This article originally appeared in the February 3, 1987 issue of the Boston Phoenix.
I hope that this piece meets with your approval, and that you’ll expedite the check for expenses. Because I don’t have my word processor, I can’t tell you how long this is. If it’s not long enough, you can publish the attached recipe for Key-lime pie, which will fill a couple of additional column inches
You May Already Have Won.
-Ed McMahon, Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes
Any way you look at it, you lose.
-Paul Simon, in the song “Mrs. Robinson”
Key West, Florida - “What you see depends on where you sit.” The truth of that piece of American folk wisdom was driven home hard to me last weekend as I sat sucking oysters in the Raw Bar, across from the Turtle Kraals, watching New York annihilate Denver on Super Bowl Sunday. There were three 19-inch color TV’s, all timed to CBS. One set was out of tune, but the rowdy sports fans seemed strangely drawn to it, for two excellent reason: short skirts and tight shorts. A cluster of lovely boys and girls, natives or new arrivals to the Conch Republic, were bent over the bar, quivering with excitement.
It’s been one helluva week. First the Super Bowl, then Reagan’s “we the people” State of the Union Address, followed by the traditional meandering and folksy Democratic response. And tomorrow, just hours from now, the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. And I may already have won, according to my friend Ed McMahon. Clearly, this week’s building to a grand finale. I just hope that I’m up to it.
Now, Key West is all the way out. You can’t go any farther; it’s the last stop, land’s true end. And though the air is clear and the water is as blue as Ronald Reagan’s eyes, it’s not clear that this is the best place from which to make sense of the State of the Union message. But in order to justify the outrageous expenses that are my only reward for this hard labor, I have to try.
For five long and miserable years, I’ve been manipulated by Ronald Reagan’s rhetoric, in spite of myself. Even though he was either lying or mouthing meaningless messages to mask his assault on the liberal legacy. And even though I eventually recover my distance, when I hear a Reagan speech I feel the same way I feel when I see that envelope from the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes telling me I may already have won. Both experiences evoke a spasm of irrational optimism that can’t be suppressed immediately.
Reagan looked great. He had a better tan than I do after a week in the Keys. And that’s despite his painful prostate operation and his other health problems and his hectic schedule. “How does he do it?” You ask. I suspect that either the sun lamps are on all the time at the White House or the best damn special-effects and make-up artists in Hollywood are hired to do Reagan.