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Original Issue

Wake-up Call

Explain it again, Witherspoon. I'm still a bit groggy. Exactly how did that painting spring to life?

That's a TV, sir. A TV nowadays is flat, framed and hung above the fireplace. It looks like an oil painting, but it's just a TV.

Yet the people in it are wearing teal, just as they were when I fell asleep 20—how many years ago did you say it was?

Twenty-five, sir. You slept for 25 years. And teal is long dead. Only the San Jose Sharks still wear it.

The San Ho-What Whozits?

Sharks, sir. You're watching the 2016 Stanley Cup finals. Hockey's best team plays in San Jose, which is more or less the capital of the world now, home of Google, eBay, Netflix, Yahoo....

Are you having a stroke, Witherspoon? You're speaking gibberish. How long did you say I've been awake now?

Five minutes, sir. You fell asleep in 1991 and just returned to consciousness. See, you're still wearing your pajamas.

Not pajamas, Witherspoon. Zubaz. You see them on all the top athletes. Very popular among the Twins and the Braves. And if they're good enough for the two best teams in baseball....

Worst teams, sir. Although the Braves are getting a new ballpark.

I guess Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium couldn't last forever.

Actually, they're replacing the ballpark that replaced that ballpark. Stadiums are now disposable, sir. Like Kleenex.

Extraordinary. All so a handful of men can spit tobacco juice on their shoes.

Oh, there's no place for chewing tobacco in baseball, sir.

Nonsense, Witherspoon. They're inseparable, like Johnny Depp and Winona Ryder. When did you say all this happened?

While you were sleeping, sir. You nodded off on a Sunday evening between 60 Minutes and America's Funniest Home Videos.

I knew those shows wouldn't last.

Both are still on the air, sir.

Does that mean Bill Cosby is still on TV?

In a manner of speaking, sir, though he's no longer doing light comedy. Light comedy is now the milieu of Mike Tyson.

I don't believe you, Witherspoon. Next you'll tell me the Cubs are the best team in baseball! Or that Michael Jordan has become an international icon of pathos.

How did you guess, sir?

Now see here. Michael Jordan is the best player on the best team in basketball, and I will not allow you....

Oklahoma City now has a better team than Chicago does. There's also an NBA team called the Pelicans, I'm afraid.

Enough of these lies, Witherspoon! Jordan's Bulls have just defeated Magic Johnson's Lakers in the finals. If anyone is an international icon of pathos, it's poor Magic.

Magic has never been healthier, sir. Or richer. He's owned quite a few Starbucks.

Star-whats? If you expect me to swallow any of this poppycock, prove it. Bring me a newspaper. The one on my nightstand is a quarter century out of date. Has a story about Tim Berners-Lee announcing something called "the World Wide Web Project." Good luck with that.

Sir, "the World Wide Web Project" is your newspaper, and it's delivered to your pocket via smartphone or to your tablet. Touch the screen like this, and—voilà!—you get up-to-the-minute headlines....

Ha! This "up-to-the-minute" headline is 25 years old. It says that Clinton is running for president, and....

Different Clinton, sir. Not the one who beat the first President Bush.

The first President Bush?

Yes, sir. His son also became president—the one who owned the Texas Rangers.

And our other presidential nominee this year is...?

Erm, perhaps you should lie down again, sir. It's all a bit much to take in.

Yes, Witherspoon, quite. Thought for a moment you were lying to me. But you're a good man, a loyal butler. And I never judge a man until I've walked a mile in his Reebok Pumps.

Nobody knows what those are, sir.

I feel like old Rob van Winkle.

Rip Van Winkle, sir. Rob Van Winkle is the real name of Vanilla Ice.

Still king of the rap game, is he?

Not exactly, sir.

San Jose and Oklahoma City are good? Twins and Braves are bad? There's a team called the Pelicans? You fell asleep in 1991 and just came to. At least Clinton is still running for president.

What else has changed in the last 25 years?

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