Sunday, January 31, 2010

Steak of the Union

Every so often it is important we take a break from our glib discussions of restaurants, nostalgic snack items, and the tight-fitting wardrobes of CNN journalists to discuss the weighty and serious issues of the world. The larger, more difficult questions that plague us; whose answers elude us; and whose resolution could change the fate of society. Today, we tackle one such mystery.

Who the fuck is my cab driver talking to?

Seriously – if you’ve ridden in a New York City cab anytime over the past ten years, you’ll agree that every single taxi shares certain characteristics:

• Everyone ignores the bulletproof separator with the little pass-thru dish for your fare;

• The smell of a Christmas Tree-shaped air freshener purchased at a car wash in 1987 is completely useless to obscure the smell of sweat, alcohol, gyros, or – on Sunday mornings – vomit;

• The TV will primarily play commercials punctuated by a weather report for climate conditions you already experienced six hours ago; and

• Your driver will be a non-native English speaker who spends the entire ride on his cell phone, stopping only to tell you that the credit card machine doesn’t work.

I really want to know who my driver is talking to. Is there some sort of Taxi Driver Party Line they all dial in to so they can chat all day? Do they tell funny stories about the long lines at the gas stations on Tenth Avenue, or how every time they try and escape Brooklyn they pick up some hipster near Tompkins Square Park and end up back in Billyburg? Do they bitch about the construction on Broadway or share fantasies about picking off cyclists on the Ninth Avenue bike lane?

And the weirdest part is: Half the time the driver barely speaks. He’s got the ear buds or the headset or the Bluetooth on, but he only says one or two words every ten minutes. I came back from LaGuardia the other day and the driver was clearly on a call the whole time, but in 33 minutes his entire contribution to the call were the words, “Yes,” “Thursday,” “Unh…,” and something that sounded like “Frizzle.” Granted, I make the same intelligent contributions to half the conference calls I end up on, but that’s because I’m usually answering email, eating something that crunches, or trying to figure out what the heck people are talking about.

In all seriousness, though – setting aside the cab driver mystery for a moment – there is something important to discuss this week. The President delivered his latest in a long line of “Inspiring Speeches I Give When My Poll Numbers Tank or I’m Otherwise In Hot Water and Have to Inspire People In Lieu of Actually Accomplishing Something.” To be fair, I thought the State of the Union Address was quite good, and I think we can agree we all learned several things:

• Debbie Wasserman Schultz generally looks like a cartoon frog with a bad hair-do. Every time they cut to her I thought they were broadcasting Shrek’s Wedding.

• At age 50, Scott Brown is about to become the twink of the Senate Republican Caucus. Generally you only see this many old white men get excited about one guy in fetish porn.

• The President cannot talk for more than 45 seconds without punctuating his speech with that gesture where he presses his thumb and forefinger together and pokes the air.

• Samuel Alito sweats.

• No, he sweats a lot.

Truthfully, though I thought the President did a good job framing the debate, I can’t figure out why the Democrats seem to have such a hard time governing. They can’t even seem to explain that healthcare is important to the economy because:

• If companies aren’t hiring, it might be that the high cost of subsidizing group health care prevents them from having enough cash for more jobs;

• If you haven’t gotten a raise – or enough of a raise – in several years, it’s because the skyrocketing costs of health care are eating up your raise;

• If you’re worried about losing your job, think about how much it’s going to suck not to have health insurance if you do. (Boy, I'm using bullet points a lot in this posting!)

I’m worried that we’re never going to break the partisan gridlock in Washington, and the leadership isn’t doing enough to govern around it. The people voted for you; do what you said you’d do rather than worrying it’s unpopular. It’s unpopular because it’s not a law yet – people can’t benefit from it, so all they see is the process of making it. Process stories suck – when I worked in politics the worst media event that could happen to you was a process story. It exposes all the backroom deals, all the brokering, all the things that making governing difficult and that most people don’t understand and end up clouding the merits of the bill they’re debating. This is why Americans have no faith in government and have instead placed their trust in the Apple Corporation and the final season of Lost.

(Are you DYING for the Final Season of Lost to premiere? Me too! Tuesday!!! Yay! Not so impressed by the iPad, though – mostly because I just got a Kindle for Christmas and I hate to have my new toys become obsolete five minutes after I get them.)

I will close with a restaurant review for you today – not in New York, but in Columbus, Ohio – should you ever find yourself there. We’re working on a potential deal in Columbus and I got to spend some time there this week. (Little known fact: Columbus’s sister city is Dresden, Germany. The only apparent explanation is their shared love of root vegetables and Heidi Klum. )

So, if you’re in Columbus, go to the Short North neighborhood and check out Rigsby’s Kitchen. A new American restaurant with an excellent wine selection, Rigsby’s was delicious. The beet salad makes a menu item that’s become boring pulsate with new life, and the Strip Steak I ordered came perfectly cooked atop a Madeira cream sauce that I could have bathed in. Skip dessert though, I swear my cookie plate had Stella D’Oro cookies on it.

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