I’m not happy with the in-and-out, fuck-you wifi aboard moving trains.  No one is.  The signal is so spotty that the iPhone’s hotspot signal is all but worthless as far as the laptop is concerned.  

So I’m basically doing the old first-class lounge potato routine, surfing and browsing (it took me 90 minutes to read summaries of the history of Salo and the life of Benito Mussolini, which would have taken 20 minutes with a half-decent connection) and staring at the ravishing French countryside, basking in boredom and taking the occasional stroll.

If I wasn’t restricted to my iPhone and two thumbs, I would express regret at Bill Maher’s unfortunate use of a term that only guys like Chris Rock and Quentin Tarantino are allowed to use in a smirking, mock-nervy context.  

A few years ago I was speaking to a couple of Paramount publicists on the lot, and while making a point about Sydney Poitier‘s status among Hollywood producers from the late ’50s to late ’60s I used a term that starts with “house” and ends with a word I dare not repeat, and the publicists recoiled in horror.  One of them moaned.  They looked at me like I’d suddenly turned into a lizard.

We all know what the term means — an affable black guy whose behavior is regarded by other blacks as overly obliging or obsequious.  But that’s not what Maher was alluding to.  He was joking about working in the fields vs. being a house worker.  He just blurted it out.  Wrong blurt, of course, but he’s always had a rapier manner.

Obviously he shouldn’t have said it, but it wasn’t a “gaffe,” which means some kind of foot-in-mouth Freudian truth slip — he was being his usual brutally candid self.  Maher’s liberal-progressive credentials are impeccable,of course, so I don’t understand why this story is still bring kicked around.  Because of Al Franken, I suppose, on top of the p.c. banshees and harridans.  Give them the slightest reason to call for your head, and they always will. 

Maher blundered, plain and simple.  Has any HE regular ever gotten into trouble by deliberately using the wrong term to (a) provoke a somewhat cautious, mild-mannered friend to gasp or (b) to demonstrate that you’re insouciant or brash or unintimidated by the rules?  We all have at one point or another.

By the way:  We trained from Manarola to La Spezia just after 7 am, and then drove for something like four hours (five with detours and cappuccino pit stops) back to Nice Airport, where we dropped the rental car. We took a cab to downtown Nice and caught a 3 pm train to Paris.  It’s now 7:30 pm (10:30 am in Los Angeles) — 70 minutes remain before we pull into Gare de Lyon.