catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 15 :: 2012.07.20 — 2012.08.02


Pizza Friday

The weight of the world, as I experience it, can be hard to shake.  I don’t carry it so much physically in the demands of the work I do, but mentally and emotionally.  Rest, as a choice, lacks an easy access on-off switch.  I depend on ritual and habit, which render choice irrelevant, to lead me into another mode.  

Pizza Friday is the ritual that has been saving me.  I don’t know precisely when it became the default movement for letting go.  But for something like 15 years is has operated like the entry to Shabbat, minus the lit candles and the formal preparation.  It didn’t start intentionally as an effort to create ritual, though it took hold at a time when I was exploring sabbath meanings.  It also emerged when we lived around a large and visible Jewish community that shifted gears as the Friday sun set.  It happened very early in our marriage, in the 70-year-old home that was new to us in a town that was still new to us.  It happened with the background memory of the brief, sweet and tragic ritual we once shared, in another city, of splitting a pizza on a Friday and going our separate ways with two boxes.  Now there was one pizza, one box.  One destination, one home.

They came to know me at Marotta’s.  Its phone would ring for a simple exchange, and anyone who answered the phone knew what to expect.  For all I knew, they only had to write “Fred” on the pad and place it in the row of orders to fill.  No more detail needed.  

The large, brilliantly hand-tossed, cheese-only pizza was a nod to my wife’s preference.  I embraced the simplicity.  In the 30 minutes prior, the phone call to initiate the journey was the point of surrender and the redeployment of my remaining energy to the path through the restaurant and toward home — to a parking spot from which I could easily come and go, walk in and take out, close enough to home by that point on the trip that I could taste it.  I was efficiency-minded, in a way that helped me cast off all else.  I could want pizza, my wife’s kiss, Maddy and Shelby waiting and wagging.  Dusky quiet, among the residences, but nicely bustling on the main.  Nothing else that I had to do, nothing else that I wanted to do any more.  Really, nothing else that I could do.  The hardest thing for me to do.  In good Pizza Friday moments, I also felt a deflating of unwarranted self-importance as I reassumed my position as one small agent in the cosmos.

While pizza was not inevitable as the focus of a Friday meal, it also was not arbitrary.  Pizza embodies for me an ideal of basic food.  There is no excuse for it to be poorly made.  Later, a bottle of wine seemed like a necessary complement.  Marotta’s took hold for us as the destination quickly after it opened, as its energetic owner-chef couple took great pride in its pizza craft even as it worked out more complex and difficult dishes.  After moving to another city, one not known for pizza, it was no small effort to learn to let go anew and plot a trek toward a worthy pizza oven and a final destination that did not yet feel like home.  Heavy work travel for a time thwarted the ritual.  Eventually, at Romano’s, I could walk in and stand in line to get my pizza and pay, only to have someone behind the counter see me and call my name.  This was so oddly pleasing.  I would be flagged to head of the line so I could be on my way.  

Now, on the heels of a second move, another eight years after the last, I am ramping up on a new job.  I am not so burdened as before, though, knowing me, that will come as I get deeper and deeper into my responsibilities.  I have been doing extensive homework and experimentation on pizza options and pathways through a new town.  It is fun, but not yet ritualized.  I do not want to work at this too consciously, too deliberately, for long.  

Week by week, I am narrowing in on a worthy vendor.  The candidates do not know that what they are interviewing for:  the best restoration I know.  My wife has been unpacking now that our belongings have arrived in what will become home after many weeks in temporary housing.  Soon the dining room table will be clear enough for traditional seating.  The elder Shelby, who has shared nearly all of our Pizza Fridays, and the young boy, Jack, will take their positions beneath.  The glasses have been found, along with a bottle of wine.  Even if all is not settled, I love to watch the box open.

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