I used to spend a lot of time in Harlem. I was going there from Jersey 3-4 times a week to write and record pop and hip hop records. It was two hours and twenty minutes on the train and about 45 minutes on the 2 or 3 subway. Then a good (long) block and a half to 117th on foot via the 116th and Malcolm X Blvd subway to my friend Will’s apartment studio. Sometimes I would drive, but that wasn’t much easier. After this intense commute, one thing I always looked forward to was lunchtime. The day’s workload dictated the fare. If we had time it could be Indian buffet or a random deli excursion. But usually since we were busy, it would be Mexican delivery of the best tortas on earth. Ordering via phone was a difficult task but worth it. I was initiated quite matter-of-factly one day on a break from recording. “Yo, grab the menus, you won’t believe the tortas at this mexican place I found. “ After that day an unbreakable bond ensued between myself and this sandwich. It was and remains quite the addiction. I still chase the high to this day.
So you can imagine my surprise and disbelief when one day Will told me that a better torta existed in Harlem. There was a catch though. This mythical torta was in a bodega up around 143rd and Broadway. In Harlem that’s hella far. It sounded at best like a
very inefficient way to spend the afternoon. At worst it sounded like a really bad idea. It turned out to be a bit of both.
We jumped into Will’s car and headed north on Broadway towards 143rd. It was one of those old guy type family vans. It was champagne colored and had Massachussetts plates on it. It rarely left the front of the apartment building. He basically just used it to drive back home once in a while to visit his family. It was a hand me down leaving home gift that his parents had given him when he left Boston for New York. This was to be both the first and the last time that I was ever in that car.
We got to the place which I think was on the main street necessitating a left turn onto the side street. Since the narrow side street was filled both sides with cars, Will double parked it on the right and I waited in the car while he ran inside to grab the sandwiches. When he got back in a and turned the key the car wouldn’t start. When Will announced that we needed a jump start my heart sank low. The last thing I wanted to do as my tortas grew cold was try to get a jump start in Harlem with my pale red headed friend with the Massachussetts plates. “ I have AAA, let’s just use that,” I suggested. It was too late. Will was out of the car actively trying to flag down cars as they sped past us down the side street, most narrowly avoiding Will who had his hands up attempting to make eye contact through the passenger windows of each passing car. The kid was shameless. This was getting dangerous, I thought to myself nervously. I was already wishing we had just ordered from our regular spot.
After about 20 minutes of this I was standing next to Will when a navy colored four door stopped right in front of us. The passenger rolled the window down and Will gave an impassioned plea for the jumpstart. I couldn’t believe it. The woman he was talking to was the redhead from Sex And The City (Cynthia Nixon who played Miranda). She motioned to the woman driving and a baby in the back. “Let us drop the baby off and we’ll be back to give you a jump” she said. Will turned to me with a look of disbelief as the car drove off down the block. “Did you see who that was?” he asked. I was trippin. While they were gone I looked at the internet on my phone. The woman driving was the actor’s wife. True to their word the woman returned less than 10 minutes later with jumper cables. We jumped the car, said thanks and were on our way with cold tortas. When we got back to the studio after all of this, I was hardly surprised to discover that this torta just did not compare to the local ones that we had been enjoying all along!