Friday, February 28, 2014

the anatomy of a sandwich

So, when I thought of doing this post, this is what I was doing:
Because I live in the middle of the polar vortex, I have forgotten my love for cold sub sandwiches. The temperatures have been unforgiving, and it's a miracle when the thermometer goes up past zero. Not including windchill. We're desperate here. I don't eat cold foods often these days, for fear that in my constant state of borderline hypothermia, a cold pasta salad or deli meat sandwich may just do me in.

But today, today was different. It was 14 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn't need a hat, and on my way to my car after work I passed by a Jimmy John's and knew it was time to have a sandwich. Not just any sandwich, not some wheat bread slice-whole grain sandwich, but a sub sandwich. Using bread with the heel of the loaf still intact.

I'm a minimalist, I love a classic turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato, a few other veg and mayo. The mayo and the tomato are a must. Why? Because as you are eating the sandwich, it is a delicious experience... then finally there is the end piece.
There it is, the heel of the loaf, the hard, crispy crusted end now slightly softened and soaked with the oozing juice from the tomato and mayo. All the condiments from your sandwich have been pushed down to the last part of your sandwich.

The last bite is crispy, creamy, tart, and all yours. There might be a bit of meat and lettuce left at the end, but it's always best if all that remains is mayo and crust.

...and it's the only way to eat mayo and bread in a sociably acceptable manner.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

the corner of 7th and 9th: 2.5 months in hell

When I entered my first year officially going to a state university, officially living on campus I was about 22 years old. Living in a primarily right-wing city about an hour and a half north of the cities, I was eager to find an apartment of my own. A majority of the students left of campus were freshmen, and I didn't have any desire to go to house parties with underage kids or show up to class hungover. I had a bad enough history with not doing well in my studies already.

My main goal was to graduate as fast as I could. The felt the only way to do this was to find a studio apartment so I could be alone and not have any distractions and become a somewhat good student. I worked part-time back in the cities on the weekends, and it wasn't nearly enough to cover apartment rent, much less gas traveling back and forth once or twice a week. My pops was gracious enough to agree to help me pay half my rent for a reasonably (dirt cheap) priced apartment as long as I kept my grades up. I was on the lookout.

Finally we stumbled on a decent looking apartment complex on the edge of campus with a broken hinged sign that said "STUDIO APARTMENT AVAILAB". The L and E was missing and might of been laying somewhere in the property, overgrown with weeds and crushed beer cans. To me, it was a shining beacon of hope. I called what I could make out of the property owner's phone number and requested a showing for that afternoon, little did I know that in the two and a half months I lived there... I would be leaving that apartment in two and a half months.
My dad came with me that afternoon to look at the apartment with me, just to make sure everything checked out okay. (Thanks dad...) The whole complex consisted of small studio apartments with a shared bathroom in between a pair of separate apartments. The communal kitchen was on the first floor, my apartment was on the second floor at the top of the stairs. We checked it out and I immediately wanted it. It was very small, but had the basics. A small closet, a sink/counter/cupboard area with a microwave and a mini fridge. There was enough room for a bed, small desk and a TV. That's all I needed. The landlord said I would be sharing the bathroom next door with another female occupant, locks would be on the outside for each and just be sure to knock before entering. Shower. Toilet. That was good enough for me.

The price was right too, it was such an incredibly cheap apartment at $250 that I was happy that I could afford to pay half the rent and still have money for groceries and gas, so we signed the lease. I immediately moved in my bed, TV and desk with the help of my folks and then I was all on my own. I went out to the store and bought a bit of groceries and designated my own little corner in the bathroom with my shower supplies and hung my towel. I slept peacefully that first night.

The next morning I went outside to unlock my bike and head for class, when I was stopped by a greasy-looking middle aged man having a cigarette outside of the door of the complex. He introduced himself and shook my hand. His name was Greg. He smelled like a musty basement and looked like he hadn't showered or slept in a week.I had no desire to get to know him, but assuming he was probably another tenant, I did my best to be neighborly and say hello, and excuse myself as I biked to class.

I came back home in the late evening and saw Greg sitting and having another cigarette outside of the door, I did my best again to say hello while locking my bike back up. As I was unlocking the front door, he decided to attempt to strike up a conversation with me.

He said, "Nice night, huh?"


"Y'just move in 'ere?"


"Yup, I been livin' 'ere for about four years an' this is th'place t'be. Yer young an' pretty so ya outta have a good time 'ere!"

