Now I’ve heard everything — I’ve been accused of going too easy on Panchito. But I think one of my e-correspondents is right in noting that ignoring his own recent takedown of inaccessible restaurants while favorably reviewing a new one does look like “sucking up” to a boss temporarily in a wheelchair. Ten whacks with a crutch for him for not raising his consciousness for real.
Maybe if Panchito had not been so distracted by towel snaps on the butt we would not have had to wait all these years for Vicente Fox to reveal that the Chimp is afraid of horsies, and the world might have been spared a fraudulent Cowboy in Chief. The detail is not surprising, but just imagine how far Molto Ego would have gotten if anyone thought he was scared of pigs.
Of all the dispiriting details in excerpts of the new “Dead Wrong,” the most stomach-churning had to be those describing the Chimp at trough, wadding cheese into his maw and spewing hot dog fragments while talking with his mouth full. Now we indubitably know “honor and dignity” in the White House really means a child with his boots on the people’s irreplaceable desk demanding, “Bring me an ice cream.” Which he needs, he admits, because he craves the sugar in booze. Surely Panchito could have passed along these kinds of tidbits in time to warn the world a disastrous boor was headed for power-drunkenness. He got seduced. And we got the sloppy seconds.
Steve Cuozzo has officially established himself as alpha dog in this town. He proclaims the Upper West Side a dining destination and the pack falls right in line, including the teacup Chihuahua who is considered the pit bull. Funny that the homecity paper will barely cover bad news out of Walter Reed or Baghdad if the competition breaks it, but a right-in-plain-sight story gets regurgitated online like a particularly tasty hairball. Maybe blogs are the new editorials.
For all the gnashing of artificially whitened teeth over the sale of the Journal to the Anti-Zenger, though, no one seems to be commenting on the precipitous slide of two other hometown papers. The Daily News — where the writing has gotten so relentlessly slipshod that “perpetrator” has now become “sleazeball” in crime stories — has pretty much thrown in the paper towel on food on Sundays, running nothing but text-free book and magazine excerpts that are guaranteed to make a paying reader wonder why she needs the Internets. (Oh. Right. Content is free.) And the Pretentious Broadsheet? It appears to be trying to out-Rupe Murdoch. I mean, really. If your best anecdote has to be a couple of years old, does your feature qualify as a news story? Or are you just trying to tantalize enough to drive up web traffic? For a newspaper obsessed with every perfumed passing of Papiere-Riche gas, it seems oddly unable to deliver examples of how those overpaid boors really behave. I still remember horrific behavior at Montrachet right before the 1987 crash; assholes are always in ascendancy in places of ostentatious consumption in boom times. But as far as I read, this was one big yawn laced with urban legends. And as someone who has been in newspapers since high school in the Mimeograph Era, I’m not bitter so much as sad. Once upon a time you needed three examples to validate a trend story. Now you may think all you need is the first three letters in titillation, but somehow I suspect there’s a certain sly old fox who will always beat you at his unsavory game.
After our first meal in Rome, it seemed even more laughable that Panchito was ever plucked out of foreign correspondenthood to be restaurant critic. Eating there makes Manhattan look like the Bois de Boulogne with multiple three-stars; it’s even riskier than Venice or Florence. The trattoria we braved in a Sunday afternoon panic was so dispiriting I wanted to tell the chef when he passed me on the way to the bathroom: “You should be ashamed of yourself.” But then anyone who spends a few years facing down lukewarm cannelloni sauced with the same anemic tomato cream as the “special” ravioli would probably be just the guy Moltoville needed.