I Hated That One GoKarting Place So Much I’m Not Even Going To Go Back and Look Up Its Name.

…it was a 10K. The Hot Chocolate 10K , specifically. So named because they gave you hot chocolate at the end. And one pretty nifty sweatshirt, I might add.

See, this is kind of a thing I do. Register for races whenever I’m traveling somewhere. Or, like, continuing education courses (for those who aren’t aware, I’m a psychologist). Or something. Because my brain will simply not let me go on vacation.

I’ve tried, man. Like, to just go somewhere, for the sake of being somewhere other than where I live. I’m told normal human beings can take vacations. Nope. Drives me out of my freaking mind. Some might say that suggests an unhealthy relationship with my work. I would counter by saying that if you think my relationship with my work is unhealthy, that’s because you don’t know of my relationship with pizza.

Which doesn’t work, because everybody knows of my relationship with pizza.

Anyway. In order to wrap my brain around traveling, I kinda have to do this thing, where I invent another reason, other than travel for its own sake, to go somewhere. This usually involves some combination of professional stuff– finding a cool CEU to do, seeing a client who I usually see via video chat or phone consultation in person, or (usually “in addition to,”) running a race.

There ya go. Get to know the Doc. Can’t take vacation. I’m pretty sure this is why several long term relationships ended, actually.

Wow. That’s a depressing note to hit on a cute little blog about pizza. Anything else you’d like to share with the class, you workaholic freak?

What was I talking about? Right, Atlanta. Gotta be honest, the night before the Hot Chocolate Run was brutal. We’d cut our night of karting in Nowheresville South Carolina short because, frankly, it was getting late and I fucking hated the place. I swear, this go kart place was like something out of the Mel Gibson Mad Max movies. Fucking Thunderdome, and it was staffed by, like, remember those creatures with wheels for hands in “Return to Oz?” Those things. God, I hated that go-kart place.

So we cut our night short there because, I mean, life was just too short; and it was probably better that we did, because, even setting straight out from Gokart Track From Hell (did I mention I hated this place? Like, it was this little…fucking…warehouse with graffiti on the walls and the smell of testosterone and Clearasil hanging in the air), we were, like, pulling into Atlanta at some godawful hour in the morning. All we wanted to do was sleep, but we couldn’t sleep, because 1) the race packet I’d had a Craigslist gopher drop off for me earlier at the hotel had gone missing between drop off and our middle of the night arrival, and 2) the Maestro briefly thought he’d lost his “You Wouldn’t Understand, It’s An Amleto Thing” t-shitrt I’d given him for Christmas, and retraced his steps to the lobby looking for it, which is where he was about fifteen minutes later when I texted him that, actually, I’d found it on the floor of our room, where it was camouflaged by the dark carpeting.

It shall suffice to say: we were fuckin’ fried.

But. The race packet was located by the hotel staff (and, just by the by, even though I never met her face to face, I think I want to hire the Craigslist gopher as my personal assistant, because goddamn); I found the Maestro’s shirt; and then to bed it was, for a few fitful hours sleep, before it was time to wake up and run the goddamn Hot Chocolate 10K in the RAIN, I shit you not.

I won’t bore you with details of the race. I love running; I love running in places I’ve never been; and Atlanta, where I’d only been once before (to present at a psychology conference in 2010, a trip where I barely left the hotel room, because I was obsessively going over and over my presentations– don’t even call me a workaholic, jerks), is kinda charming. We ran through a college campus; we ran through a historic district; we ran past CNN. Atlanta produces Diet Coke and is the former home of World Championship Wrestling. And the hot Craigslist gopher. Nothing but good vibes in Atlanta.

The Maestro’s right, the pizza at that one place blew. It was, like, grocery store frozen pizza, but not even the good stuff. And the place itself had kind of a Chuck E. Cheese vibe. It was probably all the kids. I begged the Maestro to let us kart in the same race as the gaggle of tween girls that was in front of us, but he seemed to think it wouldn’t be a fair contest. Which was, of course, the fucking point, but oh well.

God, I hated that one place. (Not the Chuck E. Cheese place with the bad pizza and the tween girls, I’m back on the Thunderdome place the night before.) It was like something out of the Joel Schumacher Batman films. And yes, I say that with full awareness of all that connotes.

Don’t let the Maestro finish his story of the trip without giving his version of when we were stopped by the middle-of-nowhere Georgia sheriff’s deputy in middle-of-nowhere Georgia, he tells it better than I do, even though I was driving.

Hey, did you see we lost George “The Animal” Steele the other week? Just, what the hell. I’m going to put a picture of him here, because if it’s the only picture in this post, it’ll post to Facebook, and there’s too much Trump and NOT ENOUGH GEORGE “THE ANIMAL” STEELE ON FACEBOOK AT THIS SECOND. Word. george-the-animal-steele-podcast_opt_opt.jpg

Advertisements

The Grand Go-Kart (& pizza) Tour 2016 – The Maestro’s Take Pt. 2

When we last left our heroes, they were escaping the rain at the Gopromotorplex racing car complex in North Carolina. Our goal was to get to Atlanta by the night, because the Doc had a marathon to run in the morning (I do not know when this man sleeps). We had 2 other indoor karting places scheduled for the day. The first one was Victory Lane Karting in Charlotte N.C.

This place is definitely family friendly and is designed for birthday parties and whatnot. The Doc and I got there and signed in, and since it was a Saturday and raining like crazy, the place was mobbed. We got there at 3 and were told we wouldn’t really start racing until about 4. That ended up being 5. But they had pizza! Sort of.

I should also mention that I was suffering from some kind of weird bacterial infection in my left eye, which made the vision a little cloudy, but more alarming (and also more beautifully!) put little rainbow halos around bright lights. The brighter the light, the more crisp and beautiful the rainbow. LED lights were the best/worst. This had been going on for some days, and the Doctor gave me some drops, but they hadn’t really kicked in yet. Suffice it to say, it had gone from beautiful and interesting, to kind of alarming.

So it was at its most aggressive that Saturday afternoon and night. And the pizza/waiting room was filled with very strong LED lights. We ordered our pizza and some other food, and waited for our turn.

First a little bit about the track. It’s really 2 smaller tracks that they combine to make one bigger track on special nights. This was not one of those special nights. We had the Orange Track:

orange-pill

The Orange Pill

 

And the Blue Track:

blue-pill

The Blue Pill

 

Which, as I said, combined (through some deft sleight-of-plastic-wall-rearrangement) to make, the SUPER TRACK:

super-pill

The Super Pill

We bought 4 races. 2 for the Orange, 2 for the blue. We waited, seemingly forever, and our “pizza” finally arrived. All I’ll say is that this wasn’t pizza. We’ll call it un-pizza. putative-pizza. I think it was literally made with slices of Kraft cheese. That’s all I’ll say.