He must of found himself quite amusing because he rolled into a laughing, coughing fit which included a couple of knee slaps.

"...thank, well, have a good night."

I hurried up the stairs and locked my door. I figured and hoped he just might of been a weird but hopefully harmless greasy old man, but I still kept my guard up. It made me feel uneasy.

A couple hours into studying I started hearing my "bathroom roommate" enter into her apartment next door, trying again to be a friendly neighbor, I peeked outside and introduced myself to her and did again, my best to say hello and make a good impression.

"Hi!" I said. "I'm Julie, I just moved next door, I thought I'd pop out and say hello."

She looked at me like I was some sort of troll that crawled out from under a bridge.

"Yea, thanks." and she closed her apartment door in my face.

What did I do? I thought. Maybe she just had a bad day, but I did my best to be as good as a neighbor and bathroom roommate as I could. The walls of the apartment were paper-thin so I always knew when she was in the bathroom. Sometimes I'd hold it in for a good hour while I heard her on the toilet, talking on her phone, then afterwards taking a 30 minute shower. It kind of sucked, but so far all that mattered to me was that I living alone in my room with no one to bother me.

Hunger crept in awhile later and I decided to go downstairs to the communal kitchen and make myself a grilled cheese. I clutched my loaf of bread and American singles in one hand and poked my head into the kitchen area. One man was sitting alone at an unfolded card table eating chili from a pot and flipping through a lingerie magazine. Oh Hell. My desire for a grilled cheese outweighed my current instinct to flee back to my room and spend the rest of the night eating bread slices and packets of American cheese. I made my way quietly to the oven and prepped my sandwiches and waited what seemed like forever for them to cook.

Against my better judgment, I (stupidly) tried to make small talk again with the fellow tenant.

"... starting to get cold out there, huh?" in Minnesota, if there's nothing to talk about, we talk about weather.

He was startled so much by my voice that I too, jumped when he did.

"...Oh, yeah man, it's getting cold." he replied with a weird drawl.

I looked him in the eyes, good God, this guy was higher than a kite.

"Whatcha makin' there? I just got hungry and so I saw I had chili and heh-heh- I knew I just had to..." he eyed my grilled cheese.

I knew he wanted it. He already had stepped into the first stage of a night of destructive binge eating, lingerie magazines, and watching Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd as the audio.

"Oh, just dinner... this was all that was left in my cupboard to eat so I thought I'd heat it up." I knew a lie was necessary for me to give reason not to share my food with this guy, now tearing out certain pages from the magazine. He seemed to of not heard/ignored/drifted onto a new mindset since he did not respond. I grew wide eyed as I saw him now arranging the torn out pages on the table in a pattern that made it seem like his life depended on the arrangement of each picture of the scantily clad models.

I was never more overjoyed when my grilled cheese was done. I grabbed my sandwiches and loaf of bread and fled back up to my apartment.

I was trying to forget what just happened, I drowned myself in cheese sandwiches and Harry Potter DVDs. I subconsciously was vowing to avoid the communal kitchen as much as I could while I lived there. I heard my neighbor talking loudly on the phone again in the bathroom. At 3AM I finally might of drifted off to sleep.

I woke up at three hours later because I forgot I left the window open and I could smell cigarette smoke everywhere in my room. I groggily peeked out the window and looked down and saw Greg having his morning cig and a morning beer. Great. My window was just above his favorite hangout spot.

Finally at 7AM, the neighbor sounded like she had left her apartment. I crept into the bathroom to take a shower and saw that her door to her room was left slightly ajar. Out of morbid curiosity, I peeked and saw a man passed out on a blow up mattress and the floor littered with pizza boxes and empty forties. I quietly closed the door and showered as fast as I could to get ready for class.

Greg never failed to be sitting outside the apartment entry each time I got home. I tried my best to politely respond to his off-putting conversations and hellos, until one day he caught me coming home late one night.

"'Ey, how you doin' tonight?"


"I'm fine.. thanks." keep it short, and sweet. Don't even ask for a response.

He stood up and I took a little step back. "'ow come I never see a pretty lady like you never bring a guy back? You always comin' back alone, why not you got yourself a boyfriend?" he questioned me.

I just wanted to lock myself in my room forever.

"Um.. I'm too busy and I like to be alone.." I responded as I fumbled furiously for my keys.

"Hahhaha--well if you ever find yerself needin' company, stop on by my room and we'll watch a movie or somethin'! I got lots o' DVDs and cable."

