The Daniella Novella
Or: On the Bird: A Swan Song
Or: A reminder to always take a wee piece (sandwich, not gun) with you to Daniellapalooza, Daniella Boachella, & Burnabe Man
Or: I don’t really know how to give an interview, but I know how to eat a sandwich

Danielle’s Favorite Sandwich: "The On the Bird (on olive bread) at Bread Lounge located in Downtown Los Angeles. Thank you in advance for your participation in this very important Thursday poll.” Thank you, too, Danielle. Today is Friday."

Danielle Bernabe is my good pal. You may not realize this, but she is in fact the one & only Award Winning Founder/CEO of the Great Sandwich Project of 2017. You are on her site right now. This isn’t my site. I’m Pete. I’m just the #blessed candidate who was selected to transcribe the insights of The Founder this week. It’s Birthday week, in fact. HBDDB. Anyway, one really shouldn’t interview one’s own self for #GSP17; it’s far too megalomaniacal and in poor taste. Danielle has good taste.

This is a love story. What isn’t? Riddle me that. I’ll give you a big head start, too; find you collapsed 30 meters off the finish with the rest of the lot. It’s all about wandering and discovery and finding worth in the salvage (you’ll find in the coming lines that’s a great pun). Also, humor. So, what could be more apropos than the humble sandwich as metaphor for life and love and progress? Wander on, fellow vagabonds! And eat well!


Danielle is one sweet Dame. That’s why many of us call her ‘Sweet D’ (D stands for Danielle, not Dame. But I guess sometimes things just work out, ya know?). Maybe you’re thinking, “dame?”. Maybe you aren’t. But I bet you are now. Dame is the equivalent title to Knight; so basically that makes you pretty badass. Some people know Sweet D as ‘La Chapa’. Just play it safe and don’t mess with her, kid. Don’t ask questions. She may or may not have taken fingers for small crimes like incorrectly peeling an orange.

Danielle is well traveled. She was born in New Mexico, but really grew up in Hawaii. Talk to her for more than 5 minutes, and you may hear something about Scotland. 15 minutes, Hawaii; 20, New Mexico; 30, Italy and beyond. Danielle is easy to talk with, so you don’t have to worry about the intersection of long conversations and apathy: just long conversations and high fives. And laughs. Imagine a circumscribed hexagon with various tangent lines. The lines can be high fives; and the hexagon should be laughs. The circle can represent conversation. Also, the points where the tangents intersect, since they’re probably not all parallel: those are for the real gut-busters. Not sure there’s a function of time here; let’s just say it applies continuously, so we can get on to the real point of La Daniella Novella.

Danielle has the self-proclaimed ‘vocal range of Mariah, the sass of Rihanna, and the off stage presence of Miley circa 2013.’ That’s not the point of La Daniella Novella. But now you know.


When D challenged Facebook about sandwiches, she also answered her own question before anyone else. The On The Bird sandwich at Bread Lounge, DTLA, is the sandwich of choice for this tale, and what a choice it is. Spanish smoked paprika aïoli, turkey breast, pickled red onion, brie and fresh spinach ($11): the On The Bird is also one of my favorite sandwiches. Danielle introduced me to Bread Lounge, and I’m certainly glad she did. She said, “try this sandwich; it’s fucking good.” I was like, “wow, that’s fucking good.” Sometime later, we invited my dad: “pop, try this sandwich; it’s fucking good.” He said, “that sandwich is fucking good.” I don’t think he said that, but he did enjoy the sandwich.

So, we head into the Arts District / Salvage District borderlands. Grounds off the grid. Territory belonging to no one – or maybe everyone (but probably no one). A place that makes you ask, “where am I?” and then have your introspective question abruptly cut off by the peculiar and remarkably pervasive stench that envelops most everything, including your slightly open mouth trying to supply your body with oxygen. Sometimes the diaper molecules sneak like impetuous imps into your throat to deliver a swift karate chop to the pharynx.

