The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Bush Country Faces Grim Shortages of Latte, Galleries
[ed. note - via Andrew Sullivan, Sridar Pappu at the NY Observer reports that the NY Times is putting on their pith helmets for a dangerous safari to explore the conservative jungle. It prompted me to pull out this old piece that I wrote for CNS in August 2001. For a related piece, see In New York, Scrappy Local Newspaper Struggles For Survival.
Extra note to Times staff who stumble upon this: Bwana! Raita Winga place danja danja, bad mojo! Me makey good guide boy, two dolla!]
Crawford, Texas - As the relentless midday Texas sun broils overhead, Beverly Bowers makes her monthly four-mile trek to the Crawford Craft Fair and Flea Market, her only protection the six-zone air conditioning system of her 1999 Chevrolet Suburban.
Bowers, 56, will spend the next two hours scouring the bric-a-brac, refrigerator magnets, Beanie Babies and Hummel porcelain, searching for a treasure with which to decorate her aesthetically modest, if sprawling, ranch house. A gaudy wide-eyed 'Precious Moments' ballerina figurine catches her eye, and she pauses to admire it.
As I point out the ironic similarities between the grotesque piece and the deliberately kitschy mega-sculpture of Jeff Koons in his pre-Ciccolina ouvre, Bowers gives me a quizzical glance.
"Who's Jeff Koons?"
Haute Cuisine, Drag Shows Noticeably Absent
While shocking, Bowers' question underscores the growing cultural underclass in America; a voiceless society deprived of even the most basic access to transgressive sculpture, conceptual performance spaces, experimental cuisine, cutting-edge urban fashion, or drag queen pageants.
For most members of the Washington and New York media, their existence had, until recently, been only a vague rumor. But a jolting reality awaited those consigned to this remote hamlet to cover the working vacation of President George W. Bush.
E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post described a common experience of the visiting press. "When I arrived in Crawford, I had a sudden craving for a quick brioche and mineral water, and set out in search of a decent Belgian patisserie," he recalled. "Two hours later, the horrible truth dawned on me. In Crawford, there are no decent Belgian patisseries."
Panic stricken, Dionne said he began asking for help from local passers-by.
"I kept asking them, 'where can I get a brioche? Where can I get a brioche?', only to see blank stares," he recalled. "Finally, one man in a pickup truck said he hadn't heard of that brand of beer, but offered me a Shiner Bock."
It was a scene that would be constantly repeated throughout the first weeks of the Bush retreat; dozens of panicked media professionals wandering the streets of Crawford, searching in vain for alternative weeklies, gallery openings and Peruvian-Vietnamese tapa parlors, only to be met with blank stares and offers of free beer. The experience stunned many.
Primitive Accommodations; Making Do
"I spent at least three hours yesterday hailing a cab, with no luck," noted Frank Bruni, the New York Times' White House correspondent. "I guess I'll just have to take the subway."
"I thought three years living in a rural backwater like Seattle, Washington would prepare me for the primitive conditions of Crawford," added visibly shaken Slate correspondent Bryan Curtis. "That was before I spent six straight mornings without a venti double mocha skim latte."
His eyes welling, Curtis described how he was forced to survive on 89-cent coffee from the Chevron Gas Mart.