Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Right Angles Pizza, Part 2

Last time we learned the back story of Aristotle "Telly" Souvlaki (and by the by, only the last name is fake, his real name is indeed Aristotle), the proprietor of Right Angles Pizza in central Connecticut with his wife Georgia and their children. Today, I would like to share with you some of the finest and most bizarre anecdotes from my friend's sister's employment as a waitress in Right Angles Pizza between 2000 and 2006. My friend, Clive McEnroe, tells me that while Telly was periodically capable of working like a superhuman, accomplishing unbelievable amounts of work in shockingly short amounts of time, he more frequently liked to do little to nothing while his family and employees worked busily around him. To this end, he had a few special spots where he could relax to his fullest potential in the restaurant, often during business hours.

The first and most secluded of these spots was in the semi-finished attic space of the restaurant. Telly had some furniture up there, including a couch to which he would regularly retreat to take naps. He would also use this space to meet with some of his unusual and inexplicable contacts, such as a Russian chess player who would occasionally stop in to play a chess match or two with Telly, or a deep sea fisherman who sometimes would take Telly on his deep sea fishing expeditions. Sometimes he would even meet up with a few shady characters to play Baccarat, making him one of six people in the world that aren't in James Bond films that actually play Baccarat. He also had a number of questionable business contacts, that we'll discuss later.

His second relaxation spot was located in a back hallway of the restaurant, adjacent to the kitchen. This space was otherwise unusable, so Telly decided it would be a good place to put a chair. But it wouldn't do to have customers watch him just sitting in a chair in an empty hallway, so he built a wall of pizza boxes to provide some privacy. But sitting in a private pizza box room must get boring, so he invested in a television. Now, most people would probably put the TV on a stand of some sort. Telly decided he would instead suspend his TV from the ceiling. They sell mounts for this, but Telly decided to dangle his TV from a rope instead, and there it dangled for several years (it has since been replaced with a proper mount, but it is unknown if this was just the inexorable march of progress or due to some gravity-related tragedy).

His third and least impressive relaxation spot was to lie down on top of the chest freezer located in the restaurant's kitchen. From there it was a simple matter to keep an eye on things while resting or actually falling asleep. I wish this paragraph were longer.

Telly is a man with interesting political views. He has twice been vocal on a hot topic of these past few decades: gay rights. One time, I am told, he was sitting in his 2nd relaxation area, watching his dangle-TV when apparently some news story came on about gay rights or a gay pride parade or something similar. This, for some reason, infuriated Telly. He stormed out into the dining area where employees were serving and guests were dining to make a formal declaration to any and all listeners: "There are gay rights in California! There are gay rights in Washington D.C.! I will tell you where there are no gay rights! Right Angles Pizza!!" He then stormed back to his pizza box TV fort without another word. Now, this sounds kind of heinous, I know. But Telly is literally an old world kind of dude. And he also later contradicted this outburst.

One day a perfectly normal middle-aged lesbian couple came in to the restaurant for a meal. They sat and ordered just as anyone would do. This time, it was Georgia who got all old world over it. She beckoned her husband to her and stage whispered to him, "Telly! Do you know who these women are?" "No," he answered, "who are they?" "They are LESBIANS!" she hissed. Now, maybe Telly is not so intolerant as previously indicated. Or maybe he just misunderstood her to mean the women were from the island of Lesbos (old neighbors?). But this time, his response was decent and humane: "So what if they are lesbians? They are paying customers like any others. Leave them be, Georgia." So Telly's positions on social issues remain unconfirmed.

Something very important about Telly is the fact that he is what is colloquially referred to as "a sucker for a deal." This results in the Right Angles Pizza menu occasionally being changed or replaced by whatever bargain Telly has recently come across. This sometimes coincides with some of his unusual business contacts, mentioned earlier. For example, for some strange reason, Telly has made a connection with some sort of watermelon dealer, and twice a year he gets an obscene amount of watermelons at a fabulous price. When this happens, it is obvious to any who visit the restaurant, because guests are served watermelon slices with just about any damn thing they order. Particularly favored guests or employees are given entire watermelons to bring home. This actually sounds pretty awesome. He has a similar deal with an Icelandic cod dealer, and from time to time really pushes dishes featuring cod on the menu.

