I used to live in a hole, too, back when I was a poor college student. My hole was on Howard Street in Boone, a basement apartment that also flooded, had two windows in the whole place, and noticeably slanted floors (which was interesting in combination with the flooding). My bedroom had a six-inch hole in the wall covered by a piece of cardboard. But I loved the Howard Street apartment. It was just so full of character, and when you're young and stupid and poor, it's very easy to confuse flaws with charm. I feel like everyone should live in a crappy apartment at some point in their lives; then, the only way you can go is up.
However, my Howard Street apartment was a huge step up from the Kent Road house, and the difference was Kent Road itself. It was a capital-B Bad neighborhood. Rather, it was more like a little pocket Bad neighborhood, surrounded by reasonably safe student housing on three sides and the beltline on the other. It's the kind of Bad neighborhood you'd end up in by accident, because you were just trying to cut from Kaplan Drive to Western Boulevard, and you had no idea that in between was a reliable place to buy crack.
Here's a nice little story to illustrate life on Kent Road:
One night, maybe even very early morning, Josh's brother decided to go for a walk. This was, of course, a terrible idea, and I really don't even want to speculate what he was thinking. But Josh figured that if he couldn't talk his brother out of it, he might as well accompany him. They also took along the dog, because dogs don't care how dangerous the neighborhood is, they always like to go walkies. Down the road, they encountered a man sitting on the sidewalk, cleaning a shotgun. The man looks at them, looks at the dog, looks at them again, and then just nods to them. They continue on their way, end of non-story.
I'm sorry, did I forget to mention that the dog is a Rottweiler? I guess that was an important part of the story. Whoops!
But yeah, that's the kind of place that Kent Road is. I never really thought about that until after they moved into the Caldwell Drive house, where the worst thing was the busybody across the street who complained about that same Rottweiler getting into her flower bed. After they moved out, though, it seemed like pure luck that they got out alive.
The thing is, there is this weird sort of nostalgia associated with the places you live when you are young and stupid and poor, even places like Kent Road. I guess it's selective memory. Or maybe a yearning for your own bygone youth.
As a part of being young and stupid and poor, we ate a lot of crappy food. I was not poor at the time, but I couldn't cook, and I was cheap. So we ate frozen pizzas like they were going out of style. A lot of frozen french fries, too and sometimes mac and cheese with hot dogs. Every once in a while, we would really splurge by buying a bag of rolls, an onion, a green pepper, sliced provolone, and whatever cut of beef was marked down because it was about to expire. And also a bag of frozen french fries and soda and/or beer. We'd grill the sliced veggies and the beef, then dump the whole pile onto two bun bottoms that were sitting right next to each other on a plate, I guess because dividing things up would be too hard. Then we put the cheese on the hot mess and chowed down on a pair of snuggly steak sandwiches.
This, friends, was high living at Kent Road.
It's actually a pretty good sandwich, though I can't eat one without thinking about Kent Road and all the other assorted memories I have of my weekends there. We don't make them much anymore, probably because I rarely have steak in the house, and I've learned to cook since our Bad neighborhood days. But then one day a couple of weeks ago, I found myself with some leftover grilled chicken that I needed to use, and thus the Kent Road Sandwich was reborn.
It's not quite the same as it used to be, but then again, we're not either.
Kent Road Sandwich
- 1 T salt
- 1 1/2 t white pepper
- 1 1/2 t garlic powder
- 3/4 t cayenne pepper
- 1 t black pepper
- 1 t cumin
- 1/2 t basil
- chicken breasts
- onion, sliced
- green pepper, sliced
- cheese of your choice (provolone, mozzarella, monterey jack, whatevs)
- Mix up the spices in a bowl. (Note: This is a spice mix I yoinked out of a Paul Prudhomme cookbook. You can make chicken this way and use in bunches of other ways. That Prudhomme guy knows how to spice a chicken.)
- Dredge the chicken in the spice mix. Brown both sides in a frying pan. Transfer chicken to a glass baking dish, bake in 175 degree oven for 12 minutes, or until cooked through (cooking time depends on thickness of chicken. You could probably pound it flat before cooking if you wanted to get fancy).
- While chicken is in the oven, saute onions and peppers in butter until they start to brown. You will not need to add any seasoning whatsoever to the veggies, as the spice on the chicken will do all the flavor work. I sometimes use the same pan, so the veggies get the spices that hung out in the pan.
- Once chicken is done, slice it up.
- Broil buns in oven until toasted (or use a toaster or toaster oven or flamethrower). You may also want to consider mayonnaise at this point.
- Combine ingredients such that they form a sandwich. If you want, you could also put the completed sandwiches back into the oven for just a minute to get the cheese all melty.
- Eat. Imagine that you are terribly poor and living in a really crappy house. Make it seem romantic in your mind.