New Orleans. -- I met Miss America. She was nice. And she was cold. We were seated before paparazzi at an outdoor table in Hollywood. She was wearing a wool coat. Still, she was shivering. She leaned right up against me and shivered some more.
"Good coat," I said, meaning that it looked thick enough to me so that she shouldn't have been cold. "Thank you," she said. I hadn't meant "beautiful coat." I meant "good coat," But I let it slide. You have to feel sorry for Miss America. She's 19 years old and every night she has to be in a different town to tell people that she's against hunger and homelessness.
In a way, she's hungry and homeless herself. She was shivering just like the homeless because she spent every night at a different temperature in a different motel room. And she was hungry because every time it was her turn to eat someone asked her something so she never got anything into her mouth. Plus, she has to watch her figure. When I was a kid I used to think that Miss America was the president's wife. Now I know better.
On this particular night she got to eat even less because we were at a banquet for Ox-Fam America, an outfit that feeds people, and 60 percent of the people there, including Miss America, got to eat only a few grains of rice with dirty water. About 15 percent got some beans and tortillas, and the rest got a gourmet meal and wine. Your randomly drawn door ticket decided what you ate. Miss America and me, we were in the 60 percent.
That's how the world eats and Ox-Fam was making the point to Hollywood stars who seemed only too happy to lie around the floor eating dirty rice. They too have figures to keep. At the gourmet tables, the privileged scarfed down pate.
I started singing the "Internationale," hoping to spark a mini-revolution, but my fellow grubbers weren't interested. They wanted their lesson. A couple of kids came down to hand their salads to us but I refused. "Let's eat the kids instead." I suggested to no avail. Miss America took the salad, though. "This is what it's all about," she beamed. No kidding.
Andrei Codrescu is editor of "Exquisite Corpse."