I arrive with Sweet D; and we’re meeting our dearest pal Thomas (TAM, not LTP: he’s in New York, silly). Having frequented this lovely establishment more than once (Read: an unreasonably huge number of times), we know the parking sitch well (there isn’t one); so we always park around the block. Ironically, our usual spot is in front of a parking structure. It’s closed due to construction, but also won’t be open for the hoi polloi once complete anyway. We emerge from our comfy air-conditioned vessel. Karate chop. There’s Tommy, waiting across the street, grooving to some tunes, but also maybe on the phone with LTP. Danielle struts across the perilous street like Hansel challenged her to a walkoff. Hansel loses. I engage in a standoff with a motorist attempting to turn right while I pretend to be Vivian Maier. We’ll call it a draw. Tom pauses Billy Joel; hugs all around, bisou/bisou, etc., but probably none of that. We may or may not have executed a flawless triumvirational secret handshake.

The Arts District has started smelling like baby poop, mixed with rotten food & eggs.

Danielle informs Tom that “the Arts District has started smelling like baby poop, mixed with rotten food & eggs.”

I think Tom’s own senses may have picked up on this.

“I’ve redubbed it the Farts District!,” pipes Sweet D.

Karate chop.

As you enter the paradise that is Bread Lounge, your senses are overtaken by glorious smells, glorious sights, glorious sounds. While that last one largely depends on the timbre of your companions, mine happen to possess cherubic, Chopinian ivories for vox. So it stands: glorious sounds. But truly the most glorious smells. Always.

“It’s kind of weird, because when you’re walking up to Bread Lounge, it smells like garbage: specifically burning diapers… at a junkyard. Then when you walk in here, you get a whiff of fresh bread, melted cheese, and friendship!”

Who doesn’t love the smell of friendship?!

Danielle and I split the glorious [sic] On the Bird – an oft-employed technique of locals and regulars and sycophants, akin to parking around the corner. Anyway, it’s enough sandwich for a couple birds. I don’t remember what Tom got, but I’m sure it was toothsome. Everything at Bread Lounge is goddamn toothsome. I can also tell you it didn’t have cheese on it, unless of course he was in one of his particularly daring moods.

This book is different from other books. You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story.

We sit down and our sandwiches are brought over about 8 seconds later. This is the Bread Lounge way. I don’t know how they do it, but no one seems to mind, since they come for the sandwich and quickly receive the sandwich. I’m not sure I’d even have the mustard open by this point.

“You’re eating with your hands,” Tom observes, somewhat puzzled.

Danielle is methodically deconstructing her favorite sandwich.

“What happened to your sandwich?” I ask.

Laughing, Danielle is cornered. “Guys, I really love this sandwich, but I don’t love the pickled onions. They put too much of them on it. And as I get older I’m noticing I may have a reaction to dairy, so I can’t eat as much dairy as I used to… so I have to take some stuff off of it.”

Pete: “So, you’re lactose intolerant?”

Danielle: “No!”

Pete: “Like our friend Tom?”

La Chapa: “No!”

Pete: “…”

Tom: <eating>


“What is so special about this sandwich to you?” I ask a great question because I’m really good at interviewing people.

“You know, I was going to answer that question differently until you added ‘to you’, which kind of, you know, connected it to the feeling of the sandwich: the feeling I get when I’m eating the sandwich.”

“Let’s talk about that feeling.” I am a shrink.

“If you would’ve just said ‘what is a sandwich?’, I would’ve described the sandwich.”

“Stop trying to control the interview, Danielle.” I don’t really know how to give an interview, but I know how to eat a sandwich.

She capitulates: “Okayyyyyy.” The lady doth not protest too much.

Someone starts blundering about Bread Lounge carelessly and shrieking at their friend in non-angelic rasps.

Startled, La offended Chapa mutters under her breath, “I’m sorry, we’re um… conducting an interview over here?”

Have we seen that person since? All I can say is I haven’t.

