Goys and Dills
Remembrance of jobs past, a new New York–style deli and fresh flicks
By Billy Eye
“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.” — Confucius
One warm evening recently I found myself standing outside Rioja! A Wine Bar with some much younger friends, reminiscing about my first two jobs that were located just steps away. You know how the young’uns love it when we old-timers start pontificating!
Anyone reading this knows the difference between a job and a profession. I’ve been fortunate to have blundered into several amazing professional careers but can’t recall any satisfying J-O-Bs I’ve suffered through.
As a busy 16-year old, I resented the idea of having to venture out into the workforce to begin with. After school, I could be found up in my room writing and drawing, or acting in stage productions at Page High and First Presbyterian. During the summer, there were hours poolside at Greensboro Country Club, swimming being the best exercise after all, not to mention that a guy has an obligation to maintain his tan. Additionally, there was the labor-intensive hunting down of that week’s comic books — with such a whirlwind existence, where was there any time for a job, I ask you?
My father, on the other hand, felt it unseemly that a teenage son of his wasn’t working — having lived through the Depression, walking 12 miles back and forth, uphill both ways, to school, the two weeks he drove a diaper truck, blah, blah, blah — so Dad resorted to blackmail. No job, no car. That my father didn’t appreciate my artistic gifts was one thing, but to resort to such cruelty?!?
My one major vice at the time was eating ice cream sodas (very few people know what those are today) from the Baskin-Robbins where Northwood and Battleground intersect, so I ended up getting hired on there. Boy, would that place get swarmed on weekends when movies let out at the Janus Theatre. It was a short-lived affair, fired just a few months later after I slipped Brian Lachlen a free ice cream cone and one of my co-workers ratted me out.
Despite being coldly spat out of the capitalist machinery on my first outing, dear ol’ Dad put his foot down again, I still needed to be earning.
Driving around one afternoon in that sweet ’68 Cutlass V8 convertible Mom and I shared, I made up my mind to seek employment at the next place I heard mentioned over WCOG radio. Tragically, up popped the jingle “Hurry on down to Hardee’s, where the burgers are charcoal broiled. . .”
Hardee’s, in 1972, was right across the street from my former employer, next door to Krispy Kreme, which stood where Rioja! is today. It was an awful experience, the atmosphere set by a married manager who attracted the kind of women you’d see leaning over second floor balconies at cheap motels. I was so embarrassed about working there I devised a way, if anyone I recognized walked through the door, to cook and deliver a burger without my face being seen.
The only other job I had as a teenager in Greensboro was a short stint at Ellman’s jewelry store at Carolina Circle Mall where I beat the lie detector test required for employment. Not that I had anything to hide, I didn’t, I just wanted to see if I could. It wasn’t long before I began making a pretty decent living as an actor, determined not to be so capricious about how I made a living in the future.
Longtime readers of this column won’t under any circumstances recall, but I am on a never-ending quest for the perfect roast beef sandwich. Sadly, the eateries I’ve recommended in past columns are both closed now.
That’s why I was so excited to try Greenfield’s N.Y. Deli and Bagels at Battlefield Shopping Center on New Garden Road, just west of North Elm. An honest-to-goodness kosher deli with homemade chopped liver, bagels, crispy fried knishes, reuben and pastrami sandwiches folks are raving about. Everyone in the place seemed genuinely excited about their meals when I dipped in.
I spoke briefly with Tom Cassano who, with his father Anthony, opened Greenfield’s last September, partly because they felt the New York deli experience was missing in Greensboro. “I grew up on this type of food, especially the desserts and baked goods,” Tom tells me. “Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got great places, but nothing like up North.” While father Anthony is a Philly native, Tom was born here in the Gate City.
“Bagels are like our babies,” Tom points out. “Our everything bagel, cheese bagel, we have a Black Russian which is like a pumpernickel with an onion seed on it. Sandwiches, that’s a key thing too.” Curb Your Enthusiasm fans may want to dive into their Larry David special, constructed with Nova and Whitefish on a bagel with lettuce, tomato capers, and cream cheese. Wash it down with a Dr. Brown’s soda, natch.
Eye’ll be returning shortly for that truly superior roast beef sandwich I enjoyed, garnished simply with thin layers of lettuce, tomato and onion on a Kaiser roll (the way I prefer, customize away). I recommend the quarter-pound version, I don’t know how anyone could wrap their lips around a half-pounder but apparently it’s possible. And I thought I had a big mouth!
Take my word for it? Immediately after lunch, entirely by happenstance, I bumped into my old pal, Brooklyn-bred Pete “The Greek” Arata, who was equally effusive about Greenfield’s authentically New York fare.
If you have a Greensboro Public Library card there’s a free Netflix-like subscription movie service, Kanopy, I’ll bet you didn’t know is at your fingertips.
Kanopy is heavily into documentaries, you get 10 flicks a month (resetting back to 10 on the first of every month) but one of the best parts is a documentary series like Eyes On the Prize, which runs 14 episodes, only counts as one play.
Other great docs and motion pictures you can access: Billy Wilder Speaks, Los Angeles Plays Itself, She’s the Best Thing In It: Portrait of a Character Actress, Can We Take a Joke?, The Last Movie Star (Burt Reynolds’ last movie and it’s quite tragic-funny), Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story, Trumbo, Save the Tiger, Dick Cavett’s Watergate, I Am Chris Farley, Girls in the Band, Mickey Mouse Monopoly, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The story of the National Lampoon; you can even learn a foreign language.
It’s easy. Go to Kanopy.com, enter your library card number, create a password, begin binge-watching. OH
Mr. O.G. — Original Greensboro — aka Billy Eye would love to hear from you. Email email@example.com.