Mr. Idle,

As a longtime fan I think you would be great as Old Man Winter, the protagonist, in a filmed version of The Pizza Diaries.


Greg Farnum

Opening of same: The Pizza Diaries: Life and Death in the Restaurant Business

By Greg Farnum

Now this: I finally got a job. From ad agency to pizza parlor. I'm a driver. I didn't realize how bad I was at first. A disaster. It's a wonder they didn't fire me...not finding the address, forgetting the salad. And again not finding the address. It went on and on. I'm better now, and getting accepted by the crew -- even though I'm two or three decades older than they are. And getting to know them.      Where's Tim?      And again, later, on another occasion, where's Tim. Trash talking big loud Gulf War One veteran, concerned father, former owner of a pizza place, number one employee -- both driver and cook...seems to know every address in our territory ("After you turn off Perry," he tells me, "it's the first house on the second block on the left -- she's a Pontiac hillbilly whore but she'll give you a good tip") and every aspect of the kitchen. He doesn't show up. Again.      His house has no hot water.      Crack, the kitchen crew tells me. Heroin, they say about Eddie, the owner's cousin and partner. Maybe that was Older Ryan who told me about that. Older Ryan is on probation. For drugs. He seems to be doing pretty good, remaining pretty positive, hardworking and positive. Hear him later talking with Summer, Eddie's sister who's here to chop vegetables, about passing the drug test.      "What are you on probation for?” he asks.      "Cocaine," she says. "What about you?”      "Pills."      And a guy comes around a few weeks later on a Sunday night. Eddie goes outside to talk to him. "Is that Eddie's drug dealer?" I ask Young Ryan.      "More like Eddie's his drug dealer."      It's cold. Tim's house has no hot water and no heat. He says he has a space heater in his and his wife's bedroom. They sleep there with the kids.      "Did you man an APC?" I ask him when we're in the back pressing out dough, getting cooking oil splashed on us as we pound the dough into shape in the nasty old oven pans we use.      "No, we drove around the desert in old pickup trucks. We delivered munitions, the shells tied down in the back with wire. They bounced around, dude; big time. Sometimes one of them would fall off."      He shows me the thumb that was partially blown off.      I'm doing better now. With my hourly near-minimum wage and (especially) tips I can just about pay my/our bills (the ones we aren't ducking). And buy some Christmas gifts.      "I didn't know what to expect," I tell the Older Ryan, "I've never worked a Christmas Eve shift here." It's Friday. My Friday shift runs from 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. The other guys get here an hour earlier and work varying hours. "Neither have I," says Ryan, "none of us have." Then he complains again about Eddie. Shooting up in the bathroom, the allegation, last time we worked together. Younger Ryan was there that night. "If I hear about anybody on drugs I'm gonna beat 'em with a stick," he had said. He doesn't take drugs. Or not many. Or he's not dependent on them.      "He shoots up in the bathroom?" I ask, the scholar in me double checking sources. It's the kind of question I usually leave alone -- I don't get tips for scholarship.      "Yeah, couldn't you see it in his eyes?"      "I didn't look too closely at his eyes. I saw it in his face. He was messed up."      "He's seriously fucked up dude. I'd like to knock some sense into him. He doesn't know what he's messing with."      No orders. A bright, cold winter morning. We all do some desultory cleaning up. Still no orders. The place is looking pretty clean. Fairly clean. Close to clean as it ever gets.      Finally an order: two small salads for pickup.      Eddie decides to leave early but not before Older Ryan hits him up for some pills.      Quiet, still; nobody wants pizza early on a Christmas Eve. Older Ryan and Tim talk. They both conclude their lives suck. "I'm just a looser, dude, I admit it," says Ryan. Tim admits nothing.      Still no orders. The owner, Enmar, sends us home. We clock out and wish each other Merry Christmas.

