Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Perfect Article

This is one of the best articles I've ever read. Short story short: a woman's dog ate her brother's sandwich. He threatened the dog; when she tried to protect the dog, he pushed her down. Nobody was hurt, no charges were pressed. What makes the article for me is that

a) This was published in the middle of Tropical Storm Fay in Florida;
b) The man thought that a sandwich was worth fighting over;
c) The economy of prose is just amazing. There is no attempt to insert quotes or relate it to some sort of broader social themes or get any of the extra, unnecessary crap from witnesses that or Fox might do. Wendy Victora, the author, seems to have pared it down to the bare essentials. As she wrote in an email, "Those stories really tell themselves." I really, really, really like her style (and if I was to imitate her, I would have cut those three "reallys" out).

As of this posting there were 23 comments. Only a few related to the fact that this might not actually be newsworthy; the rest, by and large, related to the sandwich, the dog and the motivation for the dog to eat the sandwich. Some of my favorite comments:

I am so glad the dog ate his sandwich.

drake1 wrote:
In the dog's defense I bet it was a tasty sandwich. I mean come on, who amongst us dog or human can resist a tasty sandwhich?

candl45 wrote:
Throw em all in the slammer! And that sammich stealin dog too! My dog steals my sammiches and eats the middles out leaving me the crust! Bad dog no cookie

dwbinfwb wrote:
"The mother, who had witnessed the incident, refused to talk to the deputy. The sister then became uncooperative."

So, who called the cops, the dog?

Who said there's no such thing as a free lunch?

mk1954 wrote:
Why didn't they tase the dog or the sister?

What does this say about America, when 23 people come together in the middle of a life-threatening tropical storm and discuss dogs, sandwiches and Tasers? I don't know, but I like it. I like it a lot.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bronte inside Joseph Beth Booksellers

Legacy Village
24519 Cedar Road
Lyndhurst, OH 44124
(216) 691-7000

by Beau Cadiyo

I’d never anticipated eating here. First, it’s a theoretically independent cafĂ© in a theoretically independent bookstore located in Legacy Village. I realize that there is a role for these places in our economy, but I have much more respect for giant businesses which run on economies of scale – McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, Starbucks. To me, these are the greatest businesses because they’ve figured out how to deliver massive quantities of goods to consumers with stunning, incredible efficiency. Independence, while purportedly American, is inefficient; I have little tolerance for people who protest efficiency.

However, Frank Hoxha, a Kosovar Albanian architect, was studying there, and invited me to join her. She was intriguing – while I know plenty of people who like(d) Bill Clinton, she was the first who credited him with actually saving her life. That day she was bitter – Bronte charged her for each shot in her quadruple-shot cappuccino, which offended some Balkan sensibility of hers. (She had ended up at Joseph Beth’s because Starbucks cools its store to about 45 degrees, and at Joseph Beth’s it was actually reasonably temperatured. This was the tradeoff: pay extra for each shot or freeze.)

I ordered. Even though we were clearly reclined on the sofa, and couldn’t have appeared imminently mobile, they brought my tuna melt to me in a Styrofoam carton wrapped in a plastic bag. This was the low point of the meal; who would expect an independent bookstore which prides itself on independence, located in Beachwood, to serve a meal which was to be eaten in the bookstore in such ecologically unfriendly materials? The environment-killing clamshell contained one Tuna Melt, one small cup of either quinoa or couscous salad (I get the two mixed up), a small cup of coleslaw and a pickle. I hadn’t eaten all day – I was unemployed and had simply forgotten – but hunger couldn’t account for these spices. The (either quinoa or couscous) salad was chilled, with fresh bits of vegetables and a vinegary tang; the coleslaw was sweet and crunchy. The pickle was limp, but not offensive. But the sandwich.

