You can read this series from the beginning here.
"You are going to have to explain what it is that you’re watching," Emma said.
We were in my tasteful penthouse apartment in Washington DC, a few stops on the Metro line from the office where Emma and I both worked for a progressive advocacy organization that had no formal ties with the Hillary Clinton campaign but which had several common policy interests. Or so I was told, because at that point we didn’t have any more clue than anyone else outside the campaign as to what those were, but we knew we’d find out eventually. I had the TV on and was busy plumbing the backwaters of Netflix.
"So I had a talk with Aunt Joan," I said. "I had been doing some anti-Rand Paul memes that were based on Justified. And she didn’t know what Justified even was."
"Well, she’s busy," Emma said. "She works God-awful long hours and is trying her best to meet the fundraising expectations. I don’t see her binge-watching the FX network."
"That was kind of her point. She said that when she was our age, there weren’t quite so many shows on quite so many networks. That meant that any given show from that era has a much broader social impact than any given show from that era."
"I know what you mean," she said. "My parents can’t have one single conversation without someone making a Law & Order reference, or something else stupid like that."
"So what Aunt Joan suggested is that I try to brush up on my 70’s pop culture so I could mine it for more effective memes that have a cross-generational impact."
"That’s not a bad idea," Emma said.
"It’s starting to work, too," I said. "I got a couple of good Adam-12 memes out there about police brutality, and a couple of Good Times memes about voter suppression. The only thing she told me not to do was this one health care meme where I used Quincy, because it turns out he was a coroner. But that was an honest mistake."
"Whatever works, I guess," she said. "But what is this that you’re actually watching?"
"It’s called B.J. and the Bear," I explained. "But it’s not about a real bear. It’s about an orangutan, and his friend who drives a truck."
"God, the seventies were weird."
"Agreed. It makes you grateful for everything we have now, though."
"You have got to stop with this Love Boat stuff, Justin," Aunt Joan said.
"It’s working," I said. "Like you said it would. Have you seen all of them? Here’s one where Gopher is telling people how to get to the Lido Deck on Marco Rubio’s luxury speedboat."
"You’re not listening, Justin," she said.
"Did you know the actor who played Gopher later became a Republican Congressman from Iowa? That just reinforces it. And this one with Isaac, that’s just a classic. I mean, you almost want to go down to Miami and slug down a couple of mai tais with Senator Rubio."
"Justin. Pay attention. These are excellent memes you’re doing. You can be proud of yourself."
"Thanks, Aunt Joan. I appreciate it."
"Don’t call me that. But, listen, please, you have to stop. Now. Not because the memes aren’t good, but because they’re not effective."
"Well, the Times article was very effective. It pointed out that Rubio sunk all that money in a speedboat. Maybe I can do a thing where Higgins from Magnum P.I. criticizes Rubio for being a spendthrift."
"Justin. This is not about you, okay? We’re getting a severe backlash on the whole luxury speedboat thing. They released a picture of the boat, and it’s not… well, not that luxurious."
"It’s not?" I asked.
"Somebody at the Rubio campaign did a mockup and showed that his boat could fit into the swimming pool at the Chappaqua house."
"Well, okay. I can see…"
Aunt Joan got that look on her face that you would get if you were forced to drink something nasty, like non-fair-trade coffee, or Sean Hannity’s sweat.
"The last thing–the absolute last thing–that we want is for the press and the public to spend a lot of time on the former Secretary’s vacation habits. Rental houses in the Hamptons, that sort of thing. Our focus is on fairness for the middle class and growing small businesses."
"And toppling the one percent," I added.
"That, too, but it’s so much harder to do that when the press is focused on how many rooms the summer house has. Understand? The more focus we put on Rubio’s leisure time, the more focus they will put on the former Secretary’s. And, God help us, the former President’s. Got it?"
"Got it," I said.
At the end of the day, I turned off my computer and made my way down to the Metro stop. I had, I thought, made a difference, at least for a short time. I felt good about myself. I was learning my trade, and if circumstances beyond my control were impacting that, it wasn’t my problem. I made my way down to the platform–walking down the broken escalator that still wasn’t fixed, despite many phone calls to Metro customer service–and waited for my train. My phone rang, and I picked it up.
"Justin, what have you been up to?" my father asked.
"Today? Trying to make fun of Marco Rubio’s boat, until they made me quit."
"Did you think, for one second, that maybe it wasn’t a very good idea to do that?"
"I can’t think why," I said. "If he can’t manage his personal money effectively, that has to impact his Presidency. Assuming he gets that far."
"I am going to say two words to you," Dad said, "and I want you to listen to them, and then to consider why you may not have thought this all the way through."
"I’m all ears."
"Fairchild Conqueror," he said.
"Oh," I said. "Oh, my God. I had completely forgotten about that. If it ever gets out…"
"Why do you think I called you?" he said. "Somebody from the Washington Free Beacon has been calling our PR firm for the last hour."
"I haven’t been on the Conqueror since the last board meeting," I said. "It’s still berthed in the Bahamas, right?"
"It’s berthed in the Bahamas because it’s tax-free," he said. "And no one has really noticed this, until now. If I have to bring the Conqueror north and berth it in Newport because of all of this, and pay taxes, I am going to be massively displeased."
The Fairchild Conqueror was 85 meters long, had 8 luxury cabins, and a crew of 25. You could host a dinner for an ambassador on its deck, and Dad had done just that, more than once. I had no idea how much it had cost, largely because I had forgotten about its existence.
"Let me guess," I said. "Junior Staffer on Clinton-Linked Nonprofit Makes Fun of Marco Rubio’s Dinghy, But You Won’t Believe What His Own Boat Looks Like."
"That’s probably putting it mildly," he said. "Look, I’ll do what I can to squelch the story, but you need to maybe take it a little easy on the whole luxury speedboat thing, all right? Use your head next time."
"It’s not fair," I said. "Just because my dad has a lot of money, why does that mean I can’t make fun of Marco Rubio and how he spends his money? It’s absurd."
"Tell me again about the yacht," Emma said. "Can we ever use it? Like over the July 4th weekend? I have my passport all updated."
"It’s a horrible symbol of wretched capitalistic excess and fossil fuel consumption," I said. "But the cabins are all nice. And Pedro always has a nice seafood buffet set up."
"What are we waiting for?" she asked. "If we’re going to be hypocrites, we ought to at least enjoy ourselves. Marco Rubio would want us to."
"Don’t be ridiculous," I said.
"Bill Clinton would want us to."
I thought about this for a minute. Emma was right. Making a difference the Clinton way was hard work, and we all needed a break from that from time to time.
"You convinced me," I said. "I’ll call Pedro in the morning, and make sure he hasn’t leased it out that weekend."