Eventually our turns were up, and we went on the blue course.

I’m not sure what it is about these family friendly places, but they take forever to get people loaded into the karts. I know there must be certain safety issues involved, but it always seems like it just takes way longer than it has to. I realize that I’m armchair quarterbacking what is probably, at the end of the day, a really thankless job, but the Doc and I were tired. But we were also ready to rumble.

There was a wide range of people racing with us. You could see via the monitors who had been there before and who was a “first time racer.” And of course everyone has nicknames. You had pretentious ones: an older guy named “the Terminator,” that the Doc and I both terminated on like lap 3. You had little kid ones “Sneezy,” “Dopey,” “Happy,” etc. (I’m not even kidding), and then you had ones that defied a simple explanation. My favorite was “CamDaddy.”

The biggest challenge with indoor tracks is that the course is usually so short that you can’t really get a lot of speed going. But they’re good to hone basic skills, like “brake into the turn” and “accelerate out of the turn.” That may seem idiotically simplistic, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget that.

The first race was a particular turkey shoot with the Doc and I coming in I think 2nd and 1st place, respectively. In these kinds of places you can tell in about one lap who knows what they’re doing. And since the course is very narrow, all you have to do to pass someone is ride their tail and wait for them to make a mistake, which they absolutely will, eventually. The onus is on them to drive a perfectt line. All you have to do is keep the pressure on. This almost always happens after the longest straightaway, where the kart you’re following knows that you’re breathing down their neck, and they come in way too hot, and then skid out on the turn.

The second race was pretty much just like the first race, and then we waited around for the Orange track.

I never really got my brain around the Orange Track. We were racing with some more seasoned people, and did respectably, but didn’t clean up like we had the first time. It was also getting late, and it felt like we were just waiting around so much, so we decided to leave and go to the last track for the night.

All I will say about the final track of the night is that it was not a good track. It had all the makings of a great track: out of the way, seedy location; no sign on the door; a genuine “Fight Club” like atmosphere; lots of locals who it seemed like lived for this. But the elements just didn’t add up to a pleasant experience. Not to mention that my eye was really going whackadoo at this point, so for the long drive to Atlanta, I had the Doc do most of the driving, while I took a nap. On long car trips, I become a real control freak with the driving, so just the fact that I needed to ask him to drive was a real indicator of how bad my eye was getting.

We got into Atlanta at like 1 or 2 in the morning and stayed at a pretty snazzy Sheraton hotel. All I remember is that we stumbled into bed, shut the lights, and then seemingly 1 hour later, he woke up and ran a freaking marathon (or a 10K).

A MARATHON! (Or a 10K, I can’t remember. But still!).

The Grand Go-Kart (& pizza) Tour 2016 – The Maestro’s Take Pt. 1

Last Friday, the Doc and I met in Virginia and started on our epic drive down the east coast to cram in as many go-kart places as possible in 4 days (accompanied by a reasonable amount of pizza). Friday night we arrived in Garner NC at Rush Hour Karting. Not only does this place have a very respectable indoor karting track, but there is a pizza place inside the freaking building! How cool is that?

The pizza was not bad. The doc was suffering from a previous rib injury, and my left eye was going kablooey, but we had a long weekend ahead of us and we dived right in. This was the perfect track to start off our journey. It had lots of what we already knew, in an atmosphere that was new to us. First off the track:

rush-hour

As you can see, it’s not very long, but there are lots of twists and some alarming bumps [………], but in our first race the Doc and I came in in the top 3, I believe. Out of something like 11 racers. The cars were very similar to our hometown track, Chicago Race Factory, and it always takes a few laps to stop squealing around the corners (which is fun, but completely destroys your lap times). We did a quick 2nd race and came in respectably, and definitely improved our times.

Every time we do this we’re reminded that the way to win is always the same. Take the corners slowly and carefully. Why is that so hard to remember? Every time it takes a few laps for us to remember that. Brake into the turn, accelerate out. The illusion is that it’s more fun to go screaming around the corners. But it’s not. It’s more fun to nail the corner perfectly and leave your opponent choking on the fumes of your tiny Sodi go-kart.

When you go into a situation like this you never know who is good and who isn’t, so you have to approach it like every  driver could be amazing, or could be terrible. Within a lap you know who is who. And one of my favorite things to do is to overtake a cocky driver. I’m one of those drivers that if someone is riding me, I just wave them on to go on past me. Because I want to follow their line, and I don’t want to get into a pissing match, and possible fist fight over something as ridiculous as go-karting. I always learn something from faster racers.

But when I’m behind a meatball that doesn’t want me to pass, especially in a small indoor track, all I have to do is keep the pressure on. Stay right up in his business. They’ll look back at you, and all you have to do is wait for him to come into a corner too hot, and they’ll skid out, and you can pass by waving a hankie. More on this in the next installment.

Suffice it to say, even the people who were new to it on Friday night were great. There was a real good mix of people, and the Doc and I made quick friends.

After our 4th race we each got a pizza, and I have to say it was more than edible. Maybe it was the fact that we were eating just junk food in the car, but it kind of hit the spot, and jazzed us up for our 5th and final race.

We went in there with respectable times and came out with the 2 best times of the night.

Did I mention that it was our first time ever on that track?

The next day we were facing some serious rain, but we needed to get to Gopro Motorplex in Mooresville NC, and we needed to get there before the rain started. It wasn’t that far from Garner, and we got up at insane o’clock in the morning, because the Doc insists on running for an hour in the morning, and when I’m up, I am UP. So we pack into the car, start on our way, the doc realizes he’s left his wallet in the hotel room (I’ll let him tell that story), we fix that problem, and we get to the place with about 2 hours to go before the rain starts.

First of all, this is a world class place. Beautifully set up, nice clean reception room, everything state of the art. Over the next 3 days that doc and I got real good and real quick at filling out registration forms on the little computers that are at these places. He experimented with different nicknames. I always picked the same one.

It had been raining a little bit, and there was still a lot of fog and mist. The track looked wet, which was not a good sign. First a bit about the course. Here it is:

gopro-motorplex

The numbers are here for a reason. Pay attention.

Coming out of the pit was easy enough, but turning at 7 was when we realized what a world of pain we were in for. The little bump after 7 should be nothing more than a typical chicane, but on track conditions like this it was monstrous. People spinning out left and right. And I’m not talking just newbie drivers, I’m talking experienced karters who had clearly been there many times, spinning out like little toys and going off the track.

Needless to say the brake was my friend on that first race. You can’t see from the picture, but in addition to # 2 being a very wide turn, it’s at the bottom of a small hill, so whether or not you want to be going fast, you are going downhill. But have no fear. There is a WALL OF TIRES that will stop you if you go jetting off the track. Somehow I made it through the entire course about 5 times at minimum speed without killing myself or even really bumping into anybody.

