Archive for category: Prose Work

Pickles and Cream

18 Jul
July 18, 2012

The following is reprinted with permission from Lucky Peach #4, published by McSweeney’s.  It is on sale now.  And, yes, payment for this essay will require co-publisher David Chang slaving over a hot stove.

Bernard Simon

 

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I want to embrace the best of the kitchen.

But if DNA is destiny, and genetics holds any sway at all over the human palate, then I have much—probably too much—to overcome.

The Simons come from peasant stock, and by that I don’t mean the countryside of Alsace or Tuscany or any other place where cuisine makes the days true and beautiful, where gardens and orchards and farms and village butchers conspire for a cuisine both purposeful and ingeniously simple. We are not the progeny of any agrarian ideal worthy of Impressionist paintings.

No, my father’s people were kicked-to-the-ground-by-Cossacks peasants, wandering Pale of Settlement Yids who lived with one or two bags always packed and spent the early moments of the last century running ahead of whatever Jew-hating militia was on whichever side of the Polish-Russian border. Like fodder for an Isaac Babel story, we hauled ass from pogrom to pogrom, dragging our huddled mass west until a sign said NEW JERSEY.

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Mr. Bealefeld’s Come-To-Jesus Moment

14 Jul
July 14, 2012

Embedded in a recently published interview of former Baltimore commissioner Fred Bealefeld is an extraordinary utterance — something that would and should be a lot more heralded if America were paying sufficient attention to the growing costs and failings of its drug prohibition:

“Professionally,” declares Mr. Bealefeld in a brief interview with the Baltimore Sun Magazine,  “I think our war on drugs has failed…We invested a lot of this country’s blood and resources and didn’t achieve the results. Developing real educational and job opportunities for somebody would have been much more meaningful in neighborhoods than some of the work we built into putting people in jail. That’s why I think it was so misguided. We wound up alienating a lot of folks in building this gigantic jail system in our country.”

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A Fight To The Last Mexican

10 Jul
July 10, 2012

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”

So wrote Thomas Paine against monarchy, the morally bankrupt ethos of his day.  But then, it was a less fearful time, and the political leaders of Paine’s moment were scarcely risk-adverse.  Indeed, they were willing to address the moral questions before them to the point of treason.

Not so today, when we can hold a national political contest and neither candidate — nor their respective parties — can find the courage to speak a word about the policy disaster and dishonorable fraud that is the American drug war.

So here, for the hell of it – and because it can never happen in American political discourse – let’s take a solitary moment to be honest with ourselves about why we remain addicted to drug prohibition. Read more →

Columbia Journalism Review: Free For All

05 Jun
June 5, 2012

For the last few days, I’ve been heartily engaged in the comments section of a couple CJR items that originated from the New Orleans Times-Picayune‘s travails.  I advocate for the industry-wide adoption of online pay walls to sustain high-end journalism. Others regard this as a disastrous suggestion.

As the comments began to pile up, I saw some insight and a lot of argumentative fallacy.  People do love to call names.

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The Great Chuck Brown Has Passed

16 May
May 16, 2012

Just heard the news that the father of D.C. go-go has died.  He was 75.

Having heard Big G, The Backyard Band and the Soul Searcher horn section bring their funk to New Orleans last Friday, the news lands strangely.  The guys on the stage of Tipitina’s last week are very much the proud children of Mr. Brown and his Soul Searchers.

This man, who invented a musical genre and grooved so hard and for so long, is not yet in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.   The Dave Clark Five, however, are comfortably settled in the shrine.

Argument enough to burn that motherfucker down to the Lake Erie waterline.