YOU KNOW THOSE MOVIES where people go to heaven and the place has soft, rolling clouds, angels, harps and functionaries or whatever they are, who almost always speak with English accents? This is not heaven. I know what heaven is. Heaven is life as portrayed in the pages of the New Yorker magazine. At least that was the case until Fairfax County came along.
Fairfax County has an ad in the latest issue of the New Yorker. I resent it. It's in bad taste. I resent it because Fairfax County uses the New Yorker to take a swipe at Washington, D.C., and I resent it also because the ad lacks class. The New Yorker, as someone should tell Fairfax County, is a class operation and the Fairfax County ad. not to put too fine a point on it, is a bush job.
I have to tell you first that I take the New Yorker very seriously. I read almost none of the articles if only because it's very hard to tell what articles are in the magazine in the first place.No matter. The cartoons are witty and Calvin Trillin is wonderful, but the ads are something else - they are stupendous. The ads, I think, are the reason most people buy the magazine.
Open the New Yorker and you're in heaven. People drive BMW motorcars, Sip the best Scotch (if you call that smelling), wear Halston's, shop at Saks Fifth Avenue and when they vacation, go to places like the Manila Hotel - "In 1935, General MacArthur asked us for a suite that would approximate the elegance and comfort of Malacanang Place."
Anyway this is what I mean by class and if there has to be a flaw in this otherwise jewel of a magazine, it is the ad run occasionally by Bermuda in which country club types outfitted in Peck and Peckish sort of clothes lots of paisley and parrot greens) walk along the beach together. Something about this ad tells me that they would not want me on the same island with them. It is what you would have to call vibes.
But back to the New Yorker. The latest issue arrived the other day and I started with Waterford crystal ("Are you a poet of invention?"), moved on to Pan Am, took a peak at the Estee Lauder lady, skipped a classy little tome for General Motors and turned right into the ad for Fairfax County, plunging into exactly the sort of tackiness I buy the New Yorker to escape. The ad, in the first place, is almost nothing but type, and in the second place, it was written by the same sort of people who bring you federal regulations - "critical to a locational decision" is one piece of poetry Fairfax County has subjected the readers of the New Yorker to.
There's more. The ad, for example, quotes from a study which in itself is a model of bad English and there are even some lines that are of questionable veracity - that business about having lured 1,200 major corporations, for instance. But all of this pales when compared to two paragraphs of type that approximates character assassination of the City of Washington. We pick it up after Fairfax has told the world it is Washington's neighbor.
This is what follows:
"Notice we said neighbor. Because when you look at Washington, the view is better from Fairfax County, Virginia Fairfax County is 410 square miles located just 30 minutes from Capitol Hill. It offers all the advantages of proximity to Washington combined with a comfortable suburban environment. And importantly, Fairfax County offers a lifestyle that's more than tolerable; it's desirable.
"The ideal choice for a Washington location is not Washington. It's Fairfax County, Virginia."
There are a couple of things to be said at this point. The first, maybe, is to tell the people who wrote this ad that in the New Yorker you do not knock the opposition. That is not classy. mercedes does not knock Cadillac and Waterford does not insult the other crystal makers. Fairfax County, however, knows nothing about class. The second thing to point out, is that without the City of Washington Fairfax would still be a cow pasture without a single porno shop to go bananas over and maybe the third thing to say is that Fairfax is 30 minutes from Washington only in the dead of night. It is most accurately referred to as 30 minutes from Arlington or, as a friend of mine says, a pit stop on the way to Richmond.
But there's something about this ad that has nothing to do with its syntax or its claims. Instead, like the ad touting Bermuda, this one has its own special vibes and they have nothing to do with what you would call healthy competition between city and suburb - no pictures, for instance, of verdant Fairfax County. Instead, you get the notion that race is being discussed here, whispered is probably a better word. This was not necessary. This was a cheap shot and in one fell swoop this ad has managed to tarnish two things I love: Washington and the New Yorker.