PASSING THE BUCH(WALD)
BY DAN MILLER
January 19, 2007
Buchwald made a remarkable career out of skewering the haughty elite in Washington.
For that reason, you'd think nobody in the corridors of government power would want him around.... but they did.... and I'll bet many of them wore it as a badge of honor if Buchwald managed to get a few chuckles at their expense.
Buchwald himself once famously said, "If you attack the establishment long enough and hard enough, they will make you a member of it."
And they did.
I encountered Art Buchwald only once.
I could allow you days or weeks to guess the circumstances of that encounter.... but I doubt you'd ever get it right.
So, I'll tell you.
Please read this account in dramatic fashion......
It was 1988....
The cold war was gradually thawing between the U.S. and the Soviet Union....
I was taking an overnight train from Moscow to Leningrad....
It was a time when the Soviets wouldn't allow Americans to take trains in daylight....
They were obviously afraid we might see something top secret.... (like a nuclear missile site or -- perhaps -- an improved, mule-powered cotton gin).
We weren't even allowed, or able, to open the train windows....
The only land we could see was the tracks passing underneath us.... and we could only get that view by looking down through an open toilet seat.... (I'm not making that up).
I couldn't sleep, so I made my way through the passageway of the train car....
Suddenly, a stocky, white haired man stepped out of a little sitting room....
It was Art Buchwald.
We exchanged "hellos" and went our separate ways through the train.
Now, I'll give you two versions of the rest of this story..... but only one of them is true:
(A) Since this involves high level government secrets about American spy activities in the Soviet Union, I cannot reveal anything that would breach my Top Secret Security Clearance. But I can tell you that later that night, I met with several fellow agents and informed them that U.S. government operative Art Buchwald was on board and ready to receive his next assignment.
(B) I was simply traveling with some friends and a tour group, and when I saw my friends the next morning, I said something like, "Hey, I passed that guy Art Buchwald in the train car last night."
"B" is the correct answer.
Why Art Buchwald was on that train in the middle of Russia, I have no idea.
In fact, I'm having trouble recalling why I was there.
But it does remind me of a big, philosophical question that Art Buchwald once pondered.
On the subject of life, he wrote; "The question isn't where you're going -- it's what are you doing here in the first place?"
Something for all of us to ponder, Mr. Buchwald.