R.I.P.:Kapuscinski, Ivins, and Restaurant Brana

Come back, Jeffrey!

"It was a small dog, a Japanese breed. His name was Lulu. He was allowed to sleep in the Emperor's great bed. During various ceremonies, he would run away from the Emperor's lap and pee on dignitaries' shoes. The august gentlemen were not allowed to flinch or make the slightest gesture when they felt their feet getting wet. I had to walk among the dignitaries and wipe the urine from their shoes with a satin cloth. This was my job for ten years."

That's from The Emperor, Ryszard Kapuscinski's New Journalistic (re:literary) reportage of Haile Selassie's heinously pompous reign in Ethiopia. The Polish Kapuscinski covered civil wars, revolutions, and social conditions around the globe (especially the Third World), consistently conveying his stories in a highly personal, lyrical style. He fervently believed that a journalists' job was to impart universal truths and to hold the powerful accountable. Kapuscinski passed away last Tuesday.

"If his I.Q. slips any lower, we'll have to water him twice a day."

This description of a Texas congressman comes courtesy of Molly Ivins, whom we lost eight days after Kapuscinski. Just as the Pole started writing independently as a reaction to the linguistic limitations of daily journalism, Molly Ivins' folksy flourishes proved too much for the stoic New York Times, whose editors, she claimed, drained the life from her prose. Ms. Ivins fervently believed that a journalists' job was to impart universal truths and hold the powerful accountable. She had recently referred to American journalism as "a souffle of mediocrity".

"There exists an inherent elegance through simplicity," is the way chef Jeffrey Brana described the culinary philosophy of his handsome, 50-seat Restaurant Brana in Coral Gables. He and wife Anna Elena operated the establishment with an enviable degree of honesty and integrity -- same traits, it should be noted, that characterized Kapuscinski and Ivins. The restaurant -- in this critic's opinion, one of the very best restaurants in South Florida -- has been closed since January 16th, the website citing a "family medical emergency." Speaking off the record with an associate of the Branas, New Times has learned that Jeffrey and Anna don't think the location is right for the type of cuisine they are serving. They will not reopen Restaurant Brana where it was. Jeffrey is said to be scouting for a new locale.

Kapuscinski was 74 years old when he died, Molly was 62. Restaurant Brana barely made it to six months.

Lee Klein

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse