I am such a conflicted loser that I refuse to even approach the WSJ with story ideas cuz I don’t want to support it (#deportallmurdochs), but I have still been complicit for many years in subscribing to the print edition cuz it does such great stuff, on both food and books (the Saturday reviews are like coulibiacs compared with the NYT’s Hot Pockets). So on this most recent Saturday I was treated, having enriched Rupe’s pockets but unable to share, to a smart story on the “fast-fine” trend in dining and an exquisite essay on T’s ICE brownshirts killing apple towns. The former made it clear that workers will be the first expense tossed off the ship on the brave new sea of RestoWorld (let the paying customers and the iPads do the heavy lifting). The latter lyrically spelled out how fear is crippling a town that had been revived by immigration. “Oaxaca in a Wyeth painting,” indeed.
Whenever I see a photo these days of the Big O living it up in a restaurant somewhere around the world, I sadly realize again how much the presidency has been diminished. We officially now have a giant peach-colored toddler banging his fork on the table for an overcooked steak with ketchup. America is no longer leader of the food world.
I quit reading the Sunday Arts & Leisure section literally decades ago after a couple of theater people I met at a dinner party pointed out the obvious: It is nothing but promo copy to fill up the spaces around, and justify, the theater/movie/gallery ads. The food pages of course have no ads, so there really is no excuse for a huge feature that amounted to a press trip for which subscribers paid by kicking in to pay “journalist” salaries. I mean, really? Signing on to shill for a teevee show as a way to explore a story you could find literally in the backyard with all the cheap-and-shitty Thai restos on Ninth?
Then again, on one of my increasingly regular trips to the consort’s hometown, I happened upon a laudatory story in the hometown paper on how all the local taxpayer dollars were paying off in high-profile coverage of a city that has been, for at least 10 years, a food scene happening in plain sight. Lede: “America’s favorite city. One of the top places to see in 2016. A top 10 food city in America. These are the accolades that Travel & Leisure, CNN and National Geographic, respectively, have showered on Buffalo recently. Over the past few years, writers from USA Today, The New York Times, popular travel media and newspapers nationwide have visited the Queen City and shared their intrigue and, ultimately, their love . . . Last year, we were able to influence well over 230 stories, and some of them, of course, went viral in other ways. They had a media value of $4.1 million.” How much was in “clean” coverage? And how did we get to this so-called president, anyway? On Kerala wings?
Weird jetsam gets caught in my cranial sieve. Whenever I pass the Puck Building, as I did the other night on the way to a friend’s play in the East Village, I flash back on the Wall Street wedding we went to there a full 30 years ago. I commented that the passed food was surprisingly good and the best man, standing next to me, threw his toothpick onto the tray and spat: “It should be. It cost a fucking fortune.” Did I mention it was a Wall Street wedding? And they’re back . . .