Monthly Archives: June 2012

Adelphi Deli: The best deli in the universe

There’s this great deli, Adelphi Deli, right by my parents’ house on Long Island. I’m not exaggerating when I say it’s the best deli in the United States. I can already hear people saying stuff in their heads like, “That’s not true. My deli is the best deli!” You’re wrong. Even if your deli is running at full capacity, doing absolutely everything right, it can only ever be second best, and a distant second at that. Trust me, if you ever go to my deli, you’ll never be able to eat at your deli back home ever again. So I’d almost recommend that you never come to my deli, unless you plan on moving close enough to satisfy what will wind up being semi-regular cravings for a really amazing deli experience. But I can’t not recommend coming, because, like I already said, it’s the best. I can also hear a second group of people saying stuff in their heads like, “No! Adelphi Deli isn’t the best deli. Carnegie Deli/Katz’s Deli/Second Ave. Deli is the best deli!” To these people I definitely don’t invite you to the Adelphi Deli, because you’re basically just going for the U2 or the Coldplay of delicatessen, and you wouldn’t know a good deli sandwich if it walked up to you, shoved itself inside your mouth, and then forcibly opened and closed your jaw for you, leaving you with nothing to do but to sit back and just bask in the deliciousness that would now be entering your digestive system.

Adelphi Deli isn’t anything gourmet or overly fancy; there’s nothing inaccessible about it. They just happen to specialize in making pretty much any sandwich that has or will ever exist on the planet earth, and they make it the absolute best, every single time. They have every cold cut you can imagine. They have a rotating selection of piping hot food. If you want an egg sandwich, they’ll make you an egg sandwich, even if it’s past two o’clock, even though the sign says “Breakfast served until 2:00 pm,” and I prefer it that way, because it makes me feel like they’re going out of their way for me, like even their own breakfast sandwich rules don’t stand a chance against such superb customer service.

Whenever I’m on Long Island I like to get Adelphi Deli for lunch. The only thing is, so does everyone who happens to be on Long Island. So you go there and you have to wait. Even if you think you’re being smart and ordering everything in advance on the phone, you still have to wait on line, because half the people on line have probably also ordered their food ahead of time. But it’s actually OK. It’s a pleasure to wait on line at Adelphi Deli. Why? Because you get to watch everyone talk to the boss, Jim – you know he’s the boss because while everyone else working there wears a white polo under their dark green apron, Jim wears a white button down and a tie under his – and then eventually it’ll be your turn to get talk to Jim.

Watching Jim interact with his customers must be what it was like to watch Mozart conduct his orchestras many centuries ago. Jim is the very best at what he does, at running Adelphi Deli. When I first started going there, I thought that, wow, Adelphi Deli sure has a lot of regulars. Jim would always greet people by name. And it does have a ton of regulars. But after a few visits, I realized that it’s not just the regulars that Jim knows. He knows every single person that has ever stepped foot in Adelphi Deli. By name. And he knows at least one personal anecdote to really customize the greeting.

One time it was really, really busy, and Jim was schmoozing at high gear. I swear, I heard in what had to be less than sixty second, “Hey Mr. Halifax. How’s the new Buick running? Mrs. Smith, great to see you. How’s the new hip? Mr. O’Brien. Congrats on the promotion!” and he went down the line until everyone felt like they were the only customer in the store. I was a little nervous at first, because I felt like I was missing some sort of connection that Jim has with everyone else. But he was very cool about it, just asking me what I was up to, nothing too specific. The next time I came in, which had to have been months later, he started asking me about how my brother was doing in law-school, if my parents had a good vacation in Massachusetts … it was incredible. How does he do it? Does he have a team of detectives working for him? I’m the kind of guy who has to ask a new coworker to repeat his or her name over and over again, even after they’ve been working with more for a week. Jim, I think, knows all about you even before you have a chance to step into the deli. And I think he uses that knowledge to make sure that everyone’s sandwich is exactly how they like it, every single time. Like I said, best deli in the US.

