People are more important than places.
That’s the frame of mind I had while making a decision that complicated my travel schedule but made it possible for me to visit a friend earlier this week during my road trip.
This past January, I was in New York City when Snowmaggedon pounded the East Coast with a blizzard so fierce that it shut down the entire city. I was stranded in the Big Icicle for three days. Manhattan received so much snow that officials banned driving around, which made for a really bizarre but incredible experience.
That same weekend, I happened to meet an owner of a pizzeria, Clinton Square Pizza in the Lower East Side, who is New York’s biggest Karl Malone fan. I took a video of Steve enthusiastically endorsing The Mailman as the best power forward in NBA history in his Bronx accent in front of his pizza oven, and posted it on Twitter. Jazz fans went nuts. Karl Malone’s awesome wife, Kay, saw the video and had her husband call Steve that afternoon.
Anybody who’s gone into Steve’s pizzeria has probably heard all about that once-in-a-lifetime experience (getting a phone call from a Hall of Fame basketball player, not meeting me).
Fast forward 10 months, and I found myself back in New York City. Thankfully, the snow has all melted. I went to the Manhattan temple Saturday evening when I arrived and got to to my Midtown hotel at about 8 p.m. I decided to grab dinner in this part of the city and stay in my hotel to rest. On Sunday, I had my sports writer duties, which began at 10 a.m. and wrapped up at about 5:30 p.m. I then wanted to visit my sister-in-law Brooke and her cute family.
I really wanted to see Steve and maybe enjoy a slice of his heavenly pizza — seriously good and seriously waaaay more carbs than my health program allows — but it just didn’t seem like it was going to happen on this short trip. I felt really bad about that. Turns out, so did Steve. He texted me late Sunday night, almost midnight, and wondered why in the heck I hadn’t reached out and visited him.
I regretfully explained my situation and told him that my flight was scheduled to leave Monday morning in the 8 o’clock hour. I’m not going to the Jazz game in Brooklyn this year, so I’d probably have to wait until next season to swing by.
He was bummed. I was bummed.
He went to sleep. I went to work.
The Jazz played the Knickerbockers on Sunday afternoon and had a Monday night game against the 76ers in Philadelphia. In those back-to-back situations, I try to get to the second city with enough time to hopefully settle into my hotel and lounge around for a bit before heading to the arena at about 4:30 p.m. It’s kind of an exhausting way of travel.
I was scheduled to arrive in Philly at about 10 a.m., so that was going to give me ample time to check into my new hotel, grab a bite to eat and, most important, make the #BonJodyTempleTour stop at the brand-new Philadelphia temple.
Instead, I reached out to Delta and they rearranged my schedule (free of charge in case my boss is reading) so that I could leave New York City early in the afternoon. That would allow me to visit Steve before his lunch rush and then get to Philly just in time to head to the arena for work.
I figured I could then go see the temple after the game and hope that its lights were still on late at night or maybe hit it up before my 7 a.m. flight the next morning and hope that its lights were on early in the morning. Neither of those options were ideal, but, as I wrote at the beginning of this blog, I decided that a person was more important than a place.
I made the right decision.
Steve, who didn’t know I changed my travel plans, was thrilled to see his favorite Jazz writer haul his huge suitcase into his pizza shop. He gave me a big hug. He was blown away by my weight loss (118ish pounds). Neither of us could stop smiling. For the next half hour, my buddy introduced me to just about everybody who stepped in for some of the best pizza and best company in New York City. One of his thoughtful friends took our photo. It’s now posted on the wall of Clinton Square Pizza, right next to the chair and table where I sat and ate in January (as Steve reminded me).
Steve tried to convince me to take an entire pizza with me on my flight, but I somehow resisted after thoroughly enjoying a slice of tasty, thin-slice cheese pizza, a thick piece of his famous (in these parts) Sicilian square pizza and a stuffed garlic knot.
As I traveled to Philly, I kept going back and forth about when to visit the new temple there. Just as I was about to pull into my hotel parking lot near the airport at about 4 p.m., I decided to do a U-turn and drive into the city. I didn’t have much time at all to make it but figured this was as good of a time as any. I was going to hope traffic wasn’t awful (it was) and try to squeeze it in before sunset (which I did).
The Philadelphia temple really wowed me. It’s in a great spot downtown and is really a stunning temple. I didn’t have time to go inside, but I soaked in the temple’s beauty and spirit from the outside for as long as I could before heading to the arena.
As things turned out, I got to visit Steve in New York, I got to see the temple in Philadelphia and I still made it to the Jazz game an hour before tipoff to fulfill my work responsibilities.
What an awesome day!
Not surprisingly considering I got to my hotel at midnight on an exhausting day, I woke up almost three hours after I was supposed to the next morning, but I’ll save the story about missing that 6 a.m. flight for another time.