The Twenty-Eighth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend

The Twenty-Eighth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend


The Twenty-Eighth Best Email We Wrote This Past Weekend: THE HMM WEEKLY NEWS-LETTER

CONTINUED IMPORTANT REMINDER: Good morning! You are a valued supporter of HMM DAILY and we have promotional items to send to your physical address. Roughly two-thirds of you have replied, and we urge the remaining supporters to KINDLY REPLY WITH COMPLETE INFORMATION to: Your address will not be used for any non–HMM DAILY purposes. Thank you!

Send questions and suggestions to




Under the Weather

The flash flood alert went off at 5:05 a.m., when it could have been mistaken for the phone's alarm clock. I was unconfused, because the tone was still on my ear from the evening before, in the prior round of flooding, when it echoed around the train car as each time it entered a new station, as different phones picked up the signal in something less than synchrony. Up above, people were filming and posting videos of water filling Brooklyn streets, the Gowanus recruiting new temporary canal space. The first gust of rain at the workday's end had put salt in my mouth, like a misplaced splash of last week's ocean swells, but that the beach was miles and days and showers behind me, and the salt I was tasting was the sweat from the morning's crowded subway platform, reconstituted by the evening downpour.

Small disasters are everywhere. Coming home from the rental-car return Saturday, with two bags of groceries in the crushing heat, I saw a man lying pitched backward over a bus stop bench. A woman stood next to him, holding her phone, looking anxious and uncomfortable.

There's a characteristic kind of movement that goes with these moments, visible in other people and palpable in oneself. The feet keep moving along where habit and business tell them they should be going, while doubt and guilt tug sideways. The conscience, caught in the two vectors, moves like a helium balloon being carried on a string in a cross-breeze.

The sidewalk was wide and empty save the three of us. I could see the man's head was flopped over, hanging back, unsupported. His eyes were closed and his mouth was open. I let the woman catch my eye. She had called an ambulance, she said. I stooped and asked the man if he was OK, not because there was any chance he was OK, but to see if he could respond. He could; he mumbled something.

His cap had fallen to the ground behind him. On the other side of the bench, at his feet, were a cane and an open bottle of water, more than half gone, and a hospital discharge bag. A little square of gauze was taped to the inside of his elbow. Did he want cold water? The woman said she wanted to get him some, but she couldn't leave him to get any. Could I—?

The Rite-Aid was across the avenue, behind scaffolding and barriers for a luxury tower construction site. I hurried across, found a new bottle in the fridge, paid, and hurried back. A few other people had tentatively stopped now, too. They were trying to make the man more comfortable, but the bus bench had low armrests, hostile architecture to drive the homeless away, so he couldn't get turned to lie down properly on it. One of the newcomers helped haul the man to an upright sitting position and asked if he wanted a banana. He didn't say yes; he wasn't saying much. He kept his eyes closed.

The guy with the banana asked if we were OK. He had to get to work, he said, apologetically. He was in workout clothes, who knows. The woman and I told him it was fine. We were just waiting for the ambulance, she said. The banana guy and the others drifted back and then away.

The man on the bench didn't want the new water. I offered it to him to hold, thinking of how they put football players' hands in ice water to bring their temperatures down fast. He took it and I stood behind him, bracing his shoulders, in case he tipped back again.

I asked if there was any family we should call. He said he had a brother in the Bronx but they hadn't spoken in 20 years. He wanted to go to Lenox Hill Hospital, he said.

The ambulance still wasn't there. The woman called them again. We all stayed there, in the ferocious sun, as the ambulance kept not coming. Finally a fire truck came into view. I made eye contact with one of the crew as it went by. It ended up stopping on the far side of the avenue, lights flashing, a block or a block and a half away.

No one showed up. Finally, the woman offered to go check with them. She vanished behind the wall of traffic while I held my post, propping the man up, looking down the avenue for the ambulance.

The woman came back and said that the firetruck was responding to a different call, for a different person on a different stretch of sidewalk. It was possible I had walked right past that person to get here.

After one more false hope—an ambulance nosing its way down from uptown, only to turn off onto Broadway and never return—the real ambulance showed up. The woman excused herself and left. The EMTs got out and asked me what happened and I told them, and then they started asking the man about it. He asked them if he could go to Lenox Hill. Sure, they said, we're from Lenox Hill. There was nothing else to stay for.



