They say that the olfactory sense carries the most sentimental significance; that one smell, more than a touch, a taste, or even a sight, can trigger memories of time seemingly immemorial. Nostalgia, in this sense, is a nostril product, and the clasification of smells often determines mood: a smell can remind someone, wistfully, of home, or a specific person, or a place, or even an isolated time. In my case, smell is espisodic: I remember stories when I breathe in foods or places or people, and I unconciously catalogue each smell I know, awaiting the next oppurtunity in space-time to revisit a particular scent.
So it is with great sadness that I learned of plaza pizza closing. Growing up in Teaneck, NJ wasn't thrilling, or even unoppressive. The only thing we had (until we could raise serious hell in high school) was a ridiculously enticing and homegrown pizza franchise. Jerusalem Pizza was a landmark on Teaneck's main stretch of civilization until it closed a few years ago, amidst much fanfare and gloom. Its sister store across town, Plaza Pizza, remained open even after its elder sibling fell. I spent almost every high school lunch period in Plaza's overcrowded foyeur, chomping mindlessly at a pesto-tomato special while the air filled with bitching about teachers, tests, homework, suspensions, et al. If nothing else, it was a place to go to feel human, where students, for 45 minutes at a clip, could be regular people with regular money eating regular food. No pencils, no books, no curriculum, shirts untucked, language censors off. And that is what closed down last week--a hallowed ground for an underrepresented faction of society. Appropriately, it was bullied out of existence, as the landlord raised the rent above feasability, and Plaza fell like autumn leaves smothered with extra cheese.
What I'll miss most are the smells: the tinny, curiously less-than-pizza waft that greeted you at Plaza, the canned mushrooms in the calzones, the unmistakable scent of fountain soda in a paper cup. I'm ashamed to admit that I'll even miss, in a masochistic way, the gym-soaked odor offered by the freshmen, which was so strong on some days that it begged suicidal thoughts.
My friend Zach's mom (if Zach is reading this, let me say this: ani mushtam achshav. ani lo yodea mah zeh omer, but whatever) bought and froze two slices of pizza on plaza's last night, one for each of her sons. Both live in Israel, and now both have a piece of their youth waiting for them upon their return. My friend gabe sent me a morose, swooning email outlining the profundity of his grief over plaza closing. as for me, i drove by its former storefront last night (i was in teaneck for a concert) and deliberately did not look at its hollow skeleton. There is a facebook club decrying what happened, as well as a general consensus among teaneck's kosher connoisseurs that the town's two remaining pizza stores--which shall remain nameless (you can thank me later, pizza crave and ej's)--are not up to par.
This leaves us with an interesting split between two differing types of teaneck thought. On the one hand, teaneck loyalists would argue that it remains as vital as ever to patronize town eateries. Meanwhile, real teaneck loyalists--Zach, his brother Jason, Yakir, Gabe, Binny, myself--have no choice but to abstain from teaneck pizza, since the thought of abandoning the Jerusalem Pizza empire, even post-mortem, is too much to bear.
Stay classy Dassi, Cobi, Carmello, Petraceo, Habers, and the entire JP family,