Okay, I owe Tony Bourdain a good bit of karmatic equity. The banter in those Treme kitchen scenes didn’t exactly write itself, after all.
So I am pretty much trying to say yes to my boy when he calls me and says he’s subbing for Mr. Morgan on CNN and he wants me to guest on a segment with David Carr of the NYT. I don’t do the talking-head cable shtick often, especially not on complicated issue-talk because the format is too cramped to progress a real discussion. I’m up for a little nonsense if I have a show that I’m trying to pitch, or if it’s some wordy, hour-long PBS thing where the asides can have asides, but otherwise, no. And this is quick and dirty. And I’ve got nothing on air to plug at the moment, and nothing recently published. But still, it’s Bourdain. I owe the guy. And, at the end of the email, noting that the other half of his show is all-foodie talk, he writes: “And cronuts!”
Talk about burying the lede.
So, okay, if I’m gonna get to shovel in a cronut or two, then game on. I’m on the morning Acela up to New York, and I’m on time to the green room. No complaints as they pancake my Baltimore tan in the make-up room, or when they run the damn mike up the back of my shirt. Tony wants me to do facts-and-figures foil on the drug war while he and Dave Carr crack wise about their now-legendary journeys through the great diaspora of addiction? Okay, I’ll be their straight man. He wants to nail down the intricacies of national security issues and civil liberties with a few, flip minutes at the end, I’ll do my best, though I knew I was on a fool’s errand when PRISM and phone metadata were conflated in the first question. We’re not going to sort that mess in the next two minutes, but no matter, because I’m a well-pimped pro turning a trick here. In four and a half minutes, when we clear this set, I will embrace New York’s great dessert provocation of the moment. Speak of the devil, as Coleridge said, and his horns appear, right? Right?
Well, let it be known that Dave Carr and I were escorted off-stage a couple hours ago, after the taping, only to be handed a wet-wipe each for the makeup.
“Where are the cronuts?” asked the redoubtable Mr. Carr.
“The problem is we think we only have enough for the audience,” he was told.
Me? I’m from Baltimore. I’m used to coming to New York and having this happen. So I manage little more than a pout at this point. Mr. Carr, however, relentless Timesman that he is, puts up the good fight: ”My agent negotiated a cronut. I say this with all sincerity: I am here for the cronut.”
“Me, too,” I echo pathetically.
“Let me see what I can do,” offers the most sympathetic handler.
“A cronut was part of this deal,” Mr. Carr says to me, firmly. ”I don’t do this except for the cronut.”
“He used an exclamation point,” I offer, remembering Tony Bourdain’s email.
The comment doesn’t quite track and Mr. Carr assesses me for the simpering out-of-towner I am, a chump who has clearly bounced his way in through the Lincoln Tunnel on a turnip cart. Eventually, the handler comes back with what is perhaps a quarter of a cronut on a plate, cut in half. Mr. Carr allows that I can have the second piece, even though I have done little to secure such. We partake and the plate is bare-ass naked a second or two later. Then we depart, even more bitter and misshapen a pair of beings as this world had otherwise rendered us. But now, on the Acela riding south, I find my voice finally in these words, as my hands drift across the keyboard and I think of all the slings and arrows, neglects and denials that I have endured in six decades of life, going back even to my earliest and most savage moments on grade-school playgrounds and in nursery playpens, and I do declare in full view of the entire world:
Tony Bourdain, you lying sonofabitch, you owe me a motherfucking cronut.