For better or worse, in my short stint so far as a food writer, I have to admit that sometimes the endeavor feels a little shallow, decadent - an exercise for the over-privileged. More than once, while rehashing meals and scribbling away, I have paused to ask myself: Who the hell do you think you are? Maybe it’s my hardscrabble roots and humble beginnings in rural middle America that instill some degree of guilt over eating out often and pontificating about it on a food blog. There are bigger fish to fry in this world, and here I am pecking away on a keyboard about some chef’s confit or a barman’s Sazerac.
The recent symphony of vitriol - an expanding chorus of trolls and equally disgusted reactions from those who were ‘with her’ - left me dizzy and drained with a sudden desire to stick my head in the sand for a stretch. I can only read so many Facebook rants about society’s imminent collective downfall before the vibe seeps into my general outlook and the toxicity alters the way I communicate with the people I love - my wife and kids specifically. So I decided, in spite of my elitist self-loathing, that maybe this corner of the internet will be my hideout - a place where I can occasionally tune out the ugly echoes of the world and find a respite from reality. Restaurants will be my refuge, these rants my temporary and welcome distraction.
On November 9th, when the election results sank in, Patt sent a group text (with Shaun of the Dead photo) to the P+K blog crew that perfectly summed up collective feelings and brought to my face a fleeting smile:
Feelings about this morning's news...C&O, we need you now more than ever.
It was so on point since we were all pining for the comforts of our favorite cozy place in town, wringing our hands over the fact that hate had just won and wondering what that would usher into the world.
Fast-forward to yesterday when a North Carolina man, fueled by conspiracy theory bile and armed with an assault rifle, walked into Comet Ping Pong, our old go-to pizza place in DC, and gave the world a terrifying snapshot of today’s version of hate, lunacy and utter disregard for the truth. I’d read about the wave of fake news before the election - completely bizarre theories that Comet was a secret venue for a child abuse ring connected to Hillary Clinton - and shuddered, not because this might carry weight but because so many imbeciles could swarm to propagate such an over-the-top tableau of fiction. Then this guy decided to ‘self investigate’ the theory because apparently terrorizing a restaurant full of kids with the specter of their families’ mass murder in a storm of bullets - an evil too real and present today - is acceptable so long as it’s in the name of ruling out the presence of underground tunnels. Thankfully no one was hurt and the deadbeat was arrested. But seriously - what in the actual fuck?
Over the 8 years my family lived in the Chevy Chase neighborhood, we must have dined at Comet, and neighboring Buck’s Fishing & Camping, hundreds of times. (Sorry about that college fund, boys!) We were regulars and became real friends with many of the people working there. Our boys were and remain pals with most of the crew and still roam both venues freely when we are back in town. My wife’s 40th birthday party was held in the back party room. Comet and Buck’s became part of our DC fabric; those people were our community, like family, and we ache to see them going through this nightmare that is the product of the worst of the worst.
To James and all of the Comet family: we are with you and we have your back. Stay strong and when shit gets too heavy, lean on us. We will not let the dregs of this world pollute what you are to the community. We will not let them darken the corners of what we all grew up loving - ping pong and pizza. You got this. And we got you.
Note: This Friday, December 9th, the DC community and beyond will be rallying to show their love and Stand With Comet. Please drop in here for more information.