My first thought after that first race was “That was like being on ice.”

But that’s not really accurate. Imagine that the entire track is iced over. And then imagine a lazy-susan on the track:

lazy-susan

And then imagine the lazy-susan that is on the track, instead of having a flat little support thing at the bottom had instead a single ice skate blade:

lazy-susan-with-blade

and then imagine that the lazy-susan itself was iced over:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade

then imagine taking your standard Sodi kart and putting it on the iced, 1-bladed lazy-susan that is on the ice:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade-with-sodi-car-without-blade

And finally, imagine attaching a single ice skate blade and attaching that onto the bottom of the Sodi kart, which is on an iced lazy-susan, which itself has  a single ice skate blade, the whole monstrosity of which is on an iced track:

iced-lazy-susan-with-blade-with-sodi-car

That’s what it felt like. In fact it was so bad that the Doc and I went out for a second race, and after a few laps he threw in the towel. For some reason though, the second race was easier for me. I couldn’t place why at the time, but decided to give it a third try, and by the third race I had found my rhythm.

Or, as is more likely, the track started drying up. Suddenly I could take corners a little faster. I didn’t have to brake every time I turned the wheel.

By the 4th race I completely hit my stride, and was going full throttle into # 2, whomping the brake, and easily hitting the apex, and firing out of it. I barely had to take my foot off the gas on # 3,  # 4 was tough, and # 5 was way tougher than it looked.

I should say that at the very beginning of racing my best time was 90 seconds, and I was in about 11th place out of 13. By the fifth and final race, I was in the low 70s, and was in 5th place.

But alas, on the last race, a heavy fog started rolling in. I had to keep wiping away the condensation from the helmet mask, and drops of rain started coming down in a slow, even stream. Nevertheless, like I said, it was my best race, and by them I felt I had done a good job of understanding the corners, although # 4 was always the toughest. I even got some decent experience overpassing people, as opposed to being overpassed myself.

I need to go back to this track.

Need.

 

Sugar River Raceway pt. 2, Roma’s and Jabba the Hutt – The Maestro’s Take

For both (the only?) of the people (person) who read (reads) this blog [Jane], I know that you (plural [or not (probably not)]) are anxiously awaiting the follow up to the last entry, especially w/r/t Sugar River Raceway and their Saturday morning League races.

Fear not.

On the second Saturday morning of November in the year of the Whopper, immediately following the surprise election of Johnny Gentle Famous Crooner, the Mrs. and I went up to Brodhead Wisconsin so I could participate in the very last Sugar Ricer Raceway Saturday League Race. The Doc and I had previously tried to do a league race, but arrived too late. So I made sure that we got up and got there ON TIME. We rolled up a little before 10 a.m., and were the only people there. We were probably the only people in the county.

At around 10:30 a.m. another car rolled up. by 11:00 a.m. 3 other cars had showed up, and by 11:30 a.m. we were able to register, pay and get ready to race. I was the only person there who had never done their league race before, so I was more than a bit nervous. In addition to the Mrs. (who didn’t race) there was only one other female there.

Besides being a League newbie, I think I was the only person who didn’t have my own helmet. Had I brought my super special racing jumper, I would’ve been one of two people with their own super special racing jumper. The other guy was clearly very serious about this.

So the way this works is you have about a 6 minute qualifying lap. That means you go out there, in no particular order, and you do the best you can, and depending on who gets the fastest lap, that’s where they put you in the order. So the fastest person during the qualifying laps is put into the first position, or pole position.

pole-position

needless to say, I did not get pole position

Out of 13 racers, I got placed 10th. Not too shabby for a guy who had never done this before. And then they lined us up.

They line you up about 100 feet from the starting line in the pit (see below) and they let you mosey on out there, and the way serious gokarters mosey is that they aggressively move the car right and left and right and left as extremely as they can, while slowly rolling out to the start line. This is ostensibly to heat up the tires, and lord knows they needed them that morning, but I’m becoming more and more convinced that it’s because it looks bad ass, and gives you something to do. And once you’ve reached the starting line you idle for a little bit, until the guy with the gigantic green flag gives you the go ahead.

sugar-river-raceway-map-hardy

note “pit” and “starting line”

This is where it gets absolutely terrifying. Once the green flag goes you have 13 cars stacked practically one on top of the other, taking off and gaining speeds of 60 m.p.h. very quickly, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but let me assure you, when you are all in teeny tiny cars not much bigger than your actual body, and you are right on top of each other, and everyone is trying to overtake everyone else, and you hit that first turn (see “SUE #1”) and it’s very cold out, and your tires haven’t warmed up yet, when all of that is happening, 60 m.p.h.s is damn fast.

Damn fast.

So these little cars, piled on top of each other hit SUE #1, and even though I’m the only real new person here, I somehow manage to not be included in the 4-5 cars that completely skid out onto the grass. And if you skid, you are dead. Even if you come back and manage to do the best lap times of everyone else in all your remaining laps, it’s the total race time that places you.in the end. Fastest individual lap time only matters in qualifying races. But I didn’t know this at this point, so I manage to get through the first race, and i look at my placement, and I’m… 10th. So pretty consistent.

The second race was no less frightening as we tear-assed it past SUE #1, and another 3-4 cars wiped out between SUE#1 and #2. One thing I noticed the second time through was that the people who were in the top 3 during the first race had zero fear tear-assing it just a hair’s breadth from other cars. Now these are not Formula 1 automobiles. These are basically souped up lawn mowers. Don’t get me wrong. They are very souped up, but my point is, they don’t have the kind of control that even your crappiest F1 cars have. Meaning that there is only a certain amount that technique can help you in that crucial first lap. Meaning that at a certain point, you just have to decide you may die, and go for it.

I am not at that point yet. I was very happy in all the races to stay back a little bit and watch the cars fly all over the place, and I remained pretty competitive throughout. There were great drivers who killed me in average lap times, but I would beat them because they wiped out early on in the race. But the ones who took the biggest risks were the ones who, ore often than not, won. They were really aggressive, but they were racing to win. It was a race after all. You really couldn’t fault them if they came right up your tail and threatened to throw you off the track. The Doc has much more experience than I do with crashing, so I was able to avoid crashing,rolling over, and flipping for the day.

Like I said, it was a high risk, high reward type situation, the more aggressive you were, the more likely you were to place higher. And that’s always been fine with me. I’ve been known to be aggressive on the track too. Most people don’t take it too seriously, and of the ones that do, they fall into two categories. Type 1) new people who have no idea that some people take this real seriously, and get seriously bent out of shape when they are tapped, or ridden hard. Type 2) experienced people who have absolutely no sense of humor or fun when it comes to this and who are, in fact, OUT FOR BLOOD.

