The Pizza Memory Superhighway

Hi, kids. The Doc here. And sadly, I don’t have any high-speed go karting stories for you, like the Maestro regularly has.

As you may or may not have heard, the Doc has been suspended from anything that might make me bleed, internally or externally, for the time being, insofar as I spent the better part of a week in March in the hospital recovering from two pulmonary embolisms (i.e., blood clots in the arteries of my lung). These things hit me like a sledgehammer to the chest. And I mean that literally, that’s what it felt like– a sledgehammer to the lower right portion of the chest. The treatment for which is a course of blood thinning medications, which makes it supremely easy to bleed out when, for example, crashing into shit at relatively high speeds, which is pretty much the leitmotif of the Doc’s go karting style.

My docs literally laughed at me when I asked if the blood thinners meant I couldn’t pursue my hobby of high speed go karting.

So I, the Doc, will not be talking about go karting for a minute. But, you know what, I have an idea: I’m going to talk about, like, pizza, on this pizza blog. Just for a second.

You know, it’s not really even that I have anything profoundly pizza-related to talk about, at least not at this second. The last slice of pizza I had was from my favorite place in Chicago, a local chain called Tortorice’s. The Maestro doesn’t care for chains, as a rule; but also as a rule, I tend to be a little friendlier toward them, a dichotomy that reflects my liberal best friend’s and my own Libertarian views toward business in general.

On the face of it, Tortorice’s is pretty much a boilerplate Chicago pizza place. I like them because they do deep dish pizza the way I like it– red sauce on top, very bright, tangy tomato taste, crust that’s thick and buttery. You practically have to use a goddamn snow shovel to move a slice from the pie to your plate; then you generally have to use the same set of tools to eat it as Michelangelo used to carve the Pieta.

As pizza qua pizza, it’s pretty fucking great, in other words.

That out of the way, let me tell you something about Tortorice’s deep dish pizza: it was the first Chicago pizza I shared with a girl named Susan Michelle, who is the love of my life. And that makes Tortorice’s deep dish the best pizza on the planet at any given time, within a certain measure of statistical significance that I once knew how to calculate in grad school.

I’ll tell you up front, it’s not a particularly action-packed memory I’m savoring here. We’d come to Chicago from the east coast, where we were then living, to look at offices. I was in the process at the time of expanding my practice from one office in Washington DC, to having locations in both DC and the Windy City. We were staying in this ultra modern hotel on Clark Street called the Aloft; the place feels like a space station (not a moon, Obi Wan; a space station). And, in our true, respective, workaholic fashions, we’d kind of run ourselves into the ground in the process of looking for offices. We were exhausted, and had returned to the hotel late after a full day of looking at offices that were just a little too big, a little too small, a little too HIPPA-noncompliant, a little too handicapped inaccessible, a little too…I mean, you get the idea. It’d been a long day.

We came back to the Aloft, and both flopped on the bed, and agreed, in principle, that the way to assuage a long, busy day was with pizza. This was not a hard sell for Susan Michelle. It shouldn’t be a hard sell for anyone, really– pizza makes long, busy days bearable. I didn’t really have any method to my madness in picking Tortorice’s for our pizza that night. I think it was probably what GrubHub served up as the closest place where we could get some deep dish.

See, kids, the magic of pizza is that it’s one of the things in life that doesn’t really change, and it’s one of the few things in life that such a statement can be made about in a positive sense. I happen to believe that life, living, is all about change. As the trite observation goes, the only constant in the whole universe is change. We’re never standing still. We’re either growing, improving, becoming more free and healthy and authentic; or decaying, forgetting, stiffening, sinking. Waxing or waning, getting busy living or getting busy dying. What we never really are is standing still. But pizza, its tastes, its textures, its aromas– it pushes buttons in our lizard brains, in our central nervous systems, that usually were installed a long time ago. Pizza doesn’t change so much in a lifetime that it doesn’t remind us of something, somebody, somewhere. The only comparable phenomenon I can think of is the scent and taste of movie theater popcorn.

Susan and I got deep dish pizza at the Aloft that night and it was good. It’s a memory that isn’t particularly profound; it certainly wasn’t the first time I realized that I loved her, it wasn’t the first time I’d had Chicago deep dish, it wasn’t the first time I’d stayed in a nice hotel. The night I’m remembering right now wasn’t even a particular turning point. I have no reason to remember that night other than I had a good slice of pizza with a woman whom I’d know for some time was my soulmate.

But I love that silly little memory. Love is kinda the best, guys.

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