In 2012 we bought a house in Tucson with the idea that we would become snowbirds. We would live six months in Bend, OR and six months in Tucson. (Now we live here year-round.)
After we got settled in to our Tucson house, we decided to get out and discover the town. The first weekend in December is the Fourth Avenue Winter Arts and Crafts festival. Fourth Avenue is sandwiched between the University of Arizona and downtown Tucson. The Fourth Avenue stores range in style and taste from funk and grunge to hip and chic. During the December festival traffic is re-routed and vendors set up booths on the street. It is a popular event.
That morning we got off to an early start. By 11am we were getting hungry. Being new to the area we had no idea where we might grab a bite to eat. Suddenly we became aware of noise and jostling on the sidewalk behind us. We turned around to find a young woman setting up a table with plates of pizza on it. Our search for food was over before it had even begun.
Which brings me to the subject of pizza. I grew up in New Jersey in the 1950s when pizza was just catching on in America. Some Italian restaurants had pizza on the menu, but free-standing pizza parlors were not yet common. The original pizza was all about a thin, chewy crust; spicy tomato sauce with special herbs and stretchy cheese melted on top. Pizza was simple but the ingredients were not. Chefs guarded their recipes as if they were family jewels—and in a way they were.
The key to pizza is the crust. The Italian chefs would roll their dough into a ball, then stretch it out by throwing the dough up into the air, making a fist and catching the dough with the knuckles of their hands. The falling dough would stretch out as it hit their knuckles. They repeatedly threw the dough into the air until it was expanded into a large flat shape. Then they would flatten it out on the counter and apply sauce and the cheese and stick it into the oven.
There were a few toppings you could add like pepperoni and sausage but these were secondary to the pizza itself. The dough, the tomato sauce, the spices and the cheese made the pizza special. The was the original New Jersey pizza.
I never thought much about pizza until we moved to California and had kids. Like all other families, pizza was a family favorite. But I had a problem. What they were selling as pizza in California was something I did not recognize. This pizza had a thick, hard crust of bread with bland tomato sauce and a boat-load of toppings on top. To most people it was the toppings that made the pizza special.
I lost my love for pizza. From time to time I looked around for what I considered “real” pizza and a few times I came close, but I never found New Jersey pizza.
Let’s return to the Fourth Avenue Festival. My wife and I each bought a slice of pizza to counteract our hunger. As I picked up the paper plate and caste my eyes over the slice of pizza, I was surprised to see no toppings. Then I noticed how thin the crust was. A closer look and I could see herbs sprinkled over the melted cheese and tomato sauce. One bite confirmed it: it was the real deal: pizza as it was made in New Jersey in the 1950s. After years of searching in vain I had finally stumbled upon real pizza here in Tucson. I was over the moon.
The young lady selling the pizza explained that the owner of the pizzeria had gone back to Brooklyn and apprenticed himself to an old Italian pizza maker. He learned how to make pizza the original way. He returned to Tucson and applied what he learned. He calls his store Brooklyn Pizza as a homage to the tradition he is carrying on. I was convinced when I saw the cooks throwing the dough in the air to stretch it out. I had not seen this done since leaving New Jersey.
But what does pizza have to do with this website?
My wife and I do not eat pizza very often. But when we do there is only one place we go. It is not nearby, but we go there because it is the genuine, real thing. And that is how I hope you will think of this network of websites: we discuss the genuine, real thing.
I am nearly 80 years old. Over my life I have seen personal growth fads come and go. In the
fifties there was Freud, Jung and Adler. In the 60’s there was LSD and Esalen. In the 70s there was EST and Parent Effectiveness Training. The 80s were very open to all kinds of personal exploration: energy work, extra-terrestrials, Native American spirituality; Buddhism, etc. The 90s were more pragmatic and business oriented. I introduced MindSet Mastery, and the concept of self-fulfillment became popular. For me the early 2000’s was a time for meditation and inner reflection. In 2006 I had an awakening and I focused on comprehending what that meant. In 2016 I created my first website: The Story of Enlightenment. In our society there was a lot of focus on developing an online presence and establishing one’s own brand.
From all of this I have tried to distill what I consider to be most essential knowledge of what it means to be alive as a human being. I have tried to build upon the essential teachings from the last 8 decades.
Like Brooklyn Pizza I have tried to focus on those basic elements that matter most.
If you want to remind yourself about what really matters, I hope you will remember this site.
And, like Brooklyn Pizza, we will be here ready to offer you the real deal.