Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Famous Original Rays
Of course it would be easy to begin this entry by starting off with some rant about the vast number of pizzerias in New York that are named some variant of Ray's Pizza, be it Famous Rays, Original Rays, or Famous Original Rays. But I'm not in much of a mood to rant right now. I'll have to cover this whole bit about Rays and such at another time.
And to tell the truth, I don't even feel much like making this entry, being heartbroken as I am, a woman I've been seeing these past few months having broken things off this afternoon. So that may color all that I have to say here. It has certainly colored much about the rest of my day, even to the extent that I was having trouble setting up my MP3 program right so I could listen to music that wasn't going to make me feel even sadder. And if you'll excuse me, I'm going to change Lucinda Williams' Sweet Old World right now being that so much of her music is inherently bluesy and her voice on this album often carries tones that just make me sadder.
Okay, let's try another sad-voiced singer, Michael Stipe with REM on Automatic for the People. I don't really know this album—and it's too sad too. I thought that Stipe's angst might speak to me in some way, but it wasn't working. I'm too old to want to wallow in my own misery. I know already that that's not really going to do me any good. So okay, we'll try Manuel Galbán & Ry Cooder Mambo Sinuendo. Not that Stipe was about to make me cry, maybe I just don't want to hear anyone singing in English right now.
I was heading from my shrink's office to the subway at 86th & Lex. I try to spend my Tuesday afternoons following my shrink appointment at the main branch of the New York Public Library, one of my favorite spots. I took these pictures of the lions there.
So I'm heading from the shrink's to the subway and although I'm feeling completely despondent, I was still interested in getting something to eat. Sometimes I stop at the Subway on 3rd around 88th, but I really wasn't feeling up to another turkey hero. I've eaten at four of the pizzerias in the area between the 86th St. train station at the corner of Lexington and 86th & my shrink's office which is up on 91st & 3rd and I have beefs with the other three, although I've been known to go into them from time to time. My beefs with the other pizzerias are as follows:
1. The one on the west side of 3rd ave up around 91st St. just north of the CVS on the corner: This is actually the worst pizza of the three, and that's the main source of my beef. The place feels awkward, and they're pushing something they're calling "Real European-Style Thin-Crust Pizza" or some such. But the pizza isn't any different from any other kind of pizza but the crust is thinner. What's the big deal. Plus the pizza just isn't that good. How not so good is it? It's the one closest to my shrink's office and it's the one that I go to least with the exception of #3 which I will never return to again, which I'll explain in a second.
2. The one further down 3rd Ave at about 88th St. on the north west corner: The pizza isn't so bad in this place, but I've come not to really like the clientele that comes into the place for some reason. (Did I have some sort of weird conflict with one of them in the past?) Plus I once saw a cockroach crawling around behind the glass or on the back wall or something. But honestly, that's not the deal breaker for me that it might be for many New Yorkers. Cockroaches are a fact of life in New York, and they're going to be a fact of life especially in New York restaurants where food and refuse come in abundance. Now mind you, if I saw a cockroach every time I went into the place, or if I felt that the place was otherwise unclean this would all be a different story. The real reason I have a problem with this place stems from an incident that I witnessed in there one or two Winters ago. There is about a foot's distance in-between the threshold of the front doorway and the sidewalk, and the doorway isn't level with the sidewalk, it's about six inches higher. But rather than just build a step they've put some sort of little sloping surface there and covered it with ceramic tiles. Now mind you, this wouldn't be a problem if those tiles had any sort of grip to them, but they're quite slick, and even slicker when it rains. So as might be expected, one Winter day when the sidewalks weren't at their best and were still icy or slushy a man walking out of the pizzeria fell right on his ass having slipped on those slanted wet tiles. Needless to say he was somewhat pissed, and came in to complain about the slippery tiles. Now, the guy in charge at the time wasn't the owner, so you've got to cut him some slack, but he handled the thing all wrong. Rather than saying that he was sorry and passing word onto the owner or making some effort to prevent further tumbles he turned around and started blaming the guy who'd fallen! I don't remember the gist of his argument, only that it was completely unsound. More words were exchanged and the guy left. On my way out I checked the tiles before walking on them and the manager-guy said something to me looking for some sort of agreement with his position, but when I told him that the tiles were slippery and that he should do something about this he scoffed and I could see that in his mind I'd joined the ranks of the insane.
