Paying Pizza Forward: Leo

2009 July 29

Leo understands Spanish, Hebrew and Pizza

Leo understands Spanish, Hebrew and Pizza

Paying Pizza Forward is a feature where I “buy” pizza for someone at Homeslice, we chat over lunch, and then they pick the next person to have pizza with me. Previously, I had pizza with the famous Leslie Cochran.

Leslie Outside Homeslice

Leslie Outside Homeslice

Today I had pizza with Leo.  Leslie had originally chosen somebody else, who decided for whatever reason that she did not want free pizza, or at least not with me.  I didn’t really understand why, I said she could bring friends, husbands, etc, but she demurred and said she was busy.  That’s cool.  I told Leslie and he chose Leo instead.  I’m glad he did.

I was a little worried that no one could possibly be as interesting as Leslie, but Leo shined.  He’s absolutely fascinating.

Leo is incredibly tall, at least a foot taller than me.  His tree-like, lanky frame and his impressive mass of dreadlocks make him very recognizable to everybody in Austin.  The first thing I said to him was “didn’t I see you somewhere recently?”  Apparently, he gets that all the time.

I had seen him, actually.  At the downtown farmer’s market this past Saturday.  He was looking at the orchids.  Gran (my grandmother) loves orchids, and constantly talks to them and tells them how much she loves them, she says that’s why hers bloom so much.  Leo agreed wholeheartedly.  I decided then that I liked Leo.

Like me, Leo uses his bike to get around.  He’s left it unlocked overnight sometimes around town, and returned the next day to find his bike still there.  This astounded me.  I’ve heard Austin has some of the most skilled bike thieves of anywhere, but maybe they just stay by campus north of Town Lake.

Leo grew up in El Paso and came to Austin for school.  As so often happens, he liked Austin enough he didn’t want to leave.  Except for a few jaunts outside, he’s always returned.

One of his trips took him to Israel.  He was brought up as a reformed or conservative Jew, but a friend of his became very religious and moved to Israel to study at yeshiva and live the hardcore Jewish life.  He went to visit and spent a month at yeshiva (he speaks Hebrew from his early education and a study abroad program) but found it wasn’t quite meshing well with his easy-going nature.  Yeshiva folks aren’t known for their chilled out vibe, so he eventually came back.

One of the many interesting things he’s done to make money is drive a taxi.  I asked him if he had any crazy taxi stories, and he told one off the top of his head.

A VERY FAMOUS ACTRESS was in town for SXSW with her secret girlfriend.  They got in his taxi and wanted to find some food.  One thing led to another, and he found himself eating a bunch of food they bought him at his place, and they’re making out on his couch.  The VERY FAMOUS ACTRESS decided that the girlfriend should make out with Leo, since they were closer in age.  Leo just wants to get back to picking up customers, since SXSW is a bonanza and he didn’t really want to deal with the drama that had parked itself on his couch.  He ended up driving them back to their hotel, and they gave him hundreds of dollars for his “trouble”.

Leo’s taxi allowed him to make all kinds of acquaintances.  At the airport, he would play cards with the cabbies from all over the world.  He speaks Spanish, and could understand everyone but the Cubans.  Who knew there were Cubans in Austin?  Anyway, while learning the Nigerian card games and hanging out while waiting on rides, he found space for himself for a while as a violinist in a band called Nelson Saga & Arma del Alma (Weapon of the Soul), a world music group that featured a bunch of other cabbies.

For such an interesting guy, Leo was a man of simple tastes.  He only wanted two toppings on his half, mushrooms and pepperoni, which he seemed to really enjoy.  Slicey always says “Less is more”, but I never believe him.

Leo’s a big walker, and finds most of his adventures just by walking around, meeting people and seeing where life takes him.  He struck me as a gentle soul and a great liver of life.  I’m excited to have a pizza with Ilia, a Russian friend of Leo’s who promises to be just as interesting.

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One Response leave one →
  1. 2009 August 4

    I love this idea of Paying It Foward with Pizza, who in the heck would deny???
    I also love Leo – one of the many times bumping into him over the years was in all places HAWAII, no joke!
    Glad to see he’s still around and as interesting as ever!

    Can’t wait for the next installment!

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