Monday, July 4

Underground Pizza Man

If you listen to lots of Hattiesburgers, you might get the mental image of Hattiesburg as a Boschian pit with screaming hordes scrambling over one another to escape. It is true that the place seems to have some sort of vortex effect--perhaps you have heard of the young man whose car broke down each time he tried to leave, once at the very city limits. Most everyone I meet makes it clear that they are short-timers here, and headed, well, anywhere else.

I, on the other hand, adore Hattiesburg. (And yes, I have actually been to other places.) I do not feel stuck here, as I have chosen it. And one of the many reasons I did is the Underground Pizza Man.

I first heard of the Underground Pizza Man shortly after arriving here, and at first, I dismissed the stories as the hallucinations of my stoner friends. A guy you can call after the chain restaurants close to deliver you pizza from his home? You're kidding. I thought this was fantastic and somehow subversive.

The Underground Pizza Man is completely word of mouth and he is listed only in the white pages, so you have to be privy to his name. He flies pretty far under the radar, but the cops are aware of him. They don't give him any trouble, though. Once, a rookie pulled him over, and the partner told him, "Don't you know who that is? Don't pull him over--we may want a pizza later."

Over the years, several rumors have started about the UPM, including the perhaps inevitable stories that he will deliver you drugs, or beer for the under-age. He got started in the business by making and taking pizzas to friends' parties years ago, and at that time he might show up with a six-pack as well, but not for sale.

When you order your pizza from the Underground Pizza Man, pizza is all you're going to get. Pizza with a little taste of Hattiesburg entrepreneurship and what makes this silly little town home to me.

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