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in a mafia nightclub, and suddenly Youngstown had significance – it was the home of a mafia family, and the mafia was outdated, or of a prior generation, and could be really, really funny.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…

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