FoodThere Is No Better Pizza Than Drunk Pizza
An ode to the late-night dollar slice, the the best thing you’ve ever eaten in that single moment.
I don’t drink much anymore, and I don’t miss it. These days I’ll have a drink or two on occasion but I can’t remember the last time I drank enough to get drunk. There’s something related directly to it that I do miss, though, a longing that rears up when I pass the open door of a bad bar and its unmistakable smell follows me down the street for half a block. A bad bar—which is often the best kind of bar—smells like hastily mopped-up vomit and the chemicals they use to clean glassware. I don’t miss those bars, or even those moments when, after a certain number of drinks, the night pivots on its axis like the sharp turn into the last two lines of a sonnet, and everything could be good forever, the moment when the movie shifts into montage, saturated by the awareness that you are unlikely to remember any of this night happened.
What I miss is something that comes after it, after the bad bar and the buoyant, misguided optimism. There are few human experiences that are genuinely one’s own, genuinely solitary in that they can be neither enhanced by the presence of another person, nor even legitimately shared, experiences in which the presence of another person fundamentally dissolves the experience. The few things that exist in this way are wild and precious ones, delicious in their bounded solipsism.
What I mean is, I miss drunk pizza.
Pizza is the way that we secretly crave failure.
Drinking is inherently solitary for large and complex reasons but also because it is simply easy to lose track of people with whom you were spending your evening. Drunk pizza happens when you suddenly find yourself alone and don’t really mind that you are. Other people matter so much less than this warm, oozing smell reaching for you from the illuminated doorway of some crap pizza place open late in whatever neighborhood you find yourself in. Drunk pizza smells the way getting into bed when you haven’t slept in much too long feels.
There is something specific about pizza, too, a food that reaches back to the dumb and permitted way we wanted things in childhood. No matter its thin-crust artisanal iteration. At its core pizza can never be a sophisticated thing to want—it is only possible to want pizza, any kind of pizza, even the kind with black truffle sauce, like a sticky-fingered child. But the part of you that wants drunk pizza doesn’t want black truffle sauce. Drunk pizza is single syllables and declarative sentences. Pizza is the thing you order when you’ve had an extremely bad day, when for one reason or another you’ve given up on life. Pizza is the way that we secretly crave failure.
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The thing about drunkenness is not that it removes shame but rather that it removes the mechanism that permits us to pretend we do not find shame somehow enjoyable. Drunk pizza is a giddy permission. You slide like a seal through water across the sidewalk and into the cramped and heavenly quarters of the pizza place, its confines seething with a wide-eyed and pessimistic fluorescence. The pizza slides of a tray—one cheese and one strange and regrettable flavor, the weirder and worse the better—and goes to live for a long few minutes of anticipation in the back of an oven. You pay and take the box, sweating cheese grease and sagging to one side, out to the street. Drunk pizza is not a well thought through proposition, and one often ends up eating it standing up on the street while simultaneously realizing it’s far too much food to be eaten while standing up on the street holding the box in one hand and the pizza in the other.
But you don’t care, because drunk pizza cares about nothing but its rich and glorious self. Drunk pizza closes a universe in on its own desires. The cheese is too hot and burns your tongue and probably you get sauce on your face and you don’t care. It is the last teetering moment before an inflated heroism collapses down to annoyance, regret, and sleep. This pizza is the best thing you have ever eaten and you are never going to get old or face any consequences. You are a pure creature of want; you need nothing more than your small and salivating self. For once your body is only an interior and not an exterior. It is all right to live a life of small scrabbling comfort, all right to sink into a single moment as though you could tilt your timeline off a horizontal axis and onto a vertical one. Stay out late. Go home alone. Eat pizza. Be free.