Walter Mencken 11:22 a.m., April 26
Bus stop cheese steak
Oh man. Why am I always late?
Jumped off the Green Line trolley at Fashion Valley this evening. Something wrong with my iPad. Heck, that was a $750 investment. Had to get to the Geniuses at Apple in the mall at 5:40pm. That was the appointment time. Confirmed by email.
Then I was late and the bus got struck in traffic. Had to set back my 5:10 appointment by email by half an hour.
Irony? Now I arrive at the elevated station with fifteen minutes to spare.
I quick march down the steps (four lots of 13 steps. Always count steps), and am just about to head up to the mall when I see this kinda attractive sign saying “Café” right at the base, where the 120 bus pulls in.
So okay, it’s one of those bus stop convenience places. Not even a store. Called the Hot Blend Café (1205 Fashion Valley Road, Mission Valley).
I’m thinking cawfee, so I head for the counter.
See they have a cup of joe for $1.50. But then I see they have food too. Like hot dogs for $2, a pretzel dog for $3.50, a cheeseburger for $3.25.
Heck, fifteen minutes. They also have a Philly cheese steak with chips and soda combo deal for $5.75. I go for that. Ask for a kind of a strawberry mix soda he has, and pay out.
First nice surprise is that price includes tax. So $5.75 means $5.75. On the street, people like it when $5.75 means $5.75.
Second nice surprise is Ray.
Turns out he’s Afghan. From Herat. Knows Khaled Waled, the guy who started Zia Gourmet Pizza (3311 Adams Avenue) up in Normal Heights. Khaled’s a really bright, funny guy with interesting Afghan-style pizzas, like cinnamon pear pizza. Oh man.
But two shakes of a lamb’s tail and Ray has everything in front of me. Here it’s all microwave, of course. The Philly cheese steak comes in a hot dog bun. It’s right beside the icy red pop soda drink, the bag of Chester’s Flamin’ Hot Fries, the “chips” I chose.
I start to chow in, standing at the end counter. And you know what? Yes it’s prepackaged, pre-cooked, pre-everything, not what Mr. A's would serve, but it’s good. Tasty. The hot beef’s nice and tender, there’s plenty of melted cheese, and Chester wasn’t joking about the flamin’ hot aspect of those fries.
Turns out Ray was back Afghanistan last year.
“Actually, it’s not all as bad as you read,” he says. “The worst thing is kidnapping, if they think you’re rich. But outside most of the cities, life goes on. It’s peaceful. It’s a beautiful country.”
I’m chewing over that thought when I look at my watch. Oh no. It's gawn 5:45 already. Done it again. I start running, repeating the Etoinal Question:
Why am I always late?