For an August week in which temperatures stayed mild, an odd sense of crankiness abounded. A sketchy cease-fire in Lebanon just seemed to leave everyone on both sides gung ho for even more war. When Governor Pataki reinstated death benefits to families of retired rescuers who got sick cleaning up ground zero, Mayor Bloomberg complained that this would divert essential funds from public libraries. (His bad mood lifted after, having already banished the pleasure of smoking from the city’s bars, he gave $125 million toward eradicating cigarette smoking from the Earth.) Staten Islanders who stepped outside for a breath of fresh morning air were hit with a mysterious, if mostly harmless, gassy-smell attack that caused headaches and vomiting. (One witness compared the stench to “when you open up a barbecue, but it smelled ten to fifteen times worse than that.”) Shake Shack, Manhattan’s favorite spot to wait interminably for an al fresco noontime weenie, was written up with four to five times the number of allowable violations—some of them pretty gross—spurring a miffed rebuttal from nice-guy proprietor Danny Meyer. Within minutes of starting to serve his wrist-slap community service sweeping Chinatown streets (in a cheery Capri-pants-and-Day-Glo-safety-vest ensemble), Boy George lashed out at the media horde following his every broom stroke, screaming, “What d’ya think—you’re better than me?” Also peeved at the press was would-be daredevil Jeb Corliss, who was arrested for trying to jump off the Empire State Building in April. “You guys were awful to me,” the man dubbed a “jumping jerk” said. “I mean, it was satanic!” And Bill Clinton, facing up to his birthday, didn’t seem placated by the prospect of the Rolling Stones’ playing at his party. Instead, he grumbled, “In just a few days I will be 60 years old. I hate it, but it’s true.”
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