Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike's Letter

August 1st, 1999 12:00 AM


The "dog days of summer" takes on a whole new meaning when you're stuck inside a Northwest jet on the runway a La Guardia (as I am right now) in 90 degree plus heat for an hour and half, the air circulation system broke, the temperature inside a suffocating 100 degrees.

A mother has stripped her baby naked and is asking to be let off the plane. If she had left that infant locked in a car with the windows rolled up for this period of time, she would have been arrested. When Northwest does it, they win last month's "on-time" award from the FAA.

I'm sitting behind Geoffrey Feiger, the attorney who saved Dr. Kevorkian from five murder raps and beat Jenny Jones this year for contributing to the death of a gay man who was a guest on her show. He is now representing two of the victims families in the Columbine High School shootings. He tells me we will all be stunned when the truth comes out about what happened that day.

It matters not that Geoffrey Feiger (or for that matter, your humble narrator) are on this Northworst sauna. We've just been told that they're going to go over and "borrow a part" from a Delta plane. Say what?

It's just one big used junkyard at the airport these days.

Either that, or Northwest has found a way to increase their profit margin by torturing its customers.

But I guess I'd rather have that part from the Delta plane than fly without it. I've thought a lot these past few weeks about the death of John Kennedy, Jr. (note to cynics, you should stop reading at this point). I knew him, but not closely. He had contacted me a few times, and invited me to lunch and, later, to a party he was having. He also asked me to contribute a piece for a book he was compiling (just published, it's called "250 Ways to Save America").

One day, over lunch, I asked him how he was able to handle all the invasions of his privacy -- especially from New York's tabloids which, that day, had run headlines claiming John's wife had cut him with a knife. His hand was in a splint and bandaged up, thanks to an accident he'd had in the kitchen, slicing a tomato.

He said, "Our mother told us when we were young that we should see our lives as if they were being lived on this bridge, and that beneath the bridge there flowed a never-ending river of sewage. She told us that the river would never touch us because she had placed us on this bridge where we would be safe. The dirty river would always be there, though, but we would always continue on our own journey, safely, on her bridge." It was a poignant image, and you could see that it mattered not to him what the tabloids or anyone else had to say. When we finished, he put on a ratty-looking scarf and stocking cap and rode off down the street on his bike into the January wind.

Nothing you have seen on TV with its initial "All John-John, All The Time" coverage will ever convey who John really was or what his life was about. The media has made much about his "reckless decision" to fly at night. The truth is John had gone out to the airport in New Jersey at 4pm to fly with his wife and sister-in-law up to Massachusetts, during the light of day. He specifically wanted to fly in daylight. His sister-in-law, according to all accounts, ended up working late at Morgan Stanley Dean Whitter where she was a vice president and an investment banker. These are, after all, incredible economic times.

So Lauren and Carolyn arrived three hours late for the trip. We've all been in a similar spot (usually on the ground). For whatever reason someone shows up late, the weather has worsened, and we are stuck, trying to decide, "Should we still go? Well, we're all here, why not, let's give it a shot." So we hop in the car, off into the dark or the storm.

Only hypocrites would call him "reckless." Every day is a risk for all of us. We make a calculated move just getting out of bed each morning, hoping for the best. I guess it makes us feel somewhat smug about our own survival that WE wouldn't fly a single-engine plane at night with a bum foot. No, the rest of us are SMARTER than that! All we do is eat bacteria-infested chicken and chemically-altered tomatoes, yak for an hour with a 900mgh cordless phone placed against the soft part of our brain, and then go and sit in front of a radiation-emitting computer screen for hours on end. And when we die before our time with colon cancer, brain tumors or strokes, we can rest assured that no one will write about how "reckless" we were.

I've heard some people say they don't understand why so many people are upset over Kennedy's death. I think it's because, at least for those of us old enough to remember watching his father die, we feel a collective sense of guilt about a kid who grew up without a father, his head blown off in Dallas for a reason nobody still knows the answer to. I think we've all had this shared sense of responsibility that, even though it was all downhill for America since that November day (Vietnam, Watergate, 40 million people permanently poor, the creation of MSNBC), we all hoped that it would turn out at least OK for that little boy.

It looked like it had. Then that hope got ripped from us, too.


Well, it's three hours later and I've arrived in Detroit (actual time in air: 59 minutes). I get off and notice a headline in one of the (scab) newspaper boxes: "Man Arrested for Leaving Dog in Car." The lead paragraph tells of how a Michigan man had run into a mall for 45 minutes and someone called the cops to report he had left his dog in the car. The police arrived, tracked him down in the mall, and arrested him.

If only that dog had been sitting next to me on the plane.

Michael Moore

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