She said we should "do" lunch. I said "absolutely." She twirled away from my desk and not five minutes later, an Outlook meeting request popped up in the lower right hand corner of my screen. Subject: lunch. Location: tbd. I clicked to "accept, " then sighed. My life has been reduced to Microsoft Outlook - electronic meeting requests, email, and if I’m not ready to talk to you just yet, my natural instinct is to set the reminder for 0.5 days and click your nose to “snooze.” Elimination from my world-gone-office-space could not have come at a better time.
We headed out the front door of our office building, the one I never use because I never do. Could this possibly be the last time I walk through this door? Why am I asking this in my head? So I forgot about the door and asked her where we were going. We had turned away from the normal walkable lunch spots in Culver City, headed toward the dining deadzone - except for Fassica Ethiopion on Washington and Motor, there are auto body shops, a giant Catholic church, and a candle outlet. I’m sure there are other businesses in this area, but for some reason, the candle outlet just sticks out – how strange the things our subconsciouses choose to remember. We were going to the Jackson Market and Deli.
We crossed the street away from our office. We walked past the "big corporate" building. We turned the corner around the studio lots. We were heading away from the hustle and bustle of the business district, away from conference calls, whiteboards, and my Microsoft Outlook on life and toward the quiet, residential area that borders Culver City's downtown to the south. We turned down a street, the entrance hidden just beyond the main intersection and clack-clack-clacked in our biz-cazh heels down Jackson Avenue. I couldn't figure where along this neighborhood street of apartment building after tiny house after apartment building, there could be a market and deli.
About halfway down the block, Jackson Market and Deli, with a quietly faded sign, blends right in with the tiny houses and apartments around it. In fact, the market is part of a small collection of bungalow type apartments and looks like at one time, it used to be an apartment, then converted into a market. There's a small covered patio off to one side, and a few tables under umbrellas on the sidewalk out front. If not for multiple umbrellas, I would have walked right by it without noticing.
There's a screen door in an old wooden frame that, for some reason, makes me think of Georgia. If I were in Georgia visiting Paula Deen, I'd walk up the steps, follow the wraparound porch to the back, and walk through the exact same screen door into her kitchen. We were inside Jackson Market, a combination of country dime store with old, worn wooden shelves along the walls holding knickknacks, and gas station convenience store with Altoids and Big Grab Doritos. As hidden away as it is on this neighborhood street, Jackson Street is busy with business casuals in for their lunch hour.
The menu is written in technicolor chalk on a board above and behind the counter. There are breakfast items like crepes, waffles, and omelettes, though I couldn't see where in the area behind the counter they could cook an omelette. I looked at the sandwiches, slightly confused because there were no california club sandwiches, no blt, no caprese on focaccia, no fancy sandwiches with names. I almost didn't know what to do with myself because it was so simple. She handed me a tiny pencil and small card with two columns of checkboxes, as if I were keeping score on the back nine. Check off a bread (ciabatta or french bread). Check off a meat. Check off a cheese, vegetables, condiments, then hand the card to them behind the counter. I had forgotten how beautifully simple a sandwich can be.
With so many people, I guessed that most people took their sandwiches to go because the seating out front was fairly limited. But she told me to grab some napkins and follow her. We walked back through the aisles, past a refrigerator case with Boylan's sodas and Orangina, through the back door, outside into the backyard with wrought-iron garden table and chairs, a swinging patio chair, a little sparkling fountain, and I swear, if there were a hammock hung between two trees, I wouldn't have been surprised. Everyone was sitting out here picnicking in the backyard that's shared with the other bungalow apartments. We took one of two open tables, one next to the grill - not a big professional grilling station. It's a little Memorial/Father's/Labor Day backyard barbecue grill. We were having a comfortable, casual lunch in someone's backyard, exactly like someone else did, right here, 30 years ago.
The food was good, but certainly nothing to rave about - it's a deli sandwich for fox ache! But what makes Jackson Avenue Market and Deli special is that it's so refreshingly simple - no high tech machinery, no gourmet ingredients, no fancy names or combinations. No electronic ordering system that automatically syncs my sandwich with my calendar, cell phone, and PDA. It's not more than a ten minute walk from the chaos of Culver City, but it's hidden away down Jackson Avenue, a secret retreat from my Microsoft Outlook. The take-away menu says "Hidden in Culver City for over 75 years." I bet it looks exactly like it did 75 years ago, too.