Before, During And After Lunch: Slices Of Life And Of Pizza

I’ve been thinking recently about the nature of this blog. Not a whole lot, but enough to see that my stories — when you look at their sometimes straight, sometimes wavering and sometimes loopy as hell strokes — paint a pretty good picture of what I’m about. I’m not one to reveal all. I’ll never write a word, for instance, about the time, 40 years ago, when I went undercover in Nepal to help bring down the notorious Himalayan gang of bank robbers that dressed themselves in highly-convincing yeti costumes. Or about my space-boot shopping spree with Neil Armstrong a few days before he blasted off for the Moon. But I reveal plenty, I think.

Basically I’m a simple guy who does simple things. Well, simple cum lopsided things often might be a more accurate description. And for the last two and a half years I’ve been writing about them. My articles peer at, for the most part, typical days for yours truly, show what my interests are and have been, and show who has accompanied me (and whom I’ve accompanied) on this journey through what we affectionately call life.

Slices of life. Yeah, that’s what I usually find myself describing. And now that I’ve expended nearly 200 words in trying to establish a degree of context for this current opus, I’ll turn my attention in that direction. “Yo, you better, pal,” I hear a few voices saying. “Our time is limited. We’re this close to closing out your article and checking out some YouTube videos of skateboarding kangaroos.”

Right, right, ye whose attention span is shorter than Donnie Trump’s fuse (but not shorter than his dick). Here we go.

Last Friday I found myself heading north from my suburban Philadelphia abode. My car, having a mind of its own, drove itself two and a half miles to an establishment that ranks high on my ladder of places where I like to grab a bite for lunch. In fact, it probably is my favorite lunchtime eatery in my neck of the woods. And that’s because, speaking of slices, I believe that the slices of pie that one purchases at Nino’s Pizzarama are damn good. A card-carrying fool for pizza, I down them there two or three times a month (and I go to other pizza joints throughout each month too).

I ordered a slice of regular pie and one of Sicilian. They hit the spot regally, though I was slightly disappointed in the regular’s crust. Too chewy. The pie needed to have been left in the oven for another 20 or 30 seconds to become as crispy as it itself was hoping to become. Such is the life of pie.

While munching away, I couldn’t get out of my head a song I’d heard on the radio during my northward trek. It’s a very beautiful recording, one that I instantly became attached to soon after its release in 1968: Hickory Wind, by The Byrds. As always, it sounded wonderful.

Hickory Wind comes from Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, a magnificent country-rock album. The Byrds, famed for earlier numbers such as the psychedelic nugget Eight Miles High and the folk-rock staple Turn, Turn, Turn, had undergone some significant stylistic and personnel shifts by the time it was waxed. Three of the five original members were gone and new guys, most notably the space cowboy Gram Parsons, who helped push the band partly into country-music territory, were on board. Parsons is one of rock and roll’s legendary names, not only for his big musical talents, but for his wild and wooly and troubled life. He died of a drug overdose in 1973.

Gram Parsons is credited with having written Hickory Wind in 1968 with his musical compadre Bob Buchanan. (There is a dispute over the song’s authorship, by the way. Some claim that a little-known folksinger named Sylvia Sammons composed it, and that Parsons stole it from her. The truth never will be known, it seems.) It has been recorded by many since then, but The Byrds put it out first.

What a song. Wistful and melancholy, it stands you up straight and makes you think about the times when loneliness and an aching heart might have ruled your days. That’s Gram singing lead. In the car I melted as I listened to his yearning voice and to the sad, sad notes coming from Lloyd Green’s pedal steel guitar. Man, you want to be in a happy mood when you’re eating pizza. But me, I sat at one of Nino’s tables in a contemplative frame of mind, not fully able to concentrate on the powers of sweet tomato sauce, excellent melted cheese and could-be-better crust.

There’s much to be said for contemplative, though. It’s a state that can be good for the inner being, helping us to put things in perspective and, if we’re lucky, softening our defenses. On the way home from Nino’s I turned on the radio and found myself on the receiving end of another helping of such as Horace Silver‘s Lonely Woman filled the car. Silver, whose rich 60-year career in the jazz world ended with his passing in 2014, composed and recorded Lonely Woman in 1963. It came out in 1965 on his most famous album, Song For My Father.

There’s little I need to say about the song. It is subdued and righteous and should be better known than it is. A trio (Horace on piano, Roy Brooks on drums, and Gene Taylor on bass) perform Lonely Woman, Horace having decided that the tune would benefit if saxophone and trumpet, which appear on the majority of his recordings, sat this one out. Less sometimes is more. What’s more, Horace plays straight through Lonely Woman’s seven-minute length, having further decided that neither a bass solo nor drum solo were appropriate. Hats off to that.

