i was joking tonight that with 9 pizzerias in the SEC pizza bake-off, i’m sure to wind up in the top 10.
but seriously, i didn’t realize how much planning and organizing i would need to put this trip together. a friend to stay at the house, a place to park the car in orlando, a rental in memphis, the kids plan, and the all day figuring and packing ingredients. i have gone over it a few times in my head and can’t think of what that one thing is i will wish i would have brought. traveling with ingredients for 8 pizzas by 2 cars and a plane is not as simple as i first imagined.
i’m ready to win or lose, and i’m ready to drink beer and eat pizza. i’m ready to give it my best shot. and while i am a competitive person, i realize that even if i think my pizza is the best, others might taste it differently. why, i was told in a text recently that my pizza is just “not that good.” for all the folks raving about it, there’s a few folks knocking it down. but any way you slice it, it’s obvious that i am trying hard and i am sincere about serving up more than just lunch or dinner. live music, local art, community events like storytelling…and interesting things you don’t always see like an airplane mounted above you or a train running a track overhead in lightnin’ salvage. i will admit that the pizza is only part of what i love about my life. only part of what excites me about my job and my goals. soon we may add book signings once a month. soon we may finish our 2 year bocce tournament. soon we’re having the third? or fourth? “night of a thousand ukeleles.” soon we may switch to local sausage from the live oak pigs. soon we may continue to realize our dreams.
right now i am proud about the train. the plane was so much easier than the train. i can put a number on the airplane cost. it all fits neatly on list of expenses. but the train? i spent weeks, maybe months, building the track. i turned it over to pete because it wouldn’t work and he spent weeks, maybe months tweaking it, cleaning it, making it safe. still a no go. more weeks go by. i’ve given up. i admit defeat. i feel a little sad that i thought i could accomplish it and didn’t. then a customer, bob, offers to help. he sets up a train around his christmas tree every year and he’s got time and patience and the desire. my hope is rekindled. awesome.
bob spends a few days… then a week…. then a second and third week…. still our problems persist. i give up again. i feel a bit sadder than the first time because now i couldn’t do it and pete couldn’t do it (and pete can do anything) and then bob can’t do it (and i believed in bob) and so i accept my defeat again (but more completely.)
then bob goes to a train thing. a gathering of train enthusiast somewhere…. and he tells them about it and they give him some ideas… and then bob is back with a neatly trimmed white beard black clad train guru. within a couple hours would you believe they had that baby rolling and clattering along like a champ?! it was a power issue. we needed more wires on the track. we needed a different cleaner on the track. we needed a few little things but it was a dream that wasn’t dead. i had to chastise myself for giving up. i sat and watched the train tonight while i listened to the musician belt it out, i sat there and watched that one little girl watching the train in amazement, and the adults too, pointing and watching like it was a spinning wheel of water in the middle of a parking lot…. and i thought, “wow. it actually happened. i had an idea and other people had the know how. it took 4 or us to put our heads together to finish that project. and actually it’s not even finished because now john and i will come along and decorate the track. i want to hang clouds. john bought a water tower with a light at the top. we’ll make buildings and trees and a tunnel. maybe the tunnel can look like a cave…
yes, i love making pizzas delicious. i love getting the elements just right so the sauce and cheese and toppings are balanced and the crust is cooked just so. i love the caramelization that happens when it’s done just right. but i also love the kids faces when they see the train. i love that even adults feel some sensory overload. i love that employees are all so diverse and yet working together to create a complex and yet unified experience. it definitely goes awry from time to time, and parts of the machine get worn and faulty. but then again, most of the time the property as a whole is in sync. i don’t think about it so much as satchel’s like this and LSE like that and employees in this way and customers in that way…. but all of these are happening together like a song, like play or a dance. the food is one part of the equation. the music and lightning and service are another.
i set these goals for myself. i set goals i think are unattainable but yet they are simple goals too in the scheme of things. people build skyscrapers and climb mountains, so if my goal is a train that goes around overhead or to make my own soda, these things are within reach. and then the thing rears up to challenge me, and at times i feel i have lost. and in the end, at least with the train and the sodas, i did not lose. in the end i meet and enjoy a conversation with my expectation. i take into account that my goal was small, so as not to get too inflated an idea of myself, and i try and relish the feeling of accomplishment for just a little while. then, it’s time to think about what else can be done? what else can i accomplish this year or this week? let it be small or big but let me know progress.
i haven’t worked a lunch shift in a long time. i mean really worked a lunch shift. bussed tables, made pies, stressed, any of it! today i was feeling a bit guilty about that. but i also feel proud that i have learned to trust those i hired and trained and now entrust to carry out the mission of serving folks. i don;t work lunch because they seem to have it down. they are capable and ready for whatever business walks through the door or calls on the phone. they handle it. they tackle it. they do it with smiles and jokes and integrity. night crew does too but i still have not been able to train enough and staff enough folks to handle everything that gets thrown at us on a busy night. or maybe i am just scared that once i do get it under control they won’t need me around anymore.
it was sad to stop driving my van and give it to the restaurant. it was sad to stop working the oven and hand it over to the young people. it was sad to stop working a pizza shift and just watch and observe. but each time i did it to free up time for my kids, or for making art, or so i could step back and take in the whole picture.
i am a full time artist who enjoys baking. if they don’t like my pizza in oxford mississippi, or that one guy thinks my pizza is “not that good,” that’s just not a problem. baking is just one of the hobbies i have and i am fine with being a guy who is a jack of all trades, master at none. i am not a master of baking, or painting, drawing, graphic art, stained glass, or gardening. but i am “good” and some of those things and that is enough for me. i get overwhelmed when i see some artist like vollis simpson. i am in awe by painters like georgio morandi. reading great writing like mark twain can make a man feel useless.
if you look at gaudi then over at me, i will look like a stumblebum or a simpleton.
that’s cool by me. i like being me. i’m ok with being just ok. in fact, that’s part of what makes me me. i’ll never have a city museum. but i’ll have a satchel’s pizza. and it’s enough for me. it’s not perfect and it is perfect.
forgive me for being a sentimental chap. for talking too much. for trying to explain. i don’t even want to tell you but my fingers take over. i am inspired and humbled by the artist mentioned here and lots of other artists too. like ono chikkyo, a painter i discovered while i visited japan. no one here has ever heard of him. no one. but his paintings are so sumblime. it is art that propels me through my days. art. i find pizza to be an art. i am so fortunate to be able to now make art and pizza as a job.
midnight again. time to wrap this up even if i am not yet at 2500 words. i still have to get gas, pack my car, make the kids breakfast and lunch and get them to school. there’s a long list here on my desk of things to remember and to pack and i need to be on interstate 75 by 9am. 9 hours from now.
i’ll try my best to take a few pictures, to tell a story, to include you in the trip to
got to try and do like my wife always does and “go with the flow.”