Jun 14, 2015

Summer 2001: Hooking Up with the Pizza Boy

When I was growing up, the best pizza in town came from Harris Pizza on 14th Avenue, about a half mile from our house.

The best in the world -- I've never found anything close.  Ground sausage, with the cheese on top. Real, fresh mushrooms, not the canned stuff.

We never got delivery -- why wait around, and then have to tip the delivery boy?  Dad just drove over and picked it up.

After I moved to West Hollywood in 1985, I went back home for visits twice a year, at Christmastime and in the summer, and I always insisted on getting Harris pizza at least once.

My parents moved to Indiana in 1995, so I didn't get back to Rock Island often, maybe every two years.  I stayed with my brother, who lived downtown, a long way from 14th Avenue, but I still insisted on ordering it at least once during my visit.

During the summer of 2001, a few weeks before I moved from New York to Florida, I was back in Rock Island visiting Ken, and for some reason I got the job of driving my sister-in-law's car to pick up the pizza.

I had never actually been inside Harris Pizza before.  I was surprised by how small the space was, how much it smelled of sausage and mushrooms, and how hot the guy at the counter was.

He was stunning!  College age, oval face, sparkling black eyes, wavy black hair, nice chest and biceps.  His name tag said "Jack."

I couldn't decide which I liked better: the smell of the Harris Pizza, or Jack saying "May I help you?"

My pizza wasn't quite done, so we chatted a bit.  "I grew up in Rock Island.  Whenever I visit, I always come back for a Harris Pizza."

"Where do you live now?"

"New York.  I have an apartment in the East Village." (I didn't mention that I would be vacating it in three weeks.)

Jack grinned.  "Wow, that's exciting!  I'd love to live in New York someday.  I'm studying theater arts at Augustana, so Broadway is my dream."

"Hey, I know lots of theater people.  If you visit New York, I could introduce you to my friend Blake, who works for...."

Then my pizza slid up from the kitchen.  I paid and left -- forgetting to give Jack my name or phone number.

The next day I went to Harris Pizza at about the same time.  No Jack -- and it would be pushy to ask the staff about him.

And I was leaving tomorrow!

Thinking fast, I called my friend and former bully, Dick.

"Harris Pizza!" he exclaimed.  "All that fat and sodium!   I never go near that place -- you might as well be eating a deep-fried Big Mac!

"The pizza might be bad, but you should see the pizza boy!  His name is Jack, he's a theater student at Augustana, and he's incredible!"

"Your type, huh?  A short bodybuilder with dark skin, an extra big sausage, and a degree in theology?"

"Well -- rather tall and fair skinned, actually.  More your type.  But gorgeous with a capital G!  And he was obviously cruising me!  Except I'm flying back to New York tomorrow, so I don't have time to pursue him."

"So you want me to pursue Jack for you?"

"Just go to Harris Pizza, mention me, maybe wow him with the list of celebrities I've seen naked -- feel free to add Tom Cruise to the list -- and maybe get his number.  I'll take it from there."

"I don't know, Potsie," he said, referring to Happy Days.  "Sounds like a crazy scheme. What's in it for me?"

"Well...if Jack and I hit it off, I'm willing to share.  Besides, you owe me for the 3,000 times you called me a 'sissy,' 'wuss,' and 'girl' back in grade school."

"Ok, ok," Dick grunted.  He didn't like to be reminded of his bullying days.  "I'll see what I can do."

The next day I went back to New York, and got so immersed in packing and truck rentals and lease walk-throughs that I forgot all about it.  Dick didn't say anything in his emails.

Then in November he emailed me: "Are you coming back to Rock Island for Christmas?"

"I wasn't planning to.  I was just there last June -- I don't want to wear out my welcome at my brother's house."

"You can stay with me.  I have a special present for you. Come the day after Christmas -- but not until 6:00 pm.  That's when the present is coming."

Puzzled, I agreed.  I spent Christmas with my parents, then rented a car and drove out to Rock Island on the 26th, timing my trip to arrive at 6:00 sharp.

Dick opened the door in a Christmas sweater, gave me a bear hug, and took his present -- a rather expensive set of wine glasses.  I noticed that the table was set for three.

"So, you mentioned a special present?"

"Right, right."  He yelled "Okay, now!" into the back of the house.  "Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets" from Damn Yankees started playing.

And a shirtless twink in a Santa hat and red jockstrap came dancing seductively out of the bedroom.

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets,
And little man, little Lola wants you!

"Merry Christmas!" he said, grinding against me.

I helped myself to a grope.  "You got me a twink?  How thoughtful!"

Dick grinned.  "You idiot, this is Jack -- the famous hot pizza boy you were all crazy about!"

Over dinner (for which Jack got dressed), I heard the story:  last summer Dick went to Harris Pizza as I requested, but Jack wasn't there, so he gave up.  But in September, he read that the Augustana Theater Department was performing Death of a Salesman, with someone named Jack as Biff.  He wasn't a big theater fan, but he went to the performance, talked to Jack afterwards -- sure enough, it was the same guy.  And they started dating.

"Since you're kind of responsible for us meeting, Dick wanted to surprise you," Jack added.  "But not recognizing me kind of ruined it."

"Well, I only talked to you for five minutes, six months ago.  But it's a nice surprise now -- you're even hotter than I remember."

"You are, too," Jack said.

"Ok, enough grade school 'Oh, you're cute!' bull!" Dick exclaimed.  "Everybody thinks everybody is hot -- now let's get busy.  We have some sharing to do!"

Jack moved in with Dick a few months later.  They've been together ever since.

See also: Hooking Up with My Old Bully