The Literary Giant

or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Alaina

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Location: West Hollywood, California, United States

Monday, November 20, 2006

Just Here for the Food


Word count - 877

If to "cup" a body part is to gently cradle it from beneath with the palm of one hand, it would seem that I now need to "saucepan" or "popcorn bowl" my stomach to give it full support. My lower back, following suit, insists on shaping the bottom of t-shirts in its image, the way one would expect chests and shoulders to.
"How can you be getting fat?" asked Andrew Nico, senior literature, attempting to discredit my whines. "The food here sucks."

The traditional complaint of any eater subjected to a food service, as is the case in colleges, high schools, and summer camps, is that the meals are inedible and consumed solely for survival. I must take this opportunity to confess that I eat Chartwells food for pleasure.

Despite living in an on-campus apartment with a full kitchen (including two George Foreman grills), most of my on-campus nutrients come from the Dining Hall. In the past year, in conjunction with a rise in tuition, the food variation and quality has improved drastically.

The culinary calendar of Dining Hall dinners is now sprinkled with "special" nights, which range from intricately-flavored Cajun wraps with eccentric legumes prepared in the center of the hall (breaking conventions and fasts) to the transformation of the Dining Hall into a 50's diner, "Hot Dogs and Hot Rods," accompanied by do-wop and worth-five-dollar milkshakes, almost making the eatery's pleather seats shimmer as the booths did on Happy Days. Wednesdays at the Dining Hall are the unofficial best of the week, offering penne (al dente) in an unwatery, rosy cream sauce with eyelash-long vegetables, a Mexican casserole excited by grainy corn meal, and plump couscous with tart dried fruit. The friendly staff and muted MTV U televisions put forth a comfortable atmosphere daily.

Terra Ve, which sets Purchase apart from many colleges by serving as a haven for vegetarians, has been evolving beautifully. Already in the hearts of students for its enormous Odwalla juice selection, Terra Bacon, and, of course, quesadillas, Terra Ve introduced Cast Iron Pies to its cornucopia of made-as-you-order treats. With over forty filling possibilities in sweet and savory and a large banner that boasts, "hotter than average," the single-serving hockey pucks of happiness have quickly become a staple of the SUNY Purchase diet.
"Yeah, and sometimes the pizza’s good," adds Peri Lee Pipkin, senior visual arts and president of the Cheese Club.

I am also happy to report that this year, unlike in my freshman 2004, the freshly-prepared pesto pasta of Terra Ve no longer reacts in my body as a laxative.

This year has also seen an update of the packaged sushi available on the chilled shelves of Terra Ve and the Hub. Although pricey when compared to the average restaurant’s roll of six pieces (about $7 at Terra Ve and the Hub), Purchase consumers break even when considering the gas and time costs of transportation. Rolls now include "imitation crab," with a feathery texture and misleading red-and-white tones, at Terra Ve and (real) eel and cooked shrimp at the Hub. Inary, sticky rice in canoes of thin, sweetened tofu, is also on sale now at Purchase.

Despite long-running favorites at its grill, sandwich station, and juice and yogurt smoothie creator, one might argue that the Hub has changed very little. This year it "proudly" serves Starbucks coffee, which was met with howls from the workers at the Co-op and apathy from everyone else. (I generally do not enjoy the burnt taste of Starbucks and have remained a fan of the Ritazza Roast.)

For all Hub naysayers, I announce that according to a high-ranking Chartwells official, who has been granted anonymity to discuss upcoming appetizing additions, the Hub will soon be vending take-out packages of pita bread with hummus, including varying spiced hummus, and even more enrapturing, preparing quesadillas for its patrons. The significance of quesadillas served in the hub is that students will soon have the option of meat in their cheese. The Chartwells official explained that it was common to see students purchase chicken fingers from the Hub, unpeel their quesadillas, and stick the fingers inside.

This supply to demand brings to mind the one positive utterance I've overheard from a sober student about Chartwells, which came from a girl who was giving a tour of the school to prospective Purchase students.

"Chartwells is our food service and it's good," she bellowed in the echoing upper mezzanine of the Dining Hall, as the high schoolers craned their kneck to investigate the empty tables and chairs of the off-hours cafeteria. "They take students' suggestions and actually listen to them. They're really good about that."

Our food service is looking out for us, and for the past two years I've felt protected. And also unable to watch my weight.

