• Russell Jaffe

THE PIZZAMAN DIARIES 3 // Russell Jaffe

DAY 6

Now and then, you know, the despair sets in.

About what I'm doing, and the state of education, and the state.

It's getting cooler. The heat is sort of waving off the trees, I see children playing on the street.

This would be the part of the film right before the nuclear bomb drops, very late in the epic.

A slow motion of children playing. I am in my pizza uniform. A man down the street is mowing.

The trees remain unsuspecting.

The mercurial peace of trees, streets, and ordered roads, with their construction and doors and windows

and structures about to blur into the unnecessary of irrational nothing. That's what destruction really is.

I made a friend tonight, Joe. Joe says there's nothing conceptual about this job.

I've been in so many homes--that's something to say. I'm a pizzaman but

I've been in so many homes.

Sometimes I feel desperately sad,

But sometimes I am working.

Sometimes I have these ideas that feel so exciting and fresh that it just makes life a thrilling adventure.

And sometimes I just want to quit everything--except Carleen and Celestine, the loves of my life--

and just leave.

These powerful feelings like a sandstorm that carves and scoops the flesh from the white of the bone

and any moist marrow to the wind

totally overshadowed a weird delivery: someone literally across the street from the restaurant

ordered delivery.

Another sad thing: when people order food they could simply just get, if they were able to.

That makes the thing less sad, writing it here. Maybe they couldn't. You never know.

People have their reasons.

People are very unique,

and they're entitled to be who they are.

But it was different to walk across the street with pizzas and salads that time.

There's a guy I drive with, younger-middle-aged, in good shape, he's black, he has the same glasses I do

and his attitude, smile, and low-rumble chuckle are extremely uplifting before deliveries. He's an

electrician for AmTrak. When he asked me if I was a teacher--word has gotten around that one of the drivers is, or was, a teacher--he looked at me in the eyes so earnestly on his way out with hot pizza, and I wanted to write that he lowered his brow, but I don't think he did. I think he stared me straight on, it was arresting. And he said,

"That's such an important job."

And I actually said, "what? Delivering pizzas?"

And he said, "teaching."

It just made me so sad.

I don't know how else to write this, it's my diary.

I thought about the students I've had, especially all the black ones. So many poets write about the body, especially the black body, the self as commodity, and trauma. Our government, our selves,

our suburban landscapes that have become these white supremacist dreams realized, homogenous, separate and away. We've just heaped

trauma upon these people who, if you break it down, are MORE American than most of us.

An entire systemized group of people for no reason--racism, the roots of it in education. The agony

of the American experience.

We're delivering pizzas in a burning world.

I can feel the urge to be a teacher because of the listening haloing the act.

But I'm addicted to the assassination of all this.

I've spent 10 years as a solo--

pack up your gear, complete the mission--

the figureheads above you are shadowy, the jobs temporary and clandestine, they always involve people.

I'm so good now and getting up and going. I program my own orders now and give them to myself at the

dispatch computer. Then I deliver them. It is clean and temporary.

Sometimes I find myself fantasy-booking the jokes people dispense to me:

I got in the elevator of a 60s-feeling building of deco, gold shattershot clocks, and yellow dust.

The woman who got in with me was going to the floor before me.

She took a look at the pizza box, shook her head, and said,

"My neighbors don't deserve that."

I wish she'd stopped right there, but it turned into a joke about, "I wish that was going to me!"

It turned into a joke about the pizza. It didn't need to be about the pizza! It could have been left there,

ready to unpack, ready to unbox, unsliced!

Naked and fearless, unabashedly human!

DAY 7(?)

Already I'm losing track of the days.

There is so much waiting. The little corridor, ovens, a door, metal countertops on wheels. Waiting!

There was an incident w croutons. I tried cleaning up croutons that had spilled from their individual plastic serving ramekin each come in in the crouton bin, but the croutons spilled everywhere. Loose croutons fell deeper as other crouton packs opened and spilled as my hand wriggled past them, trying to catch

the croutons.

I was just trying to help!

But what happens when we wait? We wait with our arms folded like war dogs. We wait like under tin roofs in a hard rain. We wait arms folded like parachutes. We wait, our clothes hanging off of us, the heat, and the orange yellow walls that could only pale as white, we wait in the steamy kitchen, and the heat, the bulbs, and the heat of the washed floor, and the ovens, and the baking pizzas always on, and the heat, and the light we wait out like the door opens like drinking in night's drinks the dark.

I finally got surly with a customer. A woman said, my boyfriend will come right out, meet you on the corner, and get the pizzas.

He did, and he drew a sharp line with a crook in the end on his Visa receipt right through the total...and the tip.

"Is ok?"

I said, in my most frustrated, droll tone, "SURE."

He repeated back to me, somewhat surprised, "sure?"

I said, "you need to write the total in here, and you *can* give a tip right here, if you want."

He said, "Oh, sorry, sorry." He gave me $5.

I see the wall here, and its writing. I know the old way is that you're in the service industry,

the customer is always right, you do the job and you don't mouth off. I know the old way!

I provide the service, or something. I don't know,

in these brutal new times, the old way is not going to work.

One thing I'm nostalgic for is grass, which is still here. It might be the most future-thing about me: missing the grass like it's gone already.

The future is something that stays up late

Laughing my ass off at work. This guy is an MMA fan and he won money on Saturday. How does he make his picks? He plays the UFC video game and does computer simulated fights. That's right: he doesn't play. He watches the computer fight the computer. And then he makes his picks based on that.

The funniest thing of all is he smoked my picks this past weekend, my picks that lost me $100.

It needs to be said that it became dark, I watched that happen. Me and the radio.

It needs to be said this kid stared me down like a demon. I got to this house, and an older man and a kid,

couldn't be more than 7, were sitting on the porch. The kid, the prototype of a Sandlot-style bully

in a tanktop, blonde crew cut, and scowl with freckles. The dad, or grandpa, older, pot bellied, in a white

t-shirt and jeans, said, "good thing you're here! He was gonna beat you up!" (I was 3 minutes early.)

I did my pantomime: "Don't hurt me! I have pizza!"

This kid never broke off his scowl or stare! Even for a second. I said, "...you're gonna let me go, right?"

He said, "no."

Ok, pal! One of those highly relatable, hard to describe moments where you laugh

because things are weird and sound is a buffer between the grinding churl of weirdness against

being a person.

People really do need sound.

Have a good night, pal!

DAY 8

I am at the French street festival in oak park, drinking chicory coffee, and I am deaths agent. I am not death, but I want for rain. I want for blistering heat. I want for sheets of ice. I want you home tonight and ordering pizza, the heaviest, doughiest, cheesiest, sauciest pizza there is, at that; making the paycheck of death's work, working towards death, for death. And until you've recognized how you are an agent of death in your work, I don't want you giving me a hard time.

So this is August 1st, 2017. I am so overwhelmed with sadness.

I don't want to be the crying pizzaman. But my paycheck for $115

has sent me down this terrible path of, like,

I was willing to accept a lot of BS because I didn't know much I would be making.

I don't know what to say, really, about how life has turned out here.

I'm very lucky with Carleen and Celestine. It's hard being a dad

but it's the best thing ever.

Every job I've had has been temporary. My head just never stays in one place,

and I want it to, that's the funny thing! I feel like I'd be good at working consistently!

I quit the Free School. I worked really hard at adjuncting, and I thought that if I worked my ass off

for a year I would be a shoe in for a job, and I'm not a spring chicken here, I've been doing this 10 years.

This whole country feels fucked. I look at AWP posts and I see these poets and artists gathering and sharing

in clusters closed off to non-academics. IT IS AGONIZING TO WATCH!

God, it's so fucking sad. Knowledge is just institutionalized, it feels like!

This kid I work with...this sweet, sweet kid with his fiance in Mexico, this guy who drives and then works

overnights at the psyche ward. They could share much through writing and reading--other people

could learn so much from them! And THEY could learn a lot from these artist academics about

queer theory, non-binary, about race and class and learning in indirect and abstract ways, dear god

FUCK THIS drawbridge!

We're just walling each other off!

I feel so sad tonight. So sad I don't even want to drive. And I'm closing tonight!

I can't put it better than this: I saw a baby bird

being eaten clean by flies.

When I walked near, the flies flew away but they were right back the second I passed them.

My least favorite thing ever happened tonight: the cooks and dishwashers power clean the kitchen.

The ovens come loose from the wall, the floor runs with ceremonial feeling water, water

like a slow dropping curtain into the drains in the floor you never noticed.

Well right about now

I'm standing outside and feeling pissed off.

I'm thinking about growth and maturity and how those things might mean actually feeling deadened

to doing things you don't want to do. Or is that just the privilege?

I'm looking in the windows across the street in the impossible glass-windowed condo high rise

with projector TVs and dimmer track lighting and I'm thinking,

I've never drawn a dime. How do we make this?

Is everything designed--targeted--towards certain peoples' comfort? Are we just going to ignore the existential dread?

Back inside, as the cleaning has moved away from the delivery corridor nook,

I get caught in this web that feels like a profound tangle when I think about evolution, technology,

and time; we've just been repurposing the earth for so long, making newer and newer things. It's just crazy

to me to think that all those lithium batteries, space shuttles, flavor extracts, controlled robots, drones,

they've all been here, ready to be sculpted from the putty of the adaptable earth. Forever!

There was a meatball sub left out everyone cleaning. The foggy steam around it, making it a clearing,

no one eating it. The sandwich among the steam and the hot water and the industrial refrigerators opening

to more steam like the door to a party with more loud guests. The sandwich among the metal countertops

and stained aprons, small and worn like time itself,

like a revelation.

Watched a fleshy piece of cheese pushed into the drain but not go

down.

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