There was a little place on a common street in my old neighborhood that dates back to my days in junior high school. This was when we used to cut class and go for sandwiches. The long name was Figarelly’s but the short and more common name was Fig’s Deli which, to me or to anyone who grew up in the town of East Meadow, Fig’s was home of great sandwiches like “The Big Guy.”
Now, of course, I am sure that everyone has their favorite breakfast places from where they grew up and yes, I’m sure there are people who believe “their” place is better than Fig’s. Naturally and, of course, respectfully, I disagree with them. No place was like Fig’s place.
In fairness to The Big Guy, this contraption was a heart attack on a hero. But more, this was a connection to a time from long ago. To me, The Big Guy and the memories are linked to memories that come from a semblance of my youth. Ah, these were good times. I was young and crazy. I was long haired and wild. I had yet to be tested in life but, for sure, the tests were on their way. Yet, in the meantime, it was good to be young. As for the sandwich, The Big Guy hero is composed of eggs, ham, bacon and sausage patties that fill the belly like no other meal. As a side note, I offer the idea of adding hot sauce; however, in the case that you might feel somewhat adventurous, a slight offering of syrup and hot sauce does compliment the sandwich quite nicely. By the way, there was also an addition to The Big Guy which made the sandwich a Super Guy by adding a hash brown to the mix.
Fig’s was a small staple in my hometown yet this place had more to offer than a simple sandwich. This is one of the few places where my friends and I used to gather before running through the town like little maniacs. There were other sandwiches which I can offer as a suggestion but, out of loyalty to Fig’s, I am not sure that these concoctions can be replicated or duplicated.
There is a secret ingredient that is unknown and cannot be recreated by other hands. To be clear, the actual meats and cheeses or preferences of a sandwich are all the same. The difference is the intention and the subtle intuition to know how much to add, what to place in the sandwich and how to fold the bread in such a way. Like I said, anyone else can make a sandwich but no one can make a sandwich like Fig’s.
I say this with love and respect. But more, I say this to point out a simple fact which is that our history and our culture is made up of tastings and experiences that can never be re-lived.
I will never experience the St Raphael’s fair again nor will I see the lights shimmer from the carnivals the same as I saw them in my youth. I will never venture through the fields near Speno Park or laugh like we did with Dorian at the steps at Prospect Park.
I will never have a sandwich from The Meadow Dairy which was another great spot in my town. And so was Pizza King. So was Rose’s and so was The Luncheonette which is where I landed my first job. To be fair, the food was not exceptional at The Luncheonette. However, the memory of my first job and cleaning up in the kitchen and perhaps tasting one of the absolute finest chocolate egg creams made by one of the angriest, grumpiest of old men who cooked named Irving will always be with me.
Irving was a trip.
He cooked with a Tiparillo cigar clenched in his teeth and a folding ash that bent over the grill. He was nasty to everyone (except me) yet somehow, Irving managed to stay in business for a very long time.
Nothing will ever taste like this again. Nothing will ever taste like my youth and yet, there was a time in my adult life when I was grown and aged far more than I ever planned to be. I woke early one morning to reconnect with my good friend Paulie. We met at Fig’s and, of course, we ordered a Big Guy. We talked about the craziness of our past. We talked about the relevance of our present and the meaningfulness of meeting with an old friend. We enjoyed our meal and then went on about our lives.
I met Chris here as well – and Chris, well, this is a man who has a special station in my life. We are old friends. And Dorian was an old friend of mine too. Dorian is Chris’s brother. I wasn’t there to say goodbye when Dorian passed, nor was I there to let Chris know how I felt or what I thought – instead, I am fortunate to be inspired by the life that Chris has built for himself.
Safe to say I’m proud.
I’m proud of Chris. I’m proud of Carlos.
I’m proud of Kevin who I am blessed to say that I was able to stand as a witness and as a minister to officiate Kev’s (my oldest and best friend) wedding.
I am proud of Scott. I am proud Matt. I’m proud of Jason O who, like me, was able to find his way out and maintain his own sobriety.
I miss Fig’s.
I miss Wally. I miss Tommy. And you already know that I miss Dorian.
I miss Chris K and Mike L.
Unfortunately, that list goes on.
But more for the eater and the lighthearted, I miss a good roast beef with melted mozzarella cheese on a garlic hero.
I miss a nice smoked turkey with melted mozzarella and some coleslaw with a few sundried tomatoes in it.
I miss a breaded chicken cutlet with Virginia ham and melted muenster cheese with some honey mustard on the hero.
And this, too, is a list that can go on.
I miss the hands that made these great creations. I miss my Mother’s iced tea which is better than your mom’s iced tea. (Just saying)
Not just because my Mom used the 4C brand but because there was something about the way Mom mixed this all together by adding the perfect amount of iced tea mix.
Oh, and I miss the hot dogs we used to have at the baseball fields. And the pretzels with mustard. Though I would prefer to keep this with my local friends, I must pardon the loyalty for my neighborhood hangouts for an outside location known as All-American Burger.
This place is a gold mine. Or wait, no. Come to think of it, anything that reconnects me with the idea of old friends and good times – to me, this is a gold mine.
And I’m fortunate to have more than one.
To my friends from way back when, I say this…
There are no friends like old friends.
But most of all, you never forget the kids from the neighborhood.
I know that I won’t.