The guy who verbally assaulted the gold medal winner of the day I think was a type 2 racer? He had clearly been there before, and the gold medal champ was riding everyone real hard, and took risks and kind of put everyone’s well-being in danger the whole morning, but, again, it’s a race. And you there are no prizes for politeness. I was happy to consistently be in 9th or 10th place, but this one guy got real real worked up at the gold medal champ and started going off on him. It wasn’t a funny haha we’re all friends here type going off. This guy was pissed. For the most part nobody really thought anything of it, until the pissed off guy called the gold medal champ the Italian word for “bassoon.” The Mrs. and I agreed that he was just blowing off steam until that point. But then he crossed a line. Luckily he got out of there real quick before it came to blows, but it did kind of put a damper on the end of the morning.

Not to say that I wouldn’t do it again. I absolutely would. And I think the Doc would enjoy it. Hands down the best thing about the race was seeing better, more experienced racers, and what they did. I figured out more than a couple tricks regarding corners I thought I had down, and even got to try out some new equipment that I never would’ve thought I needed. Like elbow pads. More on those at a later date.

ROMA’S 

Roma’s Chicago is the classic Italian beef stand that also sells slices. And man, these are good slices. It doesn’t even qualify as a hole in the wall, because there is no wall. Just a gigantic window weeping with an alarming amount of condensation. The slices are probably the best I’ve had in Chicago. They have two kinds. Cheese, and sausage. I got one of each. And then I got another sausage. That’s how good it was. The doc took pictures of it I assume, but it’s pizza. You know what it looks like. Seriously, go to Roma’s Chicago.

JABBA THE HUTT

The Doc also mentioned the god-awful Jabba the Hutt scene that was included in the “special edition” of Episode IV, and just how terrible it was. The Doc erred, however, when he said that “Jabba the Hutt is one of the Maestro’s favorite Star Wars characters.”

Jabba the Hutt is not one of my favorite Star Wars characters. He is my favorite Star Wars character. For several reasons, Jedi was my favorite of the trilogy growing up. From a developmental point of view this makes the most sense. Although I’m told I saw “A new hope” in the theater, I don’t remember it. The only thing from “Empire” that I remember was the father reveal, which I didn’t really get at the time. I also remember the people I saw it with. So I was the oldest when Jedi came out, and I distinctly remember my mom taking us to see it in the theater. I also remember seeing it more than once in the theater. So I was the most mature and understood more with this.

This blog is definitely not the place to go into the myriad of reasons why I love Jabba the Hutt so much, but I’ll point out a few of them.

  1. He’s a classic Italian mobster. Right down to his nostrils kind of looking like a pencil mustache.
godfather

compare

jabba-1

and contrast

2) even his language always sounded Italian to me. I’m not real hip on the ins and outs of Huttese although I’m sure the internet is bursting with information on the subject, but having an actual career precludes me from finding these things out. I’m simply going on the memory of what Huttese sounds like to an 8 year old who grew up in a town where various forms of calabrese an siciliano were spoken on a daily basis. From a purely phonetic standpoint it had a Latin sound to it.

3) he had a band. ON RETAINER!

4) He had probably the coolest pet on all of Tattooine.

5) Despite not being a Jedi or being trained in the force, he was able to withstand Luke’s “jedi mind tricks” simply because of his force of will. That’s how much of a badass he was.

and then the usual stuff about power and authority and boilerplate conductor 101 stuff.

I won’t go into the millions of reasons why the added scene in the “special edition” of “A new hope” were terrible. The doc already did a good job dismantling it. For me, it boils down to one thing. Jabba was someone who was talked about for two movies who you never saw. You had no idea what he looked like. Were Hutts humanoid? Amphibian? Was he bipedal? You really had no idea what or who he was. If you were a real nut you saw some making of Star Wars TV special with part of the original scene that Lucas later digitized, but that originally had Declan Mulholland playing Jabba.

jabba-2

I’m not saying this guy’s a “Wermo.” The online Huttese language generator is saying that.

Now, nothing against Mr. Mulholland, who passed away in 1999, and whose many screen credits include “The Rainbow Thief,” 3rd robber in “Time Bandits,” and his last work “The Pig’s Family.” But it is hard to take a mob boss seriously if that same person was involved in a film called “War of the Buttons,” the plot of which IMDB describes as follows

Rival gangs of young Irish kids enjoin in constantly escalating battles that ultimately entails the removal of the buttons from the clothes of captured losers. While the shenanigans cause obvious problems, the two leaders of the groups nonetheless develop a grudging admiration of the other and an estranged friendship.

So as a kid, you had no real reference for what Jabba looked like. You just knew everyone was terrified of him. I remember other friends who had seen “Jedi” before me saying “You have got to see this movie just to see Jabba the Hutt.” And then they were unable to even describe what he was, because he was THAT. COOL.

Having said all of that, 3 films is a long time for a kid to wait for a reveal of an important character.

And what a reveal it was.

I’ve searched for a good 3 minutes online for his reveal scene, easily in the top 3 best reveals in the entire trilogy. You know what it looks like Do yourselves a favor. Get your copy of Jedi out, and watch the first 20 minutes of it. And then do yourself another favor and don’t even watch the inserted scene in the “special edition” of “A New Hope.”

Ever.

Roma’s, the Doc’s Take: That Stupid Jabba Scene, Reinterpreted

So, that scene in “Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.” The Special Edition version, not, you know, the real one. That terrible, terrible scene where we are, against our will, introduced to a CGI Jabba the Hutt, who has descended upon Han Solo’s hangar in Mos Eisley, demanding to know where his money is and why, incidentally, Han had to fry poor Greedo.

 

You know the scene I’m talking about.

 

In the original movie, Han shoots Greedo in the cantina (no, he doesn’t “shoot first,” as so many Internet memes and even a t-shirt I own emphatically state; Han Solo is originally the ONLY person to shoot in that scene, and he does so as an act of preemptive self-defense, NOT in response to Greedo drawing on him. Think about it, people, it makes no fucking sense for Greedo to shoot at Han. Han’s just told Greedo he’s about to be flush with cash because he’s picked up a lucrative charter, and Greedo’s in the process of trying to extort it from him, which he cannot do if the smuggler is dead. Saying Greedo represented a clear and present danger to Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina is like saying Iraq presented a clear and present danger to the United States because of its WMD’s in 2002…and if you believe that, I just don’t know what the fuck to tell you). Then he hightails it to his hangar, where, when we next see him, he’s responding to Luke calling the Falcon a “hunk of junk” by telling him the ship has it where it counts, but we’re in a bit of a rush here, so let’s get this show on the road.

