I Publius: The snub and the big picture
Little Murray, absolutely and indisputably the cutest dog in the world, looked up at me with his pink tongue hanging out and a tear rolling down his white Westie face.
“What’s the matter, Murray?” I said, sensing his distress.
“Pops,” he said, “I am so glad that they taught me how to read, write and speak at the Literacy Network of South Berkshire. Now I can ask you important questions.”
“Sure, Murray, nothing is off limits. Shoot.”
“Gee, Pops,” said the little dog with a big brain. “Why are people so mean to each other? I hate it when people say bad things about you or do mean things to you. I heard from a dog over in Lenox that you were kind enough to support the Literacy Network by accepting their invitation to show up for a Stockbridge fundraiser featuring Susan Stamberg, who used to be a bigshot at NPR. Then I heard that she was very nice to you before the speech but didn’t even mention you, despite the fact that you run WAMC. Isn’t NPR always saying how they love and try to help their member stations? Also, I thought you liked Susan Stamberg. Didn’t you tell me that you were friends?”
I gave Murray a little kiss on his coal black nose and was rewarded with a kiss back.
“Murray,” I said, “I have always thought of Susan as a friend. I’ve known her for many years and she has my respect. She used to be a very important person at NPR, and what about that Thanksgiving cranberry relish she is so well known for? But, Susan and I had a little disagreement. You see, Murray, NPR has had big problems living within its means. While the member stations like WAMC are fighting to survive and are doing anything they can to stave off the wolf at the door, Susan was reported to have come up with a plan to have us do a fourth funddrive in these toughest of times, with all the money to go to NPR. Right now, WAMC gives most of the $800,000 it raises in one of its three fund drives directly to NPR to pay for the good programming that they provide. Our listeners are doing everything they can to keep WAMC going. I can assure you that the folks at NPR make a lot more money than the good working folks at WAMC. They’ve just got to learn to tighten up like the rest of us.
“Murray,” I said to the little Westie, “it’s just a difference of opinion. I am committed to keeping WAMC alive and the way I see it, NPR gets big bucks from a lot of foundations and super-rich, well-heeled people as well as from its member stations. We have to depend on our listeners and don’t get that big money.
“Did Susan purposely snub me, Murray? I’d like to think that she just had a lot on her mind. She’s never struck me as a particularly small person. It is interesting that you are not alone in your sensitivity. A guy from the Great Barrington Rotary who has never been all that friendly toward me came running up to say it was unbelievable that she’d leave me out of her acknowledgments. But you know what? Life is too short. Even if she did mean to dis me over a policy disagreement, that’s OK. Pay no mind to it. Don’t let it bother you in the least. It doesn’t bother me. Remember the time we had a fundraiser at our house for the Elizabeth Freeman Center and I didn’t acknowledge ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli? That sure wasn’t on purpose. No, Susan Stamberg just couldn’t be that small. I categorically reject the idea. OK, Murray?”
“Sure, Pops. But couldn’t we just do something to cheer me up?”
“You know what, Murray? We’ll go to a wonderful sculpture exhibit by the extraordinary Robert Alan Hyde at the Becket Art Center. His one-of-a-kind metal sculptures are fashioned from a combination of steel, brass and copper rods welded together. The exhibit starts on July 23rd. These sculptures have got to be seen to be believed. Murray, we don’t want to miss this one.”
“Thanks, Pop,” said Murray. “I love you.”
Originally Published in the Berkshire Eagle, 7/18/09