and skillfully administered regimen of performance-enhancing drugs.
“That grocery-store clerk who was so nice to you, told you to have a nice day and all of that? Doping. How else could she have rocked so hard? The mechanic who diagnosed that noise in your engine and fixed it for just the cost of the new part? Doping, clearly. Musta been. Your parents, the ones who raised you with patience and consideration bordering on the superhuman? They put on such a big show of heading off to work each day, but you now realize that they were going in for their transfusions.
“And this doping paranoia, this ‘dopanoia,’ no, that’s not it, it’s more of a ‘paradopia.’ Para-dop-a-noia. Dopa-para … sorry, I should have worked that out before I started. This deep mistrust that people can excel in life without the crutch of performance-enhancing substances has reached even me. Yes, people have now begun to accuse me of doping.
“And I’m here to tell that it’s true.”
(Pauses for clamor in the room to die down.)
“No, not really. I just wanted to see if you’d clamor. Well done.
“As you are all well aware, I was the recipient of a Colorado Press Association ‘best humor column’ award last year. (Second-place winner, if you want to nitpick.) I don’t have to tell you what a prestigious and coveted award this is, as evidenced by the handsomely framed certificate suitable for the wall or the desk. That’s what I assume it looks like, anyway. I’ve still yet to pick it up from my editor’s office. It’s been about six months now. I wonder if … no, I don’t see him in the audience anywhere.
“Anyway, as the news of my extraordinary achievement hit the press – Paris Review, Wall Street Journal, Variety, RV and Boat Shopper magazine – it was met with cries of, ‘What!? Seriously? Why don’t RVs and boats warrant their own magazines? I don’t really see the connection. Sure, they’re both leisure activities, but they could hardly be more different.’
“All of this was happening right around the time that the Armstrong allegations started to slowly be introduced into the news cycle. Ahem … news cycle. See, what happened there is that I intentionally went out of my way to use the word ‘cycle,’ so it ties in with the whole bicycle-riding thing … news ‘cycle.’ Cycle. Nothing, huh? Can you guys hear me OK? I didn’t have time to get a real PA for this event, and I’m starting to think that some of my jokes might be getting lost through this cheerleader bullhorn.
“So yeah, ever since the doping story hit, the media people have been coming up to me all like, ‘That thing you wrote about your cat was extraordinarily funny and cutting edge. I mean, come on – writing about your pet? You’re breaking some amazing new ground. And don’t even get me started on all that stuff you wrote about your chickens. There’s no way somebody could come up with that on their own. You’re like the Lance Armstrong of writing about yourself. I think you cheated.’
“So, I’d like to take this opportunity to deny all allegations. I have never in my life used writing-enhancing drugs. Well, except coffee. Which, in a way, sorta counts. So, now that I think about it, never mind.
“Sorry, I’ve already run out of time, so there’ll be no questions. And I think you’ll find my ‘news cycle’ joke a lot funnier once you go back to the office and write it down.”