Sandwiches and Parks

I didn’t always like parks. Not by a lot. Portland would have its days of seasonal gorgeousness and like freed prisoners, people break free of their cold corners and flood the parks. Suddenly everyone has a Frisbee or a dog. It’s college again and layers are shed to reveal inexplicably toned legs and arms. Dean once said it’s like a plane of hotness lands in PDX when the sun comes out. If you admitted to spending The Incredible Weekend inside, you were met with a haughty, disapproving look. So I’d try and play along. Take a towel and a book to the park behind my apartment and be at the park. And there I’d sit, shifting from one uncomfortable position to another, lying on my stomach, sitting Indian style, casually resting on my back propped on my elbows watching the dogs run by. I’d last about 20 minutes before I wrote the whole thing off as a hippie activity and go inside, draw the blinds and catch up on my Netflix. I’d lie on Monday. Said I went on a hike in Forest Park.

But in the lexicon of the lol: Park. Ur doin it wrong.

I was missing sandwiches. And I was missing the right park.

I’ve fallen for Dolores Park. It’s the only place I really ever want to be, watching the endless parade of entertainment go by. Motley crews of hungover missionites looking to make the best of the day. Cyclists laying down their fixed-gear bikes like proud trophies. Bridge and tunnelers creating the scene of an ersatz J.Crew photo shoot. And the families hurridly making their way to the other side of the park, away from the open containers, the swearing and the man who wanders from blanket to blanket with a cooler, singsonging “ganja treats.”

Dolores Park is a dangerous half-block away from some of the best food in the city. Besides the burritos, there’s Bi-rite, where their small aisles become even more unnavigable when the temperature spikes above 60 degrees. Hipsters in shorts and everyone with a bag a little too big tries to make themselves smaller as they turn sideways to choose some produce or order a sandwich. Apologies abound and patience can run thin, but the selection and sandwiches are worth the wait. The deli line and check-out line get confused quickly and if you don’t have a number in your hand, there’s little hope of seeing lunch outside of 20 minutes. I’ve sat outside, waiting to meet a friend and seen park-bound person after park-bound person trip out of the store, shell-shocked and weary, wide-eyed, ready to take their hard-earned lunch and do a fucklot of nothing for a few good hours.

And of late, I have a new plan. It’s not as convenient, but probably takes about the same amount of time. The answer? Saigon Sandwich. It’s a tiny little shop in the Tenderloin that’s rumoured to be a front for some shady dealings. And really, with their bahn mi being so instantly addictive and euphoria inducing, I wouldn’t be surprised if some dust from the bricks of heroin they may or may not be bundling in the back aren’t making it into the roast pork. Seriously, they’re that good. Freshly pickled vegetables, succulent meats and some kind of magic sauce all on a crusty French roll. For $2.75. Seriously. Not a typo. Two dollars and seventy-five cents.

Friday I was in a different park. A friend of mine is new to working on the Embarcadero, and had yet to uncover the simple beauty that is Secret Deli. The shop is entirely non-descript, could be in any office complex anywhere, but the lady there, she does amazing sandwiches. I don’t know what it is, but she can make a turkey-avo-swiss-on-wheat-no-tomato-no-mustard like no one’s business. The tuna melt on dutch crunch is just as awesome. I went for my regular and he ventured for the Cadillac Chicken, a veritable coma-inducing gut bomb you can really only get on a Friday where you have no intentions of being productive.

We took our sandwiches, we made our way to the little patch of park behind Fog City. It doesn’t provide nearly the same entertainment as Dolores. It’s more of an afterthought of urban greening than anything else, but it works. A slightly shady spot under a tree, two sandwiches and an oversized bag of chips and suddenly the workday has floated away. Traffic falls into a white-noise backdrop and muted conversations are only interrupted by the mid-day walking of secretaries and their dogs. Trepadation about sitting directly on the grass is gone and soon enough you’re there, stretched out, sandwich wrappers crumpled and wedged under the shoes you’ve just decided to take off, wondering how long you can stay without raising any eyebrows.

Though I'm inclined to stay for four hours, forty minutes is even enough to sit there, with a friend and a sandwich. "This," I hear myself saying,"this is what life is all about."

1 comment:

Kate said...

Is that a Vietnamese sandwich I see in your hand? Have you tried Little Vietnam Cafe on 6th Ave between Clement and Geary? It's my favorite post-weekend-morning-yoga treat : )