Betrayal, thy name is Bourdain.

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.


  • This doesn’t belong here but I couldn’t think of where else to post it:

    Is this good news? I think it is…I’m pretty damned cynical in general and specifically on this sort of thing, as I know you are, but I think it’s cause for some small amount of hope.

    • It’s a start. I’d like someone to explain for me how it is up to Mr. Holder to call for it when the whole dynamic seems to be subject to the mandatory minimums and guidelines laid down by the U.S. Sentencing Commission. The U.S. Attorney can always decline to charge drug crimes, but once charged, it’s not in his purview to determine the exposure under the sentencing guidelines. Nor can federal judges be more lenient than the guidelines — unless everyone simply decides to ignore the quarter-century experiment with mandatory federal sentencing guidelines. And Congress and the appeals courts might have something to say about that.

      Seems to me that some laws actually need to be repealed.

      • Yes, of course, these things are all true. I’m just happy someone in some measure of power is even publicly stating it at all, and I agree he’s kinda spitting in the wind here, but still. This is not just A government but the U.S. government here, baby steps are sadly the only option. This might get the proverbial ball rolling…perhaps someone or several someones might listen.

        • It’s better than the U.S. Attorney General not speaking to the dystopia at all, yes. Let’s see how far he’s able to take it as actual policy, rather than a belated, second-term declaration of what he thinks should happen. But I am happy to hear him say the words. No doubt.

    • My reaction is that it is far more intriguing and disturbing than the allegations from Mr. Greenwald.

      This is the actual use of foreign intelligence for domestic law enforcement and not counter-terror. To the extent it has targeted Americans, and to the extent its use has been dishonestly obscured by U.S. prosecutors, it is should be investigated and confronted aggressively. This is actual misuse of the NSA capability, as opposed to the functional use of foreign intelligence — which we are witnessing right now in Yemen.

      Interesting that people are so passionate about Mr. Greenwald’s revelations, but this, by Reuters, reported without hyperbole and involving a direct use of NSA data for actual law enforcement, is being received with such considered calm. Why? Because in one instance, Mr. Greenwald conjured imagery of all of our keystrokes and phone calls being monitored, and we care about our own privacy only. This is being used to catch drug smugglers and drug dealers and well, they are not us. But the first premise was hyperbolic, and this Reuters story is actual. And it is the actual that matters, and the principle that underlies the actual.

      I am actually on holiday with family, or I would have been writing about this. Probably will do so when I come home.

      All of those convicted — either by plea or by trial — utilizing this information ought to immediately appeal. A fundamental of the legal cause used to identify them was not revealed to defense attorneys. And the fact that an alternative “cause” was achieved is fruit of a poisoned tree, legally speaking.

      I think this is where the fight against the NSA capability happens. Not that such capability exists, or that it is used and can be used for appropriate purposes. But here, where it has been employed in domestic law enforcement in ways that are deeply disconcerting.

      • This blog had me rolling. Love Bourdain, glad you could fit some time in to present rationality to our country, and was genuinely sorry for the lack of cronut, lol.

        I do, however, believe that one thing has led to the other, hyperbolic or not 🙁

        Hope you have a good break with the fam, Mr. Simon, and my sincere hope that you will appear on the actual panel on Real Time rather than have just one brief moment at the end for a plug, although either is fine 🙂

      • Sorry to interrupt your holiday with this! Thanks for taking the time to respond. I agree with you: this revelation strikes me as much more disturbing than Greenwald’s reporting on the NSA. Incidentally, the first thing I thought of when I read the Reuters story was the Lester/McNulty illegal wiretap storyline in Season Five of The Wire (not that the circumstances are identical). You guys wrote one hell of a prescient show.

  • Jam this HARD next time you see Anthony and ask him why he secretly loves the Dead and begrudgingly ended his Egypt show with an Egypt ’78 reference???

    • You’re a born editor!!! Eventually, it may be a sickness you can’t deny and you’ll end up eating cheesesteaks in the back of a newsroom at 3 AM on Thanksgiving with an assistant editor and two Agate clerks …

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