I’m as foot on the floor and untethered as I’m willing to get in a rental car, pulling asphalt beneath me on 23rd Street. Still In Love With You, by Jahkoy, bass-y and imperative on my borrowed speakers, thumping to the beat of my reckless heart. Talking about that 31 in a 30, safety cushion of only 3 car lengths kinda rental car reckless. I speed up to beat the light on John Street like I’m not going to have a running gunfight with Enterprise rental car if I bring this Hyundai back with a scratch on it. It’s not my fault though. I’m barely even behind the wheel. If a cop pulled me over right now I’d motion at the passenger seat and he’d take one look at it and tip his hat at me. Tell me to have a nice day.
I find an underground parking garage beneath a Safeway on the corner of 23rd and Madison, only signal for 20 minutes before making the turn like I’m that hillbilly from Tokyo Drift, and I feel the saliva sloshing back and forth in my mouth. Jahkoy is still feeling me on the speakers. Putting words to my woes as I descend into the semi-darkness of the Safeway Subterranean.
I remember when you lit me up with your touch, the fire within me, when I’m feeling empty you fill me right up baby, you fill me right up….
I throw it in park in front of a pressure washed wall beneath a burnt out light. We’re finally alone…
It’s a sandwich. Before you bust out the Lubriderm or light any candles, I’m alone in my car with a sandwich.
Notice, though, that I didn’t say it was JUST a sandwich.
To call this just a sandwich would be like calling Justin Beiber JUST a douche. Blasphemy. It’s an end-all, be-all, Megalodon wrestling a Titanboa, Chuck Norris with a fist in the air type of sandwich.
If a surgeon prefaced this sandwich with “Justa” right before scrubbing up to pull a foot of rebar out of my chest, I’d refuse the procedure, wait for somebody with some common sense to free some time up for me.
A paper bag and a layer of wax paper can’t contain the smell of it. Simmering meaty smells wafting through the car, soaking into the seats and fogging the windows. They’re going to owe ME money when I turn this rental in.
As I’m hefting it out of the bag, Spotify cuts out on me. The signal bar tells me that I don’t have any bars down here in the garage, but my heart tells me God himself is trying to say, “Yo hold up. Enjoy that miracle in silence.”
That miracle is the “Tusk” sandwich from a place called Mammoth.
Let me Tarantino this shit for a moment.
15 minutes earlier, I’m parking in a cute little neighborhood in Eastlake, walking through the front entry of a shop on a hunch and the moment I’m through the doors, I know, somewhere deep and prickly where I keep the fight or flight and the fire=good, this sandwich is going to be legit. That these dudes are most certainly not fucking around and that I’m going to remember this. There are beer taps lined up against the wall, chalkboards with exotic sounding beer names scrawled on them like they change them a lot. Soft white pine walls and hipster lightbulbs with the coils dim and discernible in their glass tubes. Before he ever comes out of the back, I can pretty much guess that whoever takes my order is going to have some ironic facial hair, and goddammit, you say what you want about hipsters, but they throw their weight around when it comes to food. How couldn’t they? How could you spend that much time cultivating hat styles, record collections and knick knacks and then go around spreading Velveeta on people’s sandwiches? You couldn’t, that’s how.
The menu painted on the tiles behind the counter is the kind of shit that has Anthony Bourdain waking up in a cold sweat fully sprung. Turkey and havarti and aoli? Fried chicken and pork belly? You beautiful bastards.
If I didn’t have to work, I would have stayed there to enjoy my meal in the gentle throes of the classic rock ripping through the sound system. Instead I scuttled out like a squirrel with a nut. Buckled it into the passenger seat of the car that I had to hop off a bus to rent because my Volvo shit the bed so hard that the mechanic offered me Hagans coupons for the pink slip.
Anyway, that brings us to here, sitting in the cavernous darkness of the Safeway parking lot, brick of steamy gold in my lap.
I peel the wrapper off with the feverish care of a bomb technician. The paper sticks to the cheese that’s been panini pressed into it, threatens to pull the top slice off the bread. Steady now, Burden, easy does it. Then it’s done, two halves with cheese stringing between them, steam wafting off it under the overhead lights. This particular sandwich is stacked to the crispy bread ceiling with turkey and pork belly, peppered with tomato and lettuce and then drizzled with a homemade ranch dressing that makes you wish the Hidden Valley would stay hidden.
Valhalla. I’m going in.
You fill me right up baby, you fill me right up.
Now I realize that as I’m rattling off these ingredients and waxing poetic about something I had to pull out of wax paper, some of you are rolling your eyes. What you don’t understand is that this sandwich is the Ryan Gosling of the food world…
Sandwiches aren’t some people’s forte. They’re not everyone’s type. Maybe they’re against your values and you think it’s unnatural for two pieces of bread to join in holy matrimony with that many meats and cheeses. Maybe you just don’t swing that way. But if you found yourself across a table from one of these sumbitches…hard boiled egg dribbling down the edges, pork belly sizzling seductively beneath a blanket of bread…you’d lay your Hamophobia aside…you’d eat it.