Back in the old neighborhood, where all shall in due course of time be eatin’ good, there was a shouting match turned fistfight over slow service and a refund demand at the Red Lobster in York. One of my best friends lives in York, but not exactly, and in the course of my semiannual to quarterly visits I often stop by the Panera just up East Market–Downeast Mackit–from the Red Lobster, both of which are also in York, but not exactly.
This may sound pedantic or nitpicky, but it is entirely germane. “York” is an exceptionally sloppy synecdoche. York City is a tightly ringfenced inner city, with tiny pockets of affluence (deep downtown; the last few blocks of East Market before the Interstate 83 bypass and the Springettsbury Township line), but otherwise a racially diversified but powerfully class-stratified ghetto/barrio/all-purpose slumscape with terrible housing stock and one of the perennially lowest-testing public school districts in the Pennsylvania we never should even have tried to find. Commonwealth or our own personal wealth, standardized test scores say jack fucking shit about what the students taking them are actually learning, but they’re a serviceable proxy for test prep resources, which are again the most retarded thing ever–you really might as well grab a hot dog at the Special Olympics concessions or Bear River Pump-n-Play–but are the kind of US News & World Report-ass horseshit that the normies believe, and the normies vote.
The credible external proxies of student performance in York City are predictably horrible for a district that doesn’t even cheat its way into excellence under the Atlanta Standard. An east-west transect on Market and Philadelphia or north-south transect on George yields a few reasonably prosperous blocks and dozens of blocks that scream food desert and lead poisoning.
In shorthand, it’s a sacrifice zone. The semispeakable stipulation of the fixation on test scores in a ringfenced district like the YCSD is that staying in school will help graduates move up and out. I don’t plan to check whether the Red Lobster offers its employees free Rabbit Transit passes or expects them to have diplomas if they’re of age. The only reason I ever looked up the location of the “York” Red Lobster (moron this shortly) was for excellence in shitposting. I must have seen it dozens of times, but I never took note. #NoRegrets.
It’s absolutely mad to cling to the debased Clintonian version of the GI Bill education ethic in a purposely hollowed-out postindustrial shithole surrounding a Gentry Village amusement park downtown four decades after the big late-postwar push to bust the unions and a quarter century into the NAFTA era. We used eminent domain to clear the last of the Mohicans out of one of the inner-city slums for an urban renewal minor league ballpark across a set of disused railroad tracks from the Greyhound depot, and the Doghouse is diagonally across downtown from the transit center, but at least we’ve got an economy again.
Yeah, sure. Hate to break it to yous, but the suburban kids who grew up without the nutritional deficiencies and chronic domestic chaos and lead poisoning have a leg up on the neighborhood homies for the server jobs on near North George. Is that a problem? Nonrhetorical question; answers optional. Remember, Fat Cracka is allergic to tests. (Mostly.) It’s the same deal as Inner Harbor, only more so: the most diligent westside normies can get jobs serving crab meals to racist assholes from Bel Air, so Baltimore must be doing all right. Freddy Gray, please report to a White People Courtesy Telephone.
If we try to collate a granular, accurate survey of who exactly is involved in the restaurant business as lenders, beneficial owners, managers, and line employees, plus who’s theoretically involved but oddly unemployed with no real prospect of getting hired, we start to see an image very different from the official story we hear on WGAL. /Sturdily local on-air voice/ Reporting from York, same putz my ex-wife always said I was, I’m Ed Whinestock. Back to you, Kim.
That’s a Township grad right there. Kim, that is; I know enough about Ed already. I have it on solid authority that Jack Hubley is a class act but Kim Lemon is a sneering piece of shit. Pennsylvania has, as a thick moist New Yorker might say, many such townships, but Manheim Township is generally reputed to be one of Lancaster County’s better public school districts. Again, this is meaningless, and if you can’t afford K-12 tuition you need to immediately check with Rod Dreher for Benedict Option homeschooling curricula; just because Rod’s a bit of a poseur about his own shtick doesn’t mean you have to be one, too. Since we’re off and on the subject, I should probably mention that I’ve helped out with plaguetime homeschooling activities on visits to /Borat Voice/ my part-time wife, allowing me to say from personal experience that even if the curriculum is retarded, there’s no need to involve a teacher who may also be.
Kim, tho. I was enrolled at schools within forty miles of Harrisburg from fourth grade through fancy boy college. Ever since my parents and I left Palo Alto in 1992, and no, not the dump up by Pottsville, I’ve had an ear to the ground, sometimes consistently, sometimes intermittently, with locals ranging from piss-poor ghettoside juvenile delinquents with homemade Mercedes hood ornament necklaces to rednecks who knew to look for turkey under white oaks to farmers and factory workers to restaurateurs to doctors and nurses to C-List and A-List regional industrialists. It didn’t particularly surprise me to learn that Kim Lemon is a bitch, or that Jack Hubley is a mensch, although when I heard the latter it was the first time I’d thought of him in years and it took me a second to place him. Lemon is somebody I don’t usually feel compelled to contemplate. At least Weinstock is fun, a fellow we can all laugh at for never laughing at or with a thing. Lemon is roughly as self-serious, but even when she puts on a sunny, lighthearted act, she doesn’t quite have what it takes.