Oh dear God, I just wanted to be inside. I muttered a polite decline and said goodnight, while I ran again back upstairs and locked the door. I put on more Harry Potter movies and never in my life, did I wish more that I wanted to be living in Hogwarts. At least Professor Filch would of been the most drab looking man but I'm sure he would of kept to himself and his cat. He wouldn't propose me to go watch DVDs and midnight fuzzy cable shows in his danky dark room. I was startled when someone was knocking on the other side of my bathroom door and yelling. My neighbor was yelling at me to keep it down because "it's late and some folks have real jobs to go to in the mornin!". I could already barely hear the movie, I was surprised she was able to hear it. I obeyed meekly and said nothing and turned the volume down to 5. She said nothing afterwards. But now I could hear her laughing at her shows, I could even tell what she was watching. Her and some man were laughing and talking at the TV that seemed to be revealing paternity tests with undesirable outcomes.

I curled up in a fort of blankets and pillows and tried to get some sleep, when I heard below me, a little ways away, the noise of another room. It was less audible than my neighbor, but because I had been told that I was "making too much noise", I didn't have any audio to drown any other sounds out. Oh no. It was sex. It was very, enthusiastic noises of sex. One ear was subjected to "OH HE GOTTA BE THE DADDY!" the other to... sex noises. I'm pretty sure I heard a loud spank at one point too. I gave in and put on my headphones and blasted my ears with non-sex music and tried to sleep.

This continued on for several weeks, I refused to use the communal kitchen so all my meals were either fast food, microwavable, or just ready to make. Microwave cheese sandwiches were not the same. I bought a toaster, but toaster cheese sandwiches didn't work either. My sodium intake was probably through the roof due to mass consumption of frozen meals and canned soups. My neighbor never said anything to me, except the occasional furious knocking because apparently turning the pages of my textbook were too loud. Every other night, a lot of druggy smells from her apartment seeped into my room under the bathroom doors. If I opened the window, cigarette smoke from Greg outside the door was waiting for me. My room ended up smelling like a sixtiess Volkswagen most of the time, and the air freshener definitely didn't help. My neighbor started to leave passive aggressive notes for me in the bathroom. Usually written on a sheet of toilet paper or paper towel. Most of them were the same, about noise, and leaving the bathroom a mess. I didn't know what to do. The bathroom was tiny and I always neatly folded my towel back up on the rack, and even wiped up shower water than got on the bathroom floor. I had no idea what she was talking about. Another note said that my "disgusting hair" was everywhere and to clean up after myself.

I didn't know what to do. I had long hair, and every so often a couple of strands would remain on the shower floor, but I hadn't lived there long enough or even showered often enough for something that resembled a clump or noticeable mass to accumulate. I never even left drips of shampoo, I even started keeping my shower caddy in my room. I really hoped that she thought the "disgusting hair" that was always left on the toilet wasn't mine...because it definitely wasn't mine, but it was disgusting. I even found an angry journal entry I had from a long time ago about one of the paper towel messages said:

"CLEAN! If it didn't affect me I wouldn't gave ahoot, Take your trash out or clean in your room the smell is trouble(terrible?) and unpleasant because I do live next door, feel free to clean up behind yourslf atta (after?) showering""

I lived in.. a 10x15ft apartment... all my foods are eaten and wrappers are disposed of, I never even had enough garbage to make any sort of smell. I didn't know what to do. I called my landlord and told them I wanted out... I didn't feel okay with my neighbor and I also told her about Greg and his "friendly conversations." She laughed at me and told me he was an old harmless soul, and that smoking is restricted in the apartments so she would talk to my neighbor soon. That didn't help. All of a sudden a couple of days later my neighbor seemed more passive aggressive and almost deliberately did her best to make as much noise, hair, and smoke infiltrate my apartment. I wonder if she also told her boyfriend to drink a ton, and then loudly pee and talk on the phone in the middle of the night on purpose too. I needed to get out. I tried as hard as I could in the oncoming days to pretend I didn't exist and try to keep my mindset intact.

One night I got home and was thrilled for once to not see Greg waiting at the front door. Although my happiness was only momentary when I realized I left my keys in my apartment, which also meant my room was unlocked. Being on the second floor, I couldn't attempt to climb into my room either. I just wanted to get my backpack full of wine and Doritos inside and waste the night "not existing". I had an idea though. Maybe the kitchen window was unlocked! I didn't have high hopes though, because it was on the first floor and it was a residential complex in a somewhat sketchy part of the neighborhood. Surely everyone would want to feel secure, right?

