Tuesday, September 2, 2003



Posted By on Tue, Sep 2, 2003 at 4:00 AM

Sandy Levine points out Don and Martha

The Carnegie Deli at 7th Avenue and 55th St. in midtown Manhattan offers what might be the largest and most edible sandwich portions of any eatery anywhere (the pastrami is mountain-sized; the Reuben, swimming in a homemade succulent sauce, redefines the species); it also serves up some passing large coincidences. Take about 5 p.m. last Tuesday night, when a few handlers from the Howard Dean campaign led a busload of journalists into the place, which was already crowded and would stay that way. This was a chance for the group, who had been touring the country with Democratic presidential candidate Dean, to light for a while in the company of one or more of the bountiful snacks. No sooner were they seated than a large, gregarious man who introduced himself as Sandy Levine, the manager, came stalking in to ask, “Anybody here know Governor Sundquist or Governor Musgrove?” Now, Tennessee’s former governor and Mississippi’s present one were both known to at least one member of the visiting party -- moi -- but, even as I acknowledged the fact, I couldn’t fathom why he should have named just those two. Half of our group hailed from New York, a goodly part of the remainder called D.C. home, and the rest were from points north or from urban areas of Florida (the next closest thing to north). And while, as it turned out, framed and autographed photos of both Don Sundquist (with wife Martha) and Ronnie Musgrove were attached to the wall of the room we were seated in, so were hundreds -- if not thousands -- of other such photographs, from political and athletic and entertainment celebrities of every kind, from every point of origin under the sun. Whatever the reason, Levine had pushed my button, and once he’d ID’d me, went on to point out the photographs in question, then said, “You know Senator Persons? I got something to show you from him!” Now, that had to be Curtis Person (not Persons), the state senator who represents portions of East Memphis, Cordova, and Germantown, but now the coincidence was turning uncanny. I do indeed live in Curtis Person’s senate district. And, sure enough, just around the corner in another room was another wall covered from side to side and top to bottom with framed photographs and mementoes, and Sandy (he was one of those specimens who get to be on first-name terms with you right away) proudly showed me the certificate, signed by Curtis Person and other state officials, which made him an honorary citizen of Tennessee. Moral of the story? There is none -- unless it is that the political skills of the formidable Senator Person -- who has been opposed for reelection only once since 1966 -- extend to midtown Manhattan. Or that Governor Sundquist, the frustrated tax-reform advocate whose tenure has been put somewhat in the shade by the legislative prowess of budget-cutting successor Phil Bredesen, still has boosters in the Big Apple. Or that Governor Musgrove, locked in a close battle this year with Haley Barbour, is running ahead in the Carnegie poll. Or that, indeed, it is a small world. But one with prenaturally large, delicious sandwiches. The Carnegie Deli -- even without Sandy’s several teeming walls -- is not to be missed.

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