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My Afternoon with David Brooks

 

“Recently I took a friend with only a high school degree to lunch. Insensitively, I led her into a gourmet sandwich shop. Suddenly I saw her face freeze up as she was confronted with sandwiches named ‘Padrino’ and ‘Pomodoro’ and ingredients like soppressata, capicollo and a striata baguette. I quickly asked her if she wanted to go somewhere else and she anxiously nodded yes and we ate Mexican.” — David Brooks, NYT columnist

This account by David Brooks reminded me of an awkward encounter I had some years ago with, of all people, David Brooks himself. Fortunately, I made a contemporaneous record of it in my journal, and so can reproduce my experience here with perfect accuracy.

My Afternoon with David Brooks

As agreed, I met David outside his office shortly before three o’clock. Unfortunately, I thoughtlessly chose to drive the Dodge Ram truck, rather than a vehicle more recognizable to him as a personal conveyance. His discomfort was palpable as I got out and showed him how to place his foot on the running board and negotiate his entry into the taller-than-average vehicle. Once inside, I tuned the radio to NPR, hoping that would calm him and take his mind off the atypically high passenger vantage point he now occupied.

When we arrived at our destination, I could tell that David was having second thoughts. The parking lot contained more trucks than Priuses, and it was obvious that he was having a real fish-out-of-water moment. But, to his credit — intrepid journalists, I salute you! — he overcame his fear of the unknown and, with considerable coaxing and assurance from me, got out and walked warily into the lobby.

I knew David had never visited an indoor shooting range, but I guess I expected (foolishly, in retrospect) that he at least knew that they were places where guns were likely to be on display. His reaction upon seeing the low glass case full of rental handguns immediately convinced me that I was mistaken.

“David,” I said, “you’re wearing an awfully nice suit, and the floor really isn’t that clean. Come on, let’s stand up.” It took two of us to uncurl him from a fetal position and get him upright, and it occurred to me that we were never going to get as far as the range itself.

I quickly asked him if he wanted to go somewhere else and he anxiously nodded yes and we caught the new Mapplethorpe exhibit at MOMA.

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Members have made 30 comments.

  1. Profile photo of Caryn Member

    You are delightfully naughty, Henry. Thanks for an afternoon giggle.

    • #1
    • July 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm
    • Like8 likes
  2. Profile photo of Boss Mongo Member

    Outstanding. Thanks.

    • #2
    • July 16, 2017 at 2:07 pm
    • Like5 likes
  3. Profile photo of Muleskinner Member

    My how times have changed. In 1981, I spent the better part of a week sharing a room with Walter Sullivan, who was at the time the Science Editor at the NY Times. He was only supposed to be at the DEW-Line station for a day and overnight, but the weather went down and he was stuck for several days. I can’t imagine Sullivan being uncomfortable in any social situation. He told me about getting outfitted for a trip to Antarctica at Abercrombie and Fitch, whereas most our cold weather gear came from our home town Army Surplus store, but the point of his story was how limited his options were, when you don’t live and work around people who have different experiences.

    • #3
    • July 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm
    • Like6 likes
  4. Profile photo of PHCheese Member

    I think you are just trying to muddy the waters with this Brooks story.

    • #4
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:00 pm
    • Like3 likes
  5. Profile photo of Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette Post author

    PHCheese (View Comment):

    I think you are just trying to muddy the waters with this Brooks story.

    I was going to get to the Russia Russia Russia part eventually.

    • #5
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:06 pm
    • Like9 likes
  6. Profile photo of Richard Easton Member

    You forced him to listen to NPR rather than Pacifica (are they still in existence). You’re a cruel man.

    • #6
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:11 pm
    • Like5 likes
  7. Profile photo of Franz Drumlin Member

    My word, what excellent satire! Whilst chortling I came dangerously close to spraying my table companion with coffee, which would have been a costly faux-pas as it was crafted from hand-picked, organic, fair-trade beans imported from Ethiopia.

    • #7
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:30 pm
    • Like8 likes
  8. Profile photo of Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette Post author

    Franz Drumlin (View Comment):
    My word, what excellent satire! Whilst chortling I came dangerously close to spraying my table companion with coffee, which would have been a costly faux-pas as it was crafted from hand-picked, organic, fair-trade beans imported from Ethiopia.

    All well and good but, unless your table companion is similarly exotic, I’m not impressed.

    • #8
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:32 pm
    • Like6 likes
  9. Profile photo of Muleskinner Member

    Henry Racette: Unfortunately, I thoughtlessly chose to drive the Dodge RAM truck, rather than a vehicle more recognizable to him as a personal conveyance. His discomfort was palpable as I got out and showed him how to place his foot on the running board and negotiate his entry into the taller-than-average vehicle. Once inside, I tuned the radio to NPR, hoping that would calm him and take his mind off the the atypically high passenger vantage point he now occupied.

    Them running boards can be rough on fancy shoes, I hear.

