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Germ Bag

My Talking Head

By Suz Redfearn | Posted 12/11/2002

My man Marty recently reached a gigantic pinnacle for a reporter: He had an editorial in -- hot damn! -- that fabled newspaper of newspapers, the New York Times.

Oddly, while penning his opinion piece about the difficulties the government faces in creating a homeland security beauracracy, a topic he follows closely, the dude was uncharacteristically calm and nonchalant. I, on the other hand, was all aflutter. The New York Times! The New York Times! I yelped both internally and externally. It was big doings -- the equivalent, in my world, of a three-book contract with Simon & Schuster. I felt as though my brain might explode from all the empathetic tingling sensations. Meantime, Marty just quietly wrote--superstitious, I think, that if he got the slightest bit excited, the universe would snatch the opportunity from his grasp.

The day the piece came out was of course filled with festive mirth, replete with me laughing and giggling and rushing around buying stacks of issues and Marty receiving flattering calls from far-flung pals who had read the thing as well as editors who were pleased. It was his time in the white-hot sun. I had assumed, though, that nature would take its course and that all the hoopla would die down at day's end, leaving us both a shade empty. But I was wrong.

When Marty got to work that morning, there were several messages waiting for him from Fox News asking him to run over to their studio to do a live segment that afternoon! Then C-SPAN called and wanted him on the next business day. Then there was something about an hour-long appearance for a foreign news service. We were both astounded. If it had been me, I'd have had to down a few Valium and then maybe head to the islands to hide for a few weeks, so acute is my fear of the limelight. But Marty -- despite the fact that he'd never been on live TV before, or national TV, or any kind of TV at all -- was as serene and resolute as a farmer headed out to the barn to yank on Bessie.

And thus, just hours after his op-ed piece appeared on newsstands, I was perched on the edge of our couch mentally preparing to watch my husband on the Zenith. It was all happening so fast. I was nervous. Was he going to do well? I realized that if he didn't, my visceral connection to him would probably cause me to faint. I also realized if he kicked butt, I might start ricocheting off walls -- alone. Damn -- I wished I'd had time to plan a party.

Breaking news about Iraq kept delaying Marty's segment, so the suspense ratcheted up even higher. Ten minutes went by and no Marty. Then another 15. Just when I started to think they might bump him, big-headed host John Gibson turned his upper body to a new camera and began yapping about homeland security. My stomach tightened. The next words that came tumbling out of Gibson's mouth were for me the equivalent of a roller coaster reaching the apex of a big, scary hill, fixin' to drop.

"Next, we have Martin Kady, reporter for Congressional Quarterly Homeland Security..."

Suddenly the host vanished and the screen was filled with dazzling, high-tech graphics that read: "The Big Story." There was lots of color and movement and a space-age whoosh sound and then bam, there was Marty, my Marty, taking up half the screen while the host's head occupied the other half.

I wanted to leap to my feet and proclaim: He's so handsome! My husband's so handsome! Marty looked shockingly striking, and so glowy, and symmetrical, and his dimples were so cute! Really, I guess he always looks like that, but seeing him on TV somehow brought it all into sharp, Adonis-like focus. Sitting there stunned, I was so struck with his hair that I was rendered unable to listen to his words. It was dazzling, cut just right, with a tiny, almost imperceptible flip-up in front. It must have looked like that this morning when he left for work, but I just didn't see it in the same way. And it was so... chestnut. I had thought his hair was dark brown. Maybe the lighting in our apartment is just bad. Or maybe I'm a terrible wife.

There and then, my almost-extinct jealous side came back to life and I wondered if now the young chippies would come flocking, beating down the studio doors, effectively upsetting my homeland security. Man, that would suck.

I tried to stop being so shallow and to pay attention to what Marty was saying, but things became even more dream-like and surreal, and I just couldn't focus. The scene astounded me: I was sitting on the couch that we usually sit on together to stare at the tube, but instead, I was staring at Marty orating confidently about government stuff. Yep, the guy who just the night before was darting around our apartment in hole-y boxers trying to delight me with silly walks was now on live TV looking earnest and trying to explain the Department of Homeland Security to untold millions. Mentally, it was almost too much to sort out. For a second, I was compelled to hop up and take pictures of the TV to commemorate it all. I managed to restrain myself. Maybe I'd wait until he was on C-SPAN.

But right here and now, on Fox, he was excelling, answering questions off the top of his head that I'd have to read a book before I could address. When he called the new department a "mega-merger," I wanted to stand and clap. At one point, Fox showed footage of the president signing the Homeland Security bill while Marty was yammering. Oooh, how many people can say they have provided voice-over for the president? Only a few hundred probably. Then Marty stumbled a little on the word "stockpiles" and my heart twisted in place. I wanted to aid him but of course I was powerless. And what would I be able to do anyway? Annul the moment? I don't think so. Storm the control room and rewind the tape? That wouldn't do much good with live TV. Thankfully, a half second later he had recovered and so had I.

Staring twinkly eyed at my husband lit up by countless studio lights with a giant image of the U.S. Capitol behind him, it hit me that millions of people were also staring at him at this moment -- but I'm the only one who knows the guy completely. For instance, I know the burgundy tie with gold swirlies he's wearing for the segment was bought at a Baltimore auction to sell off all the sets and costumes from the show Homicide. Only I'm aware of that. Ok, and also the pal who bid on the tie for him. But just us two. I also know he likes cheap cigars, prefers dogs over cats, makes a mean beef stroganoff, is not a morning person, likes to read newspapers cover to cover on Sunday mornings, prefers motor oil-ish coffees from Louisiana, wears the shirt size 16 1/2 with a 34/35 sleeve and is very ticklish under the arms. No other viewers know these things. I mean, I'm assuming they don't.

Gawking at Marty, I also realize what a collaboration a person becomes once they're in a couple. I observed his new, funky Lisa Loeb glasses and realize my glasses inspired him to switch to that style. That made me grin. Then I hear him pronounce "supposed to" in the lazy way I do ("spoce-da") and I frown. Uh-oh, what have I done to him? And oops, I see he's licking his lips too much -- something I think goes largely unnoticed by other humans unless you're on camera, and something I'm seen doing in 89 percent of our wedding photos.

In five quick minutes, the host was wrapping up, thanking Marty. Marty said cordially, knowingly, "Thanks for having me," and poof, he was gone -- gone from the airwaves, but soon to arrive back at home, to me. I spontaneously stood up, triumphant. Marty rocked! He killed! I mean, I guess he did. Actually, I hadn't heard much he said, but he seemed to come off like an expert. Thank the goddesses his parents were taping it (I don't get our VCR) so later I could watch and actually listen as my husband explained complicated stuff to the masses, and to me.

Next terrain to be conquered? C-SPAN and then the world. I hope my central nervous system can take it.

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Editor's note: With this installment we bid adieu to Germ Bag.

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New Traditionalists (1/8/2003)
It was Christmas Eve morning on Harvard Street. Marty and I sat on the hardwood floor near our...

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