Weekly Check In: Deep Ruminations on Chain Restaurant Hit Pieces & Discovering Awesome Writers With PA Roots

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I will use almost any excuse to post a link to the following hard-hitting piece of journalism by Buzzfeed.

I am obsessed with this piece. I think every description is better than the last, and I laugh aloud at some newly found detail almost every time I read it. My favorite descriptor, if I have to pick, is, “Anyway, the ambiance was kind of like a yacht club in Idaho, built by people who have only ever read about the sea in children’s library illustrated editions of Moby Dick. So, like, nautical but misinformed.” That’s describing the Times Square Red Lobster, and I dare you to find a better description. I found this piece two years ago (it seems so much longer), and I legitimately revisit it every 4 months or so.

I found another hard hitting piece of journalism on the world wide web recently, one that was written one year prior, and is both a kindred spirit, and perhaps precursor, of the Buzzfeed post, a companion piece if you will, where writer Caity Weaver attempts to do what some may deem the impossible: sit at a TGIFridays for over 12 hours eating as many all-you-can-eat-appetizers as she possibly can. She picked mozzarella sticks, and I wouldn’t wish that task upon my worst enemy. I laughed aloud like a dick while reading this in the waiting room of a doctor’s office the other day.

I must be a niche audience for these very specific kind of  chain restaurant hit pieces, and make no mistake, that’s exactly what they are, very subtle, very savvy hit pieces on America’s chain restaurant obsession and what they ostensibly say about our culture at large. I was going to pretend to feel bad about reading these take downs with such visible glee, but I’m just going to own it. I know that there are really nice people that eat at, and enjoy these restaurants. I know that there’s people at them proud of the work that they do. I also know, from a short three month stint as a server at one of these (unnamed) establishments, that they do actually represent some of America’s grossest habits including, but not limited to,  gluttony, entitlement, and the need to trick ourselves into thinking we’re more important than we are.  I could probably write a thesis about this, and maybe one day I will, if even just for fun, but for today I’ll be moving on, because what I wanted to talk about was not how $1.00 Margaritas are ruining the country (they’re not, the Trump’s are), but about how much I enjoy Caity Weaver’s writing, and how tickled I was (Editor’s note: I rethought using this term several times, but you know what? Like my begrudging love for Applebees, I’m going to keep it out in the open) to find out that she’s a Harrisburg native, whom, by way of Philly, is now one of the premier writers at GQ.

After finding that beautiful Friday’s piece, I looked up some other stuff she wrote, because that’s what I do with my free time, and I really dug her style. Coincidentally, the next day, I was looking at old episodes of the Longform podcast (a nerdy writer’s podcast I one day aspire to be on) and saw that Caity had an episode. It was here that I found out she was living in Philly when she first got her job at GQ, and hailed from the Harrisburg.  She joked in the podcast about how her local newspaper never did a write up about her getting the job, choosing instead to cover a classmate who was a dentist, which I found both hilarious and familiar; it seemed like exactly the type of thing my hometown newspaper would do. The newspaper messed up. She deserves some props. Getting a paying writing job these days is hard. Getting one at a print magazine is even harder, and getting one at GQ is impressive as hell. They have a lot of really good writers working, and it’s awesome to find that one of them hails from our neck of the woods. What was even cooler, was that she spoke highly about living in Philly, and still seemed somewhat connected to Harrisburg. I’m hoping that sometime in the nearish future she manages to some kind of Pennsylvania-centric piece, because I think it’d be hilarious.  I just hope it wouldn’t end up as bleakly funny as the mozzarella stick story, but as someone who just spent an hour of my morning at NEPA Walmart during the holiday season, my expectations aren’t exactly high.

Then, coincidentally, the next old episode of the Longform podcast I listen to is the author Erik Larson, who’s probably most famous for his book The Devil in the White City, which I believe is being made into a movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s very talkative, and very interesting, and I was once again tickled (I’m leaning into it) to hear that his first writing job, was at the Bucks County Courier Times. He also talked in the podcast about how much he enjoyed living in Philadelphia, and what a unique and special city it was.

I love when people have good things to say about Pennsylvania. I really do. I find that cathartic as well.

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