Thursday, April 24, 2008

Meanest Tuna Salad Sandwich

When I was still a young'un in the City, and Williamsburg not even a glint in my eye, my dad and brother Kyle visited. My dad's a wonderful cook, so I tried to schedule their trip around what we would eat. He wanted to do tapas at some point, and wasn't it adventurous to find a spot off the L to have them. However, when we arrived at our wasn't there. (Can you arrive at a destination that isn't there?) So we went to a sandwich shop, I have no idea where...perhaps somewhere on Bedford. (I love how, when you're new to a place, geography doesn't exist, maps contouring to your mind more than to real space. For instance, I came to NYC solo by train my freshman year at Grinnell (1998), purportedly to visit my pen-pal Jackie, with whom I'd been corresponding since I was five. After sneaking into her dorm-type room (she was a ballet dancer and here on some kind of stipend, in all-female housing), I stayed at an uptown hostel and then moved into the Gershwin Hotel, which until years later I had the distinct impression was somewhere around the East Village...though it's smack-dab in the Flatiron District.) It turned out that all of the sandwiches at this place were named after famous people, and there was one called the Leonard Cohen. I don't remember what was on it. Could have been oysters and strawberries, or somesuch, but was likely something more prosaic and palpable. I think of it today because I just read an interview Cohen did in 2001 (he was 67), after his long stint on Mount Baldy, with the monk Roshi. Apparently, his life had become so mundane and peaceful that a highlight was whipping up the "meanest tuna salad sandwich" for lunches.

I appreciate the bliss of mundanity. Actually, I think it should be called the bliss of the seeming mundane. Life is as exciting as we choose to see it, even if the day is spent drinking coffee, going to therapy, buying catfood, taking photographs of newly emptied lots, and trying to revise a grant. Joy is contagious, and I'm catching my own sickness again and again. This same kind of feeling hit Cohen when he was 65: "There was just a certain sweetness to daily life that began asserting itself. I remember sitting in the corner of my kitchen, which has a window overlooking the street. I saw the sunlight that shines on the chrome fenders of the cars [nice pentameter, there], and thought, 'Gee, that's pretty.'"

I don't recall which sandwich I had that day in 2002, but I'm in good company: M.F.K. Fisher notes when writing about "one of the nicest suppers I have ever eaten (with her father and sister)," "I forget what we ate."

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