Boy, do I miss Larry King.

I'm not talking about CNN Larry, who will be lobbing softballs at his guests from now until eternity, at seven million or fourteen million a year, depending on whether you believe him or independent reports.

I'm talking about USA Today Larry who, every Monday, would treat readers to the most motley assortment of random thoughts, musings, opinions and general suck-uppery ever published in a national newspaper. Larry made me laugh -- mostly because my friends and I used to play a game where we'd insert fake King quotes between the infamous dot-dot-dots and challenge each other to find the faux King. ("That Pia Zadora sure can act....for my money, there's no better author of thrillers than Tom Clancy....how 'bout those Mariners?")

I remember writing a column about the mini-scandal that erupted when King was caught plagiarizing one of those chain letters making its way through cyberspace. I was crushed. As far as I could see, this man had the easiest job in journalism, a job that required no research more difficult than picking up the phone and calling a pal or, more commonly, rummaging through his memory or his social life for a little nugget of opinion or critique. If Larry King has to resort to plagiarism, then heaven help the rest of us. (His defense, by the way, was priceless. He said he couldn't have copied the email because he doesn't know how to use email. I'm sure his corporate masters were just delighted to hear that.)

And then USA Today cancelled his much-mocked, frequently parodied column. He's gone, and oh, Lord, I miss him. Reading Larry was, for me, and for many disaffected Gen-Xers, a window into the future. What's life going to be like when you wander into the living room and can't remember why you went there, and everyone's staring at you, and you can't think of anything to say except, "For my money, the tastiest part of the chicken is the wing?" Larry was there to show me the way.

So how can I safely face a world sans Larry? I think I've found the answer. If Larry can't be here for me, then I'll just have to be Larry. In a manner of speaking. So, without further ado, a very sincere homage to the talented and much-missed Mr. King.

For my money, the best part of a cappuccino is the foam....Can you name a worse movie starring two Oscar-winners than the current Snow Dogs, with my friends Cuba Gooding Jr. and James Coburn? No? How about Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, with Angelina Jolie and Jon Voight?.....My dog Wendell doesn't like it when it snows. As best I can figure, he doesn't like the snow, but the salt that people sprinkle on their sidewalks gets into his paw-pads, and causes him discomfort....What is going on with Star Jones' hair?....don't you think most names would be cooler if they had an umlaut....windshield fluid is suprisingly affordable....That Russell Crowe is a fine figure of a man....I was sorry to hear about KMart....has anyone seen my Band-Aids?

Sheesh. This is harder than it looks! But the worst-movie-with-two-Oscar-winners is an interesting game. I can't think of a worse contender than Tomb Raider, which they were showing on the plane on the Chicago-to-Maui leg of our honeymoon voyage, and oh boy, it was bad. But if you think about some of the people who've own Oscars and gone on to make less-than-sanguine choices -- your Cuba Gooding Jrs, your Whoopi Goldbergs, your Robin Williamses -- and I'm sure there are some even worse movies out there. Also, I've got high hopes for best-supporting-Oscar-winner Anna Paquin. She hasn't made anything terribly drecky yet, but she's young. Give her time. And Janeane Garofalo's agent.

Meanwhile, in actual news, the dates for my spring book tour are coming together. As of now, it looks like I will be at the Borders on Walnut Street right here in Philadelphia on April 3, at New Words Books in Boston at 3 p.m. on April 7, at Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cleveland at 7 p.m. on April 8, at a Waldenbooks in Dallas on April 10, at Book People in Austin at 7 p.m. on April 12, at Vroman's in Los Angeles for a writers' workshop at 2 p.m. on April 13, then at Dutton's on April 15 at 7 p.m., over to Phoenix and the Changing Hands bookstore at 7 p.m. on April 17, at Borders in Houston at 7:30 p.m. on April 18, and at the Barnes & Noble in Bethesda on April 20. We think. All of this is subject to change, but if you want to see me and you live in any of those places, them's your chances.

Okay. Time to work.

Jen