Walking towards Brooklyn Bridge Park this past weekend on a family outing, we came across the sight that represented everything not to like about Brooklyn. I even took a photo of it because it summed up so much of what is wrong with our city and world.
There was a long line in front of a brick oven pizza restaurant. People crowded into a dense rope line like cattle to the slaughter to pay handsomely for the honor, while a little ways up the street they could have gotten more food for less and eaten with real Brooklynites at the Park Plaza Restaurant. And worse than that, they were waiting to pay for brick oven pizza.
Brick oven pizza is a big scam. It should shame New Yorkers that some of our most heralded pizza restaurants are overpriced tourists traps offering crappy food. Somehow the powers that be have convinced millions of people that there is something authentic about eating poorly-made and overpriced pizza.
Take a good honest look at a brick oven pizza if you are ever roped into going to one of these insufferable establishments. You’ll notice that not only is the pizza weak and thin and the cheese coverage extremely spotty, but there will usually be bubbled and burned parts of the crust. You could take off some of these burnt pieces and use them to make a charcoal sketching if you wanted. Everyone pretends that this is good pizza, and brick oven pizza restaurants somehow get away with this even though there are hundreds of good pizza places that can make a delicious and authentic New York pizza.
If visitors to New York were willing to just travel a little farther away from the well-tread tourist areas, this con game could be put to an end faster. Sadly many New Yorkers themselves have fallen into this trap and gush on about some of these places.
Some of the celebrated brick oven pizza places boast that they offer a clam pizza, which really means they are failures in both pizza and seafood. There are too many good restaurants to get pizza and clams, don’t spend your money on the brick oven hype.
The brick oven pizza deception plays into the innate human trait to romanticize the past. While craft and tradition are certainly worth celebrating when they result in something positive, making sub-par pizza just because it’s old fashioned is stupid. Yes, they had brick oven pizza in the 1800s in New York. Do you know what else they had? Cholera and Yellow Fever. We shouldn’t be eating brick oven pizza any more than we should be commuting to work on horseback or leeching our children when they get colds. Let’s embrace those technologies that have improved our lives, including ovens that can cook pizza evenly.
Many people from outside the city are not aware that pizza making has a long history in New York and they wrongly believe that they must choose between the artisanal and brick oven swindlers and the legion of national chains that are sadly permeating New York neighborhoods. This is a false choice. The five boroughs and many surrounding areas are full of small, independent pizza parlors that can make you a delicious pizza.
Brick oven is a “brand” now. Just like you can charge extra money by calling something “artisanal” or “natural.” I have no doubt that bad pizza makers are baking their abominable pizzas in regular ovens and then just charging extra for it. They’re laughing at their self-satisfied marks who think they are somehow more “authentic” New Yorkers for being dumb enough to get taken by this racket.
It took years for this sham to get its hooks in the public and it may take longer to get people to open their eyes to the fact that they are paying more for less pizza.
So please, say no to the brick oven pizza hustle. There are still many independent pizza parlors that make real New York pizza.
But one popular trend I refuse to indulge in is growing a beard. It’s becoming more popular for men to grow beards now, and I am proud to be avoiding this. I am going to stay clean shaven.
Beards used to be a sign of virile manhood, they are now as common on mindless hipsters as on real men. The waxed moustache fad is even more obnoxious. I met one person with a waxed moustache who was the real deal, and he was an older Sikh in a three-piece suit who wore a pince-nez when he had to sign some papers.
Usually anyone dressed like this is a young bullshit artist. And beards and waxed moustaches are a sign of a society that is only interested in the shallow trappings of manhood and not actually being a man. Being a man means no bullshit; it means being as much of an independent thinker as possible and looking critically at popular culture.
I indulged in popular grooming for a while when I shaved my head and wore a goatee. Women at the time liked the look and it looked good on me. I had a nice, full reddish-brown goatee that suavely showed off my Irish heritage and gave balance to my face. But too much grey started coming in. My hope was that going bald at a young age would spare me from a premature greying, but I was out of luck. The grey didn’t even show up in a nice salt-and-pepper look, but in a weird pattern that made me look like I was trying to grow a bizarre soul patch.
I refuse to use any products to color the grey out of my beard. That’s cheating unless you color it something flamboyant and strange so that it’s obvious and artistically sound.
Please don’t confuse this as a condemnation of all men with beards. I know plenty of bearded men who walk the walk or who had beards long before they were cool. My father and uncles had beards years before it was cool; they’re the farthest thing from trendy hipsters. My brother has a beard and is even into using fancy grooming products on it. But he was in the Marines, rides motorcycles and owns more guns than I do. These men have earned to right to wear their beards.
And the good news in all of this is that the propensity for beards illustrates a nascent movement to revive traditional manhood in some respect. We live in times when much of polite Western society finds it appealing to emasculate its men. The progressive groupthink classifies anything categorically male as an element of an enemy patriarchy, and that philosophy is intellectually bankrupt. The beards are the start of men wanting to be men again.