One time I was waiting on the deli line for a long time. This woman came in and just kind of hovered, not in line, but around the line for a while, almost like she was waiting to talk to somebody. I could tell she was up to something, so I kept my eye on her. She waited for maybe five to ten minutes, hardly no time at all for Adelphi Deli, and then she made her move. One of the counter people asked who was next, and she just kind of stepped in and said, “Oh, I’m next. All I want is this, this ready-to-eat soup. Nothing else. Just this soup.” I know what she was thinking. She was thinking that her purchase was a quick one, that she didn’t deserve to wait on line like everyone else. She would be in and out, no problem. Why wait? She didn’t have to wait. Right? She’s better than everyone else. Why would she wait on such a long line for just a container of soup? Who waits for soup? Oh and, well, do you have any bread? Just a little bread. You don’t have to toast it or anything. Or just toast it lightly. Just a little bit. This won’t take long. I’ll be out of here in ten seconds.

I couldn’t take it, but I was also in such a great mood from just getting to hang out at Adelphi Deli. But I couldn’t let my euphoria stop me from at least pointing out this lady’s injustice. So I said to her, calmly, with a smile on my face, “You know, I saw you cut the line.” And she got pissed, real fast. She looked at me with this angry face, the kind of face a teacher gives to a student that talks back in class. The kind of face that says it without saying it, “Shut the hell up! You can’t talk to me!” And then she opened her mouth and said, “Excuse me? Excuse me! I did not cut! How dare you!” and I just stayed calm, the same smile on my face and I said, “Well, I saw you. You cut.” And she threw her hands in the air and put her soup down and said, “Fine you go first!” and then she turned to the counter person and said, “Take care of this guy first! He’s in such a hurry!” So I said, “No, that’s OK. I’m not in a rush. I just wanted to let you know that I saw you cut. You can go ahead of me though.” And she said, “No you go first!” Then I looked at her dead in the eye and said, “I’m not going first. I’m just going to stand here and not even look at the counter person until you go first.”

At that point she took out a wad of cash, threw in down on the counter, took her soup, and harrumphed out of the place. I looked at the counter guy and said, “I’m telling you, she totally cut.” And the counter guy looked at me and said, “I honestly do not care. That was the stupidest interaction I’ve ever had to witness in my life.” And I was thrown off. What? What about line etiquette? What about the honor system? I looked for Jim. We made eye contact. I didn’t have to say a word. Jim went over to the counter guy and fired him on the spot. I’m telling you: Best. Deli. In. The. World. Period.

Searching for some new activities

I need to get involved in some new activities. My life’s getting a little stale. I’m just doing the same things over and over again. I tried getting into fishing, but I found it incredibly boring. I knew it would be boring before I started, but for some reason I thought I could make it interesting. I went down to the docks and set up my line. Then I waited like an hour. Then I waited another hour. Nothing. I got so sunburned. Boredom levels reached an all time high.

After the second hour, this old man fishing next to me asked me if I would watch his lines while he went to go to the bathroom. He hadn’t caught anything either, and he had set up like eight poles. If I were I a fish, and I saw eight evenly spaced out worms, that would, to me, be a dead giveaway that somebody’s fishing. The old man was taking forever and, like I said, I was really bored, so while he was gone, I tied the hook of my line to the hook of one of his lines. When he came back, I started reeling it in like I had caught something, which made it look like his line had caught something also. We both tugged on our lines for about a minute or so, but I couldn’t help myself and I started laughing pretty hard. As soon as I started laughing, my grip on the pole slackened, and so did the old man’s. So he figured out what was going on pretty fast and started yelling at me in some language that sounded like Polish or something Eastern European, which made me laugh even more. Then he took out a knife and started at me all crazy like, so I ran away.

I was too scared to go back and get my pole so I went to the park and thought about starting a new activity: sitting around and feeding the ducks. I always thought feeding the ducks was such a peaceful sport. I imagined tearing off pieces of bread and giving them to the ducks, eventually teaching them how to do tricks, or at least showing them how to march behind me single file. But this activity turned sour immediately. As soon as I sat down at the bench, this one duck flew out of nowhere and landed like a few feet away from me. He started honking really loudly and waddling over to me. I stood up hoping to scare him off, but he just kept advancing and honking, or quacking I guess. I gave up and ran away.

I had never met such a mean bird. Actually, that’s not true. One time when I was in Ecuador, we went to this lady’s house in the mountains. When we got there, the guy who drove us told me to be careful, because this lady had some really mean turkeys. Mean turkeys? I thought either that this guy was crazy or that I had simply mistranslated what he had said to me because, there weren’t any turkeys, just chickens running around. But maybe two hours later, the driver was talking and all of the sudden just stopped, mid-sentence his mouth hanging open. I tried to ask him what was wrong, but he could only point. And sure enough, maybe ten feet away there was a group of turkeys, and they started slowly walking toward us, making weird, terrifying gobbling sounds. The driver immediately ran to the car and, not knowing what these poultry were capable of, I followed him. We drove off and no matter how much I asked the driver why he was so scared of the turkeys – what kind of threat did they pose? – he just couldn’t choke out an answer.