There seems to be some, shall we say, sociology explaining why Kim Lemon hasn’t left town. Local distances in the area between the Blue Ridge, the Delaware, and the Mason-Dixon Line have become deceptively short for me since I’ve moved back west, so I looked up directions from Manheim Township High School to the WGAL studio, and if we cut the crap about Blue Detours, Red Detours, and other, more colorless detours, she works seven miles from her high school alma mater. So if it isn’t just a set of one-off interpersonal reactions that has the same person who loved chatting with Saturday Morning Critter Friend convinced that Kim’s trash, and I doubt it is, she’s alienated plenty of her neighbors. Lancaster has a metropolitan population of over a hundred thousand and a densely populated quasirural agricultural hinterland with hundreds of thousands more, but Kim Lemon is one of its most prominent public citizens. She’s been on air on WGAL forever. It should be a liability for her to be known around town as an incorrigible fucking bitch.
It should have been a liability for Diddlin’ Dennis to’ve done what J. Denny Dundiddly done. It took a while for the old boy’s wrestling days to catch up with him and pin him down for a spell in Minnesota, in a home full of companions on the prairie. On the plus side, at least they’re men, same thing Larry Craig might want to point out about David Karsnia. It’s called a MEN’S ROOM. Kim Lemon, by contrast, is apparently just a huge asshole, and America has basically no idea of how to police verbal antisocial aggression if it isn’t Clarence Thomas smutty. Plus she’s on the tube. The average on-air television and radio personality is manifestly batshit insane, and not all Wesley Willis-like Jim Sim told me to stop yelling again, either. They don’t allow themselves that much insight into their own condition. The prevalence of visible, audible, severe substance abuse, personality, and mood disorders among broadcast hosts and reporters is stratospheric. The business mostly just accepts their maladjustment and bad behavior. There’s a mythology around the old-school newspapermen (and women!), that they were all abrasive, moody drunks; the current crop of sellouts at Sinclair, who have the same personal problems but suck all ass at their jobs, inevitably seize on the old guard’s mythology and steal their repute for themselves.
There’s a broader point that I was starting to make about small towns and the reputational risks of being antisocial within them, as their community members. These risks are pretty negligible. The privileges that attached to Harvey Weinstein easily attached to Dennis Hastert. No homo, he was just the wrestling coach. He just took an interest in the development of boys who took an interest in grabass rolling around on the floor with other boys. Good God, at least Gateside Downlow is some kind of rancher. Like, Coach is having his usual straight one, but look, I’m not gay, but Coach is always trying to get it from me for free, like he doesn’t have $20. Adolescent and, God help us, children’s athletic programs are replete with perverts who use them as grooming grounds, as Lawrence of the Labia showed through his career of all-ages medical interest in young women, a constituency also cherished by one Brett Michael Kavanaugh.
Kim doesn’t even have to specifically intimidate or mutually blackmail anyone in Lancaster County to keep getting her way. She’s set. But what’s the point to staying in school, then? Why study so hard and chase grades? Is it to grow up to be like her, with money and fame but no class?
Duh. Of course it is! This is the point of school rankings and district rankings and “good neighborhoods” with “good schools” and the SAT and the ACT and all the new state- and federally-mandated standardized assessments of proficiency in the core curriculum and whatever the fuck else we’re calling education. The normies can’t imagine another way to claim a survivable place in the pecking order. It’s certainly also a convenient way for suburbanites to blame the local poor, rundown urban core for its socioeconomic problems. We’re ranking every school district in the state in a way that will inevitably leave one of them at the hard bottom, probably one that’s poorly funded and has a hollowed-out tax base, but gosh, they must just not study hard enough or know how to teach. We put everybody in the schools and most of the workforce under an additional cognitive load for trying to comply with the dead weight of the assessments, but we scheme to have better guidance counselors at our own kids’ schools and less lead in the water.
Maybe our national cognitive load can help explain why so many voters and officials drive through sacrifice zones like York City and conclude that the point of failure was the schools.
York City is ringfenced even harder than I realized until I looked closely at a map of the city limits for this poast. I’d mistakenly assumed that the fancy swath of the south side from Reservoir Park to the Country Club was within the city limits. It is not. The hospital campus is mostly but not entirely within the city limits.
So of course the Red Lobster isn’t actually in York. It’s in Springettsbury Township. Yes, I’m fully aware that York is a county, too. It doesn’t matter. As I wrote near the start, “York” is a terrible synecdoche. It’s almost inevitably misleading. So much of the urban squalor, poverty, and dysfunction have been redlined in, and so much of the prosperity and stability redlined out, that the city-township distinctions are crucial. The York Fair isn’t even in York, and it’s right across Carlisle Avenue from a really shitty part of town that is. The municipal redlining is extreme. The shape of York City is gerrymandered in ways that have no real relationship to the lay of the land or the extent of the cityscape. Nobody in Springettsbury was ever about to let the city annex Memory Lane; plenty for it to chew on on its side of 83.