Slices of life. Slices of pizza. I’m sure a spot-on connection could be drawn between them, and that slice-y metaphors are out there ripe for the picking. Those with bulbs brighter than mine would have no trouble drawing and picking. Which is why I now shall quietly exit the stage, before long to return with another tale of the sublimely simple. Till then, amigos . . .

(Don’t be shy about adding your comments or about sharing this story. Thanks.)

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62 thoughts on “Before, During And After Lunch: Slices Of Life And Of Pizza

  1. The Artist's Child October 11, 2017 / 1:04 am

    Both very reflective and melodious musical pieces. Couldn’t agree with you more. There is nothing better than relaxing with soothing music and great pizza. My favourites flavours are wood fired Margarita or pepperoni. As always I really enjoy reading your “slice of life” and discovering new music.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Higgins October 11, 2017 / 5:06 am

    Personally, I’m all for chewy pizza crusts, crispy just doesn’t do it for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 11, 2017 / 8:32 am

      Hello Steve. It’s good that there are more styles of pizza than ever before. Now pretty much anyone can find the types they like best.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. sniderjerry October 11, 2017 / 6:59 am

    Hello Neil, Today is my birthday (66) thank you for the gift of another great essay. On your next trip to Mcarthur,Ohio Have lunch at Percelli’s Pizza – that’s my brothers award winning eatery. Now I have to go, I’m skate boarding today with a group of kangaroos. Have a great day – Jerry

    Liked by 2 people

  4. greenpete58 October 11, 2017 / 7:43 am

    Yeah, that pizza looks undercooked, Neil. But Gram Parsons and Horace Silver surely made up for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Joyce Hamilton October 11, 2017 / 8:03 am

    I love pizza so l will have to try Nino’s one day! Enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Rob October 11, 2017 / 9:13 am

    Pat Metheny does a nice version of “Lonely Woman” on his Rejoicing album from the early 80’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 11, 2017 / 9:56 am

      I gave it a listen on YouTube a few minutes ago. Hadn’t known about it. Thanks, Rob.

      Like

  7. Fictionophile October 11, 2017 / 9:25 am

    Slices of life – I love it. Probably because every book I read IS a slice of life (sometimes realistic, sometimes far-fetched) but interesting all the same.
    This song by the Byrds is one I’m not familiar with. Although I usually approve of all the music you have shared, this time I’m sad to say I’m not a fan of this song. It is just too ‘country’ for me. I prefer rock, blues, r&b, etc. I can understand its appeal, it just doesn’t do it for me.
    Rock on!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alyson October 11, 2017 / 9:59 am

    Driving along listening to great tunes and stopping for a slice of pizza – Slices of life indeed and the kind of slices we all can relate to. As for the crispy versus the chewy debate – It’s crispy for me every time.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Mellow Curmudgeon October 11, 2017 / 10:28 am

    Thanks for the pointer to the Horace Silver perf.  Silver coming out of the tiny speakers on my computer is like Haifetz or Oistrakh coming out of a digital remastering of an ancient analog recording.  The music transcends the limitations of the tech that delivers it.

    Regarding the (apparent?) incongruity of pizza and a contemplative mood, pizza is on my bucket list of weird topics for a haiku some day.  No ideas yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 11, 2017 / 10:52 am

      Hi. Thanks for adding your thoughts.
      Horace Silver was terrific. He made so many excellent albums and composed so many excellent songs. What a guy.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Aunt Beulah October 11, 2017 / 10:33 am

    Sublimely simple indeed, Neil. This is a great read and, I think, writing at its best. It takes skill to write about a drive, a couple of songs heard on the radio and two slices of pizza and keep people reading with the interest I felt throughout. Then you throw in the occasional funny bits like the one that mentioned skateboarding kangaroos. Excellent stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Eugene Knapik October 11, 2017 / 12:16 pm

    I don’t comment much, but want to take a minute to say, keep writing. This here’s a good blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Apple Hill Cottage October 11, 2017 / 1:12 pm

    And Sweetheart of the Rodeo is/was one of my all time favorites. Thanks for reminding me to dig it out and play it once again….