    A college friend of Mrs. Skinner’s married a Frenchman and has been living in Paris for years. Last summer when they came to visit, the car rental place forgot to keep their reservation, and gave them a Ram 1500 quad cab instead. He had never driven a pickup before, but once he figured out how to master the running board (which was a long climb for him), Phillipe was in automotive heaven. He excitedly explained to me how the on-the-go four wheel drive selector, and the other features of the truck worked. “It makes me feel like Jean Wayne!”

    • #9
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm
    • Like21 likes
  10. Profile photo of TG Thatcher
    TG

    Well done!

    • #10
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:35 pm
    • Like2 likes
  11. Profile photo of OldDan Rhody Member

    Muleskinner (View Comment):
    “It makes me feel like Jean Wayne!”

    Well done!

    • #11
    • July 16, 2017 at 3:50 pm
    • Like2 likes
  12. Profile photo of Isaac Smith Member

    Henry Racette (View Comment):

    Franz Drumlin (View Comment):
    My word, what excellent satire! Whilst chortling I came dangerously close to spraying my table companion with coffee, which would have been a costly faux-pas as it was crafted from hand-picked, organic, fair-trade beans imported from Ethiopia.

    All well and good but, unless your table companion is similarly exotic, I’m not impressed.

    Who do you think picked the beans?

    • #12
    • July 16, 2017 at 4:05 pm
    • Like3 likes
  13. Profile photo of Isaac Smith Member

    Wonderful.

    • #13
    • July 16, 2017 at 4:07 pm
    • Like2 likes
  14. Profile photo of Scott Wilmot Member

    Great piece. You had me fooled when I read the front page before clicking “more”. I was thinking, no, this is another one of those satire pieces. But you really did spend time with David – one can’t make this stuff up – very brave of you sir.

    • #14
    • July 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm
    • Like9 likes
  15. Profile photo of Percival Thatcher

    Richard Easton (View Comment):
    You forced him to listen to NPR rather than Pacifica (are they still in existence). You’re a cruel man.

    Now if you really wanted to trigger him …

    • #15
    • July 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm
    • Like4 likes
  16. Profile photo of DocJay Member

    You misunderstood the dude. He was curled up from menstrual cramps and needed Midol.

    • #16
    • July 16, 2017 at 5:11 pm
    • Like5 likes
  17. Profile photo of Muleskinner Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Richard Easton (View Comment):
    You forced him to listen to NPR rather than Pacifica (are they still in existence). You’re a cruel man.

    Now if you really wanted to trigger him

    He would have jumped out of the truck and into traffic with this:

    • #17
    • July 16, 2017 at 6:45 pm
    • Like3 likes
  18. Profile photo of She Moderator
    She

    Henry Racette: The parking lot contained more trucks than Priuses . . .

    Oh, Henry (!)

    It only took this sentence for me to understand why your outing with David Brooks went sideways.

    The plural of Prius isn’t Priuses.

    It’s Prii.

    All David’s friends know that.

    You poseur, you.

    • #18
    • July 17, 2017 at 5:46 am
    • Like12 likes
  19. Profile photo of RyanFalcone Member

    Yeah, I remember when Dave visited me in Pittsburgh. We decided to give him a feel for the city by taking him to a Steeler game. He insisted on asking every beer vendor that walked by if the “Zima fellow” would be coming by shortly? He seemed to enjoy the game or “match” as he referred to it. It got a bit awkward when he asked if we would be able to go down and stomp divots on the field at half-time. Things took an ugly turn when he went to the concession stand and asked for a sandwich without the french fries on it. I tried to cheer him up with some nachos but caught him in my peripheral vision nibbling around the cheese and he appeared to accidentally ingest a jalapeno and went into some sort of convulsion. I haven’t heard from him since.

    • #19
    • July 17, 2017 at 6:27 am
    • Like7 likes
  20. Profile photo of Susan Quinn Contributor

    Very clever, Henry! Thanks!

    • #20
    • July 17, 2017 at 6:38 am
    • Like2 likes
  21. Profile photo of Pilli Member

    RyanFalcone (View Comment):
    Yeah, I remember when Dave visited me in Pittsburgh. We decided to give him a feel for the city by taking him to a Steeler game. He insisted on asking every beer vendor that walked by if the “Zima fellow” would be coming by shortly? He seemed to enjoy the game or “match” as he referred to it. It got a bit awkward when he asked if we would be able to go down and stomp divots on the field at half-time. Things took an ugly turn when he went to the concession stand and asked for a sandwich without the french fries on it. I tried to cheer him up with some nachos but caught him in my peripheral vision nibbling around the cheese and he appeared to accidentally ingest a jalapeno and went into some sort of convulsion. I haven’t heard from him since.

    • #21
    • July 17, 2017 at 9:41 am
    • Like3 likes
  22. Profile photo of Hang On Member

    Henry Racette: “David,” I said, “you’re wearing an awfully nice suit, and the floor really isn’t that clean. Come on, let’s stand up.” It took two of us to uncurl him from a fetal position and get him upright, and it occurred to me that we were never going to get as far as the range itself.

    Try to think very carefully about your words. David, being a journalist, probably takes you literally but not seriously.

