My entire drive to Tallahassee was thrown off by the dream about my dad. After dropping Rhonda off at the airport I knew exactly what kind of trip it was going to be – thoughtful, introspective. For at least three hours I didn’t even turn on the radio…I just looked at things…just thought about things. Even when I did decide to put on some music, my selections were songs and artists that I knew could support what I was feeling, even though I didn’t really even know what it was.
Around two or three I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything. There was some leftover disappointment from not eating any Cuban food over the weekend, so I thought I’d give that a try. Thank god for modern technology and specifically for Google Maps for Blackberry. In less than two minutes I’d found a place maybe 20 miles up the road and was day dreaming about the grilled, pressed pork sandwich I was going to have. It didn’t quite work out like that though.
The Cuban place was closed, or if it wasn’t closed there wasn’t anyone eating there which is just as bad to me. Ugh. Three in the afternoon and I hadn’t had a morsel all day – I was ready to hit fast food. But then I noticed the place next store to the Cuban restaurant – Brooklyn Brothers Pizza. I’m always a sucker for pizza, especially New York style, and I was tired of thinking about food. It was time to eat. The place was weird. It was in a strip mall and seemed more like a retail place, maybe a clothes store, than a restaurant. There were windows along the entire front of it so it was very lit…anyone walking by could see the gaggle of tired locals drinking beer at the ‘bar’ which was adjacent to the window. Weird, I thought. But I also didn’t really care what it looked like.
That’s when I met the owner…this transplant northerner who had brought Florida as much New York as she could fit in her aesthetics, language and attitude. It was obvious that she’s worked hard her entire life…and is still working hard. Tired and weathered, that’s what she looked like. But she was a pistol. Halfway through her throwing me a beating for me telling her to pick what I should eat the phone rang. Here is the half of the conversation that I heard:
Whoa, whoa, whoa. What?
What are you, a foreigner?
Why? Because you’ve never heard of Little Caesars, that’s why. Who’s never heard of Little Caesars? Don’t you watch TV? They’ve got the ad, you know.
Yeah? Where you from?
And where’s that?
Well you need to work on your English a little doll, and you need to smarten up. This is Brooklyn Brothers.
Ok so listen to me. We do real pizza here. You go find a Little Caesar’s box. Don’t buy it because it will make you sick. But you find a box in the trash or something and on that box it says ‘Not a real cheese product’. You see what I‘m saying to you? Not a real cheese product? What is it then? It’s disgusting, that’s what. Now listen close – we make real pizza here. Fresh ingredients – that’s what I’m trying to tell you. Every day we make it all from scratch. That sounds good, right? Better than that garbage Little Caesars. Now…what do you want dear?
I was mesmerized listening to her take this guy’s order then talk to the guys at the bar. She talked about moving when the jobs on Long Island went south. Some factory I’d never heard of shut down and her husband lost his job. They came down to Florida to start over. Rough. After a few minutes my pizza came out. Even though I told her I was taking it with me, she didn’t give me a box. Instead she put it in a bag and sent me on my way. I couldn’t help but laugh about it when I was tearing it open a few minutes later on the highway. A bag of pizza. Hey…good stuff too. I don’t eat that Little Caesar’s bullshit either.
I hit the road after that…the open, open road. I remember working in northern New Mexico in 1998 in a huge, vast congressional district. Geographically, it’s one of the biggest districts in the nation spanning from Texas to Arizona, from Albuquerque to Colorado…bigger than the entire state of Pennsylvania actually. But the thing is, I never got a flavor for what that actually meant until I drove the district…through the mountains, the red rocks, the desert, the pueblos and Navajo Indian reservations. Florida is like that. It took five hours to get to Tallahassee and I started halfway through the state. There were farms, cattle, mountains and flatlands. A little bit of everything really.
I needed this drive today. More on that later, after I gather my thoughts.