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A New York Slice
I was five, or six and we were visiting New York. My birth mother had passed away when I was three and my father had remarried. Barbara…
A New York Slice
I was five, or six and we were visiting New York. My birth mother had passed away when I was three and my father had remarried. Barbara didn’t want to be my step-mother and so she began the adoption process. We were staying in her family home in the woods on Staten Island. Cardinals flitted to and fro in the trees of their yard and the commuter trains went by on a hill behind the house.
My father and I had come across to the city on the ferry to visit my aunt and uncle and spend the morning at their apartment. New York was a different place then; it was not the gentrified, shiny, outdoor mall that it has started to become. And their apartment was in the middle of it all on the west side of Chelsea. As a child there was a bit of magic and a lot of wonder in the apartment. A collection of bells collected from world travels, African carvings, and the sometimes visible rabbit that lived in the fire place. My aunt and uncle had found the rabbit, injured, on the side of the road on a trip and nursed it back to health and it had become a part of the family. Visiting there was a little like Alice going to wonderland.
On the way back we needed to get lunch. Beneath the stairs leading to the ferry terminal was a pizza stall. It was small and wedged into the space between the ground and the ferry terminal. We entered and were immediately hit with that classic smell of a New York pizza place, the toasted smell of crust and dropped cheese in the ovens, the smell of freshly baking pies, and the heat from the ovens when the man behind the counter opened one to check on the pies. My father ordered two slices, which came on paper plates and we went to the counter and looked out of the window as we ate.
The pizza was cheesy and perfect with a slightly pinkish-orange oil that dripped down your wrist or onto the plate. Not being from New York and being young, I did not yet know to fold my slice so that the cheese didn’t come off in one sliding bite. So most of that slice was eaten in segments. The cheese, and then the crust. The three elements occasionally combined — crust, sauce, and cheese and created magic. The cheese was thick and creamy, almost buttery — not like most of the cheese now. It had a quality that I can’t quite describe, but coming across it on a slice today immediately takes me back to that stall under the ferry terminal. Amazingly the place was still there when I came to the city to live twenty four years ago and it still made the same pizza. Probably one of the best in the city. It’s gone now. A victim of the remodel that took place more than a few years ago, but sometimes I will get a slice somewhere, with that pure special cheese, and it will take me back to that first New York slice, and in my mind I’ll be standing next to my dad, looking out the window, having a slice.
JOHN HARBOUR is the author of the novel, Nighthawks, as well as short fiction and essays. An incurable wanderlust, when he’s not experiencing other parts of the world, he lives with his wife in New York where he is currently working on The Heart.