The neon light to heaven

Imagine you’re walking around The Village, late at night on the type of snowy winter night that will be here all too soon. The bars are closed – you know that because you helped close ‘em down. You’re headed south from The Toad toward the Zoo vendor, because the party’s not over, it just switched venues. But there’s a nagging feeling in the bottom of your gut, telling you it was a bad idea to go out on an empty stomach. You stop and listen to your stomach, and cringe. But when you look up, there’s a light. A neon light. The neon light to heaven. You grab a couple slices (or a medium. Hell, who’s kidding? Might as well grab an extra large) and make it to the next incarnation of the party with your tummy settled and a healthy dose of third or fourth wind. The night is a success.

It’s a simple phenomenon, and I’m willing to bet it’s happened to thousands of us. A Little Pizza Heaven doesn’t just serve garlic-crusted, sloppy, cheesy ‘za – it serves hope. Hope that you can last a little longer, go a little farther. Hope that the night doesn’t have to end, that you might not have to pack it in just yet. Hope that good-hearted old times can happen after last call. After all, the bar might be fun, but a tall sixer of something cheap, a quality pie, and a few of your friends watching the sun rise while you listen to tunes in your apartment? That’s what memories are made of.

A Little Pizza Heaven has been witness to equal parts of the light and dark sides of humanity. Many of us who live here will remember the blood-splattered sidewalk complete with police cruiser perched atop, after an early morning fight sometime last year. Sometimes in lieu of blood, it’s puke. Remember, this is the busiest place in the neighbourhood as soon as the ‘tenders ring them bells. But I remember one night in staunch contrast to these ones.

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I had just finished shutting down the bar at Carlos & Murphy’s, paid my tab and stepped out of the place. Ready for home, but with a hankering for a couple pieces of the good stuff, I glimpsed that neon light across the street and hobbled over, entering the always-long late-night line. I grumbled to myself about having to wait so long, but some things are worth waiting for.

The two women in front of my whipped around and asked me a question, something I could hopefully settle for them. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember it being the type of question that was less appropriate in daylight. We had a laugh over my confusion with one of their last names – “Shire? Like where the hobbits live?” – and chatted until we hit the register.

I’d been eyeing up the snazzy new shirts and hats ALPH had just unveiled, and decided now was as good as ever to get one. Add it to my order. But as I reached for my wallet, one of them stopped me.

“No no, we’re gonna get this. I insist.” My bill was about $45. I said I couldn’t let them do that. But they wouldn’t let me say no. I profusely expressed my gratitude and told them I hoped that one day, I could repay them somehow. Then I walked home, giddy as all hell, threw my new shirt on and chowed down.

At the best of times, A Little Pizza Heaven can bring out the more beautiful little things that those of us ‘nailed to the nightlife’ hold dear – an unexpected connection with a stranger, a moment-to-remember with a best friend, the pat on the back you need to keep givin’ ‘er with your pals. So next time you find yourself weak and weary, worried you’ll be unable to go the distance with the rest of your gang, remember – there’s hope beneath that neon light.

Matt Williams is a Winnipeg-based writer and musician infatuated by lady country singers. Follow him on Twitter @MattGeeWilliams

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