Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Pizza Martyr

I cannot help myself but rail against Mama Edda's Gourmet Pizza as the owner recently demanded storage here under some unreasonable terms and offensive language. Perhaps the pizza is good, but this angry, insulting little man sure knew what he was doing when he cursed me and my day. I don't like how much I don't like him. When you're the king of your own dominion, I suppose the rules of reasonable social interaction get screwed a bit.

Edda is his wife, but the national pizza chain is his own.

He stored some old equipment from another store with us; it was brought here from Michigan and partially used to open the new store in Old Town Pasadena. What was not used at the store was left in the unit to be sold to another local pizza restaurant. I can imagine that, not unlike the way he surely handles business and relationships, it was accidentally forgotten when its usefulness was exhausted and, thusly, he became late and owed an extra fee. It was this unfortunate conveyance of information that lead to a series of back-handed insults at my inability to run my store well. Grrrrrr... In any event, he eventually paid, transferred the unit and its contents to a new "sorry sap" who could "waste his time storing his s*** with [me]" and the he unhappily, if purposefully, went on his way - to return on the day when the transfer of s*** was to take place.

During the their exchange and the updating of the contract (which took place in our store), the man who bought the contents saw, for some reason, in this rollie-pollie, ghastly fellow a person whom had achieved pizza greatness; he milked the few minutes they had together in the office for any pearls of pizza wisdom he could glean from Mr. Mama Edda. He truly only had a few moments as Mr. pizza tyrant was late to the transaction and had to waddle off to another equally amiable engagement... Grrrr.... Jim, the new owner of the goods, was the owner of his own very small, local franchise called Sweet Basil Pizza. He asked questions of the man that pertained to how he got started, where the locations were, how much capitol it took to build & start his pizza empire and how the economy was effecting it. Mr. Mama held his composure, addressing the questions like the were simple and bothersome, but Joe was eager to hear - even if he already knew the answers.

When it was only Jim in the office with us, he turned to us beaming at the good fortune of such an interaction. I wanted to correct him in his joy and reveal to him the depravity of the awful person whom he felt sincerely graced by. I had no chance to educate him, though, because he was already rambling about the encouragement for his own pizza restaurant the conversation had given him.

He said to us, "I could pick that brain for hours and hours - he is a successful owner of his own pizza franchise! I want to know how he did it!" To my ignorant position I thought Jim was not different, he had a few stores himself. He explained that he had "only just started to franchise" and was "only opening his 3rd store in Ontario." From Mama Edda's he had bought chairs and a new stone firing (?) oven in hopes of turning his place into a sit down restaurant with "a nice patio and such."

And then, as if one topic naturally led to other, he told us about how only a week before he had been held up in his own house with his family at gun point. In one breath he transitioned from his hope for the future of Sweet Basil to an unknowable violation in his recent history. A guy charged in through the front door, they were just watching TV, and demanded the family's valuables . "The next day I told my manager what happened to my family the night before–"
"You went to work the NEXT day?!" I said.
"Of course, I did. What else was I going to do? That's what I do. Ya have to keep going– that's what I do," he said referring to running the pizza place, "Stuff happens and you gotta keep going even if it's not easy cuz it's what I love. It's what I do, it's what I want to do... I made the dough myself, ya know? I came up with my own recipe and made that dough and made the restaurant. You hafta to take a risk, you hafta put down all that money and worry about it tanking all the time but thats just what I do. I'm not getting rich of it, heh, maybe I'll spend my whole life putting money into that place, but [Sweet Basils]'s what I want. It's my place and it's my restaurant and I blow 'em all outta the water – you just come get a free pie from me tonight, I'll show you – and I'll be there tomorrow if someone holds up my house again tonight."

I can't quite put my finger on what was so humbling and edifying in what we heard from him. After he walked out Matt turned to me and said, "He is the pizza martyr."

Despite Google mapping and calling Jim directly, Sweet Basil was hard to find as it was rather un-remarkable. I think, in spite of myself, I was looking for a Mama-Edda's-all-lit-up-&-clean-cut restaurant. The store, sandwich between some other forgettable store and a 7-11, was made up of basically the giant pizza oven and a counter. No drinks, no tax, a flat screen TV and broken cash drawer where our $5 bill for the salad went and sweet sweet basil in the dough. It was the most magical pizza I've ever had.
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