I am reading an anthology of short stories, 700 pages worth. I haven’t finished a single one. They are all the same, about rich girls sitting in their living rooms, lounging and feeling comforted by their good taste. I know girls like this, but I don’t want to. I want to meet women like the ones emerging from stage coaches on Gun Smoke. Who are these simpering brats? Embraced by good fortune, these gals dominating TV and filling my books are very much like cats, I suppose, purring with delight, self-satisfied, lounging around, rubbing themselves against the upholstery, sighing, and meowing. Not one of them knows how to use a sidearm.

Not too sure, but I’d guess a lot of men like myself are not all that interested in cats. Cats 101. Graduate seminars. How many classes have I had to take on the subject? 18th Century Felines, a Junior Proseminar. The Epistemology of the Vagina, a Senior Lecture course, offered by Department Chair, Dame Edith Campbell, who holds the Shrew’s Chair in 21st Century Eroticism. I just registered for a lecture by Dr. Mollie Feinberg, Visiting Professor of Felinology at Petting Zoo College, Cambridge. She’ll be speaking on her new book of poems, Felines in Peril, published by the Pussy Cat Press. Her lecture will be open to the public. “Dogs Not Welcome.”

I am reading Tears of Joy: What Makes Men Cry. I had been advised recently to buy stock in the new theme park named after that play by Samuel Beckett, what’s it called? Endgame or Happy Days? Or maybe both. In fact, that is the gimmick. It is a Door Number One/Door Number Two sort of thing. Behind Door Number One must be Endgame, where you are prepped for death, while behind Door Number Two a Shakespeare comedy is enacted, ending in a marriage ceremony and a fertility dance.

I bought what I could and sent the investment tip on to my little brother who lives with my mother and her second husband. I live with my stepfather and his third wife, a man who wants to be called “Haha,” the Japanese word for mother. He also sports a kimono made out of corduroy. His slippers are made of wood.

I’ve learned little from Tears beyond the fact that the reason American toilet booths are built by regulation to a minimum eight inches off the floor is that the CIA determined in 1953 at the height of the Cold War that men were more likely to lock themselves in a toilet stall for a good cry than women and, while they were at it, were apt to spill the beans, confessing their unpatriotic thoughts and any communist fantasies they might have, or as they were called officially in agency nomenclature, “flirtations with utopia.” According to data collected by the now-defunct intelligence department, more traitors were found in a state of melancholic outburst, manifested by tears, between the years 1953 and 1980 in public restrooms than in any other place, including coffee houses, diners, and strip bars, combined.

The most interesting part has to be Chapter Five, “The Day Ali Made Howard Cosell Cry,” a riveting analysis of the 50th birthday party of late boxing legend, Mohammed Ali. The fascinating account, used as the basis for the author’s Ph.D. dissertation at M.I.T., ends with Howard Cosell, the most famous sportscaster of his generation, having to be pried by a team of police officers and psychiatrists from the left leg of the great boxer who had left the main auditorium of the old Knickerbocker Hotel to use the men’s room. Cosell had, it was reported, fallen to his knees at the feet of the boxer, only to be heard screaming at the top of his lungs, “Why don’t you just let me do my job?” as tears streamed down his cheeks.

Celebrities and musical talents including the legendary singer, Little Richard, comedian and M.C. for the evening, Billy Crystal, actor Dustin Hoffman, Whitney Houston, as well as numerous political and civil leaders spent the entire evening listening as Ali’s friends and family members regale the live audience with tales of Ali’s extraordinary feats.  The high point of the evening all agreed was the appearance of Howard Cosell on video as he wept, opening as he praised the boxer and called him his long-lost son. “I love you.”

The truth of the matter is that I am procrastinating. I have a 27-page research paper due tomorrow for my Feinberg seminar. I submitted my proposal and received authorization to write on the unreadable short stories of Deborah Eisenberg, an insufferably common stylist who reminds me of that other bore, Jonathan Franzen. He is from suburban St. Louis and she, just outside Chicago, so they have the Midwest in common and are both Jewish. They are the only humorless Jews I have ever read.

I have been counting the number of times Eisenberg uses the word “sofa” in her stories. So far, 663 times in her collected works. I can’t reread Franzen. He’s big on sofas, too, but I haven’t bothered to count. He mentions toilets a lot, too. Everything is a hobby for their characters, including thinking about the poor. Harvard was such a burden. Girls with names like Cissy, Fanny, and Missie. Then, there are Fefe and Dee Dee and a pet dachshund named Nebuchadnezzar. Plus, darling Suky. Both authors drop Spanish the way Henry James once used French. Everything is ever so appropriate.

Why couldn’t Franzen have befriended Miles Davis? At least then I would be interested. Why couldn’t Debbie have made her way to Cadillac Records and hooked up with Etta James or somebody more interesting than Esther, Stella, Amy, or Micheline, her childhood girlfriends from summer camp, or was it the camps? These suburban bobby soxers were listening to the Beatles instead of the best music in the world, right there in St. Louis and Chicago. To this day, none of us from suburbia can write about reality; it’s too boring, so we make stuff up. If I had made my way out of White Haven, Tennessee, as it was then known, I might have met Anna Mae Bullock, known to the world as Tina Turner. She grew up just a few miles away and spent most of her time picking strawberries and cotton, until the day she followed her mother to St. Louis and took a job singing in a nightclub.