Uniqlo Short-Sleeved Linen-Cotton Shirt, Plaid

I hadn't worn the shirt in months—months and months, possibly not since the previous summer. But I had kept it through the closet purge, even as the other plaid shirts of its generation, and probably the generation after it, went in the trash. I'd liked those shirts better, than this one, with its bright green dominant color, a cheery green outside the realm of colors in which I really felt like myself. I couldn't remember why I'd bought it.

So it was never the first shirt I reached for, or the third, but that meant that while my preferred shirts eventually frayed at the collar and became unpresentable, the green one endured. It softened a little with age, but stayed intact. When I did wear it, it was fine. The color wasn't for me, but it went well with other colors. I'd see it walking alongside me on a bright day, reflected in a plate-glass window, and I would think it looked pretty OK, after all.

It was always a good shirt to have at the beach, where one doesn't really dress like oneself after all. Its chromatic geniality meant it didn't matter whether I threw it on with the navy swim trunks or the bright orange-red ones or with whatever shorts were handy. When beach time rolled around this year, I found it hanging in the closet, looked it over to make sure it really was still OK, and tossed it in the suitcase again.

I didn't think very clearly about the rest of the packing, and when I settled in at the beach, I found myself juggling an inventory of too many red or orange shirts, and a bit of blue, and not much in between. So I went to the green shirt once more. Toward the end of a long day, I lay down on the bed on my side, to look at something on the computer, and when I shifted my position my shoulder punched right up through the fabric, shredding it below the seam. Its time had come, after all.


The Ugly Truth About the Burger King Taco
Is That It Is the Jack In The Box Taco


A very long version of the Burger King taco commercial.

There's a new fast-food taco on TV, it's the Burger King taco, and it costs one dollar. Which fast-foodery is BK trying to zero-sum-game out of their market share of discretionary taco dollars, Taco Bell? No, my field investigation has determined that the Burger King taco is a reverse-engineered Jack In The Box taco.

My taco world was warped at an early age in Schenectady, New York, where there were no tacos, but there was a Jack In The Box. There was a drive-thru and it had a plastic clown with a speaker inside and you would tell Jack what you wanted. Jack In The Box featured the Jumbo Jack, which compared to a Whopper or a Big Mac, and they had an odd, gigantic, rectangular burger sandwich called the Jack Steak, which was pricey. They also had these curious things called tacos, which were more affordable. Jack In The Box only lasted a few years at its location on Erie Blvd, coincidentally replaced by a Burger King. Corporate retrenchment (they were owned at one point by Ralston Purina, bow-wow!) caused a shuttering of East Coast locations, but by then, for me, it was too late, my definition of a taco had been formed: A lump of mildly spiced meat-paste and some bland cheese inside a tough corn tortilla shell, deep fried from frozen until they opened up like greasy-translucent cornmeal Venus Flytraps, sprinkled with a few shreds of Easter-hay-looking lettuce. Cheap, satisfying, and permanently etched into my junk-food pleasure receptors. Sure, I've had real tacos at real places, the same way I've had real hamburgers at real places, and real pizza at real places. There's a slot in many of our personal gustatory spectrums for greasy caricatures of real food.

If I want a Jack In The Box-o, it's a seven-hour drive to 1776 Catawba Valley Blvd SE Hickory, North Carolina

I'm still on the East Coast, so I don't have regular access to the taco of my youth, but whenever I'm traveling near a Jack In The Box, I am compelled to seek out a taco. OK, three tacos. It doesn't help that I'm typically traveling for pleasure, which means I'm more than likely, at a certain time of the day, in my cups and ready to talk to the Clown for a drunk munch. Maybe four tacos.

Visually, in their TV spot, Burger King is pretending to offer hearty, substantial tacos:

Burger King wants you to think this is what their tacos look like, but of course it's no shock to experienced fast-food ingesters that they look like this:

Kinda flat! They are almost not even three-dimensional! Meanwhile, from West Coast Hmm Weekly contributor David O. Barranco, here's what Jack In The Box tacos (two for a dollar) look like in their Natural Environment:

Look at the grease, ohh. I mean that in a good way.

Here's the inside of a Burger King taco followed by a Jack In The Box joint:

Har! I know, how can anybody eat this shit? For what it's worth, our West Coast contributor has some self-respect, so they did not eat the tacos photographed at Jackbox, but I totally ate all three of my BK tacos, urp!

