Paying Pizza Forward: Leslie Cochran
I’m going to begin a new feature today called “Paying Pizza Forward”. I took Leslie Cochran to Homeslice Pizza and we chatted over lunch (he kept the leftovers). Leslie picked the next person for me to meet over pizza, UPDATE: Victoria from Flashbacks Leo, and I’ll repeat the cycle with her him. She’ll pick the next person, and so on and so forth.
I started with Leslie because he (his preferred pronoun) is an Austin institution, easily the most beloved homeless cross-dresser in Austin if not the world. He’s constantly out and about at various coffeeshops, events and neighborhoods (6th street, south congress, etc). Everyone in Austin has seen him, many have benefited from taking the time to buy him a beer or just sit down and chat with him. Like over pizza.
Leslie is a big fan of pizza, and he chose anchovies, artichoke hearts, mushrooms and pepperoni as the toppings for our pizza (I asked to leave the pepperoni off my half). His favorite topping is anchovies, instantly endearing himself to me. He even said “it’s not a pizza without anchovies”. Oddly, he wasn’t the least bit interested in the premium toppings at Homeslice, such as clams, roasted red peppers, fresh mozzarella, etc. When I saw that he was only choosing from the standard toppings, I informed him that premium toppings are also a part of my free pizza deal. Leslie brushed me off with a “those won’t be necessary”.
Unsurprisingly, Leslie has a unique way of eating pizza. He pulls two slices from the pizza, immediately cuts off the crust, and takes a few bites of it. Then he unscrews the caps on the black pepper and red pepper flakes to nearly coat the pizza. Lastly, he takes one crustless piece and puts it on top of the other, creating a cousin to a calzone, and then begins to eat. Leslie has really bad teeth (health care is hard for him to come by), so eating the crust hurts his mouth if it cools and becomes too chewy. The two pieces pressed together technique works for him because the sandwich-like concoction is less messy.
Dental problems appear to plague Leslie; he wiggled one of his remaining front teeth with his finger to demonstrate the extent of the damage. I winced and he profusely apologized, but his pain is legit. So for any dentists out there reading this humble little pizza blog, if you have any pro bono availability, let Leslie know, he could really use some dental love.
Leslie is very articulate, and our conversation ranged from the weather to Austin politics to religious history. When I asked him why he stopped running for mayor, and he said he got tired of spending $500 he didn’t have to spare when people wouldn’t bother voting for him, despite their drunken promises (after three runs, his highest showing was a 2nd place finish, garnering 7.75% of the 2000 mayoral vote). He caught me off guard numerous times with clever little zingers. Leslie can be quite the talker, but not in a blabby sort of way. I initially felt bad that his pizza was growing cold and neglected as he chatted away, but I figured that he could’ve easily asked me some open-ended question to give himself time to eat if he so desired.
We sat at the counter to avoid a wait for a table, and we got impeccable service. I’ve never had bad service at Homeslice, but this was different. Our glasses of water never got below 3/4 full, delivered by our waiter with a wink and a smile. Shawna, my fave waitress, chatted with us a bit as we left about pizza toppings. I had asked her about Homeslice’s dress code vis a vis Leslie a few days earlier, and her response was “no one likes hairy butt cheeks”. Leslie complied with a mini-skirt. The staff seemed to really enjoy his presence, I guess it’s not everyday that a celebrity dines at Homeslice.
We snapped a couple of photos outside after lunch. While I was getting the camera ready, he took out a Nike sunglasses case that had an electric toothbrush in it, which he screwed together quickly and began brushing his teeth with, sans toothpaste. After about ten seconds he finished and deftly disassembled it.
When we left we were both heading the same way, so he taught me one of the ways he beats the heat: walking in the shade. It sounds silly, but he takes it quite seriously. We walked north on south congress on the west side of the street (across the street from Homeslice), and he walked through the empty Perla’s patio because it was more shady than the sidewalk. The Perla’s staff inside had a little chuckle, but we stayed cooler than we otherwise would have.
I asked him if he had any advice for a young whippersnapper such as myself. He’s 58, and his advice was simply “Don’t grow old”. Well Leslie, with a year’s worth of delicious pizza, I’m doing my part!