Matthew O’Rourke, sophomore undeclared at Wagner College, noted that his school food is also courtesy of Chartwells but insists that Purchase’s food is better. Like ours, his dining hall sports a large sign with the Chartwells signature illustrations of vegetables and the phrase, "Menutainment!" However, the Terra Ve section of his dining hall offers the same bowls of unseasoned barely and raw tofu everyday, and there is no Terra Bacon to be found anywhere. At Purchase O’Rourke sincerely feels menutained.

Younger Next Year: A Guide to Living Like 50 Until You're 80 and Beyond

Matt and I dated for a few weeks and I spent a lot of that time sleeping at Wagner College, located in the esophagus of Staten Island. The following mornings, commuting back to Purchase for class, I took the Wagner shuttle wagon. It was reliably more entertaining than the Purchase loop bus because the students of Wagner College tend to be life-long residents of Staten Island.

One afternoon I rode the Wagner wagon with a blond girl who wore a lot of blue makeup, her mother in purple eyeliner, lipstick and a lavender vest, and two goth lesbians, one of whom was seated next to the driver. The mother was visiting her daughter for Parents Weekend and they were headed to Manhattan for a nice dinner. They were talking about boys and school when one of the lesbians started yelling about aging.
"I don't want my youth back," she exclaimed, her voice cracking as it got higher, "I hated my childhood! I just don't want to get any older." Everyone already knew she had hated her S.I. upbringing. She is, after all, goth.

Her friend, also wearing fat man jeans and plastic snack-like necklaces, tried to pacify her, but the mindless exasperation kepted being verbalized. As the oldest person riding the wagon, though thin and not dripping with wrinkles, the purple mother was undoubtedly uncomfortable with the conversation.
"It just sucks to be old," continued the goth. "The best thing to do would be to die young!"
"Well, now's your chance," I snapped. The purple mother turned around to me and laughed.

I boarded a Metro-North train on Wednesday evening. I saw three fat old ladies eating sandwiches, so I sat behind them. Nodding off, I came to when one of the old ladies started talking shit about her dead father.
"My father was a commuter on the LIRR and he was also a drinker," she explained in a faded Long Island accent. "Almost every day he would fall asleep and call my mother and say that he was in Babylon, which is the end of the train line, and we lived only half of the way to there from the city." Her friends started nodding and giving negative hums. "When I learned to drive, then I'd have to go pick him up. He never thought about how inconsiderate it was to do that to us." The three fat old ladies sat quietly contemplating the outdated complaint and I fell back to sleep.

Awoken again by a train announcement, I caught a different fat old lady saying, "The only real problem with breast feeding is that the father never gets a chance to have that close connection with the baby."
Although I still stand by the assertion that most things would be better off if the Wagner goth died tomorrow, it might be for the best, for me, if I took myself out of the breathing game earlier than nature may intend.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hotel G-7-4

Malomar and I have two life plans involving hotels.

The first, and less necessary, is to make the Howard Johnson's on Houston St., which shares a block with Landmark Sunshine Cinema, into our own Chelsea Hotel. We'll party there, we'll accumulate damage charges there and eventually we'll kill one of our friends there. [The perfect candidate for a murdered mate would be an attractive girl with a drippy psyche and family members in a far off area code.] After no arrests are made and the tabloids have stopped printing our names, we'll each slowly and inexplicably vanish.

Before that, or instead, Malomar and I hope to buy a motel together. We'll decorate the rooms with individuality and Malomar's employee discount to Anthropologie. Leaving the pool peeling baby blue and speckled with cement, rust still smeared on the diving board, we'll cover the deck in overpriced lounge chairs. Serving overly-alcoholic drinks and carrying bags will, at first, be our friends, and then we'll start only hiring hot people; it'll be the new American Apparel, which is the new Abercrombie & Fitch. Our VIP hotel will be called Hotel Everybody, taken from a line from Ludacris' "You's A Ho": hotel everybody, even the mayor/reach up in the sky for the hozone layer.

