The Times May Change, But The Pizza Stays The Same

Pizza from Giordano's in Chicago.

Pizza from Giordano’s in Chicago.

My beloved wife, a California native, went to graduate school in Chicago. She survived 70-degree-below wind chill, getting mugged on the El, and private school tuition to get her degree. She hated Chicago.

She took only one fond memory away from the Windy City: Giordano’s pizza. It’s this stuffed thing that’s very different from the pizzas we get out here in California: deep dish, layered, substantial. I understand her devotion to it. Giordano’s also does take-and-bake, frozen pizza which you can take with you and prepare later.

But this isn’t really a story about pizza, or Chicago, not really, but rather about how times change, so quickly, without our noticing.

Back in 1999, I was working in the San Francisco office of a Framingham, Mass.-based computer magazine. Even though it was only 14 years ago, it was a heady time. Business had just discovered the web, and we were just beginning to write about stuff like e-commerce, the ability to buy stuff without ever visiting a retailer. The computer industry was booming, and we were the beneficiaries of it.

Things were so wild that I got a call from my boss one day asking me to represent the magazine on a panel at a trade show in Chicago. The request was even weirder when I learned that it wasn’t really a panel – it was an industry version of The College Bowl (man, you really have to be old to remember that show). Imagine Jeopardy!, only with teams. I was to represent our magazine on one of the teams.

But I figured out that I could leave San Francisco at 6:30 a.m. and leave O’Hare at 6:30 p.m. and avoid having to spend the night in Chicago. My wife’s only request was that I bring her Giordano’s take-and-bake.

Everything went like clockwork. I called Giordano’s when they opened and ordered two Popeye take-and-bakes (spinach and mushroom). I did the panel at the convention center, answering embarrassingly few questions, and then I hailed a cab. I told the driver that our final destination was O’Hare, but that we had to stop at Giordano’s on Rush Street on the way.

He looked at me as only a seasoned cab driver can and said, “You know that’s not on the way, right?” I concurred, but said that if I didn’t bring take-and-bake home, I might as well not go home.

Fast forward to 2013. Each issue of the magazine I worked for is about half the size it was in 1999. The staff is smaller too. I’m now self-employed, spending more time writing for corporations than publications.

My professional association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, scheduled a conference in Chicago last week focused specifically on the work I do – writing for corporations. It was a good opportunity for business development, so off I went. On my dime.

It was not a frivolous fly-in to be peppered with trivia questions; it was presentations and networking and business-card exchanging and the equivalent of speed-dating with potential clients. And because I am self-employed, at the end of the day, I was back in my hotel room working and catching up on all the work that I hadn’t been able to do during the day.

Giordano’s now has more locations than just the one on Rush Street, but my departure schedule prevented me from coming home with pizza. My wife forgave me.

The fourteen years between these two particular trips to Chicago doesn’t seem like that long a time. When we think of things being different, we think of 25 years ago, 50 years ago. How could life have changed that much in just fourteen years?

But then I remember when American Graffiti came out in 1973. It described an era of only eleven years earlier that seemed so, so different. The cars were different. The optimism was different. I always thought it was me, because I was still so young, that eleven years seemed such a long time, and time moves slower when you’re older.

But no, I’m older now and fourteen years ago seems like a different century, only partially because it was. I think back on the fourteen years between 1946, just after World War II ended, and 1960. In that time, the U.S. went from wartime rationing to incredible abundance. That must have seemed like a different century, too.

I never realized before how fast things change, how much we have to adjust to changing circumstances without such a short period of time. Even those of us who think we’re not good at managing change are, without even noticing, managing a whole lotta change.

And that’s not always bad, either. I went to Giordano’s web site and took advantage of that little ol’ e-commerce thing. The pizzas arrive tomorrow.



About middleagecranky

The Middle-Age Cranky blog is written by baby boomer Howard Baldwin, who finds the world, while occasionally wondrous, increasingly aggravating.
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8 Responses to The Times May Change, But The Pizza Stays The Same

  1. Cindy Costell says:

    It’s e- everything now, Howard. Maybe you saw a piece recently that said there is no “it” toy for Christmas this year. Kids don’t play with Teddy bears or roller skates or whatever… everyone is on his own electronic toy. Article said that this year the most popular gift would be a plastic gift card, because then the recipient can buy his/her own favorite new electronic toy.

    You’d think that the e—world might disappear at Burning Man. The village where I camp decided last year to offer wi-fi connections as their gift to the 60,000 or so Burners. Word spread. And there they were by scores, sprawled out like the dead after a war, in lounge chairs with the electronic things under their faces, intently scrolling away. No one talked. I was clad in my usual abbreviated French maid uniform, undulating through the prostate crowd, offering my big tray of fresh vegetables. Most people didn’t even look up to see who was trying to disturb their stupor. Now, it’s OK for Burning Man to change over the years, but dammit, that is not a good way. You’re supposed to go out there and be crazy with each other, not be alone together. A fig for all this electro stuff. -30-

  2. Larry Marion says:

    we lived in chicago in the late 1970s and early 1980s and giordano’s spinach and mushroom was our favorite, too. Now i shudder to think of the calories and cholestrol counts.
    great blast from the past.

  3. Dianne Jacob says:

    Good lord. Look at the size of that thing! I am testing pizzas now for a new cookbook I’m doing with a chef. No doubt I’m going to have to make pizzas like that one. Wanna come over?

  4. Randy says:

    Hey Howard, try Blue Line pizza in Campbell, Mountain View, and Burlingame, and have the Blue Line. Your wife may even love it! Here ya go:

  5. Tracy A says:

    Hey Howard, I’m a native Chicagoan and have had Giordano’s pizza a couple times, too much oregano for me. Try Edwardo’s all natural stuffed spinach pizza next time I think it’s way better and they ship as well!

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