We live in perilous times--or at least splayed ones. It's not so much that things are going to hell in a handbasket; it's more that they're meandering about sniffing in garbage cans. Paulene Kael came up with at least eight great lines during the 1970s, and one of them was: "Unless you're feeble minded, as you get older you can see that the odds get worse."

The Intern had already read the Sunday Times, the Sunday Globe and the Phoenix, which didn't leave him much more to do on a sunny Sunday morning. The Intern and his companion were sitting in a cafe where everybody was unnaturally quiet. It was an outdoor cafe and there were tiny birds in the plants. The Intern scanned the stack of papers at his feet and thought about doing the crossword puzzle. Eugene T. Maleska wanted him to guess what one-sixth of a drachma was in Roman numerals, but the Intern had little desire to. The Intern ordered another croissant from a waitress who told him to cut the crappy insincere panderings when he asked if she was having a nice morning. The Intern's companion looked up from a movie review by Stephen Schiff that he'd been reading for the last hour and a half. Schiff had come up with some good lines during the 1970s, too, but a lot of them sounded like Pauline Kael. His review of Blow Out had already hit the two-mile mark and showed no signs of flagging.

"Chivalry is dead," signed the Intern.

"No it's not," said his companion, trying to cheer him up.

"Well, it's not exactly thriving," said the Intern.


"His companion nodded. "Still, why don't we just say that it's in remission."

"What ever happened to extra-filial piety?" asked the Intern.

"This is the Northeast," said his companion. "Cold winters lead to cold manner."

"I suppose."

The Intern was unconvinced, for he was from the Northwest where the winters are also cold, but, as he was quick to point out, there still remained vestiges of an art to living. Maybe it was the pioneer spirit, he thought. Or maybe it was something in the croissants on the East Coast. Whatever it was, he didn't like it.

"Nice day for reading," said the Intern with his best rugged smile.

"Go to hell," said the waitress.

The Intern signed again.

Here, read some Stephen Schiff," said his companion. "It'll take you mind of things for a couple of hours."

Later that day, the Intern and his companion were spinning their way down Memorial Drive headed for Boston. The Intern was apprenticing at Boston's great metropolitan daily, and so had access to a great many free tickets. He often took his companion along when he went out. His companion had gone by many different poses over the years, but during the summer, due to an extraordinary stroke of luck, he was a Foreign Car Driver. Although he couldn't really afford a foreign car, he'd banged on the thing long enough to make it run in a Continental fashion. There were still four or five parts of the carburetor on the living room table, but they didn't fit anyway, and their absence didn't seem to make much difference.