 

Wanna know why Han was in a rush? Because he’d just MURDERED A DUDE IN FRONT OF WITNESSES in a local bar, and he consequently has reason to believe that that dude’s boss, to whom Han owes money (i.e., Jabba) will be none too pleased when he finds this out, and will be coming after him not to collect a debt, but to take retribution. There’s a sense of urgency to Han’s need to get off of that godforsaken planet, and it’s legitimately earned in the previous few scenes. We get it, on a gut level. Han’s in trouble with the mob, and has to split.

 

Unless this is the Special Edition.

 

In which case, Han’s urgency to get out of town following his cold-blooded killing of a mob enforcer is met with Jabba the Hutt– who is portrayed in the Star Wars universe as the Godfather himself, a big-time crime boss, ruthless, villainous, greedy, powerful — waiting at Han’s hangar with a small cadre of hit men, a cadre which includes, just by the by, the baddest bounty hunter in the universe, Boba Fett.

 

Yeah. Conventional wisdom might suggest that, if you’ve been paying attention, Han’s kinda screwed. The Godfather doesn’t show up PERSONALLY to chit chat or collect a debt; he shows up because he wants to see with his own two reptilian eyes your grisly death.

 

But. The scene does not unfold thusly.

 

Han calmly tells Jabba he’s been “waiting for him.” Jabba, who seems to be in reasonably good humor, inquires plaintively why Han had to “fry poor Greedo,” as well as why he’s not paid him what he owes. Han, in response, gets pissy and defensive with Jabba, petulantly stating that it wasn’t his fault that he’d had to drop the goods he’d been smuggling for Jabba that one time (the apparent source of the debt), and even insults the Don, telling him that if Jabba wanted to talk to Han about it, he should come see him himself, instead of sending “one of these twerps.”

 

Then he steps on Jabba’s tail.

 

HE STEPS ON JABBA’S GODDAMN TAIL.

 

(May I fucking remind you at this point that Jabba has been accompanied to this rendezvous by a squad of bodyguards, including Boba fucking Fett? All of whom just watched, for all intents and purposes, their boss just get PHYSICALLY ASSAULTED?)

 

Anyway. Then Han soothingly tells Jabba that he’s just picked up a nice, juicy charter, and if Jabba is willing to be patient with Han, he’ll be willing to not only pay him what he owes, but cut him in for an additional fifteen percent. (Well, actually, Jabba wants an extra twenty, but Han effortlessly gets him to settle for fifteen, because why not.) Jabba, placated, slithers away, and the next we see of Han is the aforementioned “we’re in a bit of a hurry” scene.

 

Except, now he’s not. Because he’s just made a deal with Jabba. He has more time; he’s not in trouble for killing Jabba’s henchman. I mean, Jabba didn’t even give him shit for stepping on his tail. Everything’s kinda comin’ up Solo in that moment, if you ask me. He’s not particularly in a rush. But, whatever.

 

Yeah. The scene sucks on multiple levels.

 

It derails the next scene, taking away any sense of urgency. It kinda ruins the big reveal of Jabba the Hutt in “Return of the Jedi.” It undermines the mythos of Jabba the Hutt– instead of a powerful, ruthless gangster, we’re been introduced to a Jabba who is…well…I mean, he’s kind of a bitch. Han treated him like one, anyway. The scene was justifiably cut from the original release of Episode IV, and not just, as George Lucas claims, because the special effects were not there to animate Jabba to his satisfaction; it was justifiably cut because it kind of fucks up the narrative in not insignificant ways.

 

Jabba the Hutt is one of the Maestro’s favorite Star War characters. I get why he hates this scene.

 

I don’t hate it…as much. I’ll tell you why.

 

Sometimes, when dealing with latter-day Star Wars– which is to say, any Star Wars that was produced after the original trilogy in its original form– your ability to enjoy it is highly dependent upon your ability to play make believe. That is, to fill in certain parts of the backstory with details or story arcs that you’ve kind of imagined, in your own head, and which aren’t, eh, exactly INCONSISTENT with what we’re “officially” being told on the screen; but which, if we’re going to be honest, probably weren’t what Lucas had in mind.

 

You kind of have to play “Welllll….what if?”

 

I know. It’s lame. You shouldn’t have to. Lucas should be better than this. But he’s not, and we do, and I like Star Wars enough to want to keep liking it, so. Here’s the “What if?” game I play with this scene from Episode IV.

 

I say…

 

WHAT IF Jabba, at this point in time, is NOT the Godfather?

 

I mean, it makes really very little sense for the Godfather to be chasing down smugglers’ debts in the first place. As noted above, the only real reason Jabba should be there is if he’d decided to have Han executed, and he wants to see it in person. But WHAT IF Jabba, instead of being The Godfather, is, at this point, just kind of a mid-level enforcer mob thug? Like, he’s the Don’s son or something; he’ll someday be the Don, but right now, he’s doing grunt work. Going around, shaking down deadbeats like Han Solo.

 

Like, a visit from Jabba the Hutt at this point may be a bigger deal than running into Greedo at the cantina– he is, after all, related to the Don, and will someday be the Don– but he’s still working his way up the ladder. Smugglers still feel free at this point to be a little flippant toward him, try to smooth talk him, maybe even step on his tail. (This might also explain why his bodyguards didn’t fry Han when he did so– it wasn’t in their mandate from the Godfather to do so, and Han still owed the Godfather money, and if they fried him he wouldn’t be able to pay up.)

 

If Jabba’s not the Big Boss at this stage, but an Aspiring Goon, it solves all sorts of problems– not only for this scene, but for the later movies. Problems such as:

 

Why did he tolerate Han stepping on his tail? (See above.)

 

Why does he let Han go? (He didn’t have the authority to kill him, and he thinks he’s actually made a better deal for the Don, which he can go back to his boss with and get praised for.)

 

Why, in Return of the Jedi, is Jabba so dead set against bargaining with Luke? Luke is, after all, a Jedi who has already gifted Jabba two droids; one would think that, as a businessman, Jabba would at least be somewhat willing to play ball. Why is Jabba so hell-bent on keeping Han imprisoned in carbonite, hanging on his wall? (Because now that Jabba has risen to Godfather status in the mob, now that he actually is the Big Boss, he is going around taking retribution on everybody who treated him like shit when he was coming up through the ranks– notably cocky smugglers who felt it was okay to step on his tail.)

 

Don’t get me wrong. The scene still sucks, and I still wish it wasn’t in there. The CGI Jabba in the original Special Edition is absolutely embarrassing– maybe a half step above the California Raisins– and the fact that we have to do these mental gymnastics at all to justify the scene is irritating. But if you reimagine the character arc of Jabba the Hutt as the story of a mid-level mob guy who, at the time of Episode IV, is doing shit work for the Godfather at the time; but who rises through the ranks to become the Godfather himself by Episode VI…it makes you want to punch the movie a little less.

