Sarah and I were hungry after the Yankees game on the Sunday night after BlogHer, screwing around in Midtown looking for someplace that was open late.
I located a few late night possibilities on Yelp, including the Carnegie Deli. We decided to go there because it was really close, supposedly an institution that I had never visited before, and hey, a deli, why not?
As soon as we sat down there were half-done pickles, which always pleases me. But when the waiter told me that the only Reuben option was $24.95, I was less pleased. I don't know what I was expecting, a Reuben Happy Meal or what, but it seemed crazy even in this neighborhood where dollar bills seem to magically fall out of your pockets into the steam grates.
So I told him I'd take the Woody Allen, a corned beef and pastrami combo that was so very much more reasonable at, oh, 18 bucks or so.
In hindsight, the menu alone caused me to lose all sense of perspective. We also missed the part that said you could share for $3.00. We are very capable of sharing food. This was an unfortunate oversight, brought on no doubt by four days of limited sleep, not so much solid food and not a little bit of wine.
Sarah ordered a roast beef sandwich. I asked him for a Coke and prayed it wasn't ten dollars. Minutes later, this arrives on the table:
I can't even explain to you what happened in my brain when this pile of meat appeared. The pictures do not show how large this thing was. I didn't know whether to name it, apologize to it or get it its own table.
Sarah looked at the sandwich and at me and I looked at her and then the sandwich and I really wish I had video of the way we looked at each other over the plates that were somehow, ridiculously, on our table.
"Dude," she said, when she had words. "Your sandwich is STUPID."
And that is when I lost my mind. I started laughing, and she started laughing. We laughed so hard and so uncontrollably that I think it warranted a clinical diagnosis. We could not stop, for minutes, until we were crying. I am not a person who normally laughs until I cry, but I was weeping. And every time I stopped, we'd look at each other, or we would look at this,
(Pickle for perspective)
(The little pieces of bread make it look like PeeWee Herman with that bellboy hat on, or a giant wearing a beret.)
And it would start all over again.
I looked around suspiciously at other diners. There were empty plates and beer bottles, people chatting like they weren't in a wackjob land of gargantuan food. The ladies next to me had had entrees that didn't look extraordinarily large, although they probably cost $37. Probably payday.
"No one else is acting like this is weird at all. Look at them," she said. "We sound high The last time I laughed like this for this long I was in my college cafeteria at 7 a.m. and I hadn't slept in a long time."
"I feel high," I said. And I did. It was an almost out-of-body Willy Wonka kind of deal.
Lick the walls! They taste like corned beef and dusty picture frames! I swear, you'll love it! Everything's just really BIG here.
And for the most recent time, I wondered where the hidden cameras were.
The Carnegie Deli's walls are covered with 8x10 autographed photos of a variety of famous visitors who may or may not order the Woody Allen or even eat anything at all. I actually think they are all lying if they say they do. We had several photographs on the wall right next to us. Because I was concerned that the tears in Sarah's eyes were actually those of distress and not hysterical laughter, I decided to focus on what we could control.
"Hey," I said, because I am observant. "We have company. Look, you get to eat with Ryan Seacrest."
That cheered her up.
What did not cheer her up? Or me either for that matter? The fact that these insane piles of meat are held together by (in her case) a brick of cheese and those teensy beensy pieces of bread -- no vegetables, no condiments, nothing. The waiter walked by and Sarah said, "Excuse me? Could I get some...mayonnaise?"
And swear to God dude looked at us like we'd asked for fish tacos in a deli.
You know? Mayonnaise? That spoonful of saturated fat that helps one choke down a side of beef? DUDE.
Ahem. Back to the wall gallery. We had calmed down some. Sarah was pissed off at the wasteful nature of this establishment, what with the pound -- probably more, come to think of it -- of corned beef and pastrami on my plate that was so overwhelming to me (and, quite frankly, dry, minus the six bucks worth of sauerkraut, dressing and cheese that I totally would have sprung for if I had a time machine. I didn't bother to ask for mustard.) She was scowling, occasionally gnawing on her meat, and worst of all, neither of us had a beer to soften the blow. I looked to my right, at this guy.
I thought I knew who he was, but I couldn't remember his name, just that he wanted me to "Save room for the awegfaergvaergaerawgr," to which I say, "Right on."
"Who is that?" I wondered aloud.
And in a version of her voice that I wish I could share with you in an audio file, she said, and you are in no way going to think this is as funny as I do,
As in "John." As in "Hall and."
Yeah, no. I decided to eat with this other guy anyway.
Done. Done. Absolutely done and done and done. Please keep in mind that Sarah makes me laugh harder than just about anyone I know on a regular basis so this was like that experience, except dosed and off the rails.
I started laughing again and did not stop completely until we left the building. Every time I thought this would stop being funny, something insane would happen. For instance, the jolly ladies next to me were not finished when their plates were cleared, oh no. Minutes later, pieces of pie or cheesecake arrived in front of them that were approximately a foot tall, like this:
(I found this on the Internet. It is ostensibly from the Carnegie Deli, and because it looks like the food of Gulliver on the island or an insane person in Wonderland, I can only surmise that it is, in fact, from their dessert case. If I had seen it in person, I would have laughed longer, because, pecan roll on cheesecake? Right.)
I mean, hey, eat what you want, but where do you PUT IT? I was still flailing intermittently at my meat with a fork and getting nowhere. It was like I ate it with my eyes.
Also, Ooooooaaaaatttttteeeesssss was still with me. One or the other or both of us would say it about every thirty seconds, because it turns out that once you start that shit up it's difficult to stop.
It's really, really difficult to stop, or maybe just if you are us.
I do know that there is some kind of joke inherent in leaving a place like this and being hungry and slightly nauseous because I just really couldn't eat what was put in front of me, because just how oh how do you even take that seriously? I couldn't, and when the guy asked me if I wanted it boxed to go I was very fortunate that I did not hurl on the table.
I'm sure that there are people who go there and enjoy it. I think I would have if I'd stuck with maybe six more pickles and a Coke and that's all, a blintz maybe, and giggled at the photos. I'm sure there are people who would call me an idiot -- didn't you KNOW? It's the Carnegie DELI, it's KNOWN for its enormous sandwiches, you imbecile.
But I didn't, or if I'd been told -- if it was the question to a Jeopardy answer or a passage in a travel article -- I forgot. I can only hold so many references in my head at once, or for a lifetime, you guys.
But I can tell you two things. One is that if you're going to have any kind of friend at all with whom you voluntarily spend a significant amount of time it should be the kind who can laugh with you until you cry, damn whomever's around. Because as ridiculous as this may have been and as much as that pile of meat could've fed several hungry people, I know that when I look back on my life I will remember this in technicolor, and it will never not make me smile.
And the other is that I have the tragicomic kind of life where when I opened the refrigerator at my parents' house the next day when I came home, this is what I saw.
And I made myself a Reuben of totally usual size, and it was really good.
And I texted Sarah and lost my shit laughing again, and the circle was unbroken.
Except, you know. Ooooooaaaaatttttteeeesssss.