Burger King has figured out the tortilla and approximate flavor of the meat-goop that goes inside, however, based on this sample from my nearby Baltimore, Maryland location, their presentation is much shabbier than Jack In The Box standards in terms of amount of lettuce. Also however, I don't care, it is an acceptable simulacrum of a Jacko-taco, and every once in awhile I will eat one. Three. Five.


We continue to present here a selection of recipes for antique but entirely reproducible sandwiches, found in The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, published in 1909 and now in the public domain for all to enjoy, so please, enjoy, and if you have made any of these sandwiches, kindly send a picture to

Shred boneless cold boiled halibut and rub smooth with a wooden spoon; season with salt and pepper and one tablespoonful of lemon juice; add three tablespoonfuls of thick cream and toss up. Spread this mixture on thin slices of lightly buttered white bread, with a crisp lettuce leaf, that has been dipped in mayonnaise dressing, between. Cut triangular.

To one pint of cold cooked fish, add two hard-boiled eggs chopped fine, two tablespoonfuls of capers, and a little mayonnaise to moisten. Mix and spread on thin slices of lightly buttered white bread, cover with another slice, and cut in strips. Add a sprinkling of finely chopped cress to the top of each sandwich; rub the yolk of a hard-boiled egg through a sieve and chop the white very fine. Add a sprinkling of the yolk to the cress on half the number of sandwiches, adding the white to the other half. Then arrange them in groups of twos, one of each color on the serving plate. Any cold meat may be used instead of the fish.

Between toasted and lightly buttered slices of white bread place hot creamed codfish. Put a tablespoonful of the codfish on top and sprinkle finely chopped hard-boiled egg over the codfish and garnish with a sprig of parsley and a pickle. Serve as soon as made.

Mash the yolks of five hard-boiled eggs to a paste, add three tablespoonfuls of mayonnaise dressing and pepper and salt to taste. Spread lightly with butter three square thin slices of white bread and two corresponding slices of wheat. For lower slice use the white bread and spread with the egg paste, then place the wheat bread on top of that and spread with the egg paste, followed by a slice of the white bread. Press tightly together, then take a sharp knife and cut crosswise into five sandwiches. Garnish with an olive.

Chop olives and cold boiled chicken livers fine; mix with mayonnaise and spread on thin slices of whole wheat bread. Put the slices together.

Remove the seeds from thin skinned white grapes; add one apple and one stalk of celery; chop fine. Moisten with French dressing, toss up, and spread on thinly cut slices of buttered white bread. Place the two slices together.


Here Is a Photograph of the Sky

While we mull over what to serialize next, here's yet another installment of Spam Filter Letters to the Awl, from the 80,000-word collection of dummy-text cover letters I wrote to make sure that when I emailed that site a photograph of the sky, the filters would allow it to go through.

Subject: Countless commenters
To: Awl notes

who are too stupid to pass a Turing Test are nevertheless able to put up worthless comments on the internet, which then have to be read and blocked by hand. Meanwhile I can't send a simple message through my email to the people who are expecting it unless I pad it out with verbiage, because the filters have decided I'm not human enough. Great system we've got here, good work by everyone involved. Here is a photo of yesterday's sky, and the review is in the system.

Subject: It is Tuesday,
To: Awl notes

I think, according to both of the devices that tell me when it it, although they disagree substantially about what time Tuesday it is. The laptop is resolutely on Eastern time; the mobile phone, eager to find a way to inflict roaming charges, has promiscuously sought out European mobile networks and has immediately gone native as far as questions of the time go. Either way, yesterday is yesterday, and unlike yesterday, I've managed to put a review of yesterday's weather into the system. And here is a picture of the sky.

Subject: Here we go, nice and early
To: Awl notes

at least in America; over here the day is draining away remarkably fast. Jet lag! Destroyer of worlds. At least the fire alarm they tested at noon was a very polite BOOP-BOOP-BOOP-BOOP-BOOP one and not a shrieking one designed to make it unbearable to stay inside with it. Budapest! Buda, anyway. Have not seen Pest. Looks nice from a distance. Business travel! OK, enough words now. Here's the sky; the review is in.

Subject: This, today, is
To: Awl notes

really one heck of a day in New York City. I snapped a picture of a cloud out the livery car window leaving JFK just because it looked so great and because the window was open, and the window was open because it was so incredibly nice out. But it's not on the calendar, so instead I'm sending you a scary gray Budapest sky to go with the review that is now in the system, which is a review of yesterday's weather, although I almost wrote it up and filed it before yesterday had even come close to being finished here.