Sunday, July 18, 1999

Time out ... Ahhhhh ... Time in

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        I've only been back two weeks from a brief vacation, and I am already itching to book a month in the Unabomber's cabin or Superman's Fortress of Solitude.

        No phones. No computers. No TV. No traffic. No meetings. And definitely no newspapers. Sometimes ignorance is bliss. Sometimes no news is good news.

        A good vacation is a lake. Deep blue, serene, full of unexplored possibilities that dart and flash like silvery fish. It's always bracing at first to peel off the starched pretentions of the working life and wade in, but once you get accustomed to the weightless drift it's awfully hard to get out.

        When I go on vacation, it only takes me a day or two to forget what I was doing back at the Command Center of Important Stuff that Keeps the Earth from Wobbling off its Axis. If I accidentally glance at a headline or hear a few crumbs from the endless, lip-smacking gluttony of news, it seems disoriented, full of foolish self-importance like some tent preacher straining to find omens in soup stains and chicken bones.

        Along with millions of unconcerned citizens, I begin to wonder:

        WHO CARES?

        These are dangerous thoughts for an editorial writer who is expected to work up a feverish passion over sewer taxes and border skirmishes in Crowmania. But once I am unplugged from the non-stop babble of news, I can see how it looks to millions of people who have decided to turn off, tune out and drop out of the global village.

        I have to admit that it's not a pretty sight.

        • I look at the swampy saturation of “news” about Hillary Clinton running for Political Priestess of New York and think: Even the unfortunate people who live in New York must be nauseated by now.

        The Clintons have beaten the media senseless with domestic abuse until news coverage looks like group therapy for Reporters Who Can't Leave the Cheatin' President they Love.

        Most Americans would not gripe about the involuntary donations we have been forced to make to Hillary's conniving campaign — if she would hop on Air Force One and run for the Canadian border.

        • I look at “issues” such as Social Security, managed care and Medicare and I see two morbidly obese parties stomping and circling like sumo wrestlers trying to get a death grip on the next election. Nothing will be done. Because if they fix every “crisis,” they will have no voodoo sticks to scare voters and shake-down lobbyists.

        • I look at stories about rioting in Iran and news reports raising sober questions about George W. Bush's military record — was he a National Guardsman or an Air Force pilot? — and I feel like someone who doesn't get the joke.

        If Junior Bush was serving his country for 600 days, what difference does it make what you call him, as long as it's not “draft-dodger-in-chief”?

        And for all I care, Iran can riot until all the Iranians hold each other hostage, as long as they don't shoplift secrets from our nuclear weapons labs.

        • I look at Peter Jennings and wish I could send him a quarter so he can call someone who gives a toot aboot the opinions he disguises as objective news.

        As you can see, I need a vacation.

        I am dangerously close to jumping in the lake with millions of “What, me worry?” Americans who wear blissful Alfred E. Neuman smiles under their NASCAR caps.

        I tell myself there's a difference. People who tune out, drop out, refuse to vote and flee reality lose perspective.

        News junkies like me who disconnect for a week or two to save our mental health are doing it to keep our perspective on the things that are really important.

        Here's a clue: You won't find them on ABC News Tonight. They are not “news” because they are always there, no matter what is happening in the lunatic world of crime, politics and political crime.

        I'm talking about waves gently lapping on a beach, or crashing in explosions of spray as if they are trying to settle a grudge with the shore.

        Sunshine that floods every cell of your body with warmth like a lover's touch.

        Good books like sailing ships that take us on voyages of adventure to distant times and places.

        Starry nights, emerald trees and blue skies dotted with flocks of woolly clouds that meander like grazing sheep.

        Time with family to really talk from the heart and rediscover each other — or just sit silent in the comfort of our shared love.

        A friend returned from her vacation and said she came back feeling . . . well . . . close to God.

        Now that's that's my idea of a perfect vacation destination: away from the World and closer to God.

        Peter Bronson is editorial page editor of The Enquirer. He will be on vacation until Aug. 2. If you have questions or comments, call 768-8359, or write to 312 Elm Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.