San Diego Stories by Salvatore Filippone

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December 28, 2004

A Conversation In Bronx Pizza

The guys shout over the din in their heavy accents, “Lady, you gonna let these slices get cold? Come on an’ get ‘em!”, “Two ricotta with mushroom”, “Pie for Barbara! What? Jacqueline? Ok, Jackie come get your pie!”

I order a couple of slices for myself, watching a girl mouth the words “Pepperoni” and “Mushroom” to her boyfriend, who stands behind me. The line is out the door. Loud conversations die off at the roar of the clerk, “Slices! Two! Ricotta!” The ‘Girl from Ipanema’ is playing on the radio, and the guy in the kitchen sings along as he shoves another pizza in. The fans are on full blast, because of the heat from the ovens. I notice how the cheese melts on the pies in the display case.

I grab my slices and snag a table. I’m lucky, because it’s usually a zoo in there. I scan the walls, which are decorated with pictures of boxers and Italian-American actors. DeNiro, Pacino, Marciano…it reminds me a bit of the pizzeria in Do the Right Thing. You know, the whole Wall of Fame thing. It’s funny, I feel like I’m in the Bronx, and I’ve never been there. The sign in the window says, “Let us box you a pizza”, with two boxing gloves hanging underneath the letters. The owner is an ex-boxer. He came out to San Diego and opened up Bronx about five years ago.

I remember watching as they moved in and set up shop. I was a bank teller at the Wells Fargo drive-thru office that used to occupy a corner of First Ave. and Washington St.

I remember watching as they moved in and set up shop. I was a bank teller at the Wells Fargo drive-thru office that used to occupy a corner of First Ave. and Washington St. It used to be a little Asian place that never really took off. Then again, it was kind of a funky area to open a restaurant back then. Washington Street is an old artery between Mission Hills and Hillcrest. For a historical street, it’s had its share of freaks and shows. From my perch at the branch, it was almost like looking into a large aquarium.

I grab the slices and head over to the table. As we work on our slices, I continue my ‘shortened’ life story to the girl across from me. I have to watch myself because I tend to go off on tangents, making a short story a very long one. What can I say? I like to talk. I think that I talk too much, especially when the other person listens quietly. I hope that I’m not boring her. Oh well, I tell myself. I try to relax. I enjoy her company. She’s very cool.

I met her down at City. We’re in a class together, called Packaging and Design. You see, I got this idea in my head that I needed to go back to school and ‘really learn’ about graphic design. She was there, doing the same. While I do it mostly to kill time and meet people—you know, networking—she’s really there for the education. It’s a hell of a graphic design program, for thirteen bucks a unit, with some good instruction. But six weeks into the semester, I learn that the design scene in San Diego is one big clique, and you have to pass an initiation to get in. Not really, but if they had a secret handshake, I wouldn’t be surprised.

We talk design and get to know each other. We find out that we have friends in common. It turns out that I’ve secretly had a crush on one of her good friends for years, whom I met while working in the bank. This friend was a customer of mine. This friend has her own business. She also had this long-haired boyfriend that tagged along with her. I was inwardly scoffing at him while eyeing her…quietly, of course. You know, if a guy likes a girl, he always likes to think he should be the one with her instead of the boyfriend. It's a competition that's already lost, so what had I to lose?

She had long, brown hair that came just past her shoulders, brown eyes and her face...she was beautiful.

The day I first saw her was like any other day. All she did was walk into the bank one day and stand in line. There was just a way about her that struck me. The way she stood there, kind of lost in her thoughts. She had long, brown hair that came just past her shoulders, brown eyes and her face...she was beautiful.

And that was it.

Apart from helping her a few times, I just enjoyed whenever she came in. Eventually, I quit the bank and never really saw her after that, but somehow always remembered her.

I've been rambling. I try to change the subject, but too late. The slices are nearly devoured, and she glances at the clock on the wall. We finish up our slices and head home. We don't ever really hang out again afterwards, but we see each other at school and say "hello" whenever we bump into each other. I left City shortly thereafter, and began working again.

Some time later, I finally run into my old crush at the Casbah, during Jivewire. In the sea of dancing bodies, she appears. She looks beautiful, as always. This time, no boyfriend is present. They’ve broken up, it seems. She sees me and smiles. I smile back. The music is suddenly a dull, muted thump, as she speaks to me.

She says, “Hi.”

“Hey”, I reply.

Then suddenly, from out of nowhere, a tall blonde grabs my crush by the arm and pulls her back into the sea of people, disappearing forever. I haven’t seen her since, but I suppose that I'll see her again someday.

- S.F. 2003

Posted by sfilippone at December 28, 2004 09:43 PM


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Posted by: Mike at December 22, 2004 09:45 PM

I used to live down the street from bronx! - at albatross & washington. I lived there during the time that a truck drove through the front window: for weeks afterwards the front of the store was covered with "get well soon" cards: everyone loves bronx!

AND - speaking of secret crushes, my roommate at the time had a crush on one of the bronx pizza guys, (the bald guy with the moustache, i think...) but she never told him so either. ah, l'amour...

ps. the white stone pie is the best. add sausage & artichokes!

Posted by: some chick in PB at December 22, 2004 09:47 PM

ya buddy!

Posted by: me2 at December 22, 2004 09:48 PM

Always putting a smerck on my face. It's true, you do have a sweet cool flow to your writing. Then again, it's just your way, comes naturally to you!..

Posted by: green eyes at December 22, 2004 09:48 PM

You definitely have the knack for storytelling! I love the minimalism of your site. The colors and the images complement eachother beautifully.

p.s. I LOVE Bronx pizza but I will not marry it.

Posted by: lucina mitchell at December 22, 2004 09:49 PM

Interesting story. I would have liked to see more about what gave you a crush on the girl in the bank. What made her stand out so vividly in you mind and make you infatuated with her? So infatuated with her that you lost yourself on a date with another woman and began speaking of her. Was it her eyes, laugh, the way she tilted her head when she was unsure how to answer? How about the graceful curve of her neck that begged to be kissed? How she chewed her pen when she had to wait in line. The business clothes she wore that were so similar to the 1940s era woman. Give us something to become infatuated with her too. Right now she is nothing more than a gender in my mind. This works for the forgettable woman you are on the date with, but not the one that still haunts you years later.

Posted by: don at December 22, 2004 09:50 PM

bronx pizza is a block down from my second high school. i went to city while i was there, and scuttling between the two i would often stop by. they loved my high school (cortez hill academy, you might remember the tattered blue awning) because we were their lifeblood, since each one of the hundred students had a crush on their pizza.

i found your site looking for something to link to when mentioning pokez in my livejournal. i found your picture via google, but i'm sure you have an article discussing it somewhere. i certainly wish you had a search function, but until then i'll page through your archives.

Posted by: puck at December 22, 2004 09:51 PM

that's right across from my house.

Posted by: joshua tuscan at December 22, 2004 09:53 PM

Nice story. You seem to have the knack of telling a story that flows and is "nice" to read. Good job!

Posted by: Mike Audubato at December 22, 2004 09:54 PM