Dad wasn’t a huge pizza fan, he preferred burgers, but he was known to chomp down a good slice when the opportunity arose. My brother Pat had decided to get two pies for home since no one here was in any real mood to start cooking. Eli’s, seemingly the only real decent restaurant around Hamden, as far as standard American fare went, provided the goods and got the job done. I really love American pizza. It’s the dough, I think, or the cheese. It’s so thin.
I was snacking away at a triangle of sausage pizza and listening to mom as she told me how dad stopped talking for ever.
He was reading to her a book called the Tudors. I think it was more historically accurate than the show on TV which captured so much audience thanks to its gratuitous sex scenes. Dad was asking her to lie down so he could go back to reading. I can’t recall what part of the book they were in. I can’t recall her ever telling me. Maybe she couldn’t recall either. Then he suddenly just stopped talking. And he looked at her with begging eyes. And gripped her hand. They called one brother and then a sister and both insisted they call 911. Call 911. The ambulance didn’t take very long to come, apparently, I wasn’t there to greet it or its occupants. My mom and sister were anguished because they felt they hadn’t acted quickly enough, but I don’t know. I think they did a fine job. Couldn’t have been more expeditious. The stroke performed to T, too. It just operated faster. Sometimes there’s really just nothing you can do. There really is nothing you can do.
Then she went on to tell the story about another brother wanting to go to the Getty Museum in California because we had some cousin who was curator there, but it turned out he had left the position in 2000, or some 15 years before, and I figured that chances were he wouldn’t be available.
Maybe it was the jetlag. I hadn’t slept for nearly thirty-five hours and facts and figures were becoming blurred in my head. My father stopped talking. All of a sudden. That’s all I could remember.
I let those thought stew in my head as I finished off my fourth slice of za. Why couldn’t they make pizza this good in Spain? They make lots of it. It just ain’t the same. Eli’s didn’t start out making Italian food. Across the street, the flagship restaurant catered to your usual notch-above burgers and a island bar lined with TVs for sports lovers. There’s a sense it’s there to entice students from the local university, Quinnipiac, but my guess is that the prices don’t match the target customer. The pizza joint covers that department. If I had to guess, I’d say that the owners chose the name because their establishment is on Whitney Street, one of the main arteries leading out of New Haven to Hamden and beyond. That road gets its name from Eli Whitney, former resident of New Haven and inventor of the cotton gin, a machine designed to separate the cottonseed from from the fluffy material itself…apparently one of the most painstaking tasks in all of agriculture. It was also extremely time-consuming. So much so that plantation owners were beginning to abandon the use practice of forced human slave labor, not out of moral disgust obviously, but rather because it was no longer cost efficient. Whitney’s cotton gin changed that, unfortunately. While still in need of a great deal of perfecting, it did boost the production of clean, seedless cotton by tenfold, thereby giving it the breath of fresh air it needed to resuscitate. Instead of free labor, it intensified it. To this day, Whitney’s invention has been cited as one of the reasons the South continued to defend the horrid custom, which led to a war the caused the death of some 600,000 people. Certainly not something you’d like to put on your résumé. Whitney, by the way, came from one of the oldest families in New England. He died in New Haven, at the age of 57, of prostate cancer, though I don’t think much of the medical world could actually determine that at the time. Back then, they probably just said he died.
I finished my pìzza and announced I was no longer available for conversation, as I would soon be falling asleep. It was time for bed and I settled down to a long summer’s night of cable TV.