Hello and welcome to a very special, decade-ending, Regrets Issue edition of Last Days, in which we revisit the most regrettable Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and—surprise!—Sunday of the past 10 years, beginning with the heartbreaking history lesson/time capsule that is...
MONDAY, MARCH 6, 2000 A year of snipin' and strategizin' ended today when Seattle's newspaper war began: The Seattle Times, after nearly a century as an afternoon paper, switched to morning publication, placing itself in head-to-head competition with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. In preparation for the battle, the P-I hired a handful of writers born after 1912, while the Times strove desperately to pitch the appeal of an a.m. edition to its disgruntled and betrayed afternoon readers. So how's the war progressing? Judging by today's papers, it's off to a snoozy start, with the Times printing a wince-inducing list of dos and don'ts for an a.m. newspaper ("DO use it to gently shoo the cat off the breakfast table! DON'T let your ill-trained dog fetch it in for you!"). And while the P-I largely avoided such stupidity, that paper has yet to be forgiven for its woeful Ricky Martin concert headline, "Livin' La Vida Tacoma." Here's hoping this bogus "war" will soon escalate to include some truly warlike behavior, such as the P-I's Susan Paynter using Chinese water torture on the Times' Jean Godden, and the Times' Misha Berson holding a knife to the throat of the P-I's Joe Adcock, daring him to produce a sentence that doesn't read like Morse code written by a 5-year-old for whom English is a second language.
Last Days truly regrets the eventual outcome of the Times vs. P-I newspaper war. Still—adorable! When the above was written, "Chinese water torture" was the go-to phrase for torture-related jokes ("waterboarding" won't enter the popular lexicon until 2005) and Jean Godden was still a Seattle Times columnist, not a Seattle City Council member! Ha-ha! Was anyone ever so young? What merry times had we! Seriously, enjoy yourselves while you can, because the most regrettable Tuesday of the aughts is the worst day of the decade, period.
TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 This morning in New York City, two hijacked passenger planes smashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, killing thousands and thousands of Americans and leveling the landmark towers. A third hijacked plane hit the Pentagon, killing nearly 200; a fourth crashed outside Pittsburgh, killing 45. In the wake of the events, Last Days holed up in our Central District home and surrounded ourself with friends and television, all of us trying to make sense of the most staggering event in our nation's history. "Pave the West Bank," said one normally sensitive, professionally artsy male friend, shaking with rage. "That's what we do. That's how religious wars are won." Meanwhile, a brainy alterna-rocker film geek spoke of his gut response to join the army, while a dear sex-columnist friend wept like an itty-bitty girl. As for Last Days, whose pessimism runs so deep it almost qualifies as faith, we're stumped. Part of us wants to retreat to the historical level, viewing this tragedy as we've viewed all others: something that's happening somewhere else, to someone else. Another part of us just wants to go to sleep until everything returns to "normal." (Unfortunately, this would require 400 sleeping pills and a bottle of vodka, a step we're as yet unwilling to take.) For now, we must content ourselves to wait for orders, brace for bloodshed, and count our motherfucking blessings.
Well then. Speaking of unnerving ghosts of Last Days past, the following is a spicy reminder of the time when Michael Jackson was not a cautionary tale/celebrity corpse without peer but a (primarily) flesh-and-blood man, who fascinated us with his madness, which was likely the result of the hardcore narcotics abuse that eventually and regrettably killed him.
WEDNESDAY, JULY 10, 2002 Today brought more thrilling evidence of Michael Jackson's forever-in-the-works/finally-in-the-open psychosis. According to the New York Post's trusty Page Six, the nominal King of Pop continued his rampage into insanity by appearing at yet another New York City press conference to denounce those he says conspired to bring about his demise. Following last week's blasting of Sony chief Tommy Mottola, today Jackson informed the world of the diabolical conspiracy against him, fueled by a "racist" record industry that decided to ruin Jackson after he "outsold Elvis." Before a packed house at the Reverend Al Sharpton's Harlem headquarters, Jackson delivered his crackpot cri de coeur: "I was called a freak, a homosexual, a child molester. That I bleach my skin. Everything to turn the public against me. It was a complete conspiracy." Never mind the million-dollar payoffs for the parents of the prepubescent boys invited for sleepovers at Jackson's Neverland Ranch; disregard Jackson's sacrifice of his artistic gifts for his megalomaniacal pursuit of world domination; and please, forget the evidence provided by your own eyes, which have seen Jackson transform from a perfectly lovely black man into a hideous white woman from Mars. Every negative thing you've ever suspected about Michael Jackson is the result of a vast conspiracy to deprive him of his rightful title as the greatest entertainer of all time, and anyone who thinks otherwise is racist.
