March 20, 2018

Friday Night

I rescued this from my digital archives / basement, a creative writing piece I put together sometime in the 90's. The file is dated September 1997 but I suspect that's when it went up online - authored in 1992 or thereabouts.

I recalled this today because my brother in law posted a photo of Famous Pizza, owned by a neighbor and a regular take-out place in high school (late 70s). I thought about the place referenced in my story (late 60s), Joe's Pizza, and much to my surprise, it's still in business - Joe's Pizza Plaza


We at Joe's Pizza Plaza opened our doors in 1963 to provide local residents with our homemade Italian cuisine in a friendly environment. We are family owned and operated and very proud to maintain pizzeria in homely atmosphere.
 
Joe's daughter, Joann, now operates the restaurant in her father's name. Joann is regularly on site continuing the family tradition. We treat everyone like family and offer friendly and personalized service to our customers.
Trip Advisor has a couple of photos of the inside of the place, and it has not changed much.  



Next time I'm in York I need to pick up a pie to go. Based on the photos on the website, they are still making 'em New York style with a chewy, bubbly crust.

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I am eight, and my excitement bubbles within me as I strategically set up the TV trays. One goes by the lounger for Dad, of course, and another is an island in the center of the room. Two more left, I place one by the couch for Mom and set the last one by the rocking chair. Perfect. Kathy brings down the paper plates and napkins. There is a big stack of napkins, and she folds them carefully into triangles. She doles them out, and gives me the most. I don't care.

We fidget at each other, eyeing the sealed orange soda bottle and the neat row of glasses with ice. She claims the rocking chair, ruining my plan of having my own TV tray. She doesn't even realize her sin, so I pick up the TV Guide and search for Friday Night. Our all-time favorite shows are on, but I tell Kathy that a basketball game is on instead. As she runs complaining upstairs to Mom, I triumphantly claim the rocking chair.

Headlights splash on the wall over the TV; Dad has returned from his quest. He's gone across town, 2 or even 3 miles to "Joe's Pizza". There are closer places, he knows, but Joe makes them just right, with an chewy outer crust full of air bubbles, and an inner crust so thin that you have to fold the pizza to eat it. "New York style", Dad tells me with a nod, as if he were passing on a secret of manhood. "It's the only real pizza in York, Pennsylvania". I go with him at times, and Joe's seems old and scarred, in a part of town that I otherwise never see. It reminds me of Dad's home and youth, somewhere else.

Through the door now, he triumphantly holds the pies aloft above his screeching chicks as we flock around him. His role for once is clear, providing us not with intangible money or security, but with very real food. No hunter-gatherer had a more vocal or joyous welcome than we give to our father. He brings the pizza into the family room, setting the boxes on the island TV tray. We sniff and peak at the steaming cheese while Dad pours our soda, and we all wait for Mom.

Mom emerges from the kitchen, buoyed with freedom from cooking and dishes. She carefully inspects each pie - the Pepperoni is a little overdone - then carefully separates a piece for each of us, and two for Dad. It's her one contribution to this meal, and it seems crucial to me. When she finishes the ritual, we are free to ravage the pies at will.

As we settle into this cheesy orgy, I absently watch the Brady Bunch. Kathy takes advantage of the soda to launch a burp in my direction, I gulp air and top her effort. Dad silences us both with his own belch, aided by his first beer of the weekend.

We explode into giggles as Mom gives him a small, sharp look. He grins at us, and I see him differently from the father in the suit who comes home in the middle of dinner other nights of the week.

The Brady's end happily, and we roll happily into the Partridge Family. I drop a slice, and it lands cheese down. With a wary glance at Mom, who has seen but she says nothing, I wipe up the mess with a wad of napkins. Setting the floor piece aside with my uneaten crusts, I count four crusts. Kathy only has three. I'm ahead.

The meal begins to wind down, and Mom becomes herself again. She fusses at us to pile the plates and napkins into the pizza boxes. Dad picks cheese out of the box, then finds my crusts and continues his feast. Kathy and I are silent now, drugged with soda and calories. The Odd Couple is on, which we aren't allowed to watch, and we sit quietly, hoping to see it tonight. Mom notices our concentration, and turns off the set. She shepherds us upstairs to soap, toothpaste, and pajamas.

Later, we come back down scrubbed and sleepy, and Dad kisses us goodnight. The TV trays have been washed and stacked, and the pizza boxes are exiled to the trash cans outside. Tucked into my bed, I hear the TV set turned back on, loudly for a moment until the volume is lowered. Love, American Style is on; canned laughter and innuendo float upstairs, lulling me asleep. Mom's voice, softly. Then Dad's, low and comforting.

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