    Did you say: “I want to have you for target practice”? If you did (and I suspect you did), then it is very understandable.

    In the future, if you want to have David over for dinner, do not say “We want to have you for dinner sometime.” It could get a very strange response.

    • #22
    • July 17, 2017 at 10:04 am
    • Like3 likes
  23. Profile photo of Peter Meza Member

    ‘It’s Not the Fault of the Sandwich Shop’: Readers Debate David Brooks’s Column

    By LELA MOORE JULY 13, 2017

    ‘Stifling the lower classes with their elitist panini’

    Mr. Brooks’s anecdote about taking a friend to a gourmet sandwich shop, whose menu of Italian cheeses and meats, he said, illustrated the cultural barriers between the more- and less-educated, received much criticism, snark and humor.

    Recently I took a friend with doctoral degree to lunch. Insensitively I led him into a McDonald’s. Suddenly I saw his face freeze up as he was confronted with menu items like “hamburger” and “fries” and ingredients like ketchup, mustard and a sesame seed bun. I quickly asked him if he wanted to go somewhere else, and he anxiously nodded yes, and we ate gluten-free vegan Thai.

    — SB in New York

    After reading David Brooks’ column today I promptly marched into my neighborhood “gourmet” Italian deli and accused them of stifling the lower classes with their elitist panini. With my one year of technical college, I stood my ground and told them in no uncertain terms could they continue to repress us with their melanzana and pecorino.

    — GT in Washington

    • #23
    • July 17, 2017 at 10:08 am
    • Like4 likes
  24. Profile photo of Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette Post author

    Peter Meza (View Comment):

    ‘It’s Not the Fault of the Sandwich Shop’: Readers Debate David Brooks’s Column

    By LELA MOORE JULY 13, 2017

    ‘Stifling the lower classes with their elitist panini’

    Mr. Brooks’s anecdote about taking a friend to a gourmet sandwich shop, whose menu of Italian cheeses and meats, he said, illustrated the cultural barriers between the more- and less-educated, received much criticism, snark and humor.

    Recently I took a friend with doctoral degree to lunch. Insensitively I led him into a McDonald’s. Suddenly I saw his face freeze up as he was confronted with menu items like “hamburger” and “fries” and ingredients like ketchup, mustard and a sesame seed bun. I quickly asked him if he wanted to go somewhere else, and he anxiously nodded yes, and we ate gluten-free vegan Thai.

    SB in New York

    After reading David Brooks’ column today I promptly marched into my neighborhood “gourmet” Italian deli and accused them of stifling the lower classes with their elitist panini. With my one year of technical college, I stood my ground and told them in no uncertain terms could they continue to repress us with their melanzana and pecorino.

    GT in Washington

    Peter, there’s nothing new under the sun. After I wrote and posted the post, it occurred to me that it’d probably been done, and re-done, plenty already.

    But not saying something already said has never been a huge priority for me.

    • #24
    • July 17, 2017 at 10:11 am
    • Like8 likes
  25. Profile photo of profdlp Coolidge

    I took David Brooks fishing and it did not go well. First, he asked me why we had to leave at 6am. Then he showed up carrying his Whole Foods shopping bag (earth-friendly!) and smugly pointed out that no trees would die nor oil be refined so he could carry his fish home. He was delighted when we got into my rowboat and patted me on the back for using my electric trolling motor. (I didn’t have the heart to tell him that my power company still burns coal, which is how I charged the battery.)

    Things got rough when I started slicing up a herring for bait. He got real excited, exclaimed “Oh, you brought sushi!” and popped a piece in his mouth before I could stop him. Too bad I’d already put the hook through it. Here I had planned on fishing for bass and ending up catching a sucker.

    After we got the hook out of the roof of his mouth, we managed to land a nice fish. He looked shocked and asked what those things sticking on it were. After finally figuring out what he was referring to, I told him that they were the head, tail, and fins. He said he’s never seen those before. I’ll stop now, as when we got to the part where we cleaned our catch it got ugly. There was some name-calling involved, and I’m ashamed to say that it went both ways.

    • #25
    • July 17, 2017 at 1:12 pm
    • Like5 likes
  26. Profile photo of EDISONPARKS Member

    Thought Bubble for a Mapplethorpe piece:

    ….. A naked David Brooks in the fetal position cradling a handgun …..

    • #26
    • July 17, 2017 at 1:24 pm
    • LikeLike
  27. Profile photo of Dr. Bastiat Member

    Outstanding!

    • #27
    • July 17, 2017 at 2:06 pm
    • Like1 like
  28. Profile photo of doulalady Member

    Genius.

    • #28
    • July 17, 2017 at 7:26 pm
    • LikeLike
  29. Profile photo of Susie Member

    Thanks for the belly laugh!

    • #29
    • July 18, 2017 at 7:50 am
    • LikeLike
  30. Profile photo of Painter Jean Member

    Brilliant! Thank you!

    • #30
    • July 19, 2017 at 6:37 pm
    • Like1 like