Yes, “York” does have a Memory Lane. This might explain some things. Do you remember those days hangin’ out in our engineer boots at the Panera, Sarah? We couldn’t wait for graduation day, whoa-oh-oh/ we took the car and went to Endless Shrimp. Red Lobster is just east of Memory Lane. This has to be an exceptionally bad Hemingway novel. Look, we’ve got values out here. Mostly property values. We aren’t letting the city get ahold of that joint for its tax base.
This is something the driveling press corps idiots who enthuse about “Panera Democrats” will never tell you, so I will: When we hear about yokels in Erie or Youngstown or Cincinnati or Pittsburgh them some Trump and some Applebee’s, the reporters don’t know that what they really mean are residents of white flight suburbs unheard of three or four counties away. They dredge up miserable geezers from diner booths in Erie City to piss and moan about the Mexicans and whatever, omitting that Erie County, not just the city, voted for Hillary Clinton.
That’s most of who needs to eat at Red Lobster right now: low-key affluent suburbanites. The famous schlocky chain restaurants aren’t all that cheap. I had a plate of Boston Garden takeout once, and it was terrible. Olive Garden looks shitty, so I have no intention of making that pilgrimage. I’m not sure that I haven’t even been to Red Lobster, but I can’t recall going to one, and that shit is definitively not on the agenda. Even Panera, which is fast-casual and openly tip-optional–many of its stores didn’t have tip jars at all until a few years ago–is pretty expensive. The path to a Democratic House majority doesn’t run through the Panera lobbies of the country’s swing-seat suburbs, but the path to the $4.99 full-sandwich steak and white cheddar meal deal does. My bad: it absolutely does not, because I just made that up. They’re never giving that shit away so cheap lol fml.
If we expand York to include its tax base, there’s no way Red Lobster is the best restaurant in York. It’s subjective, but it’s not that subjective. I’ve eaten at restaurants in the area that have to be better. There’s no need to do an in-depth survey of the Darden properties to know that a lot of these chains suck. I eat at Applebee’s from time to time: all right, but definitely overpriced. Any chain airing nationally syndicated ads that show breadsticks or battered shrimp cascading out of one basket into another is not the best in class for what it serves. When you’re here, you’re family, and what we do with family is tell them to meet us in the walk-in freezer for a talking-to and a little something-something if they’ve filled out nicely. Huh. Do the Italians do that, or is it just the Scots? Perhaps I’m mistaken and Red Lobster is not in fact based in Maine.
There’s a lot of idiotic, culturally dysfunctional liberal guilt around pointing out that flyover country has its abusive elites even if it doesn’t have Chez Panisse. The entire dynamic is much too consider, but the great normcore chain sitdown restaurants aren’t workingmen’s pubs just because they’re less expensive than Ruth’s Chris, and they aren’t necessarily any good just because they’re more expensive than a decent Greek diner run by passably normal people. It’s possible for a restaurant to be pricey AND shitty. There are millionaires who eat at fucking Boston Market. I’m absolutely serious. I personally know at least two.
Lambert Strether commented that the York (“York”) Red Lobster incident showed that the customers at the schlocky theme chains visit not to eat, but to be served. It’s heartbreaking if you think about it too deeply. Is this what we’re doing in lieu of therapy? Is this what we’re doing IN ADDITION TO therapy? It’s pretty accurate to say that Trump’s base is provincial exurbanites who are self-actualized by yelling at waitresses in chain restaurants and docking their tips. I wish that were a gross simplification. Dad’s out running the family dealership, mom’s out getting Jeanine Pirro trashed at Applebee’s and screaming at the waitress that she’s a stupid tramp: ain’t that America.
The grotesque media models guiding and explaining these wretches have been on the scene for decades. Rush Limbaugh never seems to find his anger assuaged. Fox News is larded with angry drunkards and pill-poppers. Enough is never enough. They are never materially satisfied, and they are never socially satisfied. The positional authority that they so abusively wield over others as customers or bosses never makes them whole. They are, however, angrier than usual to be denied their birthright to verbally abuse waitstaff for $2.13 an hour, tips optional. This is why we must reopen “the economy.”
It’s hard to see what can be done for them. What can be done to them is to raise their marginal rates to level the field so that the poor aren’t forced to degrade themselves for abusive managers and abusive customers at restaurants that might well make this country better–perhaps even great again–by ceasing to operate. Red Lobster is not an essential sector of the economy. It won’t kill the miserable assholes who start shit at crappy chain restaurants because the service is too slow to go be miserable at home with some lobster from Giant. Or maybe it will, although they’ll probably just Boomerpost their way to sleep about it on Facebook. Some of them are pretty far gone psychically. We can’t just sit around waiting for the day to come when God will dry every eye. That won’t fix them on a timescale that spares their waitresses their corrosive abuse.
The dim sum place by the freeway is open for takeout again. Maybe I’ll walk over and get some hom su gok.