 

(You can do the same “reimagining” thing with Jar Jar in the prequels, by the way. Google “Jar Jar Sith theory.”)

 

Anyway. This is what the Maestro and I talked about at Roma’s, a chill (and chilly, on this day) bare bones place on Cicero. The setup’s pretty basic– no tables; think lunch counter and stools. While waiting for the Maestro to get there, I sat reading a book of P.G. Wodehouse short stories while the proprietor told a regular about how he’d just had a bunch of meat stolen from the store.

 

Stolen meat. Jabba the Hutt would have Boba Fett kick your ASS for something like that.

 

Decent, basic slice of cheese pizza. Crispy crust, kinda salty. Hard to mess up the essentials.

 

No reimagining needed for pizza.

 

 

VINCE’S & SUGAR RIVER RACEWAY

I will confess straight up that I don’t remember much about the pizza at Vince’s Restaurant & Pizzeria. It was a Friday, I didn’t know where to go, and the Doc and I had some racing to do at Chicago Race Factory. It was the Friday before the election. Or maybe the Thursday? I don’t know. The point is that Vince’s was on the way to the track.

Some observations:

1) it was not crowded even a little on a Thursday or Friday afternoon.

2) The pizza looked like this:

vinces

you were expecting maybe a calzone?

3) Near the end of our meal the Doc and I had a convo with a very loud total stranger that went something like this:

TOTAL STRANGER(to the Doc) Are you from around here?

DOC: (confused) Um, what?

T.S.: Are you from around here? Do you come here often?

DOC: Uhh… no?

T.S.:  You look very familiar. You look like someone who comes here a lot. you look familiar. Very familiar.

DOC: Yeah, I get that a lot.

T.S.: Really?

DOC: Yep. For example, I get mistaken for Obama all the time.

T.S.: Who?

DOC: Obama, Barack Obama. The President of the United States.

T.S.: Oh. Really?

ME: No, ma’am, he’s… he’s pulling your leg.

T.S.: Oh. I like your hair. Is that yellow? Do you dye it?

ME: No, ma’am. it’s gray. Or white.

T.S.: Oh. Ok. I like it. Bye!

DOC: Well, that’s definitely going in the pizza blog.

Fin

Well that was interesting, wasn’t it? The main event though was the gokarting. Lots has changed since the Doc and I last saw CRF. They’ve fired their fetus staff and replaced it with a toddler staff. Definite improvement. Also, the staff is actually out on the track observing what’s going on. And they got more aggressive with blue flagging people (meaning get the heck out of the way, a more experienced karter is trying to pass you).  Also an improvement. They’ve also completely changed the track. It’s up in the air as to whether or not that is an improvement or not. And the staff is much more proactive about getting races started. This is not necessarily an improvement, since the staff has differing opinions on how to get everyone in a heat, and sometimes there are too many cooks involved and the whole establishment comes to a standstill while 19-20 year olds argue about the computer system.

The new staff is pretty cool, and they like ripping on the old staff, which is one of the Doc’s favorite activities. I’ll let him tell tale of how they fired his absolute least favorite employee and the unfettered joy it gave him to hear news of that.

It being a Thursday (or Friday?) kind of early in the evening, there weren’t that many people there. But I did hear the mellifluous tones of the Italian language coming from some racers waiting to get into our heat. I spoke to them a little and found out that they were largely from Emilia Romagna but now lived and worked in Evanston. The doc at one point comically tried to join in our conversation, kind of in the vein of this:

 

Most of them spoke a little bit of English, and at the end of the night we exchanged phone numbers and hopefully have some new people to race with.

Speaking of people to race with, the doc and I went up to Sugar River Raceway 2 days after the election. It was our 3rd trip there, but only our 2nd time racing (the short story is, the 2nd time we went up, we got there late and they had already started their races, and we couldn’t get in. So we had driven 2 1/2 hours up for NOTHING! Needless to say, the Maestro was pisssssed.)

Sugar River Raceway is not close, but it is quickly becoming my favorite track (next to Dallas Karting Complex, which by the way, after this weekend,  it’s safe to say that I’ve developed a Dallas Karting Complex Complex). I absolutely prefer outdoor tracks to indoor tracks. The bummer about SRR is that there are no transponders on the cars unless it’s race night, and race nights, for the most part were over for the season. There was one more to be held on Saturday, but the Doc couldn’t make it, so I convinced my wonderful wife to wake up at blarg o’clock on a Saturday morning to go up. But more on that in the next installment. Now we’re just gonna talk about SRR, its track layout. It looks a little something like this:

sugar-river-raceway-map

courtesy of the NSA… errr… google maps

The little house at the top left hand corner is right about where you start from, and you go on the long straightaway with the one small turn at the bottom of the picture, onto the longer straightaway. The Doc and I have done enough of these that we’re starting to name all the corners. The typical thing at a track is that they’ll name the corners by number. This is not only confusing, but really boring. The Doc and I prefer to name corners after people we know and like, or don’t like. For the sake of anonymity and kindness though, I’ll just refer to the corners here by characters in Thomas Hardy novels:

sugar-river-raceway-map-hardy

Wessex never looked so thrilling.

As you can see, SUE # 1 is the first time that you need to do anything serious, because it goes right into SUE # 2. Also, it’s after the longest straightaway, so you’re going as fast as you’re gonna get on the course. The Doc and I say it all the time, but the slower and more careful you take the corner, the faster you go. It’s a lot more fun to spin around and go skidding, but you lose valuable seconds that way. it’s also hard for me to remember that you need to turn in on SUE # 1 later than you think, because if you turn in too early then you’re too tight for SUE # 2. VYE was the only corner that I had mastered (or so I thought), and TESS remained (and remains) a bit impenetrable. I hate BATHSHEBA for various reasons, mainly because it’s a series of chicanes with rough pavement and bumps, and coming out of it is like coming out of a night of sleeping in a terrible bed. It’s obscured by the trees in the photo, and believe you me, the trees are part of the nightmare, since you’re going so fast that a head to head collision with a tree is not beyond the realm of possibility. In fact,  the staff there tells you not to ever pass anybody while going through BATHSHEBA.

Also note, that with the exception of TESS, every turn in this track is a left hand turn. So your left arm and elbow get quite the workout. SRR is the only track I’ve been to where they provide you with a rib protector (the Doc brings his own), so my ribs survived.

As I said, there are no transponders available unless it’s racing night, so we had no idea how we were doing, other than the fact that I kept ahead of the Doc by a wider and wider margin. Still, there was no way for us to know where we were losing time, and where we were gaining. That all happened on Saturday’s league race.

…TO BE CONTINUED

 

PIZZA CRAWL 2016, the Doc’s take: “Wallace and vomit”

The pizza crawl seemed like a good idea at the time.

