I had my first piece of pizza 50 years ago on the streets of New York. I think I was on the West Side, like 7th or 8th Avenue and up in the '80s.
Since that time lots of pizza has passed my lips. Frozen, at a restaurant, picked up, slices from street vendors. I've even tried to make pizza (with virtually no success).
The one thing I don't do anymore is order pizza to be delivered.
I get pizza to go and places like Zaffiro's, Mama Mia's and The Calderone Club, which always deliver top-flight stuff for me to take home. For parties you can pick up a couple or a couple dozen.
But delivery? I can't remember the last time I ever got a delivered pizza that passed muster.
Cold, soggy ... I can't begin to count the things that go wrong with delivered pizzas. And I can't understand it. I mean we've gone to the moon. We have cars that don't use gas. Technology is moving faster than the speed of light.
How come we can't develop something that makes delivered pizza edible?
Until someone can give me the name of some place that delivers a pizza that tastes just like one I get in a restaurant, I don't need any pizza delivery numbers on Yelp or Foursquare or whatever.
I'm a guy who loves his Asian food. Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, Japanese or Chinese all make me happy.
I am also a local guy. Emperor of China has replaced the long-forgotten Eddy's Place on Farwell as my favorite. Dining in or taking out, I have never been disappointed.
This week my wife and I found ourselves out at Mayfair at dinner time and decided to tray P. F. Chang's. It's a chain restaurant, so I didn't have high expectations.
How wrong I was.
The place was busy when we got there but managed to snag a table in the bar where they had full menu service. That became a plus immediately. Then our server, who was doubling as a bartender, stopped by with menus and took drink orders. Nothing special there.
But a look at the menu convinced me that there was stuff here that I hadn't seen in all these years of Asian dining.
I opted for the pan seared lamb, which came out in short order. Nicely shaved pieces of lamb with shallots over a bed of shredded hot lettuce and I was in absolute heaven. It was one of the best Asian dishes I've ever had.
P. F. Chang's is not budget dining but it's not outrageous either. The best thing about it was how surprise I was that it was as good as it was. Even though it's a long way away, I wouldn't mind getting stuck at Mayfair at dinner time again.
I spent a lot of years traveling with Jim Irwin. He and I both covered the Bucks and Packers for about five or six years. You get to know someone pretty well when you're on the road with him.
In his early years Jim managed to have a good time. But he eventually finished with the drinking and partying and became a health nut. He was also a golf nut and a theater nut.
And he's part of one of my favorite on the road stories.
One year we were covering a Packers game in New York against the Giants. The game lasted longer than expected. I had rented a car and Jim and Max McGee joined me in the car on our way to La Guardia, under a tremendous amount of pressure to make the plane.
We sped along the highway, Jim reading the map and Max screaming for me to drive on the shoulder.
Finally we saw La Guardia coming up fast, but our plane was due to take off in a few minutes.
"Just leave the thing," Jim shouted at me.
"What?" I replied.
"The car," Max yelled. "Leave the damn thing."
We pulled up to the door and jumped out, leaving the rental car with the keys in it and ran like hell to successfully make our plane.
A week later Avis called my boss to ask "where the heck was the car" I rented.
I called Jim to verify our story and testify that we didn't steal the car.
"I have no idea what he's talking about," he said to my boss. And he left it there until about a week later when he called to admit he was just messing with me.
Jim was a wonderful husband, father and broadcaster. But in addition, he was a fun-filled friend.
There's been a lot of talk lately about how tough it is for locally owned hardware stores to be successful with the competition from places like Home Depot, Menards and Lowe's. I can understand it, but I've got my favorite local stores and I'm pretty loyal to them for a number of reasons.
But first, let me tell you about Home Depot.
I used to know a guy who worked in the news department at a local television station. He got fired.
A couple of months later I was in Home Depot and I see this guy coming down an aisle, wearing one of those orange vests and that big button that said something like, "Just Ask. I Will Help."
We chatted and he was kind of sheepish about his major fall from grace. But we got back to order and I asked him about how I'd go about fixing a certain plumbing leak. "Hell, I have no idea," he responded and then took for to find someone who might know. He never came back.
I have been a customer of National Hardware for decades. The guy who started it, the late Marshall Rotter, was a friend of my dad's. The saying among my circle of friends has always been that if you couldn't find it, go to National and it would be there. The back counter at National is one of the best places in the world to get answers and spend a few hours just loafing and chatting. Amazing what you can learn.
National isn't the only place however. I am a loyal Brady Street Hardware customer and lately the new Blifferts in Riverwest has begun to make inroads into my loyalty.
And finally a word has to be said about Crown Hardware on MLK. For as long as I can remember this has been THE place for plumbing materials and advice in this city. People come from all over, including professional plumbers, to get help at Crown. They can occasionally be a little grumpy, but it's like going to a great deli with the old Jewish guy snapping at you from the front register.
You put up with that little bit of crap for the experience.