I Saw The Light

Two months ago, I had ate the greatest sandwich ever. It inspired a late-night rant that was emailed to many friends. For no apparent reason, I’m reposting it here:

Tue Jan 11, 2005 3:58 am

I Saw The Light

Friends, I have happened upon a wonderful discovery. Last night, at approximately 7:30 P.M. I exited Port Authority onto Ninth Avenue. Oddly enough, this was the first time I had ever taken that exit, but good things always seem to happen when you take a new path. In search of a cheap place to eat, I crossed Ninth Ave. and headed uptown. As I glanced over to see scaffolding covering the now depraved den of sin that was formerly the saintly Tobacco Road, I caught a golden glint out of the corner of my eye. There it was. A bright yellow beacon of hope in a world of darkness: Tony Luke’s Old Philly Style Sandwiches had arrived in New York.

I knew this place. I knew its mystical lore. I knew that it was beckoning me to come taste its wares. Initially, I had set out to eat something healthy, but after .036 seconds of contemplation, I bolted across the street, and just like little Carol Ann in Poltergeist, I ran to the light.

I opened the door and basked in the glow of the warm but near-blinding yellow fluorescent bulbs. I inhaled the mouthwatering aroma of fried onions and sizzling meat. Drunken with olfactory delight, I stumbled toward the window and asked, “How long have you been here?”

“A little over two weeks.”

I had been gone for almost two weeks and had no knowledge of this landmark opening in Manhattan history. New York City, I will never leave you again during the holidays. I had no idea that such fascinating things happened here in late December. Please forgive me.

Evan, the friendly store owner, asked, “You from Philly?”

I replied, “Mfblemblfelmmmmmmmmmm….”

It may have been the tremendous amount of drool that had accumulated and was barely being contained by my quivering lower lip, but I think I was distracted by the towering menu offering otherworldly delights. I wanted to say, “Don’t talk to me, mortal! I’m reading about the most incredible food Mother Earth has to offer,” but I could only offer a few unintelligible syllables. Then I saw it. My path in life had been decided. It was known as “Roast Pork Italian.”

With a bright future ahead of me, I quickly introduced myself and ordered “Roast Pork Italian Wit.” Evan was taken aback because very few people north of Trenton understand how to properly order a sandwich with fried onions. Instantly, we had formed a bond and could now communicate on a higher plane.

I very briefly thought that since I would be attending a rehearsal in about a half an hour, I should be considerate of my fellow actors and forgo the onions. Then I thought, “I’m about to eat Roast Pork Italian Wit. I’m about to sip from the Holy Grail. I am the chosen one. They will understand.” Nervously awaiting my chance at immortality, I grabbed some napkins and lifted a heaping pile of dill pickle slices from a sneeze-guardless container that is likely to be labeled unsanitary by the New York Department of Health. Of course, I was about to run with Apollo, so my mortality and health were of little concern.

Then the angel behind the sliding glass window shouted one of the best words in the English language: “Brian!”

My time had come. Frothing with anticipation, I slowly walked toward the window to Heaven, and then the manna was delivered. Inside of a brown paper bag laid the keys to the universe: a Roast Pork Italian Wit. In an instant, I unwrapped my prize and like a rabid dog, I gnashed my teeth into the soft bread that had been moistened by the pork juice. A mind-altering blend of flavors danced in my mouth as the drenched bread combined with bitter broccoli rabe and the nutty sharp provolone. And then there was the pork. Within seconds, a large chunk of it had soaked its way through the roll and was now resting on the wax paper, beckoning unto me. I had little choice but to grab that succulent piece of flesh and then slurp it into my waiting mouth. The moist juices gushed from the meat and a small trail of love trickled out of my shaking lips and dripped down my chin. It was nothing less than amazing.

I think I now understand how Sir Edmund Hillary felt upon his descent from the peak of Mt. Everest. Ghandi had nothing on me. Move over Voltaire, this was a whole new kind of enlightenment. I was wise beyond my years.

The sandwich had been consumed, and after a few minutes of staring into oblivion, I came to. I was a changed man, indestructible perhaps. Nothing could stop me– not even the Italian Fries I ordered, which were alright but not worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as my beloved Roast Pork Italian Wit. Oh, Roast Pork Italian Wit, you complete me.

I quickly glanced at the menu and noticed that the prices were about $1.25 higher than those in South Philly, but friends, I ask you, can you put a price on enlightenment? I think not. This branch was also wise to omit the veal cutlet portion of the menu and put a greater emphasis on the “green” vegetarian sandwiches. And if you know anything about Tony Luke’s, you know that the Great New York Cheesesteak Drought has finally ended.

I thanked Evan for his divine intervention in my humble life, and I warned him that I shall return– perhaps this evening. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Cheesesteak (Provolone Sharp, Wit)!

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