So finally I just gave up on new activities and bought an old Nintendo DS and a copy of Nintendogs. I named my virtual pet Scruffy, and things were getting along OK at first, but, and I really can’t believe that somebody programmed this into the game, I let Scruffy out for an unsupervised walk, I’m telling you it was a legit option, and then I forgot about the game for a few days. When I picked it up, the Game Boy alerted me that Scruffy was foaming at the mouth and was threatening my neighbor’s kids. The only option available was to put the dog down. Can you imagine? What a sick, twisted video game.

My very own Spider-Man comic

I thought I’d share a nice Spider-Man comic I drew today. I wrote about comics last week and about how I thought Spider-Man stories were getting a little stale. So I decided to write and draw my own. Marvel, call me up! I’m totally free!


Probably one of the best Spider-Man stories I’ve ever read. By the way, I own all the rights to Captain Ham Sandwich. Not Spider-Man, though, that’s Marvel’s.

Here’s a little look into my creative process

Sometimes I’ll sit down to write these blog posts and I’ll just have no ideas what to write about. My mind has taken the day off. I try to keep myself on a pretty strict schedule, so that I can hopefully get at least one thing written a day, maybe two, ideally two-and-a-half, three, three-and-a-half, but I’ll get days like these where no matter how long I stare at the computer screen, I just can’t think of anything to say.

And then my heart starts beating faster and faster and I’m worried that maybe I never really had anything to say in the first place, or maybe I did, but I lost whatever it was and I start thinking about trying again tomorrow. But what if tomorrow is equally as bad? How many days in a row can I keep up just sitting here and staring at a blank Word document? Is that a sustainable process?

I try my best to just put my mind on shuffle. I’ll kind of just let my thoughts run loose and try and see what’s going on in my head from a distance. Maybe a stray sentence will run through and will sound interesting. I’ll type it out and see if it sparks a new train of thought. On my best days, I’ll follow these little snippets and just observe and let them take me away and the next thing I know I’m done. I’m done, and it’s over, and I let out a huge sigh, I did it. But I look around and I didn’t pay attention to how I got here. I never really know how I wound up here in first place.

Generally I like to put a good chunk of distance between actually writing this nonsense and putting it up to read. A lot of the time I find that, right after I write something, there is just such a sense of relief and satisfaction at having actually gotten through writing it that I’ll kind of just tell myself that I did a good job, just so I can let it rest. But then I’ll look at it days or weeks later and realize that I was trying way too hard to be funny or nothing really made sense.

I get in the habit when I’m writing sometimes where I feel like I’m trying too hard to mimic my own writing style. Like I’ve established a certain tone or method of telling stories and now I’m bound to just repeat myself over and over again. If you’ve ever watched an episode of your favorite TV show, one that’s probably been on for a season too long, and you’ve thought to yourself that the main character is trying too hard to act like the main character, well, you can kind of get what I’m afraid of doing then.

Sometimes I’ll drink too much coffee and I won’t be able to think straight. And my hands will be moving too fast to be typing correctly. Usually coffee is absolutely essential to the process, but every once in a while, maybe I won’t have slept great the night before, maybe something inside will be a little off, but the coffee just makes me freak out even more and I’m a hundred times more wired than I usually am and I can’t do anything.

Sometimes I’ll get way too drunk before I start writing and then I’m spilling stuff all over my computer and I’ll be making way too much noise and my neighbors will bang on the walls and tell me to knock it off and I’ll start banging right back. So the neighbors call the cops and I have to pretend like I have no idea what the officer is talking about when he knocks on my door, like the neighbor is just crazy.

Every other three days I need just a few lines of blow to get really get the creative juices ramped up. But I’m pretty sure my dealer cut the last batch with some plaster or something, because I could just feel my sinuses totally caked with cement. I started freaking out and had to go to the emergency room, but when I got there, I was too scared to tell the doctor the truth, so I told him I thought I had an ear infection. He prescribed me some antibiotics, so I got home and crushed those up and snorted those. I think it kind of worked actually.

