I opened my email to discover joy on Monday. In it: a lively missive from Bea, my Australian wayfaring friend who made a two-year pit stop in Columbus to get her PhD. She had a special request for me. She wanted me to cater a fundraising event for her non-profit that provides therapy to children in Kenya. I had done it the previous year, but I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. If I did it this year, I’d actually have to have a name and a logo and something that may or may not turn into a legitimate business.
I wracked my brain and Isabella’s for a name. Pithy and cute was really hard.
- Pie-per at the Gates of Dawn.
- In Pie We Crust
- Honey’s Pies (I would have to become Honey, the face of Honey’s pies)
- Thunder Pies
- Mind’s Pie
- Pie Hard
- The Hills Have Pies
- Private Pies
- I Get Lost In Your Pies
- Pies of a Stranger
I wished my name was Honey. I liked Honey’s Pies even though there’s a pie place in Milwaukee called Honey Pie. But I could do better. In San Francisco there’s a place called Mission Pie, which hardly seems brilliant since it’s just a pie place in the Mission, but it’s brilliant in its simplicity. Hoosier Mama Pie Company is good, but the people that work there are so surly, I don’t want to give them credit for anything good.
My favorite of all the suggestions was Piefecta — a play on “trifecta” and the three ingredients that make up a pie crust. Unfortunately, it got mixed feedback from my friends and I needed something everyone would like or at least not be offended by. I had to think more about it.
On Tuesday I thought about the name some more while I worked: ingredients and baking methods that would work as a name. Sugar. Custard. Eggs. Egg whites. Corn starch. Flour. Cocoa powder. Cinnamon. Nutmeg. Whisk. Blend. Paddle. Crust. Dough. Nothing was coming to me. So I took a mini-break. By mini-break I mean went to the toilet to look at the internet while I voided my bladder.
On this particular break, I was looking through Facebook and noticed a large number of pictures that my BFF, Marty, was tagged in. There were A LOT of pictures. Him on vacation, shooting deer, fishing in the middle of a lake, officiating a wedding. Tons of Marty pictures. It didn’t register that something might be wrong until a girl posted a picture of some goofuses I went to high school with and a caption that said, “While looking for pictures of Marty, I found this blast from the past.” Slightly anxious and panicked, I scrolled down and found an obituary. Marty died. My Marty. I started shaking and read through the article. He played a hockey game on Friday night that he finished with two assists. Saturday, he complained to his teammates about having flu-like symptoms and didn’t play in the game scheduled that night. On Sunday, he went to the hospital where they told him he had pneumonia before discharging him. On Monday, a friend went to his house to check on him and found him unconscious. Paramedics were unable to revive him. He was 37.
I ran out of the bathroom with my heart pounding and tears welling. I wanted to talk to someone who knew him, but of our mutual friends, Katie was living in Singapore and it was the middle of the night and the only contact information of Tyler was an email address so old that it was a Hotmail address. But I tried it anyway. Tyler wrote back immediately with her telephone number. I talked to her and cried a bit while the minutes ticked away toward lunch. I had to get back to work.
I worked furiously, thinking about Marty and how much he made me laugh. I thought about the long drives we’d go on looking for parties when we were teenagers. I thought about the one and only time we kissed and were disgusted by the act. I thought of how we got silly at an Aerosmith concert we went to the summer before college. I thought about watching him win the state hockey championship in his final year as a Palmer Terror. I thought about how I would never see him again.
I cried a lot and I smiled a lot, but I made it through the day. That evening, Katie called me from Singapore. We went back and forth with ways that we could remember him and made a tentative plan to get together when she was stateside again so we could have a proper memorial together. I suggested we get the number 15 — his hockey number — tastefully tattooed somewhere discreet on our bodies. She rejected the suggestion. But I wanted something permanent to remind me of him. We didn’t make any solid decisions that night, but we brainstormed over email for the rest of the week.
On Friday, I let myself be sad. I gave in to whiskey and met up with Matt and Andy at Emporium in Wicker Park. It wasn’t a monumental evening. I drank a lot and talked as much about Marty as people who didn’t know him would let me. I drank a lot of whiskey. I tried to go home, but Andy kept me out. He took me to get steak tacos at La Pasadita on Ashland.
La Pasadita was the first place I had tacos when I moved to Chicago. There was a time when I couldn’t pass La Pasadita without getting a taco. And then I found Taqueria Moran’s taco al pastor; that was only shamed by those of Dona Naty’s. That night I devolved into my taco experience of 2005. It was a disappointing end to a disappointing Friday night of an utterly sad week.
On Saturday, my sadness was exacerbated by the hangover. I spent the morning trying to figure out a reasonable way to make it to Marty’s memorial service on Sunday in Jackson, Wyoming. My best friend from junior high school offered to let me use her frequent flyer miles to fly to Denver and we could drive up together. But the idea was proving to be nearly impossible. I gave up. And when I did, I got a text from the Other Marty asking me to hang out. I told him about BFF Marty and that hanging out was exactly what I needed. We decided to watch a movie at his house.