3. The place on the south side of 86th St., west of Lexington Avenue, right next to the video games place: This one's a doozy and not at all complicated. I was in the place one time, and I'd ordered a slice of pizza, which was an ordeal in and of itself as it seemed that the guy behind the counter couldn't manage to deal with more than order at a time and when a slice of pizza for an earlier order was ready to come out of the oven that completely threw off his whole equilibrium. So I finally got my slice, and I was eating it at the counter or something. I don't remember how much a slice there was at the time, but I do remember that it was at the upper echelon of the going rate for a slice at the time, but I didn't care, I liked their pizza. I was, perhaps very much like an ass, talking with someone on the phone while I was eating my slice at the counter, and began to try to get the man behind the counter's attention. Mostly by standing there waiting to be served. After several minutes he finally became aware of my presence and I asked him for a cup of water. He got the water, set it down in front of me and said "25 cents." Now from there I could go on describing blow by blow the whole exchange, how I had to call the person I'd been talking with back and how the man explained to me that paper cups were very expensive. I had some thoughts on the matter and shared them with him, with anyone in earshot actually. So I decided not to ever return there, being that I think that charging your customers a premium for pizza and then asking them for 25 cents for a paper cup is a rip-off. It's like making it so that only the wealthiest countries in the world have access to clean drinking water.
So I went to Famous Original Ray's Pizza (1315 Lexington Avenue). It's on the route to the subway and I like their pizza. They're friendly. I'd intended to just take my first slice to walk, but decided to sit down. There are no tables at Rays, it's a very small spot. They only have about ten feet of narrow counter space and a bunch of stools. I began to realize as I was finishing my first slice that I probably wasn't going to be able to do them justice, because I'd eaten the entire slice without really tasting it. Not that I'd wolfed it down, I just wasn't really tasting much right then (see despondency, above). [Mambo Sinuendo is now done, I've decided to the The Charlatans UK's Between 10th & 11th—nope, let's try Eric Satie] So I ordered another slice. By the time I'd put gathered my things together it was ready. I paid my $1.75 for the slice and took some napkins and headed out the door. To be honest I didn't really taste much of that slice either. There aren't any real fireworks to the slices at Famous Original Rays. The pizza's good, with all parts in attendance: the sauce, the spices, the cheese, the crust, but there are no over-achievers in the class. The slice stays together well, but perhaps that's because it doesn't really have any ambition. I've had broccoli slices there as well, and while they were good, they weren't anything more. Nonetheless, other than perhaps that place where you'll never get served and charged for cups, it may be the best pizza in the area.
I did notice as I was almost done with the slice that there was something of an odd taste to this slice, almost as though it had a flavor of American cheese to it. Not processed cheese food, nothing that bad, but something was setting me off in the wrong way. [I love Satie's "1er Gnossienne."] Now mind you, I've already qualified this entire review by saying that I'm entirely heartbroken at present and my taste buds aren't functioning properly. But nonetheless, there was that lingering flavor of cheese. Luckily I was passing a fruit and vegetable vendor (who seemed to be proving with some success that he was treating an older Ukrainian lady buying vegetables from him with a degree of special favor ("Now give me a cauliflower, a good one." "I'll give you a good one, a big one. (holding up the cauliflower, florets out, before her face (although not in her face)) See, a big one.") and I bought this orange from him for 50 cents. I paid him in the middle of his transaction with the Ukrainian lady and put the orange in my pocket. I peeled it when I got to 42nd Street and walked through Grand Central Station eating the orange section by section.