Pizza Religion 1999 (7/8/08)

Sometimes I imagine people asking me how I can possibly think I am
qualified to write valuable pizza reviews.  I'm not a chef.  I am not
a cook.  I have never worked in a pizza parlor.  So what makes me
think I know a good pizza, besides the fact that everyone thinks they
know a good pizza?

The fact is, I have special pizza powers.

As with most super powers, I acquired them by a freak accident.  Or
more accurately, an accidental vacation.

It was no accident that I loved pizza.  But how could I contribute to
the great Pizza Religion: to help develop the best pizza that ever
was, and ever will be?  If eating pizza was all I could do, well then,
so be it.  I would eat as much pizza as I could.  But I hoped I could
do more.

It was early 1999, and I was working as a computer programmer in
Silicon Valley.  Those were good days for the computer industry.  I
had a good job, good salary, and plenty of vacation time.  Problem
was, I had no idea where to go for a vacation, and no one around who
wanted to go on a vacation.

One day while mindlessly surfing the internet, I stumbled across an
advertisement for the "Pizza Expo" in Las Vegas.  They seemed to have
pizza classes, beer bashes, and apparently an entire show floor with
rows and rows of the best pizza imaginable, all in exciting Las Vegas!

Now this was a vacation!  These were my people!  So I signed up, and
the next thing I knew, I was standing on "The Strip" in Las Vegas in
front of the Flamingo Casino where I had a room for the week.  I was
about to attend the Pizza Expo of 1999, February 8th through the 11th.

I usually would never go on a vacation alone.  Heck, I wouldn't even
go to a movie alone.  But Vegas was different.  I went to Vegas on
business once, and my coworker left a couple days early, and I was
fine alone.  It just seemed like I was always around people I vaguely
knew.  But admittedly, that may also have to do with my vision being
near sighted.  So long as I kept my glasses off, it appeared as if I
was surrounded by people I knew, not to mention all the celebrities.

After a wonderful night of gambling, the next morning I was off to the
Pizza Convention, very excited to meet all my pizza brothers and
sisters.  I purposely did not eat breakfast in order to save room for
all the pizza I would, no doubt, eat on the exhibit floor.

I finally arrived and quickly got in line at registration.  It was
expensive, something like a couple hundred bucks.  But I had a good
job, and some money, so I decided to pay for the exhibition and
access to the beer bash and a couple pizza classes.

A nice lady behind the registration desk asked for all my information,
and finally asked what company I was with.  I proudly explained I
wasn't with any company, but rather here to enjoy the pizza show!

Much to my surprise, this was not the right answer.  The lady
explained to me that I had to be in the business, or I couldn't get
into the show.  I was confused, and looked back at the price of
admission.  It was very expensive.  I looked around the room, and
there really were not all that many people registering.  I wondered
who they were trying to keep out of the show?  Was it really very
likely that a horde of teenagers were going to shell out hundreds of
dollars and eat all the pizza or cause a disturbance?

The lady was very patient, probably watching my face silently go
through a variety of expressions, first being confused, then being
thoughtful as I obviously was trying to think of a fake company name,
and finally that of enlightenment.  I then stated in an authoritative
voice that my company was, "Pizza Religion".

Finally I got into the convention!  I went straight to the expo floor,
very excited to start eating some of the best pizza known to mankind.
But I had to concentrate.  I needed self control.  I could not allow
myself to eat too much pizza too quickly.  I needed to pace myself to
fully experience the show.

First I stood in the coke line, and then started down the first row.
The first booth did not have pizza, but rather was selling pizza
ovens.  Of course!  This show was not just about making pizza, there
would naturally be a few businesses selling pizza business needs.

The man behind the booth greeted me, looked at my badge, and asked me
about my company, "Pizza Religion".  I laughed and said it wasn't for
real, it was just what I said to get into the show.  But the man kinda
gave me a dirty look... and I moved on.

Finally I got to a booth with some pizza, but it was not really an
entire pizza, but rather just sauce on a cracker.  The booth was
selling pizza sauce.  It was kinda good.  But once again, the person
behind the booth looked at me, and asked about "Pizza Religion".  I
kinda quietly said it's not a real business...  They forced me to put
something down on my badge...  Once again, kind of a look of
disinterest, and so I shuffled along.

Well, let me tell you, these pizza folks take their business extremely
seriously.  It was only a few more booths before I could no longer
take the rejection, and next thing I knew, I was quietly starting up
my own pizza parlor.

That only made the situation worse, because the more information I
offered about my business, the more questions that followed.  Turned
out people loved my company name and wanted to know all about it.  By
the time I was down my second row of booths, I was CEO of a large
pizza corporation.

It became obvious in a short time, that the Pizza Expo was not
entirely how I envisioned it.  First of all, there were a lot of
booths selling practically anything you might need to run your pizza
business, from pizza paddles, to full brick ovens.  There were not
rows and rows of the best pizza in the universe.  But thankfully there
was still actually a lot to eat.

It was during those days of eating that something really strange began
to happen to me.  It must have been the combination of the food, and
the way I paced myself through the entire day.  The thing was, most
companies only sold one pizza ingredient.  So they would try to
highlight what they were trying to sell, by surrounding it with other
components that were mostly tasteless.  So I'd only get to taste one
part of the pizza at a time... all day long, for multiple days.

Since most people were there to do business, I may have been the only
person crazy enough just concentrate on all the different food all day
long.  My mind started to view pizza differently.  As I ate different
pizza parts over the day, the total combination that made pizza, could
only combine in my memory instead of on my tongue.  The various pizza
parts became split out in my mind and somehow grew in detail giving me
an understanding I never had before.

I also caught a cold.  Which makes me wonder if that didn't have
something to do with it also.

The rest of the convention was a lot of fun.  I went to "Beer and
Bull", which was for pizza business owners to share information and
drink beer.  Despite the fact I could pass as a business owner on the
expo floor, there was no way I could do that with people who were not
trying to sell me something.  But... it was called "Beer and Bull", so
I thought I fit in pretty well.

I attended a couple classes.  One was a "Pizza Futurist", who
predicted the rising popularity of "Breakfast Pizza".  I can't say
that was very exciting.  It was the only time I wanted to really
explain "Pizza Religion".  I think maybe some day I'll suggest such a
class for a future convention.

I bought a T-shirt, and a video on how to flip pizza, and then said
goodbye to my first Pizza Expo.  It was a lot of fun.

Naturally the first thing I did after getting home was arrange to go
out and have some pizza with friends, and tell them of my travels.  As
I took my first bite of pizza, something was very wrong.  My mind was
still separating the pizza tastes!

The Fundamental Law of Pizza, is that it exceeds the sum of it's
parts.  This is why it is so great.  When bread, sauce, cheese, and
toppings combine to form pizza, the taste is far beyond what should
logically be there.  That's what makes it magical.

But much to my horror, my mind was splitting all the tastes apart!  It
was just bread, cheese, tomato sauce, pepperoni... nothing more!  No
magical explosion of taste.

I couldn't enjoy the pizza.  I don't even like tomato sauce or cheese.

Thankfully this lasted only for about three weeks, and finally things
started to merge again until it was back to 100% pizza explosion.

But whatever happened in my mind still remains.  I can turn it on and
off if I concentrate.  This is what gives me the ability to rate and
review pizza beyond the average pizza lover.