The Other Marty picked me up after he attended a birthday party for an eight-year-old and was hopped up on sugar. Per usual, he made me laugh upon greeting him. I felt like I hadn’t laughed in months. It felt good; like I’d just remembered how to do it again the way you forget that you know how to breathe only after you’ve suffered a debilitating head cold.
We stopped at Walgreens to pick up snacks to eat while we watched our movie. We agreed on Cheetos and argued over fried pork rinds (I was a fan; he was not) and the bag of caramel and cheese popcorn (he loved it; it made me want to floss). We settled on separate snacks.
His apartment building was on Randolph near all the newest and most spectacular restaurants in Chicago. It was everything that I had imagined — he had already diagrammed the layout for me on a bar napkin the first time we went out, so there was little left to imagine except the furniture placement. There was a bathroom at the entry-way with a small room to the left that he used as an office since there wasn’t enough space to make it a second bedroom. To the right there was a long, narrow hallway, with a sliding door on the side leading to his bedroom. The end of the hall opened up to a cavernous kitchen/living room. It was kind of like a loft with high ceilings that exposed the ventilation system and slick concrete floors. Everything was very tidy and in its place — which I predicted based on his aversion to filth and the way the idea of hoarding made him anxious. It was a welcome deviation from the boy apartments I had become accustomed to. It was almost museum-pristine. I loved it.
We didn’t start the movie right away. Instead, we watched an episode of Girls and I browsed his latest issue of People Magazine. He claimed that his mother got him a subscription as a joke because it was something he always picked up at airports. I didn’t believe him. Though there was absolutely nothing to read in it, it provided hours of entertainment for us. We played “Would you make out with [name the celebrity]” and used the magazine as a reference and inspiration (with regards to People Magazine, I use the word “inspiration” in the loosest possible sense). We bantered and got to know each other, I told him about BFF Marty and how the entire town of Jackson, Wyoming adored him and, of course, how much I adored him and that he at least knew exactly how much I loved him when he died.
I enjoyed Marty’s company. It was nice. It was like hanging out with a nurturing older brother or cousin.
I supposed it was inevitable since we’d spent the whole day together: the subject of Noah came up.
“Aren’t you seeing someone?” he asked.
“No,” I said.
“Then why did you tell me you were seeing someone?”
“Oh. Do I know him?”
“Oh. He’s a cool guy. He was at the birthday party I went to. Why’d you break up?”
This made me feel bad because of the terrible things Noah said about Marty. But it didn’t matter because Marty was nice to me. I had no reason to not like Marty.
“It was complicated. He wasn’t over his ex-girlfriend.” And it was just sex and booze, I thought.
I made it subtly clear that I didn’t want to talk about it, so we continued our games.
When the Other Marty got bored with the “Would you make out with” game, we started Argo. It was OK. It didn’t move me, but it was entertaining. Though it wasn’t entertaining enough to keep Marty awake. He fell asleep before the key moment and missed the point of the entire movie. I took that as a sign that I should leave. Marty offered to drive me home, but I declined and took a cab.
On my way home, I reminisced about how the Other Marty made me laugh the way BFF Marty made me laugh and how much I’d been missing it. Then I returned to thinking about what I could do to remember BFF Marty without defiling my body. And then it hit me: I could name my pies after BFF Marty. Two birds! One stone!
I would call it 15 Pies. And my signature pie would be a chocolate cream pie called Terror Pie. Sounds dangerous, but that was our high school mascot and our school colors were (gasp) brown and white. It was corny and sentimental, but I didn’t care. I always loved our mascot and Marty.
Tiny Terror Pie
- 1 (4.5”) Pie crust
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream, plus 2/3 cup
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1 ¾ tablespoon cornstarch
- Pinch salt
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon butter
- 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
In a small saucepan combine sugar, 1/3 cup heavy cream, buttermilk, cornstarch and pinch of salt, and whisk until smooth. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, whisking from time to time for the sugar and cornstarch to dissolve and the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Continue cooking at a low boil for an additional 5 minutes, whisking constantly.
In a mixing bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly. Pour 1/2 cup of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and whisk thoroughly. Pour the egg yolk mixture into the saucepan and whisk over the heat until thoroughly combined and very thick, 1 to 2 minutes. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl, and whisk in the chocolate, butter and vanilla. Continue whisking until thoroughly combined (mixture will be very thick). Cover the mixture with plastic wrap placed directly on the surface and refrigerate until cooled to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
Place remaining heavy cream in a chilled mixing bowl and add the confectioners’ sugar. Beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the cool chocolate pudding mixture, then spoon the chocolate mixture into the prepared pie crust and refrigerate until firm and cool, at least 4 hours. Refrigerate the remaining whipped cream until you are ready to serve the pie.