“So, I started working down here almost 2 years ago & discovered the Bread Lounge,” Danielle notes. “I don’t remember how I discovered it.” I guess that piece of information will never be known.

“Anyway, I get this sandwich a lot when I’m at lunch,” she continues. “And the significance of today is that today is actually my last day working down here. It’s probably one of the last times I’ll be eating Bread Lounge, because who the FUCK wants to drive all the way down here?!”

“Some people drive a long way for their favorite sandwich,” notes the guy who drives too much.

Tom asks Danielle if she practiced this whole thing in front of a mirror.

“I’ve been practicing this my whole life.”

10 points for Gryffindor.


Tom is enjoying the hell out of his unnamed sandwich. “This sandwich is so good.”

“Danielle, I wonder how it makes you feel when other people like your sandwich.”

She calmly states, “I am overwhelmed with pride.”


“Danielle, what is a sandwich to you?”

“This one?”

“No, what is a sandwich?”

“A sandwich…”

“To you.”

“Wait, what’s a sandwich? Or this one?”

“What’s a sandwich? To you.”

I am a lunatic. Danielle is perplexed, but she knows I am unhinged. Tom is enjoying his sandwich.

“Oh. Well, it didn’t really mean anything to me, quite frankly,” she admits. “Until I asked everybody else what their favorite sandwich was, and then I realized, wow: sandwiches really unite. And that’s kind of what the point of a sandwich is! But between two pieces of bread.”

The mighty sandwich is naught if not a microcosm of unity! And unity is connection; and connections transmit messages. Messages are meaning; and meaning is what we all seek.

We’ve passed the 5 minute mark…

“Do I talk about it too much?!”

Tom & I start giggling; butterflies swoon in the west; the ocean convulses to form ephemeral monuments of terror; LTP orders a cappuccino. Balancewich.

“So, when I came back from Scotland, I was feeling a sense of urgency in my soul. I wanted to fall in love with Los Angeles again. When I started the Sandwich Project, and reconnected with old friends by sitting over a sandwich with them, it really brought me so much joy. It’s bringing me so much joy,” she chitters. “I’m reconnecting with people I haven’t talked to in a decade and eating sandwiches I’ve never had. And to me, that’s something really special.”

“We’re here eating sandwiches; like, I’ve done nothing but laugh. I almost choked the other day because I was eating it too fast. I mean, that might have been funny.”

I admit, “short of death, I think it’s pretty funny.”

We laugh. I choke. I’ve lost track of this interview.

“Pete, I think that’s pretty par for the course for the Sandwich Project.” She shrugs. “I don’t really know how to give an interview, but I know how to eat a sandwich.”

“You know, for about 1½ of my 2 years down here, I thought I was working in the Arts District," D continues. "And then one day I was sitting at a lunch spot near the office and I saw something that said, ‘Welcome to the Salvage District’. And that’s when my heart started crumbling, and I decided I needed to make a change: a change from salvage to arts. It was pretty crushing to me. I lived half my life thinking I was Sicilian, and then I found out I wasn’t. Not that that was crushing, but it was the same sort of thing… I was living a lie.”

At this point, the suspicious patrons of Bread Lounge start to think we’re CIA. We can neither confirm nor deny these imaginary allegations.

We dub ourselves The Ciabatta Intelligence Agency. How cool are we?

Secret handshake. Maybe.

Mid-handshake that maybe happened, Danielle suddenly blurts out, “what I’d like to add on to this interview is that I really love On The Bird, and today I’ve become a free bird.” She’s been practicing her whole life.

Cue solo.

“But I would never request Free Bird.”

Turn it off.

“But it was in the Farts District that I fell in love.”

Indeed, it started here at Bread Lounge.

“Well, right outside it actually smells like guava,” she claims. (it doesn’t.)

“So one time I asked [this fella],” She leans in close. Indoor voice: “who I used to have a crush on, but I don’t really have a crush on him anymore.”

