That’s right: Page B11 of Saturday’s New York Times Metro Section. Complete with a photo of what the Times calls ‘Charles Nolan’s delightful costumes.’


The costumes were for a new ballet portraying the life of Marie Antoinette, entitled ‘Cake’ -a bread substitute it’s not clear Ms. Antoinette ever actually suggested any peasants eat. But whether she did or not, some would say the ballet is aptly timed, as the sharply rising price of food is driving the world’s poor to the brink.

Speaking of which, did your Fraser Yachts brochure arrive in the mail? Mine did. It’s a handsome over-sized full-color hardcover book showing off the fantastic places you can enjoy splashing about this summer – the Caribbean, the Maldives, Vanuatu, the Greek Isles and so forth – with a two-page spread on each of the 90 or so yachts available for rent.

There’s even a special section for budget yachts less than 115 feet long, like Miss Money Penny, at – adorably – 82 feet (isn’t that cute?), with a crew of three and a weekly charter price under of $55,000.

In a sense, the whole brochure is for ‘budget’ yachts, because not a single mega-yacht is listed. Only two of the 90 bust the 200-foot mark, Lady Lola and Force Blue; and those, just barely. (Each will be in the Western Mediterranean this summer, yours for $380,000 a week.)

That’s shrimpish compared with the late Saddam Hussein’s old 269-foot Ocean Breeze (‘storage space for a large cache of weapons, including heavy machine guns and surface-to-air missiles, and a secret passage that runs the length of the boat for easy access to a fast patrol boat and a mini-submarine pod for emergency exits’) . . . let alone some of the really big ones, at least a dozen of which, like the Christina O ($700,000 a week), exceed 325 feet (a football field). Paul Allen’s 416-foot Octopus, with its crew of 60, includes a 12-passenger submersible that can stay under water for perhaps two weeks.

But getting back to the boats in the brochure (I hope I haven’t spoiled them for you; they seem quite modest now, don’t they?) . . . I don’t know if there’s sales tax, or what you’re supposed to tip the crew. (And the fuel on these babies is measured not in ‘miles per gallon’ but gallons per mile, so figure maybe $100,000 for a full tank.) What I do know is that you’re not flying to and from yachts like these on a commercial airline, thank you very much (when was the last time you took the subway to shop at Cartier?) . . . so if you don’t already own your own plane, figure maybe $100,000 more.

But (and here’s where we get back to the ballet) it’s not just the cost of a week off the Costa Brava that’s begun to pinch.

The price of rice has doubled.

What to do?

I say: tax breaks for Hummers and make the tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.

‘It’s the end of the world’ popped into my head as I was touring a $7 million apartment a friend had just purchased as a third residence he plans to use about eight weeks a year. It’s really, really nice – and will be nicer still once it’s built out (add another million). Only two of the building’s 70 eventual residents had moved in as we walked through, but the whole place was fully staffed, including the gym, whose employees were excited (startled?) to see us stick our heads in.

My friend figures the condo charges and taxes will be around $300,000 a year. Not to mention the cost of his housekeeper, for whom he has bought a separate $500,000 unit. Thank heavens hedge-fund managers’ bonus pay is taxed at 15% instead of as ordinary income! How could he make ends meet otherwise?

My not-so-secret agenda was to wrest from this friend yet more money for the DNC. I failed, but have an offer to use the space for a fundraiser in 2009, when it’s ready.

You may wonder, how can you be friends with this guy? Simple. He’s warm, funny, brilliant, generous, committed to progressive causes. He makes me laugh and shares his vulnerabilities. I love him like a brother.

But I sense trouble ahead. The gap between rich and poor grows ever wider. We need a course correction. And we won’t get a course correction if we opt for a third Bush term.

Tomorrow: Another Parrot Joke


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