One time I thought I’d try hanging myself upside down and maybe the new perspective would help me come up with something really cool to write about. But typing on a computer while you’re hanging upside down is next to impossible. I bought a separate keyboard and hung it upside down to the ceiling with some string. It looked as if I should have been able to type, but I couldn’t really press down on the keys hard enough without sending the whole keyboard swinging back and forth. It was incredibly frustrating and I just got a huge headache and it also was really hard getting myself back down again.

One time I put on a monkey costume and chained myself to a desk and took all of the clocks out of the room. I started banging on the keys randomly and kept it up for what had to have been at least four days straight, but all I came up with was a few random chapters from some lame-o Dean Koontz novel.

Game of Thrones? Sorry, I’m way too serious for games.

Here’s why I’m not watching Game of Thrones yet. My gut reaction after watching the commercials and hearing people talk about it is that the whole series seems way too similar to the Lord of the Rings. And I thought that the Lord of the Rings movies were pretty boring. Whatever, boring, yeah, but it’s not like I’m hating on them or anything. I really don’t have anything against them. I watched all three and really tried to get into them. But there were too many characters and I could never keep track of what was going on. And everyone had weird names, so I couldn’t keep anything straight in my head. I got all of the different kings confused. Everyone had a beard. There were too many swordfights. I thought that guy who got killed by the arrows was the same guy that got poisoned and almost burned by his dad. You only got to see Lord Sauron once, in the beginning, and that was it. Right? What was the whole eye thing, was that Sauron or something else? I mean, I watched all of these movies and, at the end of the trilogy, I had little to no idea what had actually happened. And they were all so long.

Everyone’s probably getting so pissed right now. I began with why I haven’t started watching Game of Thrones and immediately jumped to Lord of the Rings. I know that this is a cardinal offense amongst Throners. “But you don’t get it Rob!” everyone always protests, “It’s a fantasy series but it’s not about fantasy!” I get it, I get it. It’s like magic exists but it’s in the background, OK, I got it. I’m sure it’s actually a really great show. Things don’t get to be that popular by being stupid and lame.

But where Lord of the Rings had close to five hundred main characters, I’ve heard that Game of Thrones has something approaching a hundred thousand. And the names are just as crazy. King Fragomire or the honorable knight Sir Heglioth. If I were writing a fantasy series, I would just use regular names so people wouldn’t get so confused. And I’m not trying to say that regular is better, it’s just that, when people make up names that aren’t rooted in any actual human culture, and you’re planning on using a ton of them, it all winds up sounding kind of silly. Or alien. Like Kal-El. But he actually is an alien, so that works. Think about Star Wars. It’s a long time ago somewhere very far away. But the names are still Luke, Ben, Porkins. At some level I can still connect with what’s going on.

But all of this is just secondary to the real reason why I won’t get into Game of Thrones, and it’s not at all a unique or original reason or insight. As everyone knows, the author is two books short of finishing the series. He’s old, and because he’s old, and fat, everyone’s worried that he’s not going to be able to do it. Personally, I feel bad for the guy. He’s just writing his stories and all of the sudden his books take off and the whole world starts getting angry at him because he might die. It seems a little shortsighted and inconsiderate of us a species.

Having said that, I really don’t want to get sucked into an engaging series that doesn’t have an ending. That’s why I’ll never watch Lost. Where’s the eventual payoff? I’ve read something like the author of Game of Thrones wrote way too many characters into his books, so many that now he can’t even keep track of what’s going on as he tries to finish the last two. It sounds like a nightmare from his perspective. Meanwhile, to ratchet up the pressure even more, HBO is coming out with a new season every summer. What’s going to happen when the series catches up with the books? What, is there going to be some sort of a six year hiatus? I don’t think so. Our modern public won’t stand for it. HBO would probably rather hire an assassin to finish off the author while they just write the rest of them it themselves.

If I were a fantasy novelist, I would read all of the books that already came out and then I would just write the last two by myself. Screw the author. I don’t care if I wouldn’t make any money. I’d just write them and release them on the Internet. And even though I’d probably be hated for completely jacking this guy’s series, people would get so tired of waiting around that they’d eventually have no choice but to read mine. And, like any entrenched series, there would be people for and against my books. And maybe it would light a fire under the author’s ass, and he’d rush to finish the series on his own. But that would be even better, because there would be two endings to this series, his and mine. And maybe mine would be better. They probably wouldn’t, but maybe. Who knows right?