“All life is a blur of Republicans and meat,” according to the teachings of Zippy the Pinhead, comic-strip surrealist. Yet, despite its intended purpose as absurd haiku, Zippy’s great non-sequitur was brought to terrible life last evening, with the appearance of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie before the assembled 2012 Republican National Convention. It is churlish to join in the uncharitable remarks about the governor’s excessive tonnage, but it is also necessary to observe: that is one jumbo sumbitch. (Readers of the New Republic magazine collectively estimated the gubernatorial mass at 334 pounds.)
Assessing last night’s rousing speech from this rising political star, anyone might gather that the G.O.P. acronym stands for “Gimme One-more Pastrami.”
Perhaps I’m not in the best position to provide careful analysis of the big fellow’s remarks, since I was unable to sit through a single moment of the televised convention coverage. The speechifyin’ from Tampa seemed, at worst, a virtual-reality gathering of simulated life-forms, and, at best, a lost episode of the “SCTV” series, with Christie channeling John Candy (“I’m Harry, the guy wid’ a snake tattooed on my face!”), while the tightly-wound Missus Mitt was revealing her inner Catherine O’Hara.
This was the moment McLuhan and others warned us about, when public affairs programming became indistinguishable from Saturday morning animated cartoons. Finally, we must confront the question: Am I listening to the chief executive of a populous mid-Atlantic state, or, hey-hey-hey, is it time again for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids?
Fortunately, for occasions such as this, when reality becomes hallucinatory, there is always blessed escape through Reality Television – and last night afforded a bounteous feast of non-convention viewing, offering a clear choice between the confederacy of lame-o Republicans, and one masterful Publican.
On cable, reliable old Spike TV was offering up a marathon evening of back-to-back episodes of “Bar Rescue,” starring the admirable Jon Taffer. The premise of this program is that everything you saw during the 11-year run of the “Cheers” sitcom was some kind of foul lie.
It turns out that the warmth and good-fellowship you thought you were paying for, along with your Bud, were illusory. Taverns aren’t necessarily jolly places where everybody knows your name; they can be dank, depressing crud-holes populated by thieves and imbeciles. And tavern-owners, as a race, tend to be unqualified, unlucky, and unhygienic, and in their last, desperate hour — with bank manager, suppliers and health inspectors each baying for payment – suddenly they will become needy, and turn to an experienced pub maven to save their pathetic livelihood.
That would be Mr. Taffer, whose rescue techniques are based on nearly four decades of successful bar management and ownership. He really does look the role. Pop-eyed, saggy-faced and turned out in inelegant haberdashery, he comes across like the actor Tommy Lee Jones after an especially rough weekend homecoming of the Bayonne School of Bar-tending, Class of ’65. His one-hour program is a blithe rip-off of Gordon Ramsay’s premise from “Restaurant Nightmares” (and more recently,”Hotel Hell”), but Mr. T. gets away with it, because he unflinchingly sets out to fix the kind of scummy dives Ramsay would never enter on a double-dog dare.
No. When your pub’s in a jam, Taffer’s your man. Got a problem? Waitress constantly late for her shift? Hired goon getting overly sticky-fingered in the act of making change? Fry cook not acquainted with hand-washing? Mr. Taffer will recommend excising the bad actors, and purging the worst practices. He will insist that the decomposed rat be removed from behind the refrigerator, and will demand the maintenance of pristine, fungus-free tubing betwixt tap and beer-keg.
And as much as the Garden State governor seems to base his persona on Jackie Gleason’s fictitious character of Joe the Bartender, you can’t imagine him achieving Taffer’s clean-apron standard of tavern stewardship. Christie would be the kind of barman who would always reach barehanded into the pickled-egg jar and the beef-jerky canister, as he frequently helps himself to some delicacies. He would attempt to aid a customer’s efforts to answer an urgent Blackberry e-mail by insisting on making his opinions known, concerning Lindsay Lohan, or various NASCAR drivers.
You’d be exposing yourself to a huge and unnecessary risk just by letting this sort of a person locate, and then open, your bottle of Stella. What on earth would lead anyone, even as obviously inebriated a group as the Republican leadership, to think that such a man as Chris Christie could offer anyone advice about choosing a president?