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The Digressions of dr sanscravat

Chez Joey's

For a brief time, I dropped out of college -- but I soon found myself longing to get back.

Not to my studies, of course, but to a wonderful sandwich shop in that upstate college town: Chez Joey's. Today, everyone is familiar with submarines, grinders, hoagies, zeppelins and heroes -- something like them is served up by fast-food chains everywhere. Back then, there were no sandwich chains, and subs were new to me.

Chez Joey's #4 was a revelation: a stack of spicy meats (hot cappicola, pepperoni and salami); sliced tomatoes and onions, confetti-like shredded iceberg lettuce, oil and vinegar; one's own twelve-inch loaf of bread, crisp and just beginning to flake on the outside, tender and absorbent on the inside -- all served in the perfectly-matched ambiance of fluorescent-lit formica, the place's bona fides assured by the obligatory collection of signed rat-pack photos. A small window was cut into the wall beside the cash register, presumably to allow pizzas to slide through to the bar next door ('though I admit that I never saw this done).

I'm salivating like Pavlov's pooch at the mere thought of the place.

One night, during freshman year, I found myself in the company of a few other like-minded souls (none of whom I now recall, for reasons which may become apparent as this tale unfolds) at the old college bar -- affectionately known as "the Tav." It was winter, and the place was packed tighter than canned tamales in...

in...

Oh, what the hell... in a can.

Try to picture the layout of the bar: in the front were tall, blackened booths, every surface of which bore the carved names of generations of besotted louts; in the back, on the right side (looking from the front door), the bar stood pretty much where it is today. There was one significant difference, however. Across from the bar, against the left wall, occupying a spot that roughly established the no-man's land between bar and booths, was a cylinder of glass. The door of said cylinder opened from the left -- that is, when open, it's contents faced the booth area.

Why is all of this discussion of the bar's feng shui relevant, you ask?

Because said glassy cylinder was the cooler for bottled beer. One simply chose a bottle and took it to the bar -- where, in exchange for a few coins, the bartender would open the bottle and hand it back.

It was a more trusting time, and most of us will immediately understand why no such arrangement has existed in any college bar since that time. An unscrupulous, and/or impoverished, student could -- with a bit of foresight, bring his own bottle opener and forgo some of the more costly steps in the process described.

I did not possess such foresight.

Nor did I possess a bottle opener.

However, I WAS wearing a long heavy coat -- and, under that coat, a belt, the buckle of which exactly corresponded to the diameter of a beer bottle's cap.

Had anyone glanced at the booth where we sat -- strategically located on the same side of the room as the bar, at an angle that did not permit the bartender to cast just such a glance -- they might have noticed that there were a HELL of a lot more bottles than could be explained by trips to the bar. For that matter, a concerned observer might wonder how a group of students that were THAT drunk could even make it to the bar.

So, you ask, what exactly does any of this long-delayed confession have to do with Mr. Nunzio's formica’d palace of delights?

Being a freshman, and somewhat new to the life of public intoxication, I staggered out into the frosty air. Somewhere, in the then barely accessible portions of my mind, I recalled hearing something about drinking on an empty stomach; something about the effects of such behavior on one's well-being on the following morning, perhaps.

I decided that I was far too clever to allow such a thing to happen to me.

Off to Chez Joey's I went, with the goal of becoming one with one of his special sandwiches. I do not recall which number I chose, nor do I recall even eating it.

I do not recall the moment when I realized that there was a particular sequence in which one is supposed to fill one's stomach with food and drink -- and that, just possibly, I had reversed that sequence.

I do know that, long before I made it back to my dorm, Chez Joey's sandwich -- and much of the purloined beer from the Tav -- parted company.

Who says I never learned anything useful in college?

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