Thursday, August 07, 2003

JUST MAKE THE HEADLIGHTS come on when the car is running and go off when it isn't, OK? A switch could override this in case you wanted to sneak up on somebody, say, or play drive-in with your new Philips flat-panel TV.

I've written before about the mounting evidence that driver's licenses are being handed out like Dum-Dum lollipops at a 1967 Kroger grand opening, but the headlight thing might be the best example. People just don't understand that their lights are to help them be seen as much as they are to help them see. Maybe they can see fine in the rain or at dusk or at midnight, so they don't bother to turn on the lights. Never mind that they're invisible to others even on a slightly overcast day. Now that automakers have at least had the sense, for the most part, to provide an audible warning if you turn the car off but leave the lights on, I see no reason not to use the lights whenever I drive. My Mini has some sort of "daytime running lights" scheme, but it's not full illumination and it's too much trouble to figure out. The manual route is just easier.

Cops don't understand the headlight concept any better than Cletis and company do, so my fantasy of mass ticketing on this issue will remain a fantasy. Maybe it's different in states with the good sense to have "wipers on, headlights on" laws.

Jacqueline and I decided on this rainy past Sunday to drive to Philadelphia and have cheesesteaks for lunch, and so I saw, or didn't see, a lot of unlighted dimwits. Half of them were into the whole tailgating thing as well, and so I spent three hours or so each way dodging invisible homicidal maniacs. "Tailgating," like "double parking," is a major euphemism. Just as double parking would be more accurately described as "leaving your car in the middle of the goddamn street," tailgating is actually "trying to drive through the people in front of you." I don't understand how I can be doing 80 mph and the person behind me can be doing 100. It doesn't seem physically possible, but it just keeps happening. When Mr. 100 Mph is invisible to boot, it makes the Amish lifestyle look better and better.

Geno'sCHEESESTEAK NOTES: With this excursion to Geno's (right), I completed the Philly Cheesesteak Triple Crown, having previously had cheesesteaks at Jim's and Pat's. I liked the Geno's sandwich best, but I'm not sure I can call that a definitive judgment, because I'm still coming to grips with what a true cheesesteak is.

Gus & Gus PlaceMy first cheesesteak was at Gus & Gus Place (left) on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Del. Beef of indeterminate provenance, possibly even frozen Steak 'Em-style product, greasified with olive oil and interspersed with provolone and grilled onions on a decent roll. Add hot peppers and ketchup. Mmm. That first taste was 25 years ago, when my family frequently made vacation trips from Detroit to D.C. and points east, and now that I live in Washington I keep going back.

When I had my first "true" Philadelphia cheesesteak a few years ago, at Jim's (the only one of the troika that is an actual sit-down restaurant and not a ballpark-concession-style stand), it practically felt like health food. It was good, mind you, but the perfect fresh lean beef made for a disconcertingly grease-free experience.

This was before I learned that Cheese Wiz, otherwise utterly disdained by food snobs, is utterly mandated by food snobs when it comes to Philly cheesesteaks. Aren't food snobs fun? But maybe that would have provided that extra greasy kick.

Pat's King of SteaksSo I ordered Wiz when I visited Pat's (right) a few weeks back, on the way to a three-day tennis camp in the Catskills with my brother Kenneth, and I got a fine sandwich, but nothing to write home about. When I returned to Philadelphia's Italian Market section with Jacqueline the other day to try Geno's, I experienced an excellent sandwich, mainly because of the quality of the roll. I think I owe Pat's another chance, because the consensus seems to be Pat's over Geno's, and I honestly remember very little about the roll at Pat's. Part of the problem, I think, is that I discovered the hot-pepper protocol belatedly. In Washington and at Rehoboth, you ask for hot peppers and you get that red hot-pepper relish. At Pat's and Geno's, you order only the basics and you take care of other details yourself. The peppers are whole squash-ball-size peppers and you're supposed to break them up yourself. I tried this midway through my Geno's experience and it made all the difference. (I also tried a "pizza steak" at Geno's, which is basically a cheesesteak with pizza sauce. Good, but I prefer the vinegary tang of ketchup.)

My use of ketchup on a cheesesteak is probably sacrilege to many, but there are worse sacrileges. Order a steak sandwich just about anywhere but Philadelphia -- even at Gus & Gus -- and "lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise" is the assumption. It has been posited at Chowhound.com that this is characteristic of a Washington-style "steak and cheese sandwich" -- something entirely different that is good in its own right. I don't buy it. Putting lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise on a cheesesteak is an example of the same everything-gets-the-same-condiments myopia that has Subway "sandwich artists" mindlessly putting their plastic cheese on your tuna.

I may be fooling myself in the name of culinary correctness, by the way, but at the moment I'd give the cheesesteak I had at Geno's a slight edge over my Gus & Gus standby. Jacqueline still votes for the Guses.

BTW, Geno's is decidedly not the place for anyone in the "Free Mumia" camp. The late Officer Daniel Faulkner is close to the hearts of the ownership, judging from the signs on display and the T-shirts worn by employees.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours? Weblog Commenting by HaloScan.com