Week 19: Loft culture and Proper Tortas

Last week, I detailed how awesome it was to get robbed in broad daylight while moving into my new apartment. What I didn’t detail was how loose my definition of the word “apartment” was. It is in fact a loft apartment, which isn’t so much an apartment at all, as it is a giant, fancy, expensive box that sometimes keeps the rain out.

New Yorkers, especially the young, starving artists, make sacrifices with their living arrangements that would be unacceptable in any other city in the developing world. Location transcends all, and basic human dignities such as comfort, privacy, and cleanliness go out the window so long as you reside in a superior geographical destination for under a thousand dollars a month.

So, for your reading pleasure (and because lists are so easy), I’ve compiled a list of the Top 5 Bullshit Living Situations New Yorkers Endure. Spoiler alert: my loft has all five of these.

1.)   Absurd Numbers of Roommates: I currently live with seven roommates. Yes, I am twenty-six years old, yes, I have a decent job, and yes, this is the best place I can afford in Williamsburg. We share a loft (i.e. an old warehouse that was never designed to support life but somehow has room for eight warm bodies). On the plus, the ceilings are nearly three stories high. On the minus, the bedrooms are around thirty square feet each.

2.)   One Bathroom to Rule Them All:  Plumbing in such locales is a luxury, not a right. Now, I don’t have a sexist bone in my body (although the term “sexist bone” makes me giggle like a schoolgirl), that being said, of my eight roommates, four are women. For the lot of us, there is only a single bathroom. As such, an entire culture has been constructed around timing and access to the John. This can prove frustrating, as making yourself pretty can take so very long. That, coupled with the sheer collective amount of alcohol consumed by our loft makes urination a frequent and often long-awaited experience.

3.)   Living on a Railroad: In New York, there exists a thing called “railroad-style bedrooms.” In such a situation, you have your own bedroom…kiiiiiiiinda. The bedroom is yours, but the only way you can get to your room or they can get to their room (depending on who is paying less money), is to walk through the other person’s room on the way to theirs. Essentially, someone is living in someone else’s walk-in closet. Considering people’s basic needs to sleep, change their clothes, and have interpersonal romantic interactions with one another, this one can prove to be quite a gnarly nuisance.

4.)   Doors? What, You Think You’re Special?: God blessed me with many things: charm, good looks, and a large affinity for sandwiches. What he did not provide me with was a door to my new room. Rather, I have a curtain. Why? Doors are isolating, expensive to install, and completely unnecessary given my living situation. I can’t think of a single advantage to having a door, considering my bedroom walls don’t completely reach the ceiling so I am already essentially sharing a room with all parties.

5.)   One Giant Bed: Due to financial restrictions, I am forced to share a queen-sized bed with several of my female roommates. Now, obviously, I despise this far-from ideal situation, but as they say, you gotta do what you gotta do to survive.

That last one’s a joke. I swear.

But why do we tolerate these absurd living arrangements, when we could afford a castle in any other city for what we pay here? Because it’s New York, damn it, and here, the streets are paved with gold. Actually paved with gold. This is to be taken literally. There is a man who walks around with a metal detector, finding gold, along with diamonds and other precious rocks, in the Manhattan sidewalk cracks, all day long. He once made over eight hundred dollars in six days from recovering sidewalk jewelry.

Also, my loft is pretty sweet. You should come over sometime and party. I snapped this shot by the waterfront just outside, on the way home from work the other day.

Week 18: Don Panchito

The biggest problem with Mexican food is that every jackass thinks they can make it. “It’s just a tortilla with rice and beans and guac, and brah, and I make the illest guac.”

Everyone makes the illest guac, brah. It’s a smashed up avocado with lime, seasoning, and tomatoes. The problem is everything else.

I’ve scoured the city, using food blogs as my guide, to track down the prime Mexican establishments, and what I’ve learned is that there is a lot of shit Mexican grub in the Big Apple Pretentious, over-the-top “gourmet” taco joints in Chelsea that are anything but. Overpriced, bland hole-in-the-wall West Village destinations that leave you wondering if you could have just made it yourself from ingredients you bought at Rite Aid.

All of this, in search of a proper torta.

If you are unfamiliar with the term, a “torta” is a form of Mexican sandwich, not unlike the cemita. It only becomes confusing as it refers to the bread the sandwich is made on, as well as the sandwich itself. The epistemology of the word “torta,” stems back to Old Testament days, where in Leviticus 24: 5-9, they speak upon a method of how to make unleavened bread, which is referred to as “torta.” It has become a common trope In Spanish, part of the colloquial phrase “a falta de pan tortas son buneas,” which translates to, “If you don’t have bread, tortas are all right, I guess.” The implication, of course, is that tortas are an inferior bread.

That’s largely what this self-proclaimed sandwich guru has been experiencing, wading through a sea of mediocre tortas, in search of that Mexican sangwich that rocks my taste buds. Time and time again, though, I am met with dried out carnitas, soggy bread, over salted guac, and an overall experience that was no bueno.

Then one full moon night, departing slightly inebriated from my hippie commune of a loft, in desperate need of some munch, I stumbled upon an oasis of a food truck, parked on the corner of Bedford and Metropolitan. It’s name: Don Panchito. It sported a lovable mascot of a mustached man in a sombrero and was run by two men with little time to smile.

Before I even sunk my teeth into said torta, I had an inkling it would be bomb-diggity delicious. Why was my Spidey Sense tingling, you ask? The truck was not crowded, maybe two or three other patrons had gathered, and yet my order still took ten minutes.

Some of you might be in the school of thought that food trucks are supposed to produce fast food. Mistakes, I say! Food trucks are supposed to produce quality food efficiently, but not quickly. Fast is bad. When you order something that contains grilled meat, and the chef presents it to you in under two minutes, an alarm needeth go off in your head. There must be fresher game out there somewhere.

The freshness was certainly there at Don Panchito. The price was reasonable. The torta was fat. It seemed my assumptions proved true. Then I bit in.

When consuming a Panchito torta, your taste buds experience a wide arrange of flavors and textures. There’s the thick slab of that semi-hard, semi-melted Oaxaca cheese. There’s the crisp lettuce, soft tomatoes, the crunchy pickled jalapenos. There’s the sauce that is somehow sour cream, mayonnaise, and guacamole all at the same time. However, the major selling point of this bomb ass torta is the meat. Cooked to order, the bistec is solid, but the carne cubano (which means Cuban meat, but if you ask what that means, I have no idea), is glorious and certifiably “dank-worthy.”

And let’s not forget the torta, by which I mean bread (which we covered earlier, if you were taking notes). Grilled, buttery, delicious. If the Spanish Bible describes torta as an inferior bread, the superior must be manna from heaven, because this pan was dope.

Let me close with this. My rule for determining whether or not a sandwich is righteous is whether or not I go back twice in the same week. If my hunger is any indication right now, I might make a third trip in six days.