You know when your oogle friends come to town and get you so wasted and then you end up trying to fight one of your best friends and then you wake up at noon still totally shitfaced and you're all "oh fuck!" and you just can't seem to get it together and it seems like life is always gonna be this bad, like the first time you ate mushrooms when you were 14 and at some point you "realized" you are just gonna be tripping forever and everything is totally fucked and your parents are gonna be so mad and it was all a fucking bloody trap and you fell for it like a sucker and goddamnit, now you're stuck like this and how are you supposed to go to school ever again or like, talk to your parents ever again and I guess you're gonna have to just run away and live under a bridge because you're not fit for this world and you're too much of a coward to just off yourself so it's like, I guess it's just gonna be the life of a miserable outcast for me.
You know what I'm talking about? And it's an important experience because you learn that you actually do stop tripping eventually, and when you're done with that harrowing experience you briefly have a newfound clarity and you are now equipped with the knowledge that horrible, seemingly-endless shit is actually finite. And you forget that it's true, so 8 years later when your heart breaks FOR REAL the first time, and you're sitting on 2nd Ave with your best friend crying, you think your pain will never end, and you'll never be whole again. But then you come out of that tunnel and you've got that new clarity again, and you learn to safeguard and protect your heart so that it won't be so vulnerable. And you build an impenetrable fortress around it so that you'll never have to feel that bad, and you don't let anyone in there who can hurt you like that. And then people you care dearly for start dying, and they're like spies who permeated your defenses because you were only on the lookout for people trying to besiege your heart with Romantic Love and all of a sudden your fortifications are all fucked all over again and that's when you finally remember that thing you learned that first time you ate mushrooms when you were 14 and you totally hid it from your parents so well and you snuck downstairs to play Return to Zork on the computer because you thought it would be so cool, but instead you ended up going out and just laying in the grass all night looking at the sky. And then the sun started coming up and you had to run upstairs and hide before your folks woke up and you were in your room tripping and you couldn't leave because THEY'D KNOW just like the cat knew when she saw you and it's never gonna end it's never gonna end and you're laying in bed freaking out and the next thing you know you're waking up in your room a few hours later and everything just makes sense.
The message you ultimately learn from this cycle of death and heartbreak and psychedelia is dual, bifurcated like the tongue of the Lizard Guy from Burning Man. The teachings of the Great Pizzaola call this the Bifurcated Tongue of Wisdom and it is one of the 8 Slices of Enlightment that make up the Pie of Transcendence. The first and most important lesson is that experiencing the joy of love is worth the pain of loss. Whether we are talking about people you are fucking who decide they don't love you anymore (or vice versa, realizing you don't love someone who still loves you hurts in it's own way), or people who you care immensely for in a platonic way, (and really, I've always believed that the differences between these two sorts of love should be slight at most), it is worth it to feel that intense caring, and feel that intense yearning when they are gone, to understand the parameters and depths of our emotions. Open yourself up to the chance of being hurt. Don't be a coward. Fear is the mind-killer.
The second lesson is that sometimes you get so fucked up you think that it's never going to end and you're stuck like that but it does and you're not. Quit being a baby and just enjoy yourself. The more comfortable you are the quicker it'll go. It's like the horrifying Batman ride at 6 Flags where your feet hang out. It was supposed to be fun but it actually sucks and is scary and it seems like it takes forever but it actually doesn't, and besides you're strapped in, so you don't really have a choice. I am being a huge weirdo today, aren't I?
Regardless, I was in the early stages of that cycle a couple of afternoons ago when I went to eat pizza with longtime Slice Harvester co-conspirator Caroline Paquita and her wonderful sister Leah. Leah is a True American Weirdo, just like the rest of us, so she is pretty easy to get along with. As usual when I pizza-eat with people from Florida, it was raining pretty terribly when we got out of the train in Manhattan, with the stated goal of eating the remaining slices of pizza above 42nd St. Our first stop was, according to the phone book listing, called Grandma Pizza, but instead turned out to be one of the many 99¢ Fresh locations in this neighborhood.
This is the most extravagant 99¢ Fresh location I've ever seen. There was so much seating! It was like, really spacious. And when we got there, they were totally sold out of pizza and I had to wait to get my slice. When it finally came out Caroline looked at skeptically, but since I was feeling less than human it felt only appropriate that I eat less-than-pizza.
This slice was not good at all and was totally perfect for my hangover. The dough was billowing and thick like the smoke from a factory. There was barely any sauce or cheese, and what there was didn't taste especially good. Leah said it reminded her of "carnival" pizza, "with a dash of cafeteria," and I think that's a fairly apt assessment. Caroline hastened to add that it tasted like this slice definitely contained HFCS by which she meant High Fructose Corn Syrup, although it my notes I accidentally wrote "C says: 'it's got some NYHC in it."
This slice is fine for a dollar. Not great, not horrid. Definitely different than my previous 99¢ Fresh experiences, which reminds me that I am correct in visiting every store in the 99¢ Fresh empire.
99¢ Fresh Pizza Villa Cafe - $1.00
360 West 42nd Street (8th & 9th)
New York, NY 10036