In the Green Room

Time Magazine’s Michael Grunwald

California Gets A Lot Right That Florida Gets Wrong

Michael Grunwald

Miami-based Time magazine senior national correspondent Michael Grunwald is the author of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era. Before talking about how Barack Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 transformed America, he compared L.A. and Miami, talked about the old Jewish guy who was trapped in the body of his Boston terrier, and revealed a hidden talent for juggling in the Zócalo green room.


Q:
What’s the last habit you tried to kick?

A:
Bread.

Q:
What’s the biggest difference between Miami and Los Angeles?

A:
Apparently Los Angeles is freezing! I live in South Beach, so I don’t have to use a car; I ride my bike everywhere, but there are very few places like that in Florida. In general I feel like one of my obsessions with California is that you do a lot of things right that Florida does wrong, though I think people in California don’t necessarily realize that.

Q:
What do they have in common?

A:
I don’t spend that much time in L.A. But we have a lot of models, so that sort of scenery is good. You have I guess successful actors; we have unsuccessful ones. There’s a certain showiness to both places.

Q:
Who’s your favorite Greek or Roman god or goddess?

A:
I’d love to have one of those Homerian appelations—like “Gray-Eyed Athena.” But my favorite one? You know, Athena’s cool. I’ll go with Athena. She’s smarter than the average bear.

Q:
What would you choose to eat for your final meal?

A:
I’d probably want New York pizza.

Q:
Do you have any pets?

A:
I had two Boston terriers. Shamu just died; Shamu was 14. I still have Candy, who’s 7. Shamu was like a human being—an old Jewish guy trapped in a Boston terrier’s body.

Q:
What was your favorite band as a teenager?

A:
It’s so embarrassing. Probably Yes. [Laughs.]

Q:
What’s your hidden talent?

A:
I can juggle. Just balls. I could juggle pretty much the first time I tried it, and then I never got any better. I play a lot of tennis, so I guess it’s not that hidden.

Q:
What politician do you find most stimulating?

A:
There’s no question that the most fun person to spend time with for my book was Joe Biden. He’s just—he’s a trip. My first interview with him, I had an interview with another former White House person scheduled right after it, and of course it was Biden, so I ended up showing up an hour late, and the guy said, “So what was your question?”

Q:
What’s the strangest thing in your medicine cabinet?

A:
We have Band-Aids with every possible cartoon character and Muppet on them.