The article about “radical chef” David Chang in the 3/24 New Yorker was pretty interesting. I totally sympathize with smart chefs trying to figure out the best path in this bizarre new world of TV shows, million dollar restaurants and the cult of celebrity chefdom. My affections for Chang were somewhat dampened when I found out his first restaurant was financed by his father, but just because my father was a drug dealer who only financed his own nose doesn’t mean I should blame people who make something and work hard with the things they are given. And if my parents ever helped me out I wouldn’t be able to whine so much and look down on people whose parents do the same, so maybe all is well in the end, as I do so love to whine. (Note to father, who apparently reads ye olde blog from time to time, now all post-prison and living in the living hell that is Texas – with of course apologies to Marfa and Austin – and periodically sending me pathetic little letters all about how he lurves me or some shit, which I throw away without opening): yes, I still hate you. Please send a five figure check for my student loans to me care of my mother in Chicago – seeing letters from you makes me sick. I’ll still hate you, but it’s the least you can do.)
ANYWAY. Phew, that was off track, but sometimes it just feels so good to publicly hate on ya pops, doesn’t it? Truth me told, I can’t stand to write the word “father” without having to go on some digression about how deeply and fully and passionately I hate mine. Usually I manage to keep it silent, but what the hell.
I highly recommend forgetting all the new agey bullshit about loving your enemies, by the way. A few years ago I gave in to full, pure, crystalline hatred of my father, and it’s so wonderful. So free. So fresh. A douche for my heart. A douche to douche away the douchiest douche in the universe. Are we ever free to truly love the universe until we admit that we will always hate the man who made our childhoods pure terror? The day I admitted it and stopped trying to hide it or pretend that someday we would reconcile, all the blackness in my heart associated with my childhood just washed away – water swirling down a drain. The shame was gone, because by admitting how much I hate my father I was able to tell myself a truth I’d never fully believed: it wasn’t my fault. Truly – until I was about 25 a part of me believed that some of it was my fault – the drugs and guns and violence and fear and scary people and poverty and filth – how could it have been my fault? How could I have let myself believe that? Somehow, a little piece of me had.
Then my mom wrote a novel about the whole experience. It was her exorcism, and you could feel how good it felt for her on every page. Airing it out. I can’t believe she had the strength to do it. It must have been like having a child – all that pain and weight, heaving it out into the world – something you had to get of your body, something you had to escape. It killed me to read the manuscript, I sped read it with my stomach clenching, involuntarily rocking back and forth, sometimes shaking so bad I couldn’t turn the page. But I read it.
The next day I woke up and started writing in my own journal. I wrote all day, remembered everything, remembered it my way, wrote everything down, and when the sun was setting I wrote: I hate him. I hate him, I don’t have to forgive him, I won’t let people tell me I have to get rid of this hatred, I won’t let people tell me I have to forgive him.
I will always hate him, and when he dies the hatred will die and fade into memories that hurt like a bruise: don’t press too hard, and it will heal. I got up from the chair, and felt all the pain and shame washing away, washed away by clean, sharp hatred – hatred like a knife, cutting away the bad bits in order to save the whole. My heart. My father – you’re out of it. My hatred – a tempered chop of carbon steel, finely sharpened and honed – sliced you away a long time ago. My father. I love the world with a deep, caring love, but I will be happy when you die.
So…where were we…David Chang. OK, the article is all about how he’s trying to save his sanity while being the new kind of famous chef dude that everyone wants him to be. Though he’s only thirty, it seems pretty obvious that he’s going to have a heart attack or aneurysm and die soon from his stress unless he figures out a way to make peace with his ambition and the recognition of his humanity. It’s a weird article for the NYer, more like an intervention than a profile. But a great window into why most NYC famous chef dudes are so fucking nuts. So:
“In Europe, he knows, there are great chefs who open just one restaurant and are happy with that. They have families, they take vacations, they see their friends. On a recent trip to France…he…had an epic meal in Paris at Pascal Barbot’s restaurant, L’Astrance. The kitchen was tiny, and the restaurant had only twenty-five seats. It was open Tuesday through Saturday. It closed in August. And it had three Michelin stars. That was integrity, Chang felt; that was dignity. But in America, somehow, a career like Barbot’s just didn’t seem possible.”
Why doesn’t it seem possible?
“Sometimes he imagines a way out [of his crazy stressy life]…He could start up some kind of project in New York like Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard where kids learn to grow their own crops and work in a garden. Growing vegetables, keeping animals, teaching people about food – he would love that…But then he thinks about all the people working for him, and relying on him, and how they could get rich if he gets rich and then could do whatever they wanted, and the farm thing seems kind of small.”
Um….the anarchist’s mind boggles.