Mike's Coffee and Deli: 44 East 32nd Street
It was last Friday, July 7th and sheets of rain thumped the windows of the apartment. I didn’t have class that day and had no real reason to leave the warmth of my bed. I stood up, wrapped in my comforter and gazed down the 20 stories to the street below. I saw the wet, annoyed people and cackled to myself like a super-villain gazing upon his subjects. Then, after an hour or so of this relaxing I realized I really should do something. I should go on a run! I don’t know why I thought that, big mistake in retrospect. I took the 6 line up to 59th and ran through a deserted Central Park. It was a bit disconcerting seeing the usually crowded park become a flooded stretch of empty soggy grass. When you run by Bethesda Fountain in the pouring rain, it’s impossible not to feel like you're in real life Angels in America. The farther I ran, the harder it seemed to rain. My clothes were soaked and inseparably stuck to me. As I ran to the end of the park, I decided there was a zero percent chance I was running all the way back to 59th street; I waddled over in my overflowing shoes towards the 110th street station and rode it back to 33rd. My hair sat matted and drenched on my head, and as I walked to find a seat on the subway my sneakers made loud squishing noises.
I got off the station, and I had one thought in my mind-- DELI FOOD. The warmth of a bowl of soup or even just a toasted sandwich could give me enough energy to mosey the couple of blocks back to the apartment towards the gripping warmth of my comforter. As I trudged down the street, I saw a deli: Mike’s Coffee and Deli. It was like a sign from the heavens. I went towards the little hole in the wall store. There is no place to sit inside, it was just three men cooking in a condensed space. I quickly ordered a BLT and a Fanta from the tired looking man behind the counter. I was standing there for only a couple of seconds, and then I saw it come to me. The BLT of my dreams. The BLT is a deli classic that you miss out on if you only try the jewish delis. There it was, beautiful in front of me. I’m salivating like Pavlov's dog.
“Okay, 7 dollars,” the man said in a mixed accent somewhere in between New York and Italian. I was off running so I didn't bring my wallet, but I had stuck my card in the back of my phone case. I pulled out the card and reached for my sandwich.
“Oh no. Sorry, only cash,” the man said handing me back my card.
“Umm... I don’t have cash.”
“There is an ATM there,” he said pointing to an ATM with a big OUT OF ORDER sign on it.
“I think that ATM might be broken.”
“Oh, well then I'm sorry kid. Come again later.” And then to my horror I saw the sandwich leave his hand. Dramatic music was playing in the back of my head as I saw him fling this sandwich into the trash can. It make a clunking noise as it hit the bottom of the can. That is trauma right there. I left feeling utterly lost and defeated. I had to eat Chipotle for God’s sake! It was a rough time.
Fast forward to today. One week later. New York City is raining yet again. Not the overpowering rain of last week, but the on and off dripping as though you're standing under a wet tree in the wind. I was tired and in desperate need of lunch. I saw a bagel shop up ahead. I was walking towards it, and then I smelled something. I looked to my right and there was a construction man nibbling on a BLT. It all came back. I needed to go back to Mike’s and finish what I started. I changed course and headed towards 32nd street.
As I rounded the corner I saw it. The little stand with its big maroon overhead and loud buzzing air conditioning took me back to the traumatic discardment of a perfectly good sandwich that I was forced to witness a week ago. This time there was a long line of people all wanting a quick sandwich before heading back into work. A poster of all the different foods they were selling hung below the counter in a weird 1980’s font. Glass boxes housing stacked bagels stood in front of a man with greased hair who was quickly taking orders.
My joke here living in New York, is that you go through intense mood swings throughout the day. At one part of the day you’ll be eating delicious food under the arc at Washington Square Park and you’ll say to yourself, “this place is the greatest city in the world!” Then there are times when you think to yourself in disgust and wonder, “why the hell does anyone even live here?” For example, on the subway yesterday on the way to class, a homeless man bent beside me and untied my shoe. Then pointed at me and said, “Your shoe’s untied.” Boom! Perfect example there, that’s more creepy than people drinking juice from a mug. Well for a brief second as I waited in that line I had that feeling of just “what the hell?”
I’m was really hungry, and there was only one more guy in front of me, so I was stoked. He was this skinny man wearing a bike helmet. He asks to the man taking orders, “Can I get some hot water?”
“Excuse me?” The man behind the counter asks.
“What's so confusing? Can I have some hot water?”
“Like in a cup?”
“Yes in a cup where else?”
“Like to drink?”
“Yes to drink, what do you think?” The bike helmet man exclaims. The man behind the counter then raised his eyebrows in confusion and then went and poured the hot water in a coffee cup.
“So, like no tea or anything in it?”
“Just hot water please!”
"Okay, okay, sorry.” Then he awkwardly handed the man the cup.
“Do you have any oysters here?” The bike helmet asks suddenly. Literally you can’t make this stuff up…
“No….” Long pause “I’m sorry sir.”
“A deli without oysters? Thats insane!” He then slaps 50 cents on the counter and takes a big gulp of the burning water and walks down the street. New York City, what a place.
I finally get up and order the BLT. I pull out a crisp 10 dollar bill, and as I take the sandwich in my hand I feel redeemed. The awkwardness of last visit is replaced by sandwich perfection. Honestly not going to lie to you, it wasn’t actually that good of a sandwich, but the week long wait really just boosted the flavor. The tomatoes were really fresh, but the bacon was a bit stringy. The mayonnaise was super heavy, which I like, but some people aren't so hot about. To top it all off, as I’m leaving I look to my right, and oh my God I see a pickup truck, and in the back is a huge blowup rat. It’s like 10 feet high and has bright pink eyes and it’s showing razor teeth. Honestly you can’t make these things up. New York City, what a place.