I just got home from Washington, D.C., where I spent the weekend to attend the bachelor party of a close friend and former colleague. We had ridiculous amounts of fun. I caught up with old friends and made new ones — all of them smart, creative, amibitious and, without exception, wonderful human beings.
I joked yesterday that when I met the groom-to-be about eight years ago, he was “a broken man.” But it wasn’t really a joke. He was miserable then, almost completely lost at sea, with nothing to buoy him but a nagging sense that things had to get better.
Within a year, he took a leap of faith and moved to the capital to take a demanding but potentially rewarding job that he wasn’t fully confident he was cut out for. “I feel like an impostor,” he told me in the early weeks of his new gig. But he stuck with it, because if nothing else it was challenging. It was interesting. Mainly, it was different.
Since then? His professional trajectory has been nothing short of meteoric. He has risen with distinction to the very top of his profession. Today he’s an extremely influential man in arguably the most influential city in the world. And, oh yeah: Next weekend, he’ll be married to an impossibly wonderful woman who makes him happier than I’ve ever seen him.
In the wee hours of Saturday night, we were riding home in a cab down 18th street in Adams Morgan when another friend spotted a neon sign that beckoned to him like a siren.
“Jumbo Slice,” it said.
“Stop the car! Let us out here!” he cried, and the driver obeyed. The rest of us were too drunk or half-asleep to question it.
So next thing I know, we’re stumbling through a crowd of drunks toward the promise of gooey cheese and pepperoni and grease running down our arms on a scale that is at least somewhat more “jumbo” than we’re accustomed to.
I’m happy to report the neon sign did not lie.
You don’t really get a sense for it in the photo, but these slices were massive, requiring multiple paper plates to (barely) support their bounty. They were the perfect ending to a night that had celebrated excess. And as we walked slowly back toward home, munching on our Jumbo Slices along the way, the groom-to-be drunkenly related the tale of their evolution.
“Originally they were just, you know, merely huge,” he said. “But then the place down the street started making a bigger slice. So these guys started making theirs a little bigger and then the place down the street bought a whole new oven — a bigger one, so they could make even bigger pies. Naturally, this place had to respond in kind, and so now it just keeps escalating. There’s no telling when it will end, really.”
“It’s like a pizzeria arms race,” one of us said. “A Cold War of kitchen equipment,” someone countered. “We can only hope that one or the other side enters a phase of perestroika and the whole thing ends peacefully,” we added, laughing hysterically between bites.
And that’s when it occurred to me: You really need to be around people who challenge you if you’re ever going to get anywhere.