He had a raspy tenor voice, deepset eyes and a strong, slender frame -- a more weathered version of Dr. House, you might say.
The man, who appeared homeless, was standing outside the Which'wich sandwich shop as Gem and I walked by Friday evening.
"Sandwiches are $1 today," he let us know.
We inspected the signs posted all the windows, and he was right. It was the restaurant's birthday, and all sandwiches were 99 cents.
Gem and I had and hour to kill before we met our boyfriends for dinner. The sandwich joint was packed: dozens of people lining up to celebrate the restaurant's birthday and stuff themselves for cheap.
I glanced at her and mouthed, "Want to?" and she nodded.
"How about you come with us for a sandwich?" we asked.
"I couldn't do that," he replied. Maybe he was nervous about going inside or didn't want to be a bother.
"No, it's okay!" we insisted. "Why don't you come choose something?"
"I'd feel bad. You must want it for yourself."
"No, no! Please don't worry! What kind of sandwich would you like?" we said and headed in with him.
We all looked at the menu, which was written on a huge wall, and as he inspected the choices I wondered about him.
"Do they have pork?" he asked.
"Yes, they do! Look at that: Pork tenderloin. So what kind of bread do you want? Wheat or white?" Gem and I each filled out an order sheet for him, since he didn't seem inclined, or able, to write. Pickles, pork tenderloin, provolone, mustard x 2.
"You girls smell like piss of 1000 angels!" he gushed. We smiled, assuming it was a compliment.
He asked what we do, jobwise. Gem described her job, and I told him I write.
We asked his name.
"Let me see if I remember," he said, and started pondering that question. "Montana." He extracted a wallet from one of his many pockets, flipped it open and pointed to the "Montana" running across the top of the glossy ID card.
As we waited for his sandwiches to come up, Montana told us that he used to be a chef specializing in French Cajun cuisine. He once made 111 soups in a row. His favorite, he said, was broccoli cheddar. He has lived in San Diego for 8 years. He likes collecting red sharpies.
Too many of the stories I read are about politicians and fund managers. Too much bad news, inane news, the same old news.
So this is a story about Montana.
Has he been written about before? Is there someone else out there to remember him? I may never know. But at least there's this.
[image via smh.com.au]