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First you get yourself down to Katz's Delicatessen down on Houston Street in the Big Apple. You know the place; you just don't realise you know it. You've seen it in several films and tv shows. Look for the sign, Send A Salami To Your Boy In The Army! The line is insane, easily a ninety minute wait. Take a number. Don't fuckin' lose that number; there's a $50 surcharge for lost numbers, once you get up to the checkout counter.

Get a Reuben. Shut up; I don't care if you like Reubens. This is my how-to, so suck it up and get the damn Reuben. I'm doin' you a favour here, pal, and the Reuben isn't for you, anyway. For yourself, get a pastrami sandwich. Katz's pastrami is god-tier, and you'll be ruined for every other sandwich you ever eat, so go in with the expectation that this sandwich is gonna' blow your mind. No, you're not ready for that, but a little mental preparedness will keep you from looking like a tourist in front of native New Yorkers, and that kind of social currency is hard to come by, for a pitiful tourist like yourself. (Obviously you're not from around here, or you wouldn't need a how-to about Katz's. It would already be hereditary knowledge, circulating in your blood. We sequenced the New Yorker genome, didja' know? There are seven base pairs just for getting bistro orders right the first time. Disliking Reubens is recessive and totally maladaptive in this environment, but I forgive you.)

Now all you have to do is imitate everybody else around you who seems like they know what they're doing. Don't expect to find a place to sit down inside Katz's proper; if you were savvy you would've already scoped out a convenient nearby bench outdoors, but failing that, you'll survive eating standing up, or leaning on a building.

Okay, you got your sandwich? Pastrami, any kinda' cheese, bread doesn't matter, pickle on the side? More napkins than you think you need? No, at least three times that many. Yes, I'm serious. Grab two bottles of Coke while you're at it. Now start walking.

Keep walking until you see somebody who looks hungry and like they won't stab you. This part might take awhile, but there's definitely gonna' be somebody who fits the bill. You'll just have to be persistent. Don't worry about your sandwich getting cold; the clerk wrapped that mother up good and tight. It'll be toasty an hour later, if need be.

Found your meal buddy? Maybe somebody sitting with a sign and a dog? Especially somebody with a dog; the "likelihood of stabbing" factor is way lower if they got a dog. Good. Introduce yourself politely to the next owner of that Reuben. Explain you're from out of town, and your best friend couldn't make it to lunch with you, but you'd already placed an order for him, and now you're just standing here looking silly with a Reuben nobody wants. Yeah, you're lying to your buddy, but they're gonna' tell you a few things that you'll be a fool to believe, too. This city runs on mutual dishonesty offered up in good faith, with no expectation of scrutiny. It's the norm, not an insult.

Ask if they mind if you sit down with them for a meal. This isn't charity from you, toward them, so don't get that idea in your head. This is a learning opportunity for you. Nobody knows this city like the down-on-their-luck person hanging out on a corner with their dog and a cardboard sign. They have stories to tell, and you have ears to listen. You don't have to agree with their political biases. You don't have to believe their taller tales. You just have to take the duration of one sandwich to give a shit about somebody you'll never meet again, who doesn't owe you a damn thing. They're the one doing you a favour; thank them for their time.

You might get told to fuck off. That's normal, too. They might worry you put something in it. That's a reasonable concern to have; don't spite them for it. Somebody out there is dying for a Reuben, though, and there but for the grace of dumb fucking luck go you. If you don't find the one true devourer of that sandwich, then you're not trying very hard, but whatever; New York can be scary, and I won't fault you for a little rational self-interest. Take your sandwich home and fridge the spare, then have it for breakfast tomorrow. Learn to like Reubens; the world looks a little brighter while eating one.

In the mean time, though, how about that pastrami? Good lord. Ruined for every other sandwich, I tell ya'!


Iron Noder 2017, 20/30


This writeup is based on a one-sided dialogue I experienced during a visit to Manhattan during high school. The person supplying my education had a sign and a dog. I never did learn to like Reubens, but if that's the only part of his lecture that taught me nothing, I'll count myself luckier for it.

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