My favorite story about Telly's unusual bargain hunts, and my favorite story about Right Angles Pizza overall is this next one. As a pizza restaurant, something vital to Right Angles' daily operations is cheese. They simply need cheese to make the lion's share of their menu items. One day, the kitchen was running low on an important cheese; perhaps it was mozzarella, perhaps ricotta. The actual cheese has been lost to the annals of history. What is known is what happened next. Telly went out to buy more cheese. Now, it is important to note that another of his curious traits was a tendency to disappear for inexplicable lengths of time, regardless of how needed he was wherever he was supposed to be. This trip would turn out similarly. What should've been a 10-15 minute trip to a nearby store turned into 30 minutes. It turned into 60 minutes. It turned into a full 90 minutes, with the restaurant growing ever nearer to a cheese-less kitchen with each dish prepared.

Finally he returned, arms full. Had he procured the needed cheese? Well... sort of. Telly had somehow come across yet another deal he could not pass up while out. Instead of cheese, he was carrying a stack of four full-sheet sized cheesecakes. Where did he get them? Why did he get them? Mysteries abounded. But someone was displeased with this shocking turn of events. Georgia, in front of customers and staff, literally shrieked at her husband. "Telly, you STUPID MAN!!! We need cheese to feed the customers! What in the hell can we do with all of your cheesecake!?"

"Tonight," declared Aristotle "Telly" Souvlaki proudly to his restaurant, "EVERYONE will eat cheesecake!"

And so they did. Cheesecake was served with absolutely everything. Unordered cheesecake slices were brought to guests, free of charge. As usual, all was well, and all was bizarre in the world of Right Angles Pizza.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Right Angles Pizza, Part 1

Readers of this blog should know by now that I like unusual or funny stories. I like hearing them, and I like telling them. Many of my favorite stories come from my family, and these have been chronicled in the Tales From The Lebowskis series of entries that have taken up most of this blog for the past few months. However, not all of the stories that I love have come from my family, and so today I'll begin bringing you tales from other sources as well. Now, this is not the end of Tales From The Lebowskis by any means. But I think it's time to break from those classic stories for a little while and bring you a few other amazing tales.

Today I'd like to begin relating to you the story of a very special pizza restaurant in central Connecticut. This story is not my story, my connection to this restaurant is tangential at best. A good friend of mine who will go by the pseudonym Clive McEnroe told me all about this restaurant and the man behind it. His sister, Ashley McEnroe, was employed as a waitress there from about 2000-2006. Clive has graciously given me permission to print his stories here, and we have gone over the details together to ensure that you, the reader, get a finished product that is both amusing and accurate.

The story of Right Angles Pizza (not the real name of the restaurant, of course, but appropriately close and a reflection of a detail to be revealed later) is really the story of a man. A Greek man. A shockingly Greek man. This man is Aristotle "Telly" Souvlaki. His appearance, manner, and mode of speaking are all strikingly stereotypical of a 1st-generation immigrant to the US from Greece of his age. But Telly meets not only the modern Greek stereotypes, he even meets some of the ancient ones. Notably, he is a man who loves recreational geometry. He would periodically interrupt his employees while they were in the middle of helping customers to pose them little geometry quizzes such as "how can I tell the height of this room without getting up from my chair?" and then proceed to explain basic to mid-level trigonometric and applied geomtric formulae while his customers sat hungry. Hence the pseudonym "Right Angles Pizza."

But Telly's story begins in the nation of Greece, where he was born, raised, and educated up until he was about 16 years of age, in the early 1950's. Something happened then that would set his life on a course less travelled than most. One day he was outside his school on a recess when a younger student began to annoy him by throwing pebbles at him. Irritated, young Telly demanded the boy cease. He did not. Telly warned him that, "if you do not stop, I will slap you!" He didn't stop. Telly stood up, walked over to the boy and delivered a mighty slap across his face, as promised. Unfortunately for Telly, his hand-face thunderclap was witnessed by a teacher, who told Telly that he would contact his father and let him know about his son's misdeed.

