Smoke and Mirrors

Did you ever see one of those scenes in a classic western movie where the mysterious cowboy walks into a saloon and instantly, all the chatter stops, the piano player looses his rhythm, and all the heads turn to watch him walk towards the bar to order a drink?  Well the closest thing that would share a similarity to this likeness happened to me in my quest for sandwich greatness.  I was making my rounds through the historic Canton Square, the famous site for a few Hollywood productions such as A Time To Kill, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and My Dog Skip.  Something inside was telling me that there’s gotta be an undiscovered gem of a sandwich somewhere in this vicinity.  I passed by a Subway and a McAlister’s, only to keep on passing through.  Then, just a block over on the west side of the square, I saw a small, hole in the wall kind of place call T&D Sandwich Shop.  Immediately, I zeroed in on it.  I felt like there had to be something amazing going on in the kitchen.  But the closer I got, the more I began to realize that this place was very much off the radar.  There were buildings and houses all around, boarded up and long since been shut down, collapsing under the weight of time, all but forgotten.  Yet, in the middle of this ghost town of a block, people seemed to be flocking in and out, cars parked on the side of the street in a lengthy line.  In the same moment, I was also realizing that in this line of vehicles, my Dodge pickup truck was sorely standing out among these other Cadillacs on giant rims.  This was the kind of place you’d hear Tupac rapping about, and yet, here I was, Mr. Suburbanite in my khaki pants, casually strolling up the block in search of sandwich greatness.

Enter the mysterious cowboy into the saloon…..  Now, you remember when Marty McFly went back to the year 1885, looking for his time displaced, mad scientist of a mentor, Dr. Brown?  Well, he walked right into that saloon, dressed in some God awful, bright pink, drugstore cowboy getup, and the bartender asked him what he wanted to order.  “Ice water,” he so nonchalantly stated, only to be followed up with a tremendous outburst of laughter. “In here, we pour whiskey,” the bartender smugly replied.  Well, likewise, when I walked through the doors at T&D and asked for a sandwich, the cook behind the grill politely told me that they don’t serve sandwiches.  So, after a moment of confusion as to how and why a sandwich shop with no sandwiches could be a thing, I asked for a recommendation.  As it turns out, rib plates are the specialty dish.  So, there I stood, in a small, crowded space, awaiting my plate of ribs to come up.  It was obvious from the get-go, I was somewhat of an outsider.  I didn’t look like, dress like, or talk like the locals.  Now, in the movies, you know the next part of the story….. the bad guy shows up and all hell breaks loose.  At least, that’s the story Hollywood sells to us.  And mainstream media, they’ve all taught us to be afraid of places like this.  Well, in reality nothing so dramatic happened.  Instead, the restaurant manager totaled my order, smiled and shook my hand, and told me to enjoy the meal and have a good day.  And as it turns out, I walked out of that place with a plate full of the best ribs I’ve ever put in my mouth.  Strange as it is, that here, in Mississippi’s epicenter of big budget cinematic productions, it’s plain to see that so much of the fear and prejudice sold to us in the movies is only a matter of smoke and mirrors; a Hollywood illusion, sold to us at the price of a ticket for admission.  But for just about the same price, we could have had the best plate of ribs from a hole in the wall establishment if we’d only dare to venture away from our television screens and out of the comfort of our cute little cul-de-sacs and taste the “flavor good” from another neighborhood.

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