P.J. O’Rourke wrote a wonderful reprise of America’s love affair with the automobile in yesterday’s (30may09) WSJ – ‘The End of Our Affair’. The WSJ and our local Union are our morning papers that get us through breakfast in the comfortable, old-fashioned format. Jo Ann and I divvy up the various sections of the two papers, read, trade sections, and gab about what we’re reading. Mostly what we focus on are the in-depth pieces, features, commentaries, and editorials. By morning, the news in pulp publications is old hat; we already got that online last night, and woke up to NPR’s version of the world. So, as the old song says, ‘everything’s up to date in Kansas City’ by the time we’re eating cereal.
But, as I got about five inches into O’Rourke’s piece, a stable part of my world suffered a sudden jolt, and when the dust settled, it had a new crack in. PJ had blown it, and blown badly the explanation of horsepower, the notion that was central to his exposition of the American psyche and our love affair with cars. I mean, it wasn’t a slip of a word or two - he went on and on, telling those who knew what he didn’t.
Now to me PJ has always been the street-smart, self-effacing, humor wordsmith who underneath was obviously a well-read intellectual. He could deliver up arcane issues and topics in a secret sauce that made you laugh and at the same time say, ‘Sumbich, I didn’t know that.’ But yesterday he exposed a part that I (and, perhaps, many others) didn’t want exposed, and now we need to recalibrate the man.