Colombo's Coats

I have to get back to myself. Not that I have an exact address to which I know I have to get back to, but I am well aware that in the past few weeks something has gone haywire with me. The situation is so bad that last week I was unable to write a column, which is a precedent; I didn't ask for time off, I didn't intend to stand them up - it's just that the paper went to press before I could write one sentence. It's still hard, and the recovery process will definitely take time, but the decision to get out of bed and start the rehab process now is a major step. You will have to be patient with this brain physiotherapy, and my hope is that at the end of the treatment I will be able to think again.

Since being on television, I have felt that my brain is degenerating. It happens automatically. Immediately after the first episode was broadcast, two weeks ago, I turned off the set, got into bed and took the Philip Roth from the bedside table. The bookmark - OK, the piece of toilet paper - was stuck in a page close to the end of the book, but a look at the first few sentences, which seemed to be completely incomprehensible, made me doubt that I had got that far. Maybe one of the kids played with the bookmark?

It's a really tough book. I didn't understand a word, and on top of that I forgot who the characters are and what happened before. Really? I read quite a few pages in the afternoon, but now I don't know what the author wants - what's his name, anyway? I had to look at the cover to remember. Ruth, is it? Must be some Christian woman, I thought to myself before deciding finally to choose some other book to fall asleep with. "Who bought this crap?" I asked my wife. "You did," she replied.

I can never get to sleep without a book. For a long time I scanned the bookshelves and couldn't understand why there were no pictures in the books. How can you get an idea across without visuals?

From the bookshelves in the living room I moved to the shelves in my daughter's room. "Nina's Journey." I leafed through it. Yes, there are illustrations, but they're not good enough, not sophisticated, and the sentences are long and have no punch at the end. Who wrote this crap? I discarded the books of my seven-year-old daughter one after the other and went into my son's room. I couldn't make up my mind between "What a Duck Does" and "The Lion with the Mane and the Giraffe Too." In the end I drifted off with an excellent, very funny book about a lion who wanted to eat only a strawberry.

The next morning I woke up to the beeping of the phone and an announcement about the viewer ratings. The kids were just getting ready for school. I leaped out of bed and stood myself in front of the closet, hurling shirts, sweaters, jackets and trousers.

"What are you doing?" my wife asked, eyes half-tearing. "Have you gone crazy?"

"Why crazy?" I shot back with a self-confidence I never knew I had. "What exactly am I going to wear at the TV awards ceremony?"

"What are you talking about? What ceremony?"

"And they had better seat me next to Erez Tal, too. My rating was higher than his."

My wife sat down on the bed, buried her head in her hands and, her body trembling, said, "You are becoming a dolt, Sayed. You are simply turning into an idiot."

"Terrific. Instead of congratulating me on the success, all of you, you are even worse than the critics - at least they were complimentary. What's the matter? Does it hurt you that I am a success story? Does it hurt?"

"No, it doesn't hurt," she said, rubbing her eyes. "I'll be fine. We'll get through it together. I know some good doctors."

"Why doctors? So what if I'm on TV, what of it, right away you need a doctor. You are being consumed by envy." "In case you didn't notice," she said, almost choking on the words, "at night you used the baby's toilet."


"Relax, it'll be alright, it'll be alright," she said. "I'll stay home with you, and we'll go to the clinic today."

The doctor prescribed pills, spoke words I didn't understand about a well-known symptom having to do with a loss of the sense of self-criticism and disorientation of time and place due to surprising mobility in economic situation and ratings. He assigned me exercises to do at home. "Sit in front of the TV the whole day and try to be critical."

I sat for long hours in front of this wonderful device, but couldn't figure out what the doctor wanted. To be critical of television is almost like questioning the fact of God's existence. But I sat, so my wife would not get angry. For hours I watched a program called "Annapolis," an American show, really good stuff. I tried to be critical, but unsuccessfully. The Jews acted almost like in real life, I found the Arabs very credible, just tremendous acting, riveting direction and scripts that sounded as though a team of experts had worked on them for hours. "I can't find anything wrong," I shouted. "Everything is perfect."

"Concentrate, daddy," my little girl said, bringing me chocolate milk. "Here, this will help you."

Two sips and the criticism arrived, hit me like lightning. I had something to say about Annapolis. Losing no time, I called the doctor.

"Doctor, listen, I'm just watching Annapolis on all the channels and I have criticism."

"Fine," the doctor growled. "Very good."

"I noticed that the Israeli characters, Ya'ari and especially Ya'akov Eilon..."

"The presenters, nu, what about them?"

"Did you see their coats? They are not credible. They come to America and right off buy long coats, like the ones detectives wear, like Colombo - do you know the program? What a king he was."

"That's what you have to say about Annapolis?"

"Why, it's no good?"

"No, it's definitely progress, definitely, progress."