Tri-State Vacation, Part II: Mmmmm… a Roll

There are many blessings in this world… and Wawa hoagies are most certainly one of them.

The Macy’s Christmas Holiday Light Show is a staple of the Philadelphia holiday season. It is held in Macy’s Department store located next to City Hall on the southeast corner of Market and Broad streets. Every year thousands of spirit seekers include the light show on their seasonal “get-in-the-spirit” list, along with other holiday favorites like bake cookies, sing Christmas carols, and avoid over consumption of Titi Myrna’s Coquito.

The show’s backdrop is a 6-story high wall that is sheathed in a black curtain, intricately woven with tiny lights. IMG_1956On the first floor, if you walk past the impressive 10-foot tall bronze statue of an eagle you will find an even more impressive organ that adorns the foundation of this iconic holiday favorite.

My wife and I had made a list of things we would venture out to see when we came home to Philadelphia from Abu Dhabi and Macy’s light show was most definitely at the top. But right below it on the list, labeled Philly To Do, were two words – Wawa Hoagie. If you are not from the Philadelphia area these two words are most likely foreign, but if you have had the privilege than your mouth is watering at this very moment… mine certainly is.

Hoagies – or as my friend from Portugal pronounces them, Ohgheez – are exquisite creations. Sturdier and more balanced than a sub, and not so roughneck as a grinder, hoagies represent all that is good and flavorful in this world. If done right, each bite will caress every part of your palate, savory to sweet. If done wrong, you will find yourself as Job did, agonizing over life’s deepest meaning. On this day however, we did not find ourselves sitting in the ashes of despair. We found heaven in a flaky, tender, and eye-rollingly pleasant hoagie.

We typed in our order in Wawa’s electronic kiosks that allowed us the convenience of picking our toppings and sandwich style. Shorti* roll. Next. Italian. Next. Provolone. Next. Lettuce-onion-tomato-hot peppers-sweet peppers-pickles. Next. Mayonnaise-oil-salt-pepper-oregano. Finish. And we were off to Macy’s, sandwiches in hand.

As it is every holiday season, the department store was packed from lobby to ceiling. Those families who showed up early enough to the hourly show were sprawled across the ground floor looking up unhindered at the display, while the rest of us had to cram ourselves on the remaining floors where the balconies overlooked the center area. It was so crowded that we had to make our way to the 3rd floor just to find space. And even then, the only wawa hoagieavailable view was just behind a rack of pink push-up bras. But our minds were still too focused on our sandwiches to have noticed any of our surroundings.

The light show began and the faces of the children in front of us lit up. As they sat on their fathers’ shoulders they were enthralled by the story of the Nutcracker and Rudolph and Frosty unfolding before them. Janae and I also had faces of wonder and joy, but it was not because of the lights, albeit their splendor. Our joy stemmed from a greater power, a greater overwhelming fulfillment. The holiday season was ablaze with hope and good tidings. It was not just our faces that trembled with excitement, but our entire bodies. ‘Twas the season of MIRACLES…

For we had just taken our first bite.

*Wawa is a popular convenience store on th east coast of the United States. They sell sandwiches and hoagies of different sizes. Hoagie rolls are classified by length as follows: 4 inch – Junior, 6 inch – Shorti, and 12-inch – Classic. There is also a 2-foot variety but so daunting is that task no name would be appropriate. But whichever the length, many believe, as do I, that the full flavor and force of a Wawa’s hoagie, or any Philadelphia hoagie, stems from its bread – its delicious, sumptuous, earth-shattering bread**.

**Many studies have been done to prove that Philadelphia’s breads actually contain actual and extraordinary earth-shattering pow