Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pizza for One

                I’m an American, (it says so right on my birth certificate*) and therefore, it is my obligation, nay, HONOR to eat as much pizza as often as I can, day or night, rain or fog, awake or asleep, for better or for worse, till death do us part. Amen.

                America has had a long, sensuous, passionate, intimate, debauched, decadent, degenerate, perverted, raucous and tender (today’s Eighty-Four Glyde is sponsored by Motto: Why use one word people do understand when you can use three that people don’t?**) love affair with pizza that goes way back in the annals of history. Let’s reminisce, shall we? History can be quite interesting, and…historically accurate.

                Star date: December 8, 16.15, during the first Thanksgiving, Squanto, the famed time-traveling Patuxet warrior from beyond the 8th Dimension, arrived at the feast with what many believe to be the first pizza known to the white man in America. He would not tell the Pilgrims from whence the pizza originated, but did tell them to “Always avoid the Noid”. This proto-za was different from the pizza we know and devour today. Firstly, it was in the shape of a double helix, instead of the more modern “circular” shape, or its disgraceful younger cousin the “rectangular” shape. Instead of tomato sauce, it used moose blood, the cheese was camembert, the sausage was rabbit pellets and the basil was poison ivy. It was not well-received.

                Fast forward to the 1980s, (okay, I’m sure some other pizza-related stuff happened in those centuries I’m glossing over, but come on gang, we all took ‘Pizza History and Appreciation’ in college, right? That shit has been covered to death!) the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came along and rekindled this country’s love-affair with the flattest of foods. This decade also saw the emergence of pizza “restaurants***” that will deliver pizza to domestic dwellings! Imagine a world before pizza delivery. You probably can’t, because you’re not old and most old people don’t read the nonsense I spew anyway and even if they did, the Alzheimer’s will take care of that pesky memory thing.  

                Besides home-delivery, other forms of pizza businesses came into being. From companies that sell pizza-making kits for customers to personalize at home, to companies selling frozen pizzas for customers to cook at home. There is also the option of having pizzas delivered to the homes of unsuspecting chumps. Truly, these are the salad days we live in.

                But for me, the weirdest pizza-selling concept comes straight out of Colorado (if they do this other places, please keep that info to yourself, this is not a thing to be proud of). There are pizza places, in the vein of a Dominos, or Pizza Hutt, or a Panuchi’s, or what-have-you, but instead of delivering hot, gooey deliciousness, at these places you go in, (Or to the drive-up window? I have no clue, the whole thing is so confounding to me that my brain shuts down.) and you purchase a frozen pizza, to go home and cook yourself.

                “But Josh,” says the straw man replier I’m crafting, “what’s wrong with that? They sell frozen pizzas at grocery stores. What’s the difference? Maybe this is more convenient for the customer. Ever thought of that smart guy?! Huh? Have you?! God you make me sick!”

                Good question.  

                It’s true, grocery stores do sell frozen pizzas. But they don’t just sell frozen pizzas. They sell all types of crap, like Karo syrup and dog food (that’s basically it though). The point is that they diversify the products because just focusing on frozen pizzas is a bad business model. But that’s not even my main beef with a frozen pizza drive thru. It’s that people keep trying to explain that it is very convenient for people who are short on time. This logic really makes me wonder what’s in they put in the water in that state. You know what’s even more convenient then buying a frozen pizza? Buying one that’s already been cooked! Witchcraft, I know, but we have the technology. Hell, we’re practically a step away from putting ovens in the delivery cars so they can cook the pizza on the way over to your crib, thereby making the process even faster.

                Great, now that we’ve covered the history and the many eclectic ways a person can go about purchasing a pizza, let’s get into the real reason I wrote this thing: toppings.

                I couldn’t even try to list all possible topping options and combinations. Nobody can. Get me Stephen Hawking, Deep Blue and a couple of Super Crays, and it’d still take longer than Betty White running a marathon to even cover a quarter of the variations of things you can put on a pizza. (Speaking of which, hey Canada! They’re called TOPPINGS for a reason. Stop hiding them under the cheese!) My personal favs are pepperoni, green peppers, onions, sausage, and…that’s it, I’m a simple man of humble desires, (also, I don’t need all those things on a pizza at once, they’re my go-to for different combinations.) There are many other things you can put on a pizza, but I’d judge you harshly if you did.

                I mention that to mention this. If there is one single, steadfast rule of ordering toppings on pizzas, it’s that you must please the masses. I can’t tell you how many parties, orgies, lacrosse games, cotillions, bar mitzvahs and funerals I’ve been to where the selection of pizzas always include a few with weird shit on them, like pineapple and prosciutto, or asparagus and durian, or peas and potatoes. When I see layouts like that, I know that the person who ordered the pizzas wasn’t trying to altruistically open up our minds with new flavor combinations, they were just ordering the kind of pizzas they like so they get a whole pizza to themselves. I see through your shit anonymous pizza orderer! And it both disgusts and frustrates me. It’s a simple problem, with a simple solution. Depending on the number of diners, the ratio remains the same, but the amount of pizzas purchased changes. It’s a simple 1 x 1 x 1. 1 meat pizza, 1 cheese pizza and 1 veggie pizza. There’s no need to get any more complicated or fancy than that. Pizza is a simple comfort food, it’s not a food where you order weird ass toppings to show how cultured and hip you are.

