The big book/comedy show will be March 26, 9pm at New York Comedy Club. It is special because its where it all began. I really hope I see plenty of familiar faces there. As I think about New York, my first order of business is to get a delicious, chicken parm slice at Carmines Pizza in Williamsburg, BK.
Here is something I wrote about the experience there. I initially wrote it for the book, but it didn’t make it. Well hope you enjoy, and see you all in New York soon.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a haven for rimmed glasses and thrift store shopping. Once full of abandoned warehouses and an affordable place to buy crack, the youth have taken over. Artists migrated here from all parts of the world and transformed it into a community full of boutiques, art stores, and overpriced sushi restaurants with waterfalls.
There is plenty of live music, galleries, and coffee houses to keep the mind sharp and alive with creative freedom. Sounds like a great place for a young comic like myself to bounce ideas on the other aspiring minds. Well then why are my best and only friends in the neighborhood the people at Carmine's pizza?
It’s a whole world more complex than a Pollock painting, and more acute to the ears then Bob Dylan's screeching voice. It’s a neighborhood thing that had its roots long before the word hipster even fit itself into skinny jeans. The people of Carmine's have been in Williamsburg their whole lives. They have seen it change, but they haven't seen anything like me.
I see Joey, the pizza delivery guy, outside. He calls me "Cuz" in a deep Brooklyn accent, as he hides underneath a Yankee cap.
"Take a ride with me, Cuz, see what I do"
I didn't expect to do this tonight but I'm in a grey van about to deliver a pizza with the most unsound member of the Carmine's family.
Instead of keeping his eyes on the road, Joey is more worried about entertaining me as he is fixated with the radio.
"What do you like, Cuz? You like rock? You a rock guy?"
"Sure," I said. Which gives reason for him to crank up the radio and blast a Soundgarden song.
"Or you like disco? You like disco?"
And that gives him the freedom to quickly change the station and hear the latest Kanye West jam.
"I'm more of a rock guy, but let’s talk."
"It’s all good, Cuz. Let’s talk, what do you need to know?" Joey said.
I ask him a simple question and his answer turns into a long-winded diatribe that’s tangled up chasing its own tail, it’s the strung together shouting of patients in a crazy house.
"You like living here?" I politely ask.
And off Joey goes, "Yeah its great here. Everyone here knows me. There is some shady motherfuckers but no one fucks with me. I'm good people, you know, Cuz? I'm good people. They know I'm crazy, I'm a crazy motherfucker. But good people you know? You’re good people. But I'm fucking crazy. People know better, they fuck with me I'll bust ‘em the fuck up. But I'm good people. I'm good. You hear me, Cuz?"
That made me afraid to ask another question.
I let the Soundgarden song fill the air and take us to the first delivery. Joey told me to wait in the car and assured me he’d be back soon. He came back five minutes later and before he gets to the door he tells me he has to piss.
Unzip; his fly opens and in the middle of the street he whips out his dick and starts peeing against his van.
"It’s all good, Cuz. I had to piss and I don't give a fuck."
So I head back to Carmine's and get a warm greeting from the waitresses, Mary Ann and Jen. Cute and from the neighborhood, they give the place plenty of eye candy. All the waitresses really like me, though none of them have any desire to fuck me. They save the flirting for the fireman and policeman who come in. I ask about their lives, and their boyfriends and they ask me about my career. Sometimes Mary Ann calls me a movie star when I walk in and it embarrasses me.
Perhaps it’s an appreciation for saying more to them than only my order. So many people just come in for their two slices after a night of partying. Carmine's was my hangout.
I sat in the back and ordered soup from Jen. She asked me when my next comedy show was happening. I told her tomorrow and it excited her.
"Oh, I might go. I have tomorrow off."
I offer to comp her but I know she isn't going. Many times she assured me she would be in the crowd and I've yet to see her. But it never bothered me. Nobody who worked there had actually seen me do stand-up live. Once I leave Carmines, that circle of friends exists no more.
In the back I sit staring at the Yankee jerseys and baseballs. I people watch and admire a girl who orders a slice to go as she struggles to make it to the counter in her tired feet. Troy takes her order.
