Sunday, August 22, 2004

Pizza and talks -- Sunday (II)

After the game, I don't want to go home directly so I ask my cousin to drop me in Chinatown. It's also on their way home. I am walking aimlessly vaguely walking toward a movie theater, a bus station, a metro stop. No goal really. Just strolling. I see this restaurant which I remember from the advertisement in the movie theater. It's a new place. Opened maybe six or seven months ago. A pizza place. I don't want to eat pizza, and don't want to haul a pizza home. I'm not sure why I enter but I find myself inside asking if they do take out or if I could get pizza dough, or un-cooked pizza to go. The guy at the entrance directs me toward the bar. "Yes you can" he says "Just ask Mike for an under-cooked pizza to go". I get to the bar. "Are you Mike?" A young guy, all smile, a small diamond in his nose looks at me. "Am I under arrest?" "No" I smile "but I'd like to get a pizza under-cooked to go". He looks at me and says "It will take more time than a regular cooked pizza". I am totally puzzled. "How is that possible? You are cooking it less, so how can it take more time??" I'm not sure I understand the answer that follows. I hear "flash cooking", "checking" and have not the slightest idea of what he is talking about. I node and ask for an iced tea. I grab a bar stool to wait for that long under-cooked pizza. I get my book out and start to read. I've not read one sentence when I hear. "Don't you know that reading is forbidden in a bar?" I look up. There is a guy in his thirties. Wearing an American flag T-shirt. A crew cut. He is looking at Mike as he speaks. Mike looks at me, smiles and says "Yup. No book reading in my bar". I laugh, close the book and look at both of them. The American flag guy is having a drink with an old man whom I heard speak in a foreign accent when I arrived. He loses no time in asking me where I am from. Paris. And what do I think about American politics, American life, compared to France (ah! That question again!). The conversation begins and quickly becomes political. How difficult it is to answer when nothing is black and white. Bush is not the big, black wolf and Kerry is not a knight in the shining armor. But yes the environment would be better off without Bush and Europe happier with Kerry. Nothing is simple. As soon as we start discussing politics, Mike turns away and says "My rule number 1: Never talk politics with costumers". I ask "Well, at least tell us where you're from". "Ethiopia via Italy" He was born in Ethiopia, spent time in Cairo and moved to Rome when he was a kid. I am even more curious to hear his opinion but he walks away.
A guy with a Hard-rock cafe T-shirt now joins the discussion. Soon enough, everybody is properly introduced. The guy with the crew cut is Rob, a pilot for a commercial airline, Pavel comes from Finland. He is in town for an electrical engineering conference. He arrived two days ago and is still jet-lagged. Kevin works at the Hard Rock Cafe but is a regular here. The topic is on American foreign policy, American education, American society and in general, all things American. Rob is clearly a republican, Kevin a democrat and Pavel a foreigner with the European views of the US. I am defending the US but without forgiving them from their shortcomings. We are talking and exchanging opinions. The discussion is friendly but direct.
I call Mike. "You can cook this pizza after all. I'll probably eat it here". He smiles.

When I left two hours later, we had shared the pizza, Mike had joined us for some more talks, offered us chocolate chips cookies and some cocktails of his own making. I didn't drink much of it but told Mike I'd be back to this place. Another smile. "You'll always be welcome".


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