There's always a line at the Halal cart outside the Hilton at BlogHer10.
No, I mean it, always a line. 9:00pm? Halfway down the block. 9:00am? Halfway down the block.
Jenny went one night and when she got back to the hotel room I questioned her.
“What is that?”
“I saw a line and decided to wait in it.”
“What was it?”
“I have no idea. I still don’t know. I got up to the front and I think the man said ‘Combo?’ and I said ‘Sure.’”
“Is it good?”
“Uh, yeah, really good.”
I watched her eat the rice, meat (chicken?) and tzatziki (?) with obvious pleasure. I snacked on my knish (a pocket sliced into the side and filled with mustard, onions, and sauerkraut.) I decided I needed more of Jenny’s adventure.
The next day, finding myself at 11:30 pm without a meal in my belly and bereft of companionship, I walked down to the corner. The night was humid, still more than 90 degrees, and the smells of the August city wafted through the streets: human, fetid, sweet, metallic. And on this corner of midtown Manhattan, a spontaneous party was underway.
Cars parked around the block; one blasting pop music from Ethiopia, the other from Pakistan. A busker played his guitar on the steps near the fountain and a few people were dancing. Lights in the square reflected off the buildings and a steady hum of conversation in Czech, Swahili, Turkish, and English buzzed my ears. On line the people passed along what they knew about the cart:
“I’m not sure, but it’s famous.”
“I just saw the line.”
“Best gyro in the city.”
Once a breeze lifted my skirt a little and I thought about the subway train on its way to Brooklyn rumbling beneath the sidewalk. I slid forward in my wedges to listen to the couple on a first date in front of me. Her hair held elaborate braids with softly clicking beads; arms folded against the man making quiet advances on her right. She better guard her flanks, I thought, because that’s a breach in progress if I ever saw one.
The line moved and one of the men working the grill like a fiend crooked his finger at me and nodded. I asked for the lamb. “COMBO?” He said with a flat stare rapidly moving to disgust. I surrendered immediately and moved to the right. The tallest man with a long beard directed the cooks to double time their slinging, and then took my damp greenbacks. I accepted the round tin in return and stepped backward into the square.
The line was the same length as when I’d arrived: halfway down the block, as I knew it would be all night.
New York, I love you, can I stay?