Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Cars and Cole Slaw

Remember when I told you that I am clueless about cars? 

It is still, and will probably remain forever, true. Oh God is it true.  I’m not a car person. But mine had grown on me.

I drove from Chicago to Los Angeles in that car. I raced to auditions in it, and in the process learned the LA freeway “system” with my feet to the flames. I decided never to drive to El Segundo again, and that the last 30 minutes of the trip to Santa Barbara are painfully beautiful. I listened to CDs for the first and last time in it, and lost a necklace in the stunningly terribly designed cup holders, which were perpetually useless going up or down Laurel and/or Coldwater Canyons. And it got me through many, many In N Out drive-thrus without incident.

Last year, I practically lived in that thing. And not in a creative pre-record deal Jewel way. More of an “it’s completely full of all my crap,” way. Somehow, even stuffed to the gills with necessities I couldn’t bear to put in storage, (necessary things like my food processor, hairdryer, and 2008 taxes paperwork) it never got broken into. I guess the program from my high school production of No No Nannette, and that half a bottle of pomegranate molasses just weren’t enticing enough. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s a petty thief who thinks he's better than everyone else.

I ran out of gas once, valet parked it twice, and got 3-400 parking tickets, all of which I contested fiercely. And all of which I lost. You win some (none), you lose some (all). But it was time to move on. The 3 miles per gallon I got is patently awful, and I suddenly really like the idea of a trunk. Something about the presence of more and more yoga mats in my life. And it’s harder to eat groceries from the bag if they’re in a trunk.

Harder. Not impossible.

And so the day came. I was heading into to jaws of the beast. But I had a secret. I may not know a damn thing about cars, but my rad mother knows everything about cars. She is my car whisperer. I have held the phone out so she could hear and diagnose strange car noises from 3,000 miles away. She has checked my oil, my tire pressure, and my vital signs when a new muffler escalated into a new everything. And of course, there's the sticky nickel. If you don’t know what the sticky nickel is, you missed this:

So, I had set this day aside for automobile location and purchase. And SHE had set this day aside as well. And I knew that on the complete opposite coast, Somewhere Out There, she sat waiting: the knit-hatted, sweat-suited Mickey in my corner. Towel thrown over her shoulder, ready to glue my wounds back together (gross-but apparently necessary) and put that teeth-protection-thingy back in my mouth.

Mouth guard. I bet it’s called a mouth guard.

The day was a flurry of texts and emails-she was like the third party art consultant on the line in a foreign country, guiding me as I purchased a rare and expensive sculpture at a private auction. Except that it was a moderately priced used compact car. And she is so much more fun than any art consultant could ever be.

So after 4 hours at the dealership-during which I decided that “Hawaiian Shirt Saturday,” is ultimately an ill-advised idea for any group of employees, anywhere-the deal was done. She had done it. She had guided me through the process like a champ, in a way that only she could.

So I signed my name more times than I have ever done in one sitting, on multi-sheeted papers of which I was given the delightfully canary yellow copies. My signature started as a full-scale calligraphic autograph, but by the end was a half-assed initial type deal.

I had two hours to clean out my car, and bring it back to make the switch. So, what would be the best way to spend my last two hours with my old car, and to thank my mom for her indispensability and generous donation of time, services, and knowledge?

There is nothing- I mean NOTHING that my mother loves more than a great deli.

She’s the Contessa of Corned Beef on Rye. The Princess of Potato Salad. The Maestro of Matzo Ball Soup. She can find the Penultimate Pickle, she can uphold Cole sLAW and ORDER (I’m keeping that-I like it, no matter what anybody thinks. I’m one hundred percent sure that no one will think that’s funny, except me. Worth it!)

I’ve split sandwiches at delicatessens with this lady from one end of the country to the next. And perhaps her favorite: Canter’s Deli, Los Angeles California. Brace yourselves. Less than a mile away, at a lovely neighborhood gastropub called The Federal Bar sat: the Canter’s Deli TRUCK. J

So I took the vehicle that had been with me through so many food truck hunts for one last mission. And I went and had the lunch I would be having with my car whisperer, if she were here with me. The whole thing was very bittersweet. Love my new car to death, and I’ll see my mom for the holidays-but I’ve always been cripplingly sentimental, and when I’m like that there’s just no talking me out of it. But you know what goes really well with sentimental?

 A Black and White Cookie.

The Get Fed food truck event at The Federal Bar in North Hollywood happens on a regular basis. It’s pretty much a win-win fish-in-a-barrel situation. You happen upon a fenced-in area, and enter a Colosseum of Food Trucks as a ravenously hungry chest-plated gladiator. (Chest plates are optional and cost extra. I declined one upon entry.)

It was a lucky day for me as a food truck gladiator. I was there for one reason. To uphold the honor of my mom’s love of delis by having one helluva turkey sandwich, and to not get any cole slaw on my pleated leather fight-to-the-death skirt.

The friendly stewards of the Canter’s Truck served me up a most formidable turkey and swiss on rye, WITH cole slaw. On. The. Sandwich. I have been a Sally Albright ever since I was a smaller, younger, and slightly more self-righteous version of myself. I like my toppings on the side.  Plain turkey, no mayo, only cheese, hold the pickles, hold the mustard, hold the relish, hold the lettuce, hold the tomato. But this! This was a revelation! Cole slaw! On a sandwich! Delicious! A godsend on a hot day, you guys.


The crowds roared, and my gladiator heart raced. Tangy, Crunchy, Victory! Missed my skirt, but nailed the flip-flop.

And to the victors go: POTATO PANCAKES. With sour cream and Apple Sauce. The ideal potato pancake is an extreeeeemely difficult landing to stick. It has to be crispy and evenly browned on the outside, creamy and rich inside. Like mashed potatoes inside of a french fry. Interestingly enough, this idea is also executed perfectly by Shakey’s in the form of their Mojo Potatoes. Say what you will, but they are shockingly good.

The Canter’s potato pancakes are everything they should be and more-perfect on their own, but elevated by a creamy swipe of angelic but tart sour cream and a scoop of smooth and sweet apple sauce. Bite for bite, a starchy opponent I adored.

Here was the plan for the huge black and white cookie: I was full anyway, so symbolically I would save it to eat in my new car as a sort of “out with the old, in with the new,” thing. They would be my first food truck bites in the new wheels. It would be saved for exactly one hour, until I made the exchange.

Not an air-tight plan it turns out. There was nothing left but saran wrap by the time I made it to my car.

But it did soften the blow of getting my last ever parking ticket. Thanks Los Angeles. Love you too. For old time’s sake, right? (She said through gritted teeth)

Some things never change. I was too full and euphoric to be upset.

I dedicate this post to mom the car whisperer and deli lover. Thanks for making all those plain turkey sandwiches for my school lunches, all those years.


  1. Hahha... love all those names for your mom. :) Including the Law and Order reference.

  2. Oh frances!! You and the parking tickets. :-( What kind of car did you get? can't wait to see it!