Years ago, I was at a writing conference and met a lady who was editor of a somewhat high-powered cooking/decorating magazine. She told me the magazine featured a humor column on the last page of each issue, figuring that homemakers, especially these days, can use a good laugh. Would I be interested in doing one of the columns, she asked? Having never been accused of turning down money, I considered this proposition for several microseconds and said yes. Since they liked to have as much variety as possible, she said, would I please send her the topic I’d prefer to write about, so she could make sure they hadn’t recently used a column on that subject?
I gave this some thought on the way home, and the next day I e-mailed the editor that I’d love to write a column making fun of Martha Stewart’s ever-ebullient personality and hyperactive craft projects. (I didn’t mention that the column was already written, and was exactly the right word length.)
Her reply to me didn’t have the word “Sigh!” in the subject line, but it may as well have. Unfortunately, she told me, they receive several submissions per week on exactly that subject. I could have crawled under my word processor, if there had been enough space. There’s a very tacky infraction in football called “piling on,” and I hadn’t realized that journalists do it, too.
Then, a strange thing happened. Martha got five months in jail, for doing something that millions of people do every day without penalty: following up on “inside” information about a stock offering. The fact that she was singled out while corporate giants doing a thousand times worse didn’t get a slap on the wrist told me she had offended somebody in high places. To a guy like me with a Scots-Irish background, that’s a veritable badge of honor.
My own “insider trading” was nothing to write home about. I was riding an elevator in a skyscraper once, to interview the CEO of a huge corporation for a magazine article, when I overheard a conversation by two banker-type guys. “I tell you what,” one of them said, “if I had any money lying around, I’d immediately put it in [Blank Corporation]. They’re about to be bought out by [Bigger Blank Corporation], and their value’s going to skyrocket.”
By the arc of fate, I had in my billfold that day an IRS refund check I had gotten the day before, for $500. Before I left the skyscraper, I had found a broker and made my first (and only) “investment.” I went on my way with a lighter step, now having hopes of someday being solvent despite having a newborn son at home.
A couple of weeks after the corporate buyout/takeover in question, my $500 had skyrocketed to almost $350. By the Christmas gift-shopping season, it was up to $120. And early the next year, I cashed the stock in for $40—minus brokerage fee, of course.
Which is a long way around the bend to say, I’m sorry, Martha. It’s true, some of your craft ideas are a little over the top. Like the one about buying wide rubber bands in colors of red and off-white to fit around wine glasses, and using an ink pen to letter each with the name of a party guest so that (a) nobody accidentally switches glasses, and (b) nobody forgets whether they’re drinking red or white.
(My ancestors would say that if you still remember what kind of wine you were drinking, the host hasn’t served enough, but that’s nit-picking.)
Martha did her time without whining, laughs at TV comedy skits making fun of her craft ideas, has good decorating taste, and has a gift for seeing possibilities of beauty in common objects that might have otherwise lain by the wayside. My intervening conversion to Martha-dom is so complete that I subscribe to both the print and iPad editions of her magazine, and greatly enjoy them.
Truce, ma’am? And thank you.
Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website http://carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, and is archived afterward on his website.