1. The car in front of me this morning (the light was red when I started taking the picture, I promise).
You can't tell from the photo, but the person driving the Chevy truck is a young, blond woman with her curly hair clipped up on top of her head. If you look closely, there are two stickers in her back window. Bottom left: an 03 Dale Earnhardt memorial / tribute. Top right: Free Tibet. Because that's how we roll in East Nashville.
2. My brother and I made a quick trip to Oak Ridge, TN over the weekend to visit our grandmother who is ill. We debated about whether to just go up for the day on Sunday or leave late Saturday evening. Both options would result in the same amount of visiting time so the final deciding factor was that if we went up Saturday evening we could get Big Ed's Pizza.
In our world of big box stores and mass produced chain restaurant food, I dig a good family-owned / local hangout. The more out-dated and dingy the better. Oak Ridge's best is Big Ed's Pizza. My aunt worked there when I was little and I think most anyone who grew up in the town has had a job there at some point. The wood floors are old and worn. The walls are covered in pictures (as you can see through the window). The Budweiser lamps and decor around the bar are straight from the 70's. The kitchen is only separated from the rest of the restaurant by a low wall and plexiglas divider. Scores of teenage employees scurry about like elves in Santa's workshop clad in their uniform of jeans and a white Big Ed's t-shirts. They toss dough in the air as the little kids line up (just like I once did) along the dividing wall with their faces pressed to the plexiglas to watch the pizzas being made - and if you're lucky - be handed some mozzarella. To-go pizza's sit on a cardboard round and are then slid into a brown paper bag. No pizza boxes here. And no credit cards accepted. And if it's a busy night you can expect to stand in line on the sidewalk for quite a while.
When I went away to college it was a good distance away in Ohio. I missed a lot of things from home, but for the most part I was not really ever very homesick. Mid-way through my first semester, however, I was having a particularly horrible day during a particularly horrible week. (None of actually horrible, I'm sure, but at the time it was...) Among other things, I had been stuck in the library working on a paper and missed eating dinner with my friends. I didn't see anyone in the dining hall I knew - a fate worse than death for a freshman. Finally I saw a couple of guys from my dorm and asked if they minded if I sat with them. They shrugged, seemed generally indifferent and immediately went back to their conversation like I wasn't there.
My 18 year-old brain - already prone to massive neuroses and boatloads of melodrama - began to rehash the current and previous events of the week and immediately began to spiral downward. As I stared down at my soup and sandwich, trying to be invisible, I started to question why I had ever thought I could hack it at this school socially or academically and then began to calculate the amount of time it would take me to pack my stuff and the amount of money to get it all home. Just as I was starting to make a list of things I would need to do before the end of the week (drop classes, buy packing tape, etc.) a guy shows up at the chair across from me and says "Hey - can I sit here!?" He really wasn't asking since he threw his tray and books down on the table before I could even answer, but then he took off his jacket and sat down. And was wearing a Big Ed's T-shirt. I nearly choked on my grilled cheese.
Turned out he was a freshman, was from Oak Ridge and had played football for Oak Ridge High School. Turned out he was also kind of a jackass, even more unhappy with college than I was at that moment, and was planning to transfer to play football for Ohio Wesleyan instead (perhaps he didn't believe them when they said we play football without a quarterback...) But I didn't care. It didn't matter. It was just the tiny sign I needed to get me to pull out of my death spin of self pity and woe.
I was in the same state of mind last week with family, money and job worries that I was not handling very gracefully. But a little visit by Big Ed late on a Saturday night once again helped to pull me out of it.
Some critics would argue that the quality of a Big Ed's pizza is not worth the amount of time and money you have to spend actually obtaining a Big Ed's pizza. Maybe. But that's really not the point.