Good tuna melts are a special breed. Tuna melts require simplicity of ingredients; packing them full of heretofore unheard of vegetables and modified sauces ruins their inherent integrity. Michael Symon could make one, but he wouldn’t be able to really alter the core ingredients too much and still have an acceptable tuna melt. (Dear sir – you may consider the gauntlet laid.) Simple tuna melts can be absolutely mediocre but still be passable, too; tuna, cheese, bread, grill.

Bronte did the only thing I can think of to make a superb tuna melt: it used superb ingredients and cooked them superbly. The filling was warm, well-seasoned and most importantly moist. The cheese melted into the tuna, but wasn’t so heavy that it overwhelmed the taste. The bread was crisp on the outside, but chewy just below the surface. Altogether, the balance was sublime.

By the time I finished the four women playing Mahjong had packed up and the Russian girls sitting near us had left. Frank asked me about palmistry, and, looking it up on a website, we compared destinies. She has very, very wrinkly hands; beyond that, I can’t remember much. Frank Pratt and his wife, Frank, stopped by and said hello. Then, at some early hour, Joseph Beth and Bronte closed. Leave it to the independent stores to kick freeloading students out.

Bronte at Joseph-Beth Bksllrs on Urbanspoon

Seven Roses

6301 Fleet Ave
Cleveland, OH 44105
(216) 641-5789

by Beau Cadiyo

In Alex Garland’s “The Beach,” one of the key themes is the idea that, as humans, we’re always looking for virginity. It isn’t in the sexual sense, though – after all, who really wants to sleep with a virgin? It’s meant more in the sense that we’re always looking to be the first to find something new, to be the gentrifiers in a new area (even though we resist that classification) or to listen to a new band before they get popular, or to travel to the ends of the earth to “discover” a place not yet corrupted by tourists.
That’s the Seven Roses. The building was dark from the outside, seemingly built for strength rather than aesthetics. Inside, people buzzed about, children and adults alike coveting the pastries behind the glass display cases, all speaking Polish. A giant vat of fresh pickles marinated in the refrigerator; dark wood shelves, ornate and sturdy, lined the walls, displaying an incredible display of products unknown and magazines incomprehensible to us. Everyone was dressed up, even the children; it was Sunday, and after church, and everyone still maintained their old-world customs. It was incredibly bright inside, and I realized that more than anything it felt prosperous.
I followed Frank in ordering the Bratwurst sandwich with sauerkraut, adding potato pancakes. The waitress brought out water, sans ice, and some sort of flavored bread – I thought rye, Frank thought otherwise. We talked – girls, business, politics, everything you can be ambitious about. The food came and we were still talking. Babies played dangerously close to glass bottles, pulling them off of the shelves, the parents unfazed. Another waitress walked by with two large, steaming bowls; what is that? Umm…how do you say…cabbage soup. One, please – we’ll split it. Separate bowls? That would be wonderful, jinkooya. Surprise, and almost a curtsey as she walked back. Two bowls were delivered, and then our sandwiches.
It was incredible. The sausage was crisp, and I had a little bit of the tie-off at the end – where the outside binding was tied off and you could see it cut, crisped, delicious. One UrbanSpoon review said that the sausage was made in the basement by a Polish butcher, and the reviewer complained; we both thought it was fantastic. Why would you want sausage made in a factory in Canada when you could have it fresh from downstairs? The sauerkraut was sour, and lovely with the sandwich; the bread firm, a little toasty, but yielding delicately to the teeth. The potato pancakes were a little flaccid, the only weak point of the meal. The soup was incredibly flavorful – strong, thick, hearty.
The waitress came out; would we like coffee? Yes, and do you have a dessert menu? Then, another waitress came out with two slices of cheesecake. “Free,” she said, refusing to meet our eyes or statements of surprise, and the other waitress shrugged. “Free,” she said, and brought us coffee. We paid up at the front, looking around as open-eyed as the children had been an hour previously. The man behind me laughed; “it’s our first time here,” I said. “It’s obvious,” he said, in a thick accent. Jinkooya, jinkooya, and we left.

Seven Roses on Urbanspoon