Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Whose leg is being pulled now?

I stepped into my time machine and went back 40 years (I'll save you the math: that's 1967). I found myself in London where--not surprisingly-- I met a Beatles fan, who was fortunately also a science fiction reader. He seemed to have no serious problem accepting, pending further questioning, that I was from the future. He was naturally curious about, among other things, what the Beatles are up to in 2007.

After I gave him the bad news about the breakup, the passing of John and George, and of course, Yoko, I came around to current events. I told him that Paul, after losing his first wife to cancer (after a surprisingly long marriage, for a celebrity), is now in the process of divorcing his second wife, Heather Mills (not related to Hayley, as I clarified). "Too bad, but not a shock, I suppose," he said.

"But wait," I said. Then I shared the highlights of the £1 billion (yes, billion with a "b") divorce battle in which she has accused him of all manner of vices and cruelties, and has portrayed him as being a "vindictive" man who once tried to choke her and even attacked her while she was pregnant.

"Hard to believe it of Paul," he said. "Seems like such a nice young man. But you never know what a man is capable of, and you can't always believe celebrity p.r., good or bad, can you?"

"No," I agreed. "I do have my doubts about her. One of her claims is that she was forced to crawl on her hands and knees up the steps of a plane because they were not wide enough for her wheelchair and Sir Paul had not made other arrangements. Oh, by the way, she has only one leg. And, yes," I responded to his widened eyes, "McCartney was knighted in 1997."

At this point my 1967 friend got a faraway look in his eyes, and forced a friendly but weak smile, as if he had just realized he'd mistaken me for someone else.

"What's really odd," I continued, ignoring his furtive glances all around us, "is that Ms. Mills is slated to be in a dance competition on TV this season."

"Dance?" he said with raised eyebrows. "With one leg?"

"Yes," I replied, "they've made wonderful advances in prosthetics these days."

"Oh, of course," he said, nodding.

I mentioned that I saw her on an entertainment news program (ignoring him when he interrupted with "A whole program about entertainment?") where she said that her main concern was that her leg wouldn't fall off during the dances.

"Well, surely not many will be watching," he reasoned, amused.

"Actually it's one of the highest-rated reality shows on TV, where famous and semi-famous actors, singers and athletes pair up with expert dancers to compete before judges, including the viewing audience. " After I explained what reality TV is and assured him that some of the programs are pretty good, he seemed somewhat less skeptical.

"Well, I suppose teenagers like to watch these shows to learn the latest moves so they can impress the ladies at the clubs," he offered.

"Wellll, maybe," I responded. "But it's actually ballroom dancing; the kind no one generally does without intensive training and only in a limited number of places."

"Hmm," he mused, "very interesting." Then he burst out laughing. "Bub, I must admit you almost had me, but you went just a tad too far with that last bit about a one-legged soon-to-be-ex of 'Sir' Paul McCartney competing in a 'popular' ballroom-dancing telly program!" He shook his head slowly. "Sir, I was born at night, but it wasn't last night! Besides, I can't believe that even in 2007 the BBC would ever air such rot."

"BBC?" I said. "This is American television, not the BBC."

A wide smile spread across his face. "America? Oh, I see. Well, then, it all makes sense now!" He slapped me on the back like an old friend and looked at me with renewed interest. "So, what year do you think you might be visiting next?"

And then I woke up.

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