It was 1982. I was enrolled at the Maritime Captain Training School in Cleveland, Ohio. We had just started 13 weeks of rigorous training. We ran obstacles. We climbed ropes. Everyone had to make it over a wall. We heard stories about Rascal House, how it lured maritime operators with pizza that was out of this world. I needed to blow off steam, so I decided to stop in one night after school. Everyone knows pizza’s loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. I planned to make it over that wall in the morning.
It was love at first bite. Two slices of Rascal House original pan pizza, a cup of golden delicious fries, and an ice-cold Coca-Cola. The pizza was topped with perfectly-shaped pepperoni, baked just long enough so the outer edges were crisp and toasty. Under the pepperoni was a bed of 100% pure provolone cheese that I swear on the grave of Moses Cleaveland stretched from Rascal House to Rhodes Tower. I don’t have enough metaphors to describe the sauce and crust. I just remember going home that night and writing a sonnet. Which was unusual because I had never written a poem of 14 lines using any number of rhyme schemes and 10 syllables per line up to that point in my life. Falling in love with Rascal House will do that to you.
But I was brash, cocky and arrogant. I didn’t want to be tied down to just one menu item. I’ll never forget the look in pepperoni pizza’s eyes when I ordered the Rascal Burger the next evening. And the Rascal Chicken Sandwich the night after that. I fell into a routine. Honey mustard buffalo wings every Thursday. Spaghetti with Meatballs on Fridays. I was playing the field and loving every minute of it. But you always go back to your first true love. I graduated and was assigned to a local touring boat called the Fun Time IV. I would sail the Great Lakes at 20 knots per hour, faster than the Edmund Fitzgerald. Actually, I would spend my time floating a few feet off Edgewater Beach so passengers and kids on field trips could still see buildings, but you get the picture. I was to ship out at 1100 hours and not reach shore again until 1600 hours at night. I called Rascal House and asked them if they had put any slices out yet. They said absolutely. I put on my brand-new white uniform and captain’s hat and marched into Rascal House with lovesick eyes. Everyone in the store looked at me like they’ve seen this in a movie before. Then I picked up those 2 slices of pepperoni pizza and walked off into a brilliant sun. While the radio played “Love lift us up where we belong…”
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