An Autographed Pizza Box

May 31, 2010

In the past I have posted things from my upcoming book “Days Remembered” and things from my first book as well. Now that Days Remembered is nearly done I am picking up book #3 (“Notes To My Kids”) again which is about my kids growing up.  This piece is one of my favorites and tells a story that still touches me today.

How many kids have had the proprietor of a pizza place autograph a pizza box for them? One of mine did at Charlie’s Pizza one day near where we used to live.

Charlie’s pizza was a neighborhood institution on the east side of Fort Worth. For over 30 years Charlie and his family owned it and produced New York style pizza for we BBQ and Mexican food obsessed Texans. His pizza was always fresh and delicious, topped with fresh ingredients and a good thin crust. It was very tasty and we ate there frequently as did many who lived on that side of town. In fact one year it was voted as “best pizza” in Fort Worth.

Over time Roger was old enough to realize what Charlie’s was and asked for it. He also knew who Charlie was since we ate there many times. Roger would always be happy when we announced we would be eating there and ate his share of each pizza pie. Like us, it was one of his favorite places to eat, and remained so over the years.

However the most memorable thing about Charlie’s was the time Roger wanted Charlie to autograph one of the pizza boxes. Roger was very insistent about this so one day I asked Charlie to sign one containing a large pizza we ordered. Charlie looked at me funny and I explained why I was doing this. He smiled real big, whipped out a pen, and ascribed his John Henry on the top of the box. I took the pie home in its box and showed it to Roger. Roger loved it and kept the box for years, sauce stains and all, in his closet. It was a valued treasure in his little boy eyes even though it started as a plain pizza box.

Over the many years since then the box disappeared in moves but the act was not forgotten. A couple of years ago before he sold his business I was in the restaurant and like so many times before Charlie, now grey-headed, was behind the counter making pies. He took my money and I saw the stacks of empty pizza boxes behind him and asked him if he remembered signing a pizza box years ago. He paused briefly and said he did recall doing that with a big grin on his face. I refreshed his memory about how happy it made my son. He got a laugh about that and said no one had ever asked him to do that as long as he had been in business.

So a plain, ordinary pizza box, just one of billions like it, was signed and treasured by Roger like an autograph penned by a famous movie star or athlete. That small act of kindness by Charlie Langdon shows us that the star on life’s stage is not always someone well-known and famous but instead can be an average person. Indeed Charlie was an average person but he was still someone very important in the big, bright eyes of a little boy who liked his pizza.

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Winscot Road

May 27, 2010

Those of you who read my work know I return to certain themes.  I like to write about the flow of time and where we fit in that endless river.  Certain places I like make me feel the desire to express that.  One such place is Winscot Plover Road.  The note below, from my in process book “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered”, is one such piece where I express my thoughts about time, a place, and where we fit into that equation.

One place I always liked to go was Winscot Road which is southwest of town and is actually  named Winscot Plover Road.  Before I knew you I went there from time to time to enjoy its rolling pastures, the view of the sky, and the sound of the wind blowing through the grass.  It was one of the places most people did not know about or never saw while passing through to somewhere else.

It is a place that looks like it is locked away in a time decades long past.  The prairie there rolls up and down across fields with hardly a tree.  If you look west you won’t see a house at all, except a couple where the ranch hands live.  You could think you are hundreds of mile away from any city or town, a place populated by more cattle and horses than people.

On a bright winter day with some high clouds streaming above you could just as easily have been in Wyoming or Montana half a continent away.  But you weren’t, you were just a few minutes from downtown Fort Worth and the sea of houses spreading always from its center.

With these images in my mind from those prior visits we went there one Sunday afternoon on one of those pretty winter days I enjoy so much.  We drove there in the pickup and had a six-pack cold beer tucked away. 

When we arrived we pulled over at the top of my favorite rise on the black top road alongside the railroad track.  I rolled down the windows and we sat there sipping a beer.   The wind blew gently and there was no one around.  No radio, no TV, no people, just the sky, the clouds, and us. 

We enjoyed some time there talking but also just looked in silence at the scene that could have been from a western movie with John Wayne.  We were part of a pastoral scene from another time. Cattle were slowing grazing in the pasture beneath the blue and white speckled sky with not a living person in sight. 

We melted into the surroundings and were part of what was there in front of our eyes.  We were no more important than a strand of barbed wire, a blade of grass, or a lone mesquite tree up on one of the rolling hills.  For a short time, until we drove back home, we were part of Winscot Road it seemed.

Places like that teach us something.  They show us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that many things we hold dear are not permanent.  What remains after we leave this life is the Earth, the sky, and the creatures that dwell there, all oblivious to the cars, TVs, and shopping malls that loom so large in people’s lives. 

So while we can be part of a place like Winscot Road from time to time we are just visitors on its stage, which is more lasting than us or our possessions.  We are just actors playing a small, short part in time’s long play.  And finally the fading spotlight on our own existence is lost in the brightness of eternity as others go down life’s long path to places like Winscot Road and fade into its rolling plains as we did that day.