Monday, July 04, 2005

i [you know] ny

One of the greatest things about New York City, hands down, is the corner deli. On just about every block of the city is at least one grungy little convenience store open 24 hours a day, which means that if you desperately need a loaf of Arnold's Whole Grain Bread at 3 a.m., you need not walk more than half a block to get one, and if you go to a fancy store and try to charge a sweater to your maxed out credit card, you can find an ATM and run back into the store with the adequate cash in a matter of minutes. But the best thing about the Corner Deli is the familiarity you develop with "yours."

At the closest of my delis, the one that doubles as a pizza counter, the same little man of indeterminate ethnic origin is ALWAYS manning the non-pizza counter. There's not very much in the deli, so all I ever buy from him is beer, and I've been doing so for over two years. We've never really had a conversation, but every time I come in he grins real big and says "Hi Smiley" (which is funny because I'm decidedly un-smiley) and when I buy my beer he asks "how's your friend?" I'm not sure who this "friend" is, but I gather that he's referring to a guy, and, well, I've brought more than one to the deli. Or it could be the expat Perplexa. Hmm...

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last post, I just spent the very last of my money (all quarters) on some beer. When I went in and asked Mr. Smiley how much a six pack of Coors Light was, he told me it was $9, $2 more than what I had in my pocket. I told him I only had $7, not to seek a favor but just to explain my moment of consternation as I calculated how many beers I could buy. He came over, grabbed my shoulders, and put his head on my back. Then he shook his head, laughed, and said, "Take it, you pay me later." I emptied my change on the counter, laughing sheepishly, and he just smiled and said, "It's just money!" And then when I was halfway to the door, he told me to let him know if I needed any more.

I was almost thinking of going the extra block and taking my 28 quarters elsewhere to experience my shame anonymously, but now I know that in MY deli, I will never be judged for being financially irresponsible, slutty, and alcoholic. And when I want a dried out, congealed slice of vegetable pizza at 4:30 in the morning, I'll get it with a smile.


Fat Asian Baby said...

waaait. that guy is always asking me how "my friend" is too. i always just assumed he meant you. though now that i think of it, we don't usually go in there together.

Gina said...

wait, when have you gone in there?

maybe he thinks that means "how are you?"

Fat Asian Baby said...

haven't i told you this? like everytime i come over i stop there to get either beer or vitamin water depending upon if its the afternoon or evening. don't i always tell you the deli guy says hi? i always assumed he meant you. weird.

Anonymous said...

you know i am having this pang of missing new york hardcore, and it is, incidentally centered around the corner deli, or more specifically deli coffee (as in waking up nice and late on a saturday morning and picking up a copy of the nyt andd a fresh cup of deli coffee for a buck).
there are no delis that have coffee here in london. corner delis have limited selection, mine i think closes at (gasp) 8:30pm, and does not sell coffee or hot beverages--or even beer?!
all you can get is a diet coke and a lollipop-and you can't get it at 8:30pm+


karla said...

Man, what a nice guy! I've gotta stop watching Seinfeld and other shows that give the impression that no one in NY is friendly.