Recently, while visiting New York City (Civic Motto: "I Got Yer Civic Motto Right Here"), I saw an alarming article in The New York Times, which is a newspaper up there, stating that large chunks of masonry were falling off some of the older buildings. As bad luck would have it in such a crowded city, several of these chunks, tragically, failed to land on George Steinbrenner.

The Times article quoted experts as saying that the solution to the falling-chunks problem was to inspect old buildings. With all due respect, that is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Inspections are not the answer. With falling chunks, as with so many problems afflicting modern urban society, the only lasting solution is to identify, and correct, the "root cause" of the problem. And that cause is: gravity.I have been following this issue for many years, and in my opinion, gravity is getting worse than ever. For example, last year several hundred alert readers sent me articles from various publications concerning an incident in the Sea of Japan wherein a Japanese fishing boat was allegedly sunk by a falling cow. Yes. According to these articles, which I swear I am not making up, what apparently happened was that the crew of a Russian military cargo jet had stolen some cows in Siberia and was flying them home when the cows became upset, perhaps because there was no in-flight movie.

So the cows stampeded, and the crew, fearing that the plane would crash, opened the cargo door and let the cows run out of the plane at an altitude of 30,000 feet, which is somewhat in excess of the Recommended Safe Falling Distance for Cows of 1.3 inches. So you had these cows raining down on the Sea of Japan, and one of them, unfortunately, failed to land on George Steinbrenner. But it did allegedly strike the Japanese fishing boat, which sank. The fishermen all survived, although I am betting that they had an unpleasant talk with their insurance agent.

I don't know about you, but when I read about a tragedy like this, the phrase that comes into my mind is "major motion picture." I'm thinking of something along the lines of "Titanic." You'd have a pair of star-crossed Japanese fisherpersons, played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, and just when you think they're going to overcome the obstacles facing them, they hear, in the distance, the chilling sound that mariners throughout the ages have always feared most of all - "moo" - and then WHAM, the boat is struck by a hurtling Hereford traveling in excess of 100 miles per hour. For the remaining 125 minutes of the movie, the lovers float romantically around on the wreckage as Leonardo proclaims his undying love for Kate and tenderly brushes chunks of brisket from her hair.

But getting back to the worsening gravity problem: I wish I could tell you that it is limited to cows. But unfortunately I cannot, not in light of an article from the Aug. 27, 1997, issue of The Calvert County (Md.) Recorder, sent in by alert reader Janice Rohme. This article states that on Aug. 25, Gloria Daniels, 68, of Lusby, Md., was working in her garden with a young neighbor boy when she was hit by a falling tomato. Then the boy was hit by a tomato. Then tomatoes -more than 30 of them - began raining down all over her yard. Friends, neighbors and the media were called in to investigate, but nobody could figure out where the tomatoes - which appeared to be falling straight down out of the sky - were coming from. Rob Terry, the reporter who wrote the story for The Recorder, states that, while on the scene, he personally was struck by a tomato, andalthough he quickly investigated, he could find no evidence that it was hurled by pranksters.

I called Gloria Daniels recently and asked her if anybody had come up with an explanation for the falling tomatoes, and she said nobody had.

"It's a mystery," she said.

I asked her if she had been in touch with anybody at "The X-Files," and she said she'd never heard of it. This is a shame, if you ask me, because this incident could be the basis for a terrific episode. Of course, to make it sufficiently dramatic, they might have to alter a few facts slightly. They'd have some scene in an abandoned warehouse, wherein agents Scully and Mulder, their faces tense, their guns held out in front of them, are going from darkened room to darkened room, stalking - and being stalked by - a mutant bloodsucking zucchini the size of Shaquille O'Neal.

But my central point is that, wherever these tomatoes were coming from, they would never have represented a threat to innocent people, and neither would the cows, and neither would the New York building chunks, if they had not been attracted to the earth by gravity. FACT: Gravity is a contributing factor in nearly 73 percent of all accidents involving falling objects. And yet the so-called "federal government" does nothing! So I guess it's up to you and me. Me, I'm going to lie down.