The white ‘78 Dodge Aspen with the blue Landau top is humming along I-15 on a warm summer night. Windows are rolled down while on the radio, “Frampton Comes Alive” is playing for the 17th time today on a worn cassette. On the passenger seat next to me is a red “hot bag” with a logo declaring “New York City Pizza!” to all who cared. A piece of notebook paper is carefully taped to the storage console between the seats, offering directions to my next two stops.
The year was 1986. I am a pizza delivery guy.
New York City Pizza was a small venture located in North Las Vegas, about a mile from my house. You could enter the place through doors on either side of a big bay window in front. Once inside, pinball machines greeted you on the left while a row of four-top tables and red banquette booths spread out in front of and to the right of you. An open kitchen lined the back wall, the scent of pizza sauce and baking dough wafting throughout. Tchotchke hung on the walls and from the low ceiling.
I’d answered an ad in the local paper for a delivery guy, this being years before Internet career sites made it easy to job-surf in your underwear. I dressed up in my best pair of jeans and button down shirt.
NYC Pizza was owned by a guy who’d been a former DJ in Vegas. At that time he’d worked under the moniker “Jefferson Stone”. A tall bearded man, he chuckled when I reacted to his name.
“Holy crap, are you serious?!” I proclaimed when I met him. I had spent several years hearing this guy’s voice over the area FM rock station a decade before. This was like meeting royalty for a 20 year old raised when actual DJ’s spun actual records.
He said he had come up with the name at a funeral, where he glanced the guestbook and noticed someone with the name Jefferson Stone was in attendance.
“That’s kinda dirty…don’t you think?”, I asked.
“Yeah, but its not like I tried to pick up on the widow,” he responded matter-of-factly.
The day I started he took me around the place, showing me the pizza oven, the table where the pizzas were created, the walk-in coolers, etc. Steve, the second-in-command of the joint, stretched pizza dough while watching us. One wall was filled ceiling to floor with a giant laminated map of the Las Vegas valley. A light film of King Arthur flour covered every horizontal surface.
I filled out the requisite new hire paperwork. Then Jeff led me to the giant map wall.
“This is it” he said…
“This is what?”, I asked.
“This is how you map out your deliveries.”
For those of a certain age, Google Maps was 25 years in the future from this point in the story. There was no Siri or other virtual assistant to help us along the way. We used Rand McNally maps, Thomas Guides and AAA Trip-Tics to find our way on the roads. My task from that day forward was to get the address and main cross streets of my destination, then look it up on the big map using the index (“A-4” or “G-6”) located on the left side. I would then write down turn-by-turn directions to the delivery spot.
I don’t remember my first night at work but I do remember a few highlights of my time at NYC Pizza.
There was our “Monster” pizza which was essentially two large pizzas merged into one giant pie. In order to transport the Monster, we had to tape two large pizza boxes together, into which we slid the 5-pound beast. This crazy thing was a favorite among college kids/frat boys and always garnered an extra tip.
There was the cadre of fellow delivery drivers the names of which escape me, but whose faces I remember like yesterday. Between deliveries we were like cabbies at a taxi stand, relaxing under the summer moon sharing, cokes and stories and lies, waiting for the shout of an upcoming job.
There was the time I delivered a large pepperoni to a trailer park in the Northwest part of town. My knocking on the cheap aluminum frame door resulted in a young guy with a white sheet wrapped around his waist…and nothing else. 20 feet behind this guy was a bed with a lone female figure sitting up against the headboard, waving “Hi!”, the sheets pulled over her breasts but revealing her naked shoulders. Hendrix blared over hidden speakers.
“Thanks for the pizza…hey man you wanna come in for a beer?”, he asked hazily.
“No I’m good but thanks.”
“Ok, another time dude!”.
To this day I don’t know what would’ve happened had I taken him up on his invitation. Maybe gone in, had a few beers and left. Maybe taken part in a devil’s threesome with his girl. Maybe ended up in his bathtub, packed in ice and missing a kidney. All in all probably made the wisest choice in leaving.
NYC Pizza was a fun place to work for a college kid at that time. Driving around town, listening to the radio and getting easy tips truly had no equal at that point in my life. Jefferson has since sold the place and its now a battered taqueria in a neighborhood that has seen better days. I hope that everyone from that time has moved on to great things as they showed me a lot of camaraderie and love, the spirit of which I try to bring to any business I run.