Now, most people would've just gone home and faced the music, or maybe tried to avoid their father for the night. Telly decided more drastic measures were needed to avoid the shame of facing his irate father. He left the school and immediately went to the docks and got hired onto a cargo ship bound for South Africa. He spent the next decade in South Africa working, making interesting and sometimes shady contacts, and developing a lifelong love of South African wine. He did not contact his family at all during this time, nor did he contact Georgia, his teenage sweetheart whom he had promised to marry and take away to America. But he did not forget.

10 years after his sudden departure, Telly returned to his native land unannounced. He strode up to the door of the girl he had left behind 10 years prior and announced to her "Georgia! It is me, back! We can now be married and go to America!" She was neither joyous nor angry, merely confused. "Telly?... Where have you been?" But in the end, love won out and married they were and off to America they went. Their next few decades are unknown to me, and when our story continues next time, we will pick up the dawning years of the 21st century at the family owned-and-operated business Telly, Georgia, and their 3 children would run: Right Angles Pizza.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - Catch Me!

As those readers who have met my family may know, the Lebowski genes carry with them a certain body type. This body type could be described as "stocky" or "full-figured." While the Jerboa family genes carried by my grandmother, Mary or "Nonnie" trend slimmer, Lebowski genes seem to be dominant in most of the offpsring of the Lebowski-Jerboa union. As readers may know, this is certainly the case with Stephen "Hulka" Lebowski, but he is not alone in this. I too am a heavy-set man. And until recently, my aunt Patty "Pappy" Lebowski was a big lady too. I would like to note here that she has recently trimmed down quite a bit and is looking and feeling great!

One thing Pappy has always had is a lot of spirit. She is the first to sign up to plan a party, host a party, set up a party, attend a party, or help clean up from a party. She is a party-oriented individual. She has a playful and exuberant spirit that was not at all done justice by her role in the first Tale From the Lebowskis. At parties she has always been willing to get up and sing karaoke, lead the movement to the dance floor, or even give a decorative deer's head's antlers a new hat made of a brassiere. There is one party game of Pappy's that will forever live in infamy however.

It was New Year's Eve in the mid-1980's. Several of the young adult Lebowski's had gone to a local establishment we'll call "Billy J's" to ring in the new year. Among those in attendance were Pappy and her darling baby brother, Steve "Hulka" Lebowski. Pappy was dressed to the nines for the occasion, wearing a slick new dress. A few drinks in, Pappy decided to let her spirit run wild and decided to play her favorite party game with a man who could handle it, her enormous brother.

She started running towards Hulka, who was standing near the doors to the club's kitchen. Hulka, enjoying some hors d'oeuvres, was at first, unaware of his sister's charge. To alert him, Pappy shouted two words that would be immortalized by the events to follow:


Hulka turned and saw his sister in a full run coming towards him. He had only seconds to act. He rapidly oriented himself, eyes wide, and prepared to catch his sister, who by this point had left the ground, flinging herself towards her target. Her aim was good. His stance was good. His arms closed around her.

This would be the end, except for the fact that Pappy's new dress was not just slick-looking, it was literally slick. At least, this is what Hulka insists. He maintains to this day that Pappy was debuting Teflon's new line of evening wear that New Year's Eve, and the results should be, by this point, predictable.

As Hulka closed his arms around her, Pappy's airborne acceleration failed to stop. It, at best, slowed. She slid through his grip and continued her forward momentum into the swinging kitchen doors. In they swung, and in she fell. As they swung back out and crashes were heard within, out flew a pair of shoes (it is unknown if her shoes were also from DuPont's latest line). One hit the floor and tumbled harmlessly to a stop. The other, as if guided from above, landed on a waiter's tray of empty and half-finished drinks, overturning some glasses, but stopping cleanly on the tray.

So goes the legend of Pappy, "Catch Me," and the Teflon Dress. If only Monica Lewinsky had owned one.



Too soon?