Conservative columnist and former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan noticed some things. The Upper East Side was empty, like in a Will Smith movie, but because of the recession, and not because of vampire zombies.
Also, there was a lady who had too many children! So many children she had! She was also a Spiderman villain, or maybe a Spiderman villain's mom. They called her "Dr. Octopus Mom" and everyone in the country was so mad at her, and Peggy wondered if maybe some of her children could walk around the Upper East Side so it wouldn't feel so empty, because all the money is in Washington now. Oh, what a fact!
Peggy saw this woman on TV, and also on her TV she saw a man with a mustache who landed a plane in a river!
It's Sully and Suleman, the pilot and "Octomom," the two great stories that are twinned with the era. Sully, the airline captain who saved 155 lives by landing that plane just right-level wings, nose up, tail down, plant that baby, get everyone out, get them counted, and then, at night, wonder what you could have done better. You know the reaction of the people of our country to Chesley B. Sullenberger III: They shake their heads, and tears come to their eyes. He is cool, modest, competent, tough in the good way. He's the only one who doesn't applaud Sully. He was just doing his job.
This is why people are so moved: We're still making Sullys. We're still making those mythic Americans, those steely-eyed rocket men. Like Alan Shepard in the Mercury rocket: "Come on and light this candle."
But Sully, 58, Air Force Academy '73, was shaped and formed by the old America, and educated in an ethos in which a certain style of manhood-of personhood-was held high.
What we fear we're making more of these days is Nadya Suleman. The dizzy, selfish, self-dramatizing 33-year-old mother who had six small children and then a week ago eight more because, well, she always wanted a big family. "Suley" doubletalks with the best of them, she doubletalks with profound ease. She is like Blago without the charm. She had needs and took proactive steps to meet them, and those who don't approve are limited, which must be sad for them. She leaves anchorwomen slack-jawed: How do you rough up a woman who's still lactating? She seems aware of their predicament.
Peggy went to a liquor store.
In a liquor store just off 82nd, the owner, from India, says volume is still high but profits are down. "In business, if you have a product under $15, is good. People used to spend $70, $80 on a bottle of wine, all the bankers, the young kids. Nothing moving more than $15."
Peggy bought her 15 dollar bottle of vodka and went home to writer her column.