|Old MacDonald had a farm; E-I-E-I-O|
The little pizza shop isn't anything fancy. It's a little grimy with only two high-top tables and a small counter with stools facing a wall. It's New York style, so thin crusts covered in simple toppings with garlic powder, oregano and crushed red pepper to shake on top. Simple and pure and delightful, especially after a beer or five.
As J pulled out her wallet to pay for her slice, a grizzly man poked his head through the door and hollered. (I say hollered because that's really what he did).
"How much for a slice of pizza?!" He mumbled something seemingly unintelligible after the question.
The man at the counter acted as though this was a regular occurrence. "$3.50!" he hollered back.
The other man walked back outside.
J pulled out another $3.50 and asked for another slice of pepperoni pizza for him. She did it quietly and humbly. And the man behind the counter turned her down. He proceeded to explain they always kept slices around for the homeless. There's no point in throwing extras away when there are so many hungry people around. Then they took a slice out to the man, who was now sitting right outside the open window in the front of the building.
We sat down on the inside next to the open window and began to talk with the man. Without an agenda and without judgment, we learned about him as he chatted with us and ate his pizza.
The unintelligible mumbling following his first question turned out to be his fascinating catchphrase. After every sentence, the man, whose name is Murray, compulsively says, "E-I-E-I-O." As in Old McDonald Had a Farm. "Everybody should have a catchphrase, E-I-E-I-O," he told us as we all ate our slices of pizza. While I don't compulsively end each sentence with a catchphrase, his was so endearing it was hard to fault him for it.
Murray is or at least was a comedian of sorts, and true to his word, his jokes were funny. His eyes were kind, if not tired and a little runny. After his joke, J told him one of her own. He'd apparently heard it before, but I hadn't. I was touched at her confidence and willingness to engage this man in conversation, regardless of obvious lifestyle differences.
We didn't have to buy Murray pizza. But we gave each other the gifts of human kindness and laughter. After all, man can't live on pizza alone.