Friday, November 5, 2010

Kravitz Delicatessen

3135 Belmont Ave.
Youngstown, Ohio 44505
(330) 759-7889

by Beau Cadiyo

I watched a television show on rail travel recently, and I’m now convinced that the key to Cleveland’s prosperity in the future is an extensive monorail system. I call it the Lake to Lorain Line, or LLL for short. The LLL will go from Painesville to Lorain, as the main line, and will have various branches shooting out of downtown – through Lakewood, to Lyndhurst and any other suburbs beginning with the letter “L.” It could be a regular monorail, but I think it would be cost-effective and intelligent to build it like the Wuppertal Schwebebahn, particularly if it had shatterproof glass bottoms so you could look down while it’s traveling. The main line would naturally follow I-90; during rush hour, it would shoot at 40 miles per hour past the creeping cars and drop off its passengers inside downtown buildings, including Key Tower and Tower City and the Galleria and on W. 6th and E. 4th and Public Square and Playhouse Square, and it would go over the bridge with blue lights leading to Detroit, then up Detroit. There would be stops every few neighborhoods, but because it would go so fast it would still have major advantages over cars. It would also cost $1. We’d work out a deal with the manufacturing company that if they build it for free, they can keep the revenue from it for the first 10 years. It would be run by computers from a central station in a remote location, where a few guys in pristine uniforms would monitor everything. If food is served, Mia Bella, Lolita and the Greenhouse Tavern would get first dibs.

I’d like it if the line extended to Youngstown. Growing up, I heard the name “Youngstown” in various contexts, but it never meant anything to me. Actually, since I was in SoCal, nothing beyond Vegas meant much to me. It was thus neither positive nor negative; like “sand” or “paper,” it was a word assigned to something that existed as an abstract idea, and that was all. Then I saw Richard Pryor’s sketch about working in a mafia nightclub, and suddenly Youngstown had significance – it was the home of a mafia family, and the mafia was outdated, or of a prior generation, and could be really, really funny. I wanted to take people in Youngstown out to dinner in the hopes that they’d stop me from paying, and maybe tell the chef to put a little struzzi on top of whatever we ate. I like fried food.

I learned that I would be going to Youngstown to meet with a client. At the last minute, I sent a Facebook message to Frank Crooke, a law school friend. Shortly after graduating, she’d married, and we’d lost touch. We reconnected in Kravitz’s deli. The building felt old, like the waitresses had been there for tens of years and never saw any reason to go elsewhere; the booths showed wear, as did the materials used to prepare and display the baked goods and deli selections, but that was, in my mind, a good thing. In animate and inanimate objects, character is attained by use and age. Thus, an old wooden table with stains, or a leather briefcase worn at the edges, has more to offer than a disposable untouched plastic table top or a new satchel purchased for the season’s fashion.

As we settled into our booth, the only diners at 11:40 a.m., I remembered how good Frank was with people – I felt like she was really interested in talking to me, which is a rarity among pretty girls. Frank isn’t just pretty, she’s gorgeous; in law school she was known as the Unicorn, as she was both ethereally beautiful and uncommonly elusive.

The waitress was attentive, and soon we were sharing soups, an egg sandwich, a tuna sandwich and potato salad. Everything was as one might expect – while it wasn’t gourmet, it was hearty. The bread was not too light and not too heavy; the egg salad was creamy; the tuna was mashed to perfection; the potatoes were cubed to just the right size, and if you don’t know what that is, you will never know. The soup, too, was outstanding – cabbage, hearty, hot, with good tooth.

After lunch, we stood on the curb under an overhang, talking. Further down the strip mall, two men hustled out of a door and into a car. As they were backing out, two waiters ran out of the restaurant and stopped them, yelling that they had to pay. “Dine and dash!” Frank cried, and I gawked as the men slinked back inside, looking both guilty and resentful and self-justifying, as if they had the right to eat for free and it was society which needed to adjust to their needs and actions. “Stupid,” Frank muttered as she hid behind me to avoid them seeing her. “They parked facing the curb. If they’d parked nose-out, they could have just jumped in their car and taken off. Backing up takes way more time. They weren’t thinking.”

I’m pretty sure she meant to imply what I was imagining: how perfect it would have been if they’d bolted out the door at just the right time, jumped onto a Schwebebahn and were whisked away…

Kravitz Delicatessen Incorporated on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 1, 2010

From Afar: Tesco Lasagna Sandwich

Islington Green Metro
25-29 Islington Green
N1 8DU
0845 6779864

by Beau Cadiyo

One Saturday morning I took a walk with Des Ayuno and Frank Ely. We stopped at a cash machine outside the Islington Tesco when I realized I had to go inside.

“Where’s he going?” I heard Frank ask behind me.
“He's going to get a lasagna sandwich,” Des replied.
“A what?”

I marched in and looked up and down the aisles, giving each a token glance without seeing the sandwich cooler. Finally, I asked a clerk, who pointed me back to the front of the store, which I'd vigorously strode past and thus missed completely. He followed the labels with his finger, and we'd almost given up when he said, “Ah there, we have, two left.”

At 11 a.m. on a Saturday, they'd almost sold out.

I grabbed one and held it for a minute, jittery with anticipation. £2.20. A triangular plastic package with a cellophane window, and, inside, white bread bookending two layers of pasta, cheese, sauce and ground meat. What kind of meat? A true pilgrim would never ask.

When I got outside, Des and Frank were still waiting to take out money. They saw my prize and Frank – a gourmet chef – shook his head. Des leaned in to look at it the way one might look at a harmless animal secure in a cage, but shrank away when it was brought marginally closer to her face.

I have learned when living abroad that it's sometimes best to play into English stereotypes of American behavior. It's a subtle but effective form of manipulation. If you defy their expectations (i.e., with nuanced insight and intelligent sophistication), they feel they can't let down their guard around you, whereas if you act as they expect of the oafish American abroad, they feel validated and are less wary. This is entirely true even of people who should know better – like Frank, whom I’ve known for nearly three years, and Des, whom I’ve known for 15. Thus, I became the aggressive, pushy American stereotype. I ignored their protestations of disgust, ripped the cellophane open, pulled out half the sandwich and thrust it upon Des. Then I pulled out the other half for myself.

It worked. Despite her natural inclinations to the contrary, in the face of American pushiness, Des took a bite while Frank watched. Then she offered him a bite. Something about her face – perhaps its surprising equanimity, the continued chewing, the lack of total repulsion – made him take a bite without even a perfunctory shrug. As he was chewing, Des grabbed it back to take another bite, and then Frank did the same. Then Des finished it off.

There was no talking. We were all shocked: it wasn't actually bad. I wouldn't call it good – to me, the processed white bread and noodles were too carb-heavy and the texture didn't sit right in my mouth – but it actually sort of worked. There was enough sauce on it that the bread did not dry out, and Frank particularly praised the b├ęchamel. I think Des was just surprised that it didn’t make her want to vomit, and kept eating out of a kind of clinical curiosity – to see if she'd have some violent, negative reaction to it at some point.

I finished my half at 11:10 a.m. - exactly three hours after I’d walked my flag to the Tube and 24 hours before I'd have to get on it myself, to head to Heathrow. Over the course of the day we got gloriously drunk, ate oysters and pork belly and fish and lager bread and watched a documentary about the life and death of Arthur Russell until 3 a.m. My duties as transatlantic diplomat complete, I got five hours of sleep, packed and came back to the US, satisfied that I'd represented my country well.