Golden State of Sandwiches

Todd Coleman

She wore sunglasses. Her blonde hair was long and wavy. Her skin was burnished deep copper from the sun. When she approached me on the beach that day in Malibu, she wore nothing but a macrame string bikini. Over her shoulder, she carried an Ultrasuede fringe bag, from which she pulled…a sandwich. "Sprouts, avocado, tomato, and Jack cheese," she told me. "Three dollars." She handed me a plastic baggie containing the ingredients she had assembled herself in her home kitchen and had tucked between slices of multigrain bread. I gave her my dollars, and she moved on. But I have never forgotten her. It was 1979. I was 16 years old and newly vegetarian, an East Coaster on holiday from a mother who had taken to clucking, "I just don't know what to feed you now." Back home, the beach was littered with the mustardy ends of hot dog buns sold by sweaty guys in boardwalk stalls. I unwrapped my sandwich and took a bite. The sprouts crunched; the tomato tasted bright; the avocado was creamy and nutty. The waves glistened and curled in the sun. Things sure are different in California, I thought.