He is the youngest of the Carmine clan, and possibly the strangest in a normal way. Like he wants to be normal so fucking bad. He can't get over my wrinkled shirt or that I sometimes wear the same clothes two days in a row. He once thought I was from Alaska because my hipster jacket said Alaska in the ironic cool way.
It must’ve been strange to live in the neighborhood his whole life and see all these new freaks move in. To him it’s like some sort of zombie cult sucking up everyone’s soul into funky clothes and bizarre hair dos. Sometimes in his head he must be wondering what happened to Frank Sinatra and Frankie Valli? Now those guys were fucking men.
The soup comes and I'm not alone for too long. Carmine quietly enters and quickly sits across from me. It’s his place, but by the way he acts you wouldn't know that.
He recently had a baby boy and it’s made him a lot more lethargic on these late nights. He is reading the NY Post and texting someone back and forth. We haven't said much to each other tonight, yet its still an honor for him to sit next to me. We have dreams. We made this commercial about a Red Sox fan that enters his pizza shop only to be ambushed by Yankee fans, and we discuss it possibly hitting. Will ESPN buy it or maybe the Yankees? These talks bring us together. I’m the closest guy to the Carmines family who isn't originally from the neighborhood, and that’s not easy.
I asked him if he liked all the new kids who moved in the neighborhood, and he tells me he does.
Maybe that’s an obvious answer from a businessman in the hood, but it seems sincere.
"The other day this kid brought his father into meet me, and that really meant something to me," Carmine said.
Telling that story brings out a little more animation in his face as he becomes more awake. He has pride in every Yankee picture and ball that decorates his store, and he wants to share it with his customers.
This place is authentic New York. A little extreme with a mural of Yankee greats when you walk in, but give him credit for going completely hardcore by having absolutely no Mets pictures anywhere.
It’s getting close to midnight and in steps the characters. There’s Gerrado, the good-looking Italian guy, fresh to the neighborhood. He speaks in broken English, and what comes out of his mouth is humorous.
"Go fuck yourself," is the only words that come out coherent, in his limited vocabulary.
Victor hasn't stopped by in a while. Overweight and always sweaty, he defends his Mets as Carmine annually rips them apart.
Artie is always in the back, hanging out. One of my best friends of the crew, he likes to brag about his ways with the ladies and his disdain for falling in love. He often tells me, "I gotta eat that pussy." It has almost become a mantra.
And then comes Philly the Reverend. He is expected to be by every midnight to pick up pizzas to hand out at homeless shelters. His good deed often comes with a price. Philly looks like he has been through a war. He obviously had a past with demons but now has found God and he is willing to sing about it. Disheveled in old clothes and a roly poly body, he comes in always with a smile. Every night he gets ambushed.
As soon as he enters Carmine's, Joey is summoned to harass him, and here it goes.
"Hey Philly, I got a blowjob this weekend from a hooker. This girl was sucking my cock. "
It works, Philly is miffed.
"Joey you’re sick, you need help."
"Hey Philly, she sucked all the cum out of my cock, she sucked me dry, I shot a load right on her face."
And then Philly begins to frown, he wants to heal.
"Joey, Joey, why, this sex talk? Sex, it’s about love. You have to get help. Joey you are not well."
It doesn't stop.
"Philly, this girl, fucked me right in the back of my car, riding my nuts. What you think of that? Whens the last time you had your nuts sucked?"
Everyone explodes, laughing. Its gotten to Philly as he leaves with pizza pies in hand and spirit broken. Joey runs to Phillies car for one more message. He grabs his crotch and screams.
"Suck these fucking nuts, you fat fuck."
Again plenty of laughter and a soul not saved.
What a cast of characters we have here," Carmine says.
He shakes his head to the ending of another night. I concur as I'm still here long after my soup and pizza has been digested. Three hours spent in a pizza shop and I'm wondering why. Maybe because it does feel like a family I never had. Many nights I wonder in there depressed thinking I'll spend five minutes and I end up spending the whole night. All the ribbing, and all the lighthearted teasing brings me satisfaction. They don't look like me, but they get me and they care about me. Or maybe the answer is really simple; the food is that damn good.