Reclining, she continues: “It was the first time I actually talked to him, and I asked if there were guava trees there, and he had no idea what the hell I was talking about, so I was really embarrassed; and that was about a year ago and I haven’t been able to make eye contact with him since.”

I ask the obvious question. “Would you say the sound of his voice does a good job complimenting the smell of the diapers outside?”

“I’ll have to answer that off the record,” ella dice.

I don’t really know how to give an interview, but I know how to eat a sandwich.

“Anyway, I don’t really mix business and pleasure, so I decided to move on from him. So, then there was the man next door at Stumptown. One of them we think lives in a van. But that’s okay, because love shouldn’t have boundaries. Listen to your heart. I mean, why would I say no to a proposal if someone lives in a van?”

It is impossible for me to disagree with this. Full disclosure: I am also a great fan of vans, like our heroine (Danielle, not the drug. I wanted to clarify in case it’s 150 years from now, and you’re one of the few survivors of the apocalypse, but have lost your vision in some brilliant blast and are forced to listen to a self-proclaimed sage read the Classics (such as this) aloud, and you just have to trust this guy isn’t changing things up willy-nilly to advance a secret agenda, because that’s absolutely criminal, but you really don’t know, but at least it’s something to listen to, so you just let it be rather than stabbing him in the night when the playing field is even. Also you don’t have a knife, so no luck there. But you may have some gnarled fingernails or a bone jutting out of your forearm that you could sharpen with your remaining teeth. Also, if you’re a contemporary (2017, or at least pre-apocalypse), but just didn’t catch the ‘e’: FYI, that’s what separates heroines from heroins in this language. Atrocious. I think they call it heroins in the UK, like Maths, but I’m not sure. We’ll have to ask Danielle. She is a fan of scotchs.).

I think Sweet D moved on from that guy because it became clear he likely lived in an apartment, not the van. There was simply no way he could live up to the narrative we’d constructed around him at that point. “We just called him a lonely boy. But it turns out he wasn’t lonely.”

Some of us wonder if he’s ever even seen a van before.

“I had a fraudulent fantasy of driving off into the sunset in his van,” D peeps.

“Free as a bird.”

The 3 of us look over and simultaneously notice a painting looming right over us, quietly waiting to be noticed. “Looking for love in all the wrong places?”

Cue solo.

Bawling with laughter, we head out for Stumptown Coffee Roasters, because none of us are sufficiently caffeinated (Read: we’re all grossly over-caffeinated). It is written somewhere that lunch at Bread Lounge must close with a visit to Stumptown, so we abide. Some fools once suggested, “only a nobody walks in LA,” but it’s only like a block, so NBD; we’re still cool AF.

As we fetch our drinks, Danielle mockingly suggests the reason she’s in love with everyone at Stumptown is because, “they’re all like, surfer dudes; and I know I don’t say this enough, but I grew up in Hawaii.”

My eyes roll back so deeply, they fall out the back of their sockets, into my mouth, and roll out into my empty cup. Which is convenient because I could easily put them back in.

“You know how people always say, women fall in love with bad boiz?” she quips. “But then they like fall in love with like baaddd boyysss,” she’s growling to distinguish between the levels of bad a boy can be. The gravelliest voice is for El Chapo. The voice reserved for your average lonely chapo on the block is something closer to the baby voice your confused relative uses to coax a coyote they’ve mistaken for your unkempt dog. I may or may not be your confused relative.

“It’s really interesting how in 2 years the evolution of a neighborhood can really evolve with the evolution of someone’s heart.”

Danielle is a Darwinist. Sweet Darwinist.

The bottom line here is love is where the sandwiches are. Like the humble sparrow, the sandwich population is distributed globally. I am David Attenborough.

So you set out to find a sandwich to gnash into mush. And digest. It’s crucial it sits well with you. For the sandwich provides life; that’s love. And it’s all about love, which is life. Lovewich is life. On the Bird is the word.

“I think that’s all I have to say.”