I snuck to the kitchen window and gave it a little push.

The outdoor screen completely came off. And the window was ajar. There was dirty shoe prints all over the ledge as if this was a common entrance and exit for some people. I tried not to think about who those people might be. But I was in.

I ran up to my room, and peeked first through my door just to make sure no one was waiting for me inside, I even checked the closet. It was clear.

I made up my mind earlier that week that I was moving out no matter what, and the fact that the landlords didn't care about creepy Greg's advances or my un-neighborly neighbor and that if she wanted to try to take me to court for breaking my lease, it may be in my favor that she didn't have my safety or well-being accounted for.

I settled into my blanket nest and was ready for a night of cheesy chips and wine. I once again ignored the sounds of sex from somewhere downstairs and my neighbor's paternity test talk show complete with commentary. I would be out in a week and I was just going to do what I wanted and try to keep a low profile... somehow lower than what I already trying to keep. But the wine was my downfall. Not the consumption of wine itself, but the damn opener. I wasn't too good with corkscrews, and all I had was a butterfly type opener with wings and metal plunger. My thumb somehow got in the way between the metal plunger and bottle, before I knew it, a large part of skin from my thumb was missing.

Oh God, there was blood everywhere. I didn't have any band-aids. It was too late to run to the convenience store, I didn't want to leave the apartment because it wasn't safe to be alone at night in my area. But it also sucked inside the apartment too. I sure as hell didn't want to ask my neighbor. I grabbed a wad of toilet paper and wrapped my thumb, but the paper was sticking to my wound and hurt like hell. I knew I needed some sort of actual medical bandage. I ran downstairs to the kitchen and checked all the cabinets for any sort of emergency supply kit, of course there was none. I threw away the bloody tissue and rinsed off in the kitchen sink and took the last bit of paper towel from the rack and re-wrapped my thumb.

I knew I had to muster up my courage and ask one of my neighbors. There were several I hadn't seen or met yet, hopefully one of them had to be a decent person. I left the kitchen and boldly knocked the first door across the hallway. I heard someone get up from their chair and the door opened, a stale smell exited from the room and I saw a pair of bloodshot beady eyes peering out at me from the chained door. Shit. It was Greg. He seemed to be overjoyed to see me and quickly opened the door.

"'Eyyy! How you doin'?" he said. His breath smelled like he'd been drinking all day.

There wasn't really any going back now. Just do it.

"Um... I cut myself pretty bad... do you have a band-aid? I don't have any." I held up my wrapped thumb, still bleeding through the paper towel.

"Ay! Do you need to go to the hospital? I can drive ya!" Thanks for the concern, but I wasn't about to go to the hospital, much less, be in a vehicle with you behind the wheel.

I politely said thank you, but that I just needed a band-aid and that I'd be fine.

"Sure, I think I got a band-aid somewhere 'round 'ere... just a second, come on in!" he opened the door wide and started wandering through his dark and what sounded like, messy apartment. With good judgment, I politely declined again and said I'd wait outside. I heard him rummaging through what sounded like a cupboard full of dishes and numerous dry pastas, then opening clothes drawers and rifling through them. There was a strange, ominous glow coming from a TV in the far corner in the room. Out of curiosity I peered from outside the door and past his torn upholstered recliner that was parked in front of the television. Whatever he was watching was paused. I got on my tip toes and peered over the top of the chair to see what he was watching.

It was a freeze-frame of two naked men with a naked woman in a barn, obviously about to engage in some sort of sexual act. No one was having vigorous sex in the apartments below me, it was Greg watching non-stop porn into the wee hours of the night. Almost every night. Thank God I didn't step into his apartment. Greg came back to the door and I acted like I had just been waiting outside, not noticing that he was probably in the middle of some sort of nightly masturbation routine.

He held out a crumpled looking band-aid still in its paper wrapping to me with his right hand.

"Sorry i'took so long, couldn't remember where I put'em!" he grinned at me from ear to ear like a kid showing his parents a bug he just caught.

Taking that band-aid from his possible soiled hand was the last thing in the world that I wanted to do. I'm pretty sure I would of rather let infection and gangrene take over my thumb than touch that germ-infested bandage. I quickly picked up the corner of the band-aid with my paper towel covered hand, said thanks, and ran back upstairs.

I flushed the band-aid down with the paper towels and washed my hands. Several times. And ended up wrapping my thumb with a pantyliner and tape.

One week later I moved out. My landlord had told me they lost my lease, and I never saw Greg again.