     I was worried about this shift, the first one back after our Christmas vacation. Our Christmas vacation was one day -- Christmas, but anyway, I was worried because of my brakes -- they barely worked, which meant I had to drive slow, and they said I was too slow already, even when I had good brakes. The thing is, I refused to drive like a maniac -- like Eddie. On principle. I didn't want to run anyone over just so I could get one more delivery, one more tip. Plus, it was the only car we had, my family and I, so if I smashed it up we were screwed. Then there was the little matter of insurance. I didn't have any. If I got pulled over for speeding and the cop asked for proof of insurance we were screwed. Then there were those two old unpaid parking tickets, one of which was from a delivery. So I always drove safely -- at the speed limit or just a bit above. The result was that my position at the store was always a bit tenuous with Enmar and Eddie -- even with good brakes.      As it turned out I needn't have worried. As was usual for a Sunday Enmar, after cooking pizzas and fussing over football scores on the internet (he always had bets down), left early, leaving the place in Eddie's charge. Nobody likes to be there when Eddie's in charge. The staff -- the dwindling staff -- usually had lots to say about that, but tonight was different. For one thing, Eddie was well dressed; for another, his eyes weren't drooping (though he barked orders nonstop whether his eyes were drooping or not). Tonight he had guests -- his brother's family.      "You're Old Man Winter," said the brother using my store nickname (mine was one of the better ones), smiling and extending me his hand. "Hi, I'm..." whatever it was. Then he proceeded to talk and joke and eat pizza and discuss the football scores with Eddie. They both had bets down. Eddie it seemed had bets down on all the NFL games. Every week. "Damn!" he yelled when the internet showed the Steelers had just scored a touchdown. So they all talked and joked and had a good old time, except the wife who sat in a corner and minded and crabbed at the kids, two little ones, the youngest of which was dressed in a Santa suit. With all this jollity and pizza eating I was able to make my deliveries with a minimum of oversight and comment, all of which were done relatively quickly despite the bad brakes (there were few cars on the road seeing as how this was both a Sunday and the first day after Christmas) and pick up a few dollars besides, which was doubly good because with the rent coming due we needed every dollar we could get. And then the orders stopped coming in ("It's a dead night," Eddie said) and we started early on closing -- sweeping, mopping, taking out the garbage and generally tidying up. Young Ryan, the kitchen staff for the night, reluctantly put away his cell phone (upon which he apparently played video games) and even more reluctantly helped out. I looked around for some stray pieces of pizza to take home to the family. There were none. Still, I left feeling good. At least part of me did. The other part felt like I'd just dodged a bullet, for one night and one shift, and I'd have to start all over again with the next one.      "This sucks, dude," said Tim. He was having a bad day. Best driver/key employee, he knew every aspect of the business -- "Man I been doing this for twenty first job when I was a teenager was in a pizza joint" -- even owned (managed?) his own pizza parlor once. I often wondered how he went from that to fat guy in a dirty shirt working dough in a back room in between deliveries. Then, after he failed to show up for work a couple of times, I'd gotten an inkling, though I had no way of knowing if that talk about crack was based on facts or was just more pizza parlor gossip/bullshit. There was less doubt about his temper and his mouth.      "Cocksuckin' motherfucker! I hate that motherfucker! I'd like to smash the motherfucker's face 'cept I'm afraid I'd break my hand again. Broke my hand too many times punchin' guys. Last time was in jail. Aw fuck it, I'm gonna take a shit. You hear that everybody? The fat guy is gonna take a great big long shit!"      Beneath all that, though, was a decent guy. For instance, he tried to get a job for his neighbor, Cindy, when she got laid off.      "You know her? How do you know her?" asked Enmar.      "She's my wife's former lesbian lover."      "You're kidding."      "No dude I am not kidding."      She got the job, part time, working in the back room prepping the food and cleaning, and helping out with deliveries when things got busy. She was good, too, a hard worker who didn't mind pitching in and helping you out with whatever you were doing. Small, troll-like, on a diet, pleasant to talk to, going to school so she could better herself and provide a decent education for her son, and with a mind of her own. "Don't forget your salad or your pop or anything," yelled Crazy Eddie one Friday night when we were swamped with orders and everything was chaotic and the emphasis was on rushing out the door as soon as possible rather than standing there and taking a second look at your order. "Remember, anybody who forgets anything gets fined twenty dollars." Candy's eyes opened wide. "The day I get fined twenty dollars is the day I quit," she said, "I ain't no robot."

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