8.72: Subway

 What looks like a community arts center in Miami is actually one of Downtown's 17 Subway locations/metaphors for the nauseating election system that plagues this country. Photo by Dan Johnson.

What looks like a community arts center in Miami is actually one of Downtown's 17 Subway locations/metaphors for the nauseating election system that plagues this country. Photo by Dan Johnson.

by Dan Johnson

What better place to commemorate the nominal end of a two-year long cycle of dismay, confounding idiocy, public bigotry all around lunacy associated with our nation’s once-every-four-year crack at representational democracy?

I’ll bet you’re wondering what exactly a Subway sandwich has in common with American electoral politics? Well, strap in.

  1. Subway Sandwich is ubiquitous. You’ll find that nauseating mélange of guacamole shit green and hepatitis urine yellow on about as many places as you’ll find Old Glory. In Downtown alone, there are seventeen Subway sandwich parlors in which you, the discerning consumer, can purchase a six inch or footlong gastrointestinal blockage.
  2. Like America itself, Subway’s brand is the “progressive alternative.” The land of the free and the home of the brave where 3% of the population took up arms against tyrannical monarchy in 1776 is a kindred spirit to a health-conscious array of deli meats, “whole grain breads” and vegetable options that promise to invigorate and lengthen the vitality of your life. In many ways, Subway is the logical culinary extension to the American experiment. Where else in this world could value, an eclecticism of tastes and basic nutrition coalesce into a meal as radically democratic as the Italian BMT? Subway, we are made to believe, is an affordable food option for people whose demanding lives in this robust republic require a simple meal drawn from the base of the food pyramid.
  3. And yet, despite all branding to the contrary, Subway restaurants are horrid testimonials to hierarchies of power and wealth we the average consumer would really care not to fathom. We have an idea of an America built on an untarnished moral power and god-given wealth. Yet, our nation’s prestige is more the legacy of unchecked military dominance at strategic global choke points than spiritual merit. So too is our bounty the product of resource exploitation and craven extraction around the world. Down at the Subway on Winston St and Los Angeles St, you’re not getting a wholesome “gee shucks” snack from Farmer Joe out in Riverside. Instead, you’re dining on the end result of a most-impressive if somewhat discouraging farm-to-table corporation where every single facet of your meal’s production satisfies the razor thin labor margins of a corporate bottom line in which the day laborer picking heads of lettuce, the truck driver hauling cucumber and yeast dough and the Sandwich Artist with that rinky dink spreader knife behind the sneeze guard are all getting paid the bare minimum necessary to remain alive in a world with scant few options available for their eventual happiness.
  4. Further, like some Flint, Michigan wet dream, the flowing abundance of that turkey breast sandwich on Italian Herb and Cheese bread may not be in the interest of your long term survival. Here’s a good rule of thumb: when you go some place and the smell of their in house bakery leaves a day-long odor on your skin, check the ingredients? Lo and behold, a number of folks did the leg work on Subway and what you’re getting besides a meat ration with strips of dairy and some nominal carbs with veggies of your choosing are a dick load of preservatives. That’s how your food stays Subway Fresh! While some of these issues have been addressed in years past, the sad truth is that a good, old fashioned sub has enough salt in it to earn the envy of primitive hunter gatherers around the globe circa 1000 BC. If ambient carcinogens in these United States are good enough to slowly kill its people, why not a sandwich?
  5. We should also mention the insidious undercurrent of the “Jared Situation.” Nothing says trust and transparency like a clever ad campaign featuring a former fat man with desperately pale skin, spindly fingers and the sort of gaze that rarely maintains eye contact, but petrifies your very soul when it goes. Was anybody really surprised when they found out Jared was fucking kids? If you believe franchisee Cindy Mills, not even the folks at Subway Corporate were blindsided by this revelation. They may or may not have known about his proclivities. That’s for the lawyers to dicker out. It was one of those epic “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” moments by which the suspicions of an astute American body politic see past the veneer of red, white and blue bull shit to spot a garden variety murdering nepotist like Dick Cheney or an all-around egomaniacal crook like Tricky Dick. Welcome to America, boys and girls. Your heroes are bunk. Now shove that Italian Meat Ball six inch down your throats so your Uncle Jared can have something nice to think about for the next sixteen years.
  6. Best of all, just like the present predicament here at the heart of the American empire, there’s nothing you can do to escape Subway Sandwiches. Their price point, omnipresence and illusory nod to your health concerns has us by the balls. “Yes, it’s fucked,” we agree, “and it doesn’t even taste that good, but fuck is it cheap.” Just to sweeten the deal, your local franchise plays a soothing sonic sedative mix featuring the likes of Spandau Ballet’s “True” and Gwen Stefani’s “Wind It Up.” Sure, you may be complicit in a consumer chain of toxic and disingenuous corporate meal engineering, but doesn’t it feel fun?
  7. Maybe the worst part about both the life of a major candidate pawn and a Subway customer is that you never feel full. There’s always more work to be done to secure whatever wishful falsehood you prefer to superimpose over the fractured and impermanent reality of the United States in the same way that no amount of foot long subs will ever fill you up for longer than three hours. When we wake up on Wednesday or whenever the fuck it is that one candidate concedes to the other or the militia or the corporate death squads take DC or whatever momentous election deciding event transpires, the braintrust over at Subway will still be doing just fine and we will all be hungry. The most reasonable choice will inevitably devolve at one point or another to your friendly neighborhood Subway.
 The farthest thing from farm-to-table, and the closest thing to the true America, Subway will always leave you still hungry. Photo by Dan Johnson.

The farthest thing from farm-to-table, and the closest thing to the true America, Subway will always leave you still hungry. Photo by Dan Johnson.

I award Subway a reluctant and aggrieved “1” on the binary and congratulate them on making a sandwich that tastes like my tears if only because I was sobbing into $5.75 vegetarian footlong.