My Tomb of Entertainment

by
Nic Ishaq


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Some people don’t know how to chill. That’s never been my problem. My problem is that I chill too hard. What this means is that I take relaxing activities to new extremes. Food, booze, drugs, the hedonist’s panalopy––each of these has had their day with me. But some of these dubious passions are more benign than others. Pizza, for instance, is the oldest and dearest of these friends. And in New York City, I am in no short supply of pals who like to visit.

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Though that’s putting it a bit mildly. To really approximate my relationship to pizza, the best reference is logically Gollum from The Lord of the Rings. There is a fellow with a healthy appetite! I am like that goblin. But pizza is my ring. Given half a chance, I will eat that little pretty right off of Frodo’s finger. Not only that, but I’m hyper vigilant about how pizza should be consumed. When a pizza is on the way, my girlfriend is swiftly put on notice. To her eternal pleasure, military time commences. Each minute of the thirty to forty-five before the pizza arrives is precious. Has the movie been chosen? Have we selected the exact right one? Are plates, glasses, drinks at the ready? There is a science to this process I tell her. “I have worked it out down to the finest detail,” I’ll say, as I peer out of the kitchen window, convinced that the delivery is about to arrive.

My history with pizza is long and deep. My obsession began at an early age in the suburbs of Northern Virginia during family night, which was on Fridays. We’d eat Domino’s at the kitchen table and afterward head down into the basement for a movie on our large rear-projection television. When my parents divorced and I moved down to Florida with my mom and sister, I resolutely carried on this ritual alone. Stealing away to my room with boxes of Domino’s and Blockbuster tapes, I performed my ablutions not with holy water but with ice-cold Coke in the dark. Enraptured in the television waves, I began to secretly offer myself up––body and mind––to the pizza gods.

As with most substances that I got my hands on, I upped my tolerance over the years. My quota grew from two to three to four slices. I gained a few pounds for my cause. One day I hit the zenith of my slowly building arc: I became a Domino’s employee, capable of consuming to myself an entire large. By this time I had dropped out of my first college. My dad had cut me off. A newly minted atheist with a penchant for substance abuse, I humbly dawned the beatup Domino’s polo shirt they gave me. During deliveries, I kept on hand kingsize joints of crystalline weed and fought off waves of paranoia. It was okay for a while, but when they asked me, a few months in, to start putting the Domino’s sign on top of my car, I knew the moment to resign had arrived. Time did not, as it did with my other bad habits, diminish my zeal. Where the universe concocted various devilries for me regarding other substances, pizza remained a benevolent spirit. Years later, by the time I had moved to Brooklyn and discovered the glory of New York pizza, it was the hearth upon which my fire was built. I put my hands over pizza’s warm glow to fend off the encroaching darkness. Silence fell over all of the city as I took that first bite of a slice dripping with cheese and grease, swiftly followed by the crisp sip of cola in a glass ringing with ice. It made the world an utterly wholesome place. I consumed whole pies in a dreamlike state. Snow, rain, stars, and sky spun around this constancy.

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I did not maintain this high for as long as I would have liked (i.e. indefinitely). As years progressed I reverted to closet eating Domino’s––the only place open in the depth of night. By this time I lived in Harlem. Arriving home late after a shift, my partner asleep in the bedroom, I would order online and watch my pizza begin its journey through the various stages of Domino’s patented Pizza Tracker. Then, stealth as a mouse, I’d tiptoe into our tiny bathroom, shut the door, call the store up, and at a whisper ask if they could make the pizza I just ordered “well done.” Only recently did I learn that my partner often heard these secret mumblings through the bathroom door. Other times she was peacefully unaware. Occasionally, walking out of the bedroom unexpectedly late at night, she did catch me: deep in the scent of pizza, a slice midpoint to mouth. Once, in the darkest days of my obsession, I hid the pizza box under a blanket to throw her off my trail. 

If it’s not obvious at this point, I should spell it out for the record and for myself. Pizza is an obsession that I both take comfort in and am occasionally punished by. Those early days with the family must have planted a seed in my mind: pizza is security, peace, and contentment. And as I encountered the world, it’s various ills, and the ways it never quite met up with the expectations, pizza became the escape hatch, the control in an experiment with too many variables. 

Still, it was the best of all of my bad habits. And one day the universe finally provided me with a leash. Having spent the better part of a decade or two taking my comfort, I looked around to discover myself in the world of the 9-5, whose main perk, aside from keeping me out of trouble, is incessant internet surfing along the lines of what an ADHD toddler might get up to given free rein of a computer. Naturally, what with my new responsibilities, I could no longer stay up all night eating pizzas and watching movies and get to work on time. Plus, the pleasure of pizza is greatly reduced by the idea of a morning commute.

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So now, I average about one pizza night a weekend and that seems to be an okay place to be. Mostly these pizza nights are just enjoyable, but once and a while, the stars align and gift me something special––a
return to that place of wonder and escape from my early days of Domino’s and VHS tapes. I’m talking about when the movie feels just right, when the pizza and cola set off the pleasure receptors of the brain, and the lights are dim enough that all you know is the world projected from the screen, a fantasy that carries you far away and into a dream. This type of checking out, the kind that’s earned by being mostly responsible with whatever takes you to that place, is perfection. 

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And for those of you troubled souls out there who struggle to chill, to kick your relaxation up a notch and into new extremes, you can always live a day in my life, a chapter from my old book, with only a few small steps. Follow these suggestions to a t, and I promise you roughly an hour and a half escape from politics, from responsibility, from the very reality which you find yourself the center of. In short, an encounter with the god of New York City whose name is Pizza. May it bestow its mightiest blessing upon you.

1.) Pick the right crew or fly solo. Your crew should be comprised of “chillers.”

2.) Order from a local pizza shop. Preferably the best one in town. (If you’re desperate and Domino’s is your only option, you might as well have them throw in some Chicken Kickers.)

3.) Have cola on hand.

4.) Choose from one of the top pizza movies listed below. Check iTunes or your local library.

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a.)Willow,1988–Stars Warwick Davis and a young Val Kilmer. Full of prophecies and witchcraft, I grew up on this one. It always left me with a sense of longing.
b.)Dune,1984–Unless you know Frank Herbert’s Dune, I imagine you’ve never heard of a heart plug. The concept will no longer be foreign to you after watching this movie by David Lynch. It gets a bad rap. But if you temper your expectations, it’s magnificent––a retro futuristic odyssey where people consume a drug called Spice that lets them see into the future and makes their eyes glow blue. Stars Kyle Maclachlan, Sean Young, and a murderous Sting!
c.) Fright Night, 1985–Some movies are made for synths and gleaming ’80s guitars. This one takes that idea to new heights. Sound up. Lights down. School’s out. And theres a fucking vampire next door

5.) Enjoy the first bite as the opening credits roll. And not a moment sooner. •