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Christy B October 11, 2017 / 6:36 pm

    OK so I had pizza for lunch earlier. Seriously. And then I come read this post. Wow, now that’s a slice of coincidence! I like how you said your car drove you to the pizza joint, like it was beyond your personal power whether to go there or not 😉 You sound contemplative in this post. What led you to start looking through the last two years of posts and muse about them now, at this point?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 11, 2017 / 9:03 pm

      Hello Christy. Oh, I guess that curiosity got me wondering about the nature of some of my stories. But I didn’t dig very deep into them, to tell you the truth.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. cincinnatibabyhead October 12, 2017 / 1:46 am

    OK Neil, I’m just hitting the hay and I’m going with a big craving for pizza pie! Thanks for that. I can see the dreams now, sitting down with Fred and Barney for a big pie. ‘Sweetheart’ is a fave album and ‘Hickory’ is a fave cut. The Silver album is another keeper. I picked it out for my youngest recently.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. pmdello October 13, 2017 / 10:00 am

    Ok, 🐱. I’ll hang out here for a while. I like how you take your time to say … nothing. Then, surprisingly, I feel like I’ve experienced something. That’s good writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 13, 2017 / 11:51 am

      Hello there. Glad you liked this story.
      Thanks for taking the time to let me know. Appreciated.

      Like

  16. andrewcferguson October 15, 2017 / 4:00 am

    Like the best slices of pizza, Neil, your piece had plenty of flavour, was crisp yet still with something to chew on, and left me wanting more. Gram Parsons is one of these sainted characters in the rock pantheon that modern day writers still cite as a massive influence on everyone. Your clip has reminded me to listen to more of him, so thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 15, 2017 / 7:11 am

      Hello there.

      He was terrific. But before I did this story I didn’t know about the authorship controversy for Hickory Wind. I sure hope that GP didn’t swipe it from the other singer.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Still the Lucky Few October 16, 2017 / 11:11 am

    Thanks for the ‘slice of music’, Neil. It set me up for the week! As usual, I loved your effortless, endlessly self-deprecating writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 16, 2017 / 12:55 pm

      Hello there. Always good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked this story. I appreciate your thumbs-up.
      Take care.

      Like

  18. Dippy-Dotty Girl October 19, 2017 / 10:20 am

    But readers would be thrilled to read about those experiences you mention right at the top of the post… they are slices of your life too (says the stranger). Cheers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger October 21, 2017 / 11:46 pm

      Hello Amanda. I appreciate your stopping by.

      Horace Silver made many albums during his life. They all are real good. He was a tasty pianist and a terrific composer.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. thegsandwich November 1, 2017 / 9:46 pm

    I’ll say what I’d say in a writing group: I was right there in the car and the pizza shop with you. Great piece, what we in the newspaper business used to actually call “slice of life.” Keep it up. We need slices and less tweets.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. delphini510 November 4, 2017 / 8:27 am

    Good morning Neil, well it is here and I have been enjoying your interesting, amusing
    and also deep piece. Yes, it can seem long but once you get down to reading I was caught.
    Nice to share that pizza whilst listening to the music.
    Feel very relaxed now…what was it I was going to do? Hmm….

    miriam
    Nepal is a country that would be fascinating but I understand it is off limits.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 4, 2017 / 9:36 am

      Hello Miriam. I appreciate your stopping by.

      You know, I was in Nepal in 1982. I hiked (with a small group) up into the Everest region. A great experience.

      Enjoy the weekend.

      Like

  21. aj vosse November 6, 2017 / 3:32 am

    Thanks for sharing your slices. Gram Parsons has cropped up a few times in the last few days so I will go off and listen… bliss!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Joe Accardi November 7, 2017 / 1:03 pm

    That Horace Silver album is among my favs… along with Sicilian pizza.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 7, 2017 / 2:13 pm

      Hello Joe.

      Horace was great. His passing was a big loss.

      Thanks a lot for stopping by.

      Neil S.

      Like

  23. Amy Henry November 8, 2017 / 5:51 pm

    “There’s much to be said for contemplative, though. It’s a state that can be good for the inner being, helping us to put, things in perspective and, if we’re lucky, softening our defenses.”

    I get this post completely. A song can come on while I’m driving and suddenly I’m back in some moment, and it’s precious and it won’t come again, and all I can do is cry while continuing to drive, for the brief space that is life.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, Another Blogger November 8, 2017 / 7:17 pm

      Music can be powerful stuff.

      Hi Amy. Thanks a lot for dropping by. Appreciated.

      Neil S.

      Like

  24. sloppy buddhist November 13, 2017 / 10:31 am

    Enjoyed your narrative slices 🤓 even though I’m not a big fan of “mat”…enjoy the music ~ many smiles hedy 😀

    Liked by 1 person

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