I mean, let’s be real: there’s only so much, in the end, you can say about the similarities and differences between slices of pizza at various joints.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily rhapsodize all day about how good pizza is. Don’t think I won’t, dude. You’re talking to a guy who had gone weeks (yes, I said “weeks,” plural, that wasn’t a typo) eating pizza daily. You’re talking to a guy who has MICROWAVED PIZZA ROLLS TO SNACK ON WHILE WAITING FOR HIS PIZZA.

I know. I’m your hero. (Lookin’ at you, Molly Suter.)

But you, dear reader, you don’t tune in to this blog to read me write about how good pizza is. You know it’s good. You tune in to this blog to get a slice of life. To hear a little bit about what it’s like to be the Doc. What it’s like to sit in a car with the Maestro, as he groans, “Ohhhhhh dude, I’m gonna vomit. That’s it. Wallace and vomit. Oh God.”

But I’m getting ahead of myself. That only happened at the end.

The point being, the pizza crawl, the brainchild of the Maestro, was designed to switch things up a bit. Give us more to write and think about than, “Hey, it’s pizza! It was pretty good! It had cheese and sauce! Do you think there will still be pizza after whoever wins the presidential election, because that’s the only issue I care about personally?”

This was the idea: multiple pizza joints, in progression, down Harlem Avenue in north Chicago. One slice per joint, BOOM, on to the next one. Quick takes. C’mon, it’s not like we haven’t had five slices of pizza at a time before. This will be easy.

img_0078

“What could possibly go wrong?”

Oh, we scheduled it for fucking rush hour on a Friday, did I mention that? 

JOINT ONE: Mr. Beef and Pizza.

img_2440

See, the beautiful thing about being a vegetarian, besides not feeling obliged to put any part of a corpse in my mouth, is that it makes certain decisions overwhelmingly easier. Much has been written in the psychological literature about what geeks in my field call the “paradox of choice.” The gist of it being, in this world where we can get, for example, basically any media we want at any time, we’re in this odd position of watching the same ten shows on Netflix all the goddamn time. Why? Because our brains didn’t evolve to keep up with having literally hundreds of novel options to pick from. There are too many variables. We can’t process it. We have no idea what we want, we’re not used to having to take responsibility for it. As it turns out, we miss the days when there were all of three TV channels and MAYBE HBO or Cinemax for movies, and if the president was giving a speech that night, you were screwed.

That’s how I imagine meat eaters must feel when getting pizza. Sausage, pepperoni, Canadian bacon, actual bacon, prosciutto, goat, elk, Ewok? All of ’em? Half and half? Quickly, quickly, time is money.

When you’re a vegetarian pizza lover, you get cheese.

Well, sometimes you get veggies. But at a little kitschy place like Mr. Beef, which somehow reminded me of Dex’s diner in “Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones” (don’t ask the Maestro to confirm this, he has blocked the prequels out of his mind entirely), you get cheese.

Perfectly serviceable slice of cheese. A little too hot for my mouth at the moment, and it did do the thing where the cheese slid off of the crust as I bit into it, leaving me with a mouthful of cheese and a chunk of crust with pizza sauce. But, a lot of too-hot pizza does that.

I do recall the guy taking my order did so with an unusual amount of seriousness. “Slice of cheese, Diet Coke,” he said, while carefully writing it down. He then turned to the employee behind him, and intoned solemnly, “Slice of cheese, Diet Coke.” “Slice of cheese! Diet Coke!” the battle cry resounded back through the chain of command. “Your order will be right up,” the dude earnestly said, turning back to me. “I believe you,” I said solemnly back.

Did the Maestro mention in his post that our Research Assistant had blocked out all of these restaurants to be on the fucking left (East) side of the street, that each place was juuuuust far enough away fromt he last place to not be within walking distance, and that the Maestro zips around on one of those speeder bike things from “Return of the Jedi?” Because that seems relevant to understanding the experience of the pizza crawl.

JOINT TWO was Coluta’s. 

You know those vape shops that, within the last five years or so, have sprung up in every strip mall in America, possibly in the same retail space that used to be occupied by, like, cheap cell phone stores that all went out of business? The vape stores that, in turn, pretty much go out of business within six months? Coluta’s occupies a strip mall-esque space that looks like it was left when the vape store that replaced the cell phone store that went out of business, went out of business.

img_2445

That is, no frills here. Though they did have some sort of European advertising art on the wall that was recognizable to me as the same print that an ex-girlfriend had had up in her condo. Kind of this terrifying clown peddling…I dunno, coffee, or something. But come to think of it, why would that be in a pizza joint?

img_2444

No clever caption available to make picture less boring, try hitting “refresh” on your browser, maybe that will help.

 

I’m pretty sure my ex had it in her place because it was European, and she wanted to look smart. Because that’s the type of girl I date.

Anyway. I liked this slice of cheese a little better. Big, gooey, salty globs of cheese. I snarfed it.

img_2442

It was at Coluta’s that the Maestro figured out that he should probably slow down if we were going to make it through the pizza crawl. “Save room,” he advised.

I looked at him as if he had advised me to watch the prequels before the original trilogy.

JOINT THREE was Geo’s, which was notable for two reasons: I thought I’d lost my fucking wallet, and the Maestro got catcalled.

Both of these are improbable, but true.

I have ADHD. I’m constantly losing shit. It’s one of the reasons I’m almost always late, as well (which isn’t an excuse, but an explanation– truth is, I hate that my lateness annoys and inconveniences other people, and I’m always aspiring to be better).

When you have ADHD, it’s like…your brain has severely limited wattage to spread around to various cognitive tasks, and it knows it. So it chooses to skimp on stuff like “where you left your wallet” or “do I need ten or twenty five minutes to get there in traffic,” in favor of, say, “What did I learn in graduate school that will help this suicidal person not kill themselves for another week?”

It picks and chooses your attentional priorities based on a scarcity model, in other words. Attention to the ADHD’er is a scarce resource that we’re never fully in control of, especially when lots of shiny objects are competing for our attention. Now excuse me for a moment while I go look at some Internet pornography.

Back.

Anyway. I had just lost my stupid wallet the week before. I swear I have a memory of coming from the gym, buying stuff at CVS (so I know I had my wallet with me then), putting the stuff away in the kitchen, seeing my wallet and keys on the counter, thinking “Hey, that doesn’t go there, I should put those where they go before I lose them”…and then…it gets hazy. All I know is that the keys made it back to the Place Where the Keys And Wallet Go, whereas my wallet (contents: driver’s license, debit card, health insurance card, key card for The Doyle Practice office, and a prayer card from my father’s funeral last December) did not.