As you read this, Michael Jackson is decomposing in Forest Lawn Memorial Park and starring in the most successful documentary in film history. Let's talk about something else.
THURSDAY, MARCH 4, 2004 Today brought not one but two newsworthy stories involving salad. Story number one comes from Winter Haven, Florida, home of the Spring Haven Retirement Community and site of the now-legendary old-folks' food fight. As Florida police told the Associated Press, the fracas began when resident Lee Thoss, 62, was picking through the salad bar's lettuce, which disgusted 86-year-old fellow resident William Hocker. Words were exchanged, and Thoss began punching Hocker in the face. By the time the melee ended, the injured included 79-year-old Allen Croft (who tried to grab Thoss and was bitten on the arm), 92-year-old Harry Griffin (who was knocked to the ground and cut his head), and Thoss's own mother, Arlene, who tried to stop her sexagenarian son from fighting and ended up with a cut arm. No charges have been pressed, but administrators have asked the rabble-rousing Lee Thoss to move out. Salad story number two comes from Canton, Ohio, where a 22-year-old female diner was enjoying a lunchtime salad at Red Robin when she bit down on what she thought was an errant bit of gristle. Turns out it was a chunk of thumb, lopped off a lettuce-chopping employee the day before. The AP reports that the Canton Red Robin has been cited for "serving adulterated food" and improper supervision.
In much worse news:
FRIDAY, MAY 26, 2006 Today brought widespread acknowledgment of what could prove to be Operation Iraqi Freedom's very own My Lai massacre, as news outlets across the nation reported the atrocities in the westernIraqi city of Haditha, where on November 19, 2005, as many as two dozen unarmed Iraqi civilians were allegedly executed by U.S. Marines. Alleged details come from the Associated Press: After a roadside bomb killed a comrade, marines in Haditha blew off steam by wreaking revenge, allegedly against two dozen innocent bystanders, including two families massacred in their homes. Following a superficial initial inquiry, the Haditha incident is now the subject of two vigorous investigations—one into the deadly incident itself, the other into the possibility of a military cover-up. Stay tuned, and may God have mercy on our allegedly well-meaning country.
Three and a half years later, the criminal investigation of the Haditha massacre continues, with charges against a half-dozen alleged participants dropped or dismissed, and the trial of alleged ringleader Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich (who stands charged with nine counts of manslaughter) postponed indefinitely. Hey look! A funny lady!
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2007 The week continues with the cable-only broadcast of the Creative Arts Emmys, the lesser, freakier awards honoring stuff like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List for Outstanding Reality Program. As media-savvy citizens are aware, Kathy Griffin accepted her Emmy with the greatest speech in American history (suck it, "I Have a Dream" and Lincoln's second inaugural address). "A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award," said Ms. Griffin. "I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. So, all I can say is, 'Suck it, Jesus.' This award is my god now." In a tragic blow to democracy and the advancement of the species, Griffin's speech—characterized by E! executives as "offensive remarks"—will be censored from tonight's E! telecast. Screw E!; viva Kathy Griffin.
Truly, if there were any justice in the world, this godforsaken decade would be remembered for outbursts like the one above, but no: Regrettably, the aughts will be remembered as nothing more than a Kate Gosselin hairdo talking about Twitter. (Also: black president!) Which brings us to our final day:
SUNDAY, MAY 3, 2009 The decade ends with a final Hot Tip from the streets of Seattle, mixing the hot-button issues of public transit and mid-would-be-pandemic hygiene with the eternal fascination of human behavior. Today's eyewitness: Hot Tipper SAE, who was riding the 131 bus into downtown this afternoon when "an inconspicuous lady boarded and prepared to sit down." As SAE reports, these preparations involved covering the seat with a plastic grocery bag and mumbling about the idiots surrounding her. Once seated, "She produced a container of Clorox wipes, removed her footwear, and proceeded to give her gnarly feet a meticulous rubdown with the dexterity of a preening cat (in between the toes and everything). Somewhere among her mumblings was a comment about her warts hurting. I could only imagine her pissing herself while waiting for the bus, thus the grocery-bag seat cover and foot wipe-down."
Happy new decade! As always, send Hot Tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.