In recent attempts to branch out regarding my diet, I reached a point where I thought “After twenty some odd years, I think I’m over pizza.” But when asked to check out a pizza eating contest at the Bell House in Brooklyn, my immediate, genuine reaction was “Sounds great!” After all, what better way to learn to love something again by watching people shove piles of it down their throats? Plus, I assumed even as a spectator, I could eat for free.
Investigation led me to find out that the whole thing was sponsored by a new local company specializing in packaged condiments. “It’ll revolutionize the way you eat pizza!” they claim, which to me is a rather bold statement. But, I have a journalistic responsibility to cover something like this.
I get there fifteen minutes early, anxious to see the “show,” and more importantly my free food, especially since I haven’t eaten lunch. As I walk up to the door, I notice the chalkboard stating, “Contest starts at 8:30.” I can accept that the free food won’t be until after this contest-disguised-ad – I’ve been to time-shares, I understand how these things work. But I see the tall pile of pizza boxes on the other side of the room, so I wait. Also, there are tons of little spice packets strewn all over the bar.
So I wait, in the “back” of the room, though really I’m closer to the entrance. Years ago I had no problem doing things by on my own, but these days, standing around alone in a mostly desolate bar feels awkward. I keep to myself as best I can, reading copies of The Onion and Village Voice, when I hear a woman’s voice say “Oh, hey!” I get excited for a second – did someone I know show up? No, it’s some random woman who, as I look up says, “Oh, you’re not the bouncer. I don’t need to talk to you.” Thanks a lot, you awful, awful person. And good on your observational skills; so many bouncers are skinny dudes that hang around in old ski jackets.
I’m starving, cranky, and don’t even want to stay anymore, but I figure at this point it’s worth it to stick around – until I notice that someone in charge is asking people if they want to compete, as “we’re short on teams.” Considering there were supposed to be three teams, it’s becoming clear that this still isn’t starting anytime soon. And even still, is it even worth it for what’s inevitably going to be one or two slice of cold, stale pizza?
As far as I’m concerned, I’m done for the night, until I remember I have a responsibility to cover this stupid thing. I make a compromise, grabbing some of the “pizza packets” that have been strewn about, and get back on the subway back to Manhattan. I can’t wait any longer to eat, heading straight for the first crappy place I see; a Two Brothers, offering “$1 slices,” a sure sign that you’re in for something terrible. I buy two slices (after some jerk cut in front of me, because he was in dire need of a Fresca – really, jerk?) and lay them out on the table. I eat the first one, and my thoughts are confirmed – it’s just crappy pizza. For the remaining slice, I empty out the packets, garlic and oregano. My first reaction is “Wow, they really don’t skimp on these packets,” as the slice is covered. I don’t have high hopes, but when I try it – “Wow, this $1 slice of pizza isn’t bad now.” Maybe I should have grabbed more of the things.
Jogging back, I reach Penn Station just in time to catch a train home. The moment we pull out of the station, I’m suddenly hit with the worst aftertaste of my life; the price you pay for journalism.