Save that for hot dogs.

*Made In China.

** Fun Fact: there is no synonym for pizza.

***No tables, no chairs, is it even possible to “dine-in” at a Papa Johns? I’m going to walk into one of them one day and place an order for here, then sit on the bench and eat an entire damn pizza in front of their greasy teenage faces.

Saturday, September 10, 2016


They say there are no words, but that’s a lie. A fucking lie. See? “Fuck” There’s a word right there. A word I rarely (if ever) used in print, but my dad’s dead now, so what’s he going to do, haunt me with a ghostly bar of soap to wash my mouth out? I’d say his name five times in front of a mirror if I thought it’d bring him back.

I actually meant to write this a year ago, back when he was still alive and it would have meant something to him. Now it’s a pointless gesture I’m doing to maybe make myself feel better. Maybe because he was a fan of my work in life, maybe he’ll be one in death too.

My dad was a complicated man. We discovered the depth of that when we had to clean out his apartment. I clearly get my sense of humor and irony from him. He had a Ralph Nader yard sign in his closet. Not only is Nader not an actual candidate, my father lives (lived) in an apartment. No yard in which to put said sign. It turns out that he also used to collect shiny things on the sides of roads, like some kind of vehicular magpie. I had to throw away a million watches that had no watchbands. Why did he own those? What was his master plan? I’ll never know.

When I say complicated, I mean he had more than one side. He was a high school assistant principal for decades (I made sure I never went to that high school). He loved breaking up fights because he got to shove kids up against lockers Joe Clark-style. But I guess, not being able to always physically discipline other people’s kids kind of built up in him. He used to drink. And he used to beat me. Meh, I take it in stride now, but I still have the scars, physical and in my brain parts. I guess it did kind of help make me the guy I am today. I just haven’t figured out what kind of guy that is yet, (I’d better do it soon, I’m running out of time myself!)

I didn’t just get my sense of humor from my dad, I also got my love of reading. Science fiction and fantasy mostly, but hell, I’ll read anything, (except the dictionary, the characters are so lifeless and the plot is terrible!) and I haven’t put books down since I first learned what letters are. Hell, I’m a writer now too, that’s also thanks to him.

In the house I grew up in, we had our main television in the basement. That place was mostly his domain, especially when the drinking got to be too much and my parents’ separation was eminent. I got to take over at 6 am Saturday mornings, (for obvious reasons, if you know me) I’d just lay there nestled up against his snoring body, kind of sharing my Saturday Morning Cartoons with him. Sometimes I wasn’t so lucky, sometimes he was awake. One time he held me down and forced me to watch the end of Day of the Living Dead. Ever seen it? At the end of the movie a few dozen zombies tear a guy apart while he’s still alive and eat all of his organs and body parts while he’s screaming. I was maybe eight or nine. My dad lived for freaking me out like that. On the bright side, it gave birth to a lifelong hatred/fascination with zombies. Trust me kids, if the Zombie Apocalypse ever goes down, fuck finding guys with sheriff hats with sons named after underwater reefs. I’m your man.

He was a loner too. I certainly get that from him. He lived alone, he died alone. But I guess the difference is that he at least tried out the whole family life thing first. He had a wife and kids and decided to go at it alone anyway. That’s kind of a Siddhartha move, right? You can’t know what you want, until you try different versions of it. I don’t have a family yet. Not entirely sure I want one. That makes everybody worried for me. I kind of get it, but I wish they wouldn’t. I’m not saying I’m fine or anything, just that I’m one of those special cases. Worry about the lady who thinks buying dogs will make her happy and fill holes in her life. I have no holes to fill, so I’m groovy.

Even though he was a loner, my dad influenced more lives than anybody who reads this. Not just because he was an assistant principal who dealt with thousands of kids, (by the way, he confiscated so many water guns, my basement looked like a super villain’s aqua armory*) helping them through adolescence and the various pitfalls therein (in contrast, my mom gave me some Judy Bloom books and told me to knock myself out). But he also played a greater role on the global stage. Ever hear of Bruce Springsteen? My dad discovered him.

In fact, my dad has so far appeared in at least two autobiographies of famous people and was once (kinds) portrayed in a made-for-tv-movie. We had a contest, him and I. To see who could appear in the most autobiographies. Do you know how hard that is? You can’t Forrest Gump that shit and just randomly appear in famous points in history. You have to recognize somebody and what they have to offer the world when they’re young and stick by that person, helping them to achieve the potential you’ve always seen in then (or, if you’re my dad, you manage a coffee shop and you need to hire an act for open mic night). Right now, my dad is winning with the two autos and the tv movie, but I’m in a few books myself (which I don’t really count, because they’re either by fellow Soldiers and I just happened to be in Iraq with them, or they’re self-published by family members) but I am in a couple of comic strips, a car commercial and I’m gonna have that IMDB page before the end of the year, so that’s kinda something?

Anyway, I think that’s all I have to say. I’m not going to read over this or edit it. Any mistakes I made are staying. I don’t think I could read this again without my eyes getting blurry. Sorry if I spoke ill of the dead, but I’m a chip off the old block, and the last thing he would have wanted was some schmaltzy bullshit. Bye Father Person.  

*That’s a thing, right?  

Friday, June 24, 2016

Queue It Up

               I was standing in line at the grocery store yesterday, doing my usual shopping for the week, my cart full of diapers, grape juice and kitty litter (you know, party supplies). There were three people ahead of me in the line. It’s not that I was in a rush or anything, but on the other hand, I wasn’t standing there for my health, you know? 

                As the minutes passed, my drifting mind (I was imagining a world without the letter E) began to wake up to the realization that I had not moved for quite some time. I peered around the Incredible Bulk in front of me (shopping basket full of cheese whiz, pop tarts and diet soda) to discover that the person at the checkout counter was nonchalantly propped up by his elbow on the credit card stand, having a conversation with the lady behind the register.

                Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? Be it at the grocery store, pet store, sex shop or ATM, there’s always somebody who decides to be friendly with the person manning the register. What is that about? Are there really people who get up in the morning, leave their hovels (I assume) just to strike up conversations with busy people? Do they think this is the best way to make friends? It’s baffling.

                It’s true that I’m infamous for randomly berating stranger in public like I’ve been possessed by the spirit of Miss Manners, (she’s dead right? Otherwise it’d be really weird) causing awkward scenes and making whoever is accompanying me die of embarrassment. But I’m working on it. So, in a rare moment of self-restraint, I didn’t give people death glares or throw copies of US magazine at the bozo’s head.

                Sometimes though, it’s not the customer doing the talking, it’s the cashier. For some reason with these people, the doldrums of their poor career choice have not broken their spirits, (unlike the friendly people at your local DMV) and they seem to actually enjoy their jobs. These gregarious fools feel compelled to make some kind of joke or comment, based on the items the customer is attempting to purchase.

Cashier: Jelly beans huh?

Customer: …Um, yes?

Cashier: Who are you, the Easter Bunny! Haaahaa(this continues for two minutes, during which time, the cashier is unable to multitask and continue scanning items)aaahahaahaahahaa!

Customer: I wish you ill.

                Then, when I get to the front of the line and it’s my turn to deal with the Sphinx’ retarded younger cousin, I just stare them down with the dourest visage I can muster. My head tilts forward, the corners of my mouth turn slightly down and lock in place, as if saying “we are the Rock of Gibraltar”. My eyebrows jut down at an unfathomable angle that I often practice in the mirror to make sure they cause just the right amount of unease in anybody I deploy them at. But the real highlights are my eyes. They go straight up “Jaws”-style doll eyes. They are cold. They are merciless. They offer no hope or succor. Indeed, there truly is no balm in Gilead when my victim looks upon my eyes.

                At this point, the cashier has two choices:

1.       Shut the hell up.

2.       Keep trying to make with the patter.

The register attendants who go with option one are the smart ones. They keep their eyes down, mouth shut and proceed with the transaction.  I do not pity the cashiers who choose option two, because after one mumbly, trail-offy attempt at a sentence, they shut up too.

But Josh, you dick, why not just use the self-checkout lanes? Don’t be a dummy!

Ahhh, if only it was that simple. But actually the self-checkout has its own host of problems that are equally as pointless as the manned registers. The least of which is that nobody ever seems to know how to use the machine. It confuses people so much, you wonder if the self-checkout machines were made by people with backward eyeballs who see the world in a different way than you or I (and I don’t even know what that means!) The worst offenders are the senior citizens. I honestly don’t know why they love the self-checkout so much, seeing how it confounds them so. But they flock there in droves to place an item on the pad, stare at it blankly for five minutes, then move it to the conveyor belt without having scanned it first. They repeat with process with each item in their basket, until the machine, ready to take its own life, shuts down and forces the store clerk (who, by the way was standing there watching the whole time, without so much as lifting even a single finger) to take four steps, swipe at something and give the machine it’s calming dose of electric morphine or whatever, so it’ll go back to work.

I guess there’s only one way to solve this dilemma: We need to elect Trump and Make America Great Again!*

*This joke brought to you by the coalition to make really bad, topical jokes that won’t be relevant or make even the slightest sense by 2017