Tag Archives: Pizza

Even the absurd and irrational have meaning

11 Aug

Firesign-Theatre-Dont-Crush-That-Dwarf-Hand-Me-The-Pliers-Cover

I drove by a Laundromat where I once washed my clothes and recalled an incident of vandalism in which I participated. It was more whimsical than wanton and did not affect the washing and drying of clothes. In a way, it benefitted the store’s patrons.

At the time I was living with two roommates in a yellow ranch house on a hill. We held two major parties a year. In the summer there was a pig roast with fresh corn and clams, and in the winter an inclusively themed Solstice Party.

The house was on a major road, with a town at both ends. We frequented a shopping center in one of the towns. It had a supermarket, a good pizza place and the Laundromat. Inside the laundry was a 3-foot square sign that we considered offensive. It read:

 

Absolutely no pizza pies to be eaten in this Laundromat.

 

In an attempt to express the seriousness of the message, the type was in red and “absolutely” was italicized. Some signs say “please.” This one did not.

Laundry signThe night before one of the solstice parties there was drinking at the little yellow house. I wasn’t much of a drinker but my compatriots made up for my shortcoming. While imbibing, we were trying to come up with a way to make the house more interesting. This was a time when one of our favorite things was listening to a comedy album entitled, “Don’t Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers.” There was nothing on the record about either dwarves or pliers, and the nonsense and non sequitur of the title appealed to us. We saw it perhaps as a reflection of the times.

A eureka moment occurred around 2 a.m. One roommate grabbed a claw hammer and directed us into his vehicle. We drove to the Laundromat.  With claw hammer in hand, the idea man jumped onto the washers and violently tore down the anti-pizza edict. We drove back to the yellow house and nailed it to the front door.

This was our non sequitur.

In addition to setting the mood for our party, the sign removal was viewed as an act of liberation. People now could freely eat pizza during their mindless waits.

Pizza-Wallpaper-pizza-6333801-1024-768The party went well. In those days the little yellow house drew big crowds. Reaction and comments to the sign were favorable and convinced us we had done the right thing.

After the party we left the sign on the door. It said so much about us.

When the landlord came for a visit, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the sign. He also expressed great confusion. We tried explaining its purpose and meaning but it was like Picasso trying to explain his work to Michelangelo. The landlord was as offended by the sign on his door as we were by the sign in the Laundromat. He ordered it taken down.

Where that sign is today I cannot say. But I hope it is somewhere.

Looking upon wanton vandalism with older eyes, I cannot fathom why someone would destroy something of worth for no apparent reason. Still, I try to remember the laundry sign and the bafflement of the landlord and compare his bafflement to my own. As a result, the past and the present have become a lesson in life, crime, politics, culture and international relations.

The lesson is this: No matter how irrational something appears, deep in the heart of someone or some group, there is always a reason for it.

Lanny Morgnanesi

 

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Three stories of race

16 Jan

Martin Luther King

For Martin Luther King Day I’d like to write about race, in three vignettes.

The first is about a family outing to a New Jersey lake resort. I was 8 or so, and we were going to one of my favorite spots. As our car stood in line at the gate, I realized something was wrong. The car in front was holding things up. There was an argument between the gatekeeper and the vehicle’s occupants, who were black.

My father went out to see what was happening.

When he returned, he seemed a little different, a little upset; certainly more reserve.

“They weren’t allowed in because they aren’t members,” my father said.

“Are we members?” I asked.

“No,” he said, “but I think they are going to let us in.”

The incident seemed unimportant once we were inside, although my father talked to other relatives about it. As I grew up and understood more, I never forgot the combination of guilt, sadness and, was it shame? that I had seen on my father’s face that day.

My second little story is about the only tip I ever received while working summers at a pizza restaurant. I was 20, and so good at making pizzas they let me manage the place. As a manager, I would try to remember what people normally ordered. For example, there was a theatrical-looking black man with a pencil-thin mustache and a fedora who always called in for a garlic and anchovy pizza.

One busy Saturday night the other pizza guy didn’t show up. This was a take-out place and the whole front of the store was packed with people either picking up food or trying to place orders. It was noisy and chaotic. I was trying as fast as I could to get people out so there would be room for those coming in. As I pulled a garlic and anchovy pizza from the oven, I saw its owner walk in. I boxed the pie, gave it to the cashier and pointed to the man with the mustache, who was way in the back, behind rows of impatient white people.  He walked forward, paid and left.

At closing, the cashier pulled two bills from her pocket and handed them to me. “From the black guy with the mustache,” she said.

Nice gesture, but I didn’t understand its depth until I lived for a time in a black neighborhood in Washington, D.C. There was a deli next to my building that was always crowded with people – black people. It was nearly impossible for me to get a sandwich there. If someone behind the counter had handed me one as soon as I walked in, I would have been surprised and delighted. I would have thought better of mankind and the world and most definitely would have offered a tip.

And so, because of that, I better understood the man in the fedora.

The third story is one I don’t quite understand. I don’t understand the socio-economic forces at work. Perhaps someone can explain.

My aunt, now deceased, ran a dry cleaning business in Philadelphia and lived with her family above the shop. When she started, the neighborhood was white. That changed, but she stayed put. Years later I asked her son, my cousin, what it was like being the only white family for blocks and blocks. He said when the neighborhood first changed, everything was fine. The new people were good people, family people. Then they moved out, and the people who moved in destroyed everything.

 Those are my three stories about race. Taken together, what might they say about life in America and the quality of our humanness? Please share your thoughts.

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