Fuck a duck. I’d tuned my apartment upside down looking for the stupid thing. I couldn’t imagine any physical place in my condo where I had not looked for this thing. The debit card was fairly easy to replace, insofar as my bank had recently sent me a new, chip-enabled one that I had yet to activate; but for identification, I’d been hauling around my Passport and my Washington DC psychology license to do things like, say, pick up prescriptions at Walgreens.

And let me tell you, when you try to pick up stimulant medication at Walgreens with non-standard ID, they just LOVE that. Love it.

Anyway. Long story short, a week later, my girlfriend found the stupid thing inexplicably wedged between cushions in a chair in my living room that, I swear to God, I never, ever sit in. I cannot imagine any procession of physical movements that resulted in my wallet ending up in this stupid chair.

Suffice to say, when I arrived at Geo’s, and realized I didn’t have my goddamn wallet, especially after having lost and found it in idiotic fashion the week before, it was…upsetting.

Called Coluta’s. Yup, they’d found it, at the booth where the Maestro and I had been sitting. Which means I fucking got up from that booth, left my wallet on the table, threw away my napkins and and stuff, picked up my iPhone and keys from that very same table, and walked out of the restaurant, blithely leaving my wallet behind in plain view.

I mean…right?

So. The Maestro and I jumped back into my car, went back to Coluta’s, and I sheepishly regained custody of my wallet. The concept of a “wallet chain” had never made much sense to me until now. Now…I kinda get it.

We go back to Geo’s, which, as the Maestro noted, isn’t even a hole in the wall. It’s, like, a slight indentation in the wall, into which somebody inserted an order window, a bench, and a couple trophies, one of which was capped by one of those little baseball batting helmets that– you remember this?– Dairy Queen used to serve soft-serve sundaes in.

img_2447

Actually, I think that is a bowling trophy. Note batting helmet, sans ice cream. 

(I didn’t notice what the trophies were for. Bowling or something, I assume. What else do you get trophies for, karate I guess? Winning the 20-Man Invitational Battle Royal at WrestleMania IV?)

(Editorial note: Maestro, it was at this point in writing my entry that you texted me with the hilariously autocorrected line, “Yes, work fist in there.”)

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-1-21-47-pm

Oh Autocorrect. You are responsible for so much joy in the world.

When we got out of the car, though, something magical happened: the Maestro got catcalled by a woman in a passing car on Harlem.

“HEY HEY HEY!” she shouted, clearly provocatively, clearly at the Maestro, as the Maestro got out of the passenger side of my car and we headed toward the crosswalk.

He and I stopped, dumbfounded, and just kind of stared at each other for a second.

“Did you just get…fucking…catcalled?” I said.

“I…think so.” He seemed kind of dazed.

We weren’t quite sure what to make of it. The pizza crawl was not a Safe Space

I offered to hold him while he cried. He said he thought he’d be okay.

img_2449

I know we’re committed to the Maestro and the Doc’s Chicago Pizza Blog being an erstwhile positive pizza space, but really, Geo’s was nothing special. We scarfed our slices out of styrofoam containers in my car, insofar as the place didn’t have tables. The sauce tasted, like, oddly metallic. It was like microwave pizza that had been in the microwave juuuuust twenty seconds too long. Or a minute.

I finished the slice, of course. I’m not a barbarian.

JOINT FOUR: Amato’s. It was…the most commercial of the places we’d been. By which I mean, “most like a Pizzeria Uno’s.”

Which isn’t a bad thing, I mean. But we’d just gone from a place that resembled Elwood Blues’s apartment in “The Blues Brothers”— both before and after Princess Leia blew it up with a bomb— to this place, which had a cozy, family-friendly vibe. You know, the kind of place that you go with your High School Buddies in their Varsity Jackets after the Big Game, jeepers!

img_2451

They served me a massive slice of, like, quadruple cheese, which was glorious. Helped get the taste of Geo’s pizza, which in retrospect was kind of like a hot triangle of garbage, out of my mouth.

I do believe this was the first moment when I noticed my best friend, across the table, turning green.

“I, uh…” he started, taking deep, bracing breaths. “I dunno if I’m going to make it.”

“Hm?” I asked, cheerfully chomping down on my slice.

“I feel…sick.” His cheeks puffed out a little bit as his eyes began to look a little glassy.

“Hm,” I said with concern, merrily chewing the gooey, cheesy goodness.

“Let’s go finish this.” he grunted. “While we still can.”

“Hm!” I enthused, swallowing my last bite. He dolefully looked at the 3/4 of his slice he hadn’t been able to finish. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Barber’s “Adiago for Strings” started to play.

JOINT 5: Sorrento’s. About the most nondescript pizza place I can imagine. We’d ordered our slices before heading down to Amato’s, and had been told they’d be ready for us within twenty minutes. When we returned and waited for our slices to emerge, several people came in to get their orders, and I couldn’t help but notice: each pizza that was being picked up was the size of goddamn Wrigley Field.

Huge, huge pizzas. I mean, I assume they were for parties, or such. Or very lonely men.

Very lonely men eat a lot of pizza, see. 

And sure enough, when our slices emerged? Not only were they unusually big, but they were, like, these oddly shaped kind of wedges. They seem to have given us double slices (they also did this at Geo’s, which, really, don’t do us any favors, guys), but they looked like they had, say, baked one huge pizza in the back and then just kind of whacked off chunks at random, threw ‘em in boxes, and sent ‘em out the door.

img_2453

See what I’m talking about with the shape of these things? That’s, like, crust on two out of three sides of those triangles, but it’s also like they came from a rectangular larger pizza. So weird.

None of which impacted the taste, mind you. It was actually pretty great. Pizza sauce that had a little sweetness to it, which is my favorite. As we sat in my car (Sorrento’s not having any tables inside either), I enthusiastically chomped on my pieces, while the Maestro ambivalently, carefully, took baby bites of his.

“Dude. I can’t. I’m gonna ralph.”

“Not in the Mustang,” I said through a mouthful of cheese.

“Do you want a cannoli?”  he weakly asked.

“Mm!” I enthused, before taking a bite.

“You’re an animal,” my friend opined.

I shrugged.

So. Pizza Crawl 2016, kiddos, in the books. Mind you, I don’t think snarfing five pieces of pizza in fairly quick succession is really that much of a chore— and I KNOW I’ve seen the Maestro inhale more pizza than that at a sitting, so it’s not like he’s a lightweight when it comes to packing in the ‘za. I do think that there is a quality to take-out, hole-in-the-wall pizza that makes it kind of homogenous, though. I mean, once your tongue’s been scalded by too-hot ‘za and the inside of your mouth has that fine coat of grease going on, it becomes kind of hard to tell one slice from the next. Barring, of course, significant spikes or dips in quality.

I do wonder whether the Maestro ever gets catcalled on that little scooter thing of his, or if it’s only when he’s getting out of a black 2016 Ford Mustang GT. I think it’s a reasonable question.

img_2495