On September 7, celebrating Owen's first night as a downstate New York resident, Owen, Billy Jock, Matt, and I decided to see Matt & Kim at a warehouse in deep-Bushwick. We drank heavily in his kitchen and then headed out. After walking six blocks in the wrong direction, we re-lived our steps and then went the right way. We walked across a busy bridge and found ourselves in a dark industrial area. "1080 Metropolitan," the name of the ware-venue, was painted on a building that wasn't at the address we had gotten online for the show, and the street the ware-venue was supposed to be on didn't have that building number anywhere. We interacted with other lost fans and consulted their maps but couldn't find success. We asked a cop if he knew where people were playing in the area, and he directed us to a volleyball game some people were having in the dark. I called Sophia for directions and she put Tron on the phone, but I couldn't understand any of it so I, regrettably, hung up on her. Without hope, we four bought Sparks and went back to the apartment to sleep in a tent.
The next day, Matt commented on my MySpace, "p.s. I had a lot of fun at Matt & Kim with you."

Weeks later, Two Gallants played a show in Campus Center South. Owen deemed it worthy of a Purchase pilgrimage and Matt joined him. We drank in my room and then went over to Jenny's apartment, where I got wasted. Langhorne Slim was opening for Two Gallants, and I left in the middle of his set to yakk in the bathroom. Matt and I went back to my room to sleep, and the next day he cheered, "Two Gallants were SO much better than Matt & Kim!"

A month ago, while I was at the Co-op's counter, drinking all the brown rice green tea, Alex Malamy asked with nervous desperation if I could house an experimental band called Human Host in my on-campus apartment-styling-living apartment's living room. I excitedly agreed, but Alex still felt the need to compensate me. In return, he offered that the band We Are Wolves, a Purchase favorite and Culture Shock veteran, also stay with me when they played. Since then, I have been promoting their arrival and awarding sex with them to my various single friends.

There was a dilemma on the Friday before Halloween: whether to attend the costume party at Billy Jock's on-campus apartment at Wagner or see the Matt & Kim record release show. After much deliberation and multiple Owen sighs, we chose the Wagner party. Again, a night with Matt & Kim had been averted.

I bumped into Alex last week and he was taping up posters for the November 3 We Are Wolves show. Matt & Kim had been added to the lineup.
"If they need a place to stay, too, can they stay with you?"

So here's the plan for tonight: get too drunk to go to the show and lock Matt & Kim out of my apartment.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Rocawomen

Matt leaned into me. "Billy Jock informed me that Adidas has come out with a low-top... Tron sneaker."
He told me about the shoe's velcrow and color combination but I just could not be overjoyed by the news. Unfortunately, it was old to me.
"Not just that," I whispered, "but a Tron track suit, too."

I met up with one of the exgirlfriends of one of my exboyfriends after Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! with Architecture in Helsinki. After forty seconds of nausea, I slipped into a special social mode I can only access when I really want someone to love me. She was also speaking quickly, so I reckoned the feeling was mutual. Inherently she and I have something specific in common, but I assumed we would find pleasant small talk and just leave our respective [but similar] messes unreferenced.

Then she said, "Yeah, so I haven't been to a concert in a month because I don't want to bump into David."
"It can be pretty dangerous."
"Ha, dangerous. You could say that."
This was only the beginning of our broken heart-to-broken heart and I'd already run out of things to say. Anyway, I like bumping into Rocawear at concerts. I'm always drunk and he's always had too many energy drinks. We make fun of each other before the headlining act and then we separate for the rest of the show. It was only twelve hours ago but I've already forgotten why she told me what he said when he broke up with her.
"He said, I've Learned Everything I Can From You, And Now I Need To Go On My Own To Learn More."
"Hey, me too," I yelled, gesturing for a high five.
"I know," she returned with a hand slap. "I thought it was so funny when I found out that he used the same line. It doesn't even make sense, like, I wasn't even upset."
I wanted to say that it was kind of a good line. It's bewildering and confusing, but it also doesn't offend and leaves no room for debate; it stupidly, precisely cuts the string. Instead I said, "So, I hear you owe him money."

[I can't imagine the effect I desired but I didn't get it. I just made her a little nervous. It does sound funny in re-tell, though.]

Saturday, September 09, 2006

American Heritage

Natalie, Tyrell, and I were leaving an eatery when an art student started shouting, "Spelunking!"
"Where?"
"Anthropology Club meeting! Alumni Village!" I generally hate going to The Village, but for spelunking [dangerous cave diving], I would follow the Anthropological prophet anywhere.

Although inhabited by boys, an Alumni Village apartment was conquered by the estrogen-driven Anthropology Club. They then proceded to cook noodles with a lot of garlic