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 Lettera da New York a Positanonews la testata online della Costiera Amalfitana e Penisola Sorrentina fra le più lette in Campania all’estero



November 2, 2008



Many people like to describe their lives as a soap opera.  Not me.  When someone finds out that I’m the current co-headwriter of “As The World Turns,” a daily serial that has been running on American network television for over fifty years, the first question is invariably: where do you get your ideas?  My fervent answer is always: not from my life!  I’ve been happily married to the same man for more years than I can say without giving away the fact I look waaay younger than I am.  Thank God, our children are happy, healthy, and more or less, trauma free.  Whether that’s a tribute to our parenting skills or undeserved luck, we don’t question too closely.  So, instead of looking inward for melodrama, I have to focus outward. 


With one hour a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year to fill, I am in constant search for inspiration.  I can adapt a plot from classic Greek tragedy (you can’t go wrong with Oedipus) or classic vintage movies (It Happened One Night works for almost any new couple).   Newspapers and magazines offer an embarrassment of riches.  The old chestnut switched-at-birth-baby story you might encounter on any number of shows I’ve written (General Hospital, Days of Our Lives, One Life to Live, Another World, Guiding Light) was the subject of numerous articles and, needless to say, a hefty lawsuit, several years ago.  I grant you there aren’t too many people who return from the dead just as a former spouse is on the verge of marrying a new partner.  Still, thwarted romance, in all its many guises, is a recurrent theme in reality as well as fiction.  That dreams are born and die then live again is irrefutable, whether on the screen or in your heart.  Which, convoluted though the path may be, brings me to the real theme of my first letter from New York.


“You can’t change the system, you can’t even make it worse.”  So said the great writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer.  But now, of course, we know he was wrong.  You can make it worse.  You can even break it!  For those of us whose only knowledge of financial markets can be summed up in the bleak headlines we read in daily newspapers and the consistently downward direction of our retirement plans, these are frightening times. 


Here in New York, there’s a chill in the air that’s not entirely attributable to the change of seasons.  And yet, so many people I know are shivering not with fear, but with excitement.  Because if you can make it worse, that opens up the possibility you can make it better as well.  Rejecting Mr. Singer’s amusing but cynical take on “business as usual,” we are anticipating that, come election day, we’re going to see a seismic change in leadership that will affect not only how our government is run here at home, but how it is perceived throughout the world. 


We don’t like to say it aloud because we don’t want to jinx the outcome by appearing over-confident, but New York is Obamaland.  In spite of the fact that it was Wall Street’s dictum of “greed is good” that precipitated the current crisis, New York has a high concentration of people proud to be called the left-wing liberal elite.  To us, elite just means smart enough to know if you’ve been blessed with a lot you ought to be called upon to share it with those who have less – even if you’re a plumber or a hockey mom.  Clearly, an Obama victory will not bring an instant solution to worldwide economic woes.  But it will bring hope.  Spreading hope can foster optimism.   Growing optimism can inspire confidence.   Enough confidence will lead to conviction.  And with true conviction, you can, of course, change the system. 


By the time my next letter from New York is posted, we’ll know what happened.  But right now, on the eve of the elections, all my skill at creating melodrama could not have engineered a better cliffhanger.   Maybe, to one extent or another, all life is soap opera after all.   



Leah Laiman

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