If you’ve read my short story Wordslinger, you might recall a reference to Phil’s Primetime Pizza. A pizza joint across the street from Marvin Blick’s apartment. If you’re from my hometown of Chickamauga Georgia, you know Primetime Pizza is a real place. You might even know Kevin Martin, owner and pizza slinging guru.
Wordslinger is set in the small, fictional town of Longview, which I loosely associate with Chickamauga (it helps keep settings consistent throughout connected novels and stories). In an early draft of the story I used Primetime as a point of reference. It wasn’t intentional. The words came faster than I could filter and ended up on paper. It makes sense. Primetime seems like it’s always been around (Kevin’s parents opened it in the late 80’s), and they have awesome food. My mind anchored itself to that fixture along Gordon Street, so when I looked through Marvin Blick’s eyes and out his window, that’s what I saw. I liked it, knew Kevin from school, and eventually asked him if it could stay.
We met for breakfast to talk shop and catch up. Although we chat occasionally when I’m at his restaurant, it’s been a long time since our graduation from Gordon Lee Memorial High School. Well, my graduation from Gordon Lee. I was wrong. Kevin transferred to another local school our sophomore year. That means we only spent our middle and early high school days together, standing a few letters apart in any alphabetical grouping. I could blame my fictitious memory on the 27 years since graduation day, but that’s not the whole story. I could blame a youth of what my mom called “questionable behavior” or that as a writer I live in several realities at once. Both probably contributed…ain’t gonna lie.
Kevin summed it up best though. We knew each other in passing. No fights or feuds, and we ran with different crowds. He’s right. My mind wrote him into my junior and senior years based on a few years of close proximity during picture day.
I graduated with about a hundred fine young gen x-ers, not five hundred. How many cliques can a small school in a small town hold? Turns out enough to weave my memory of Kevin into a tapestry of self-inflicted deception. Hazy, random snippets of our interactions. Vague timeframes and muted conversations.
Those of us more comfortable with friends of the fictional sort often allow our vivid imaginations to contaminate our memories. Our brains love connecting dots...completing the picture. Problem is, the smaller our (real) world, the fewer dots available. I don’t speak the language of Technical People, but I know more dots mean a clearer image. Without much to work with, our mind defaults to the path of least resistance and fills in the blanks with background imagery. The safe familiar cocoon of our own little world. We socially awkward folk love vibrant heroes and villains but often settle for an old sepia tone pic of anything outside the safety of that cocoon.
If you would have asked me three months ago if I knew Kevin Martin, I would have said something like this. “I went to school with him. Nice guy. Makes a killer pizza.”
Ask me today and I say this. “I went to school with him. Nice guy. He’s also family man who knows a Stephen King reference when I toss one his way, has a background in rap, ran a travel blog, coaches boxing, and still makes a killer pizza.” Yeah, I like this dude.
What’s the point? Wherever your hometown, support your neighbors and get to know them, even if you think you already do. Have a conversation over a cup of coffee…or slice of pizza. You might experience something good. New places. New people. New friends.