The other day I was walking down the street, heading for my favorite sandwich shop. They make their own bread, and usually make whatever you want, although they do have a menu they use sometimes. I think the menu is for people that go there for the first time, but they will make whatever you want, using whatever ingredients and utensils they have. They’re also really good about remembering faces and preferences. They know that I Iove extra bacon on almost anything.
Once I went in during the off peak hours, and the owners showed me the back room, where they keep all the bread making equipment. They have this huge mixing bowl, and all these gigantic fixtures that attach to. He told me that it took him many iterations to finally get the mix and the preparation just right for the various forms of bread. He started out as a baker’s apprentice, and then opened up a sandwich shop. There are all kinds of stories about him, where he came from. Most of them are pretty interesting. Some say he has traveled the world to learn various baking techniques. At the very least a good marketing gimmick.
He gets at the shop every morning at 4AM to start cooking the bread. Then the rest of his staff comes in around ten to get ready for the lunch crowd, which peaks around noon, they slowly trickles off after that. The have an increase in business between six and eight, then they close at nine. The owner usually leaves by one, and his other staff takes over.
I hadn’t been there for quite, so I was looking forward to a turkey club on sourdough (with extra bacon). I was completely shocked at what I saw.
The store was completely gone. Moved. Not closed down, but it had been completely renovated and another store had been set up in it’s place. I could see that the table set up and the counter were pretty much the same, but it was now an ice cream shop.
I remember once I was at this restaurant with my girlfriend. It was this large, outdoor mall, with a gigantic movie theater. We had bough tour tickets, and were going to have a couple drinks and some appetizers before the show. I ordered a scotch on the rocks, and some kind of Thai fusion dish. I don’t remember what she ordered. A few minutes later the waitress brought two classes of ice water. Or what I thought was ice water. I took a big swig, and almost vomited when I found it to be straight gin. Somehow the waitress thought I ordered gin on the rocks, and had brought me that.
That’s kind of the feeling I had when I was standing there, looking into the window of the ice cream store. I had made the decision that morning to get a turkey club on sourdough (extra bacon) and was really looking forward to it. While Iâ€™m a big fan of ice cream, I was really hoping for a turkey club. Then I wondered what happened to the baker, and his loyal staff. Why did the just up and move like that?
“Hey buddy, try your luck?” I heard some voice say from behind me.
I turned and looked. I was a bit taken aback, because I thought these things were illegal, and that they only happened on TV.
“C’mon, whatta ya got to lose?” He beckoned.
He had a table set up, and three white cups. All three cups were turned over. What the hell. I looked for any signs requiring money, or hint of illegal gambling. I didn’t see any.
“What do I get if I win?” I asked, smiling, trying to out play him at his own game.
“I’ll tell you where they went.” He said, deadpan. What?
I stood for a moment, trying to figure out what was happening. I looked up and down the street. People were walking by like this was a completely normal exchange. I suddenly looked back at him, not remembering what kinds of clothes he was wearing. I somehow expected him to be wearing some getup out of the thirties or something. Not that I’d recognize it.
“And if I lose?” I asked, starting to allow myself enjoy the exchange.
“No extra bacon for you today,pal.” Wait, did he really just say that?
I walked up, and stood, while he showed me a fluffy red ball under the center cup. As he started passing the ball back and forth between the cups, I realized there was no way I could keep up. His hands became a blur, and I quickly understood I was at his mercy. Just then he started in on his patter, a required skill for all street hustlers.
“I won’t bore you with ‘now you see it, now you don’t metaphor’ because I know that will ruin the experience for you. I do hope you to make sure you got a good look at that blue fluffy ball. I had it hand crafted in India, many, many years ago.”
I briefly lost my concentration. He saw it in my face.
“Oh yes sir. I have many more skills than doing simple street cons. I know many secrets, and have studied many things. Whether you believe this or not is not really relevant. What is relevant is whether or not you understood that when you saw this ball, which is a one of a kind ball, that you may never, ever see it again.” He stopped, and looked down at his hand, which was resting on the center cup.
“Of course, this ball may have become that ball,” as he said that me motioned with his eyes over to the fourth cup, which I hadn’t noticed.
“But then again, we can never be sure, can we? That’s the mystery of life. Sometimes you see something wonderful, and it’s gone. Sometimes you see something plain, and it waits just long enough for you to get attached to before it vanishes.” When he said that he quickly lifted up all the cups. No balls.
“But sometimes things you think are gone forever have must moved, and all you have to do is look for them.” Then he lifted up only the center cup, under which was the blue fluffy ball. And resting on top of the blue fluffy ball was a business card.
“Go ahead, pick it up.”
I picked it up.
736 Baker Street!
On the back was a map to the new location of the famous sandwich shop. I looked at my watch. I’d easily be able to get there by noon.
“Wow, that was the most elaborateâ€¦” I stopped cold when I looked and finally saw who had been deceiving me. It was the old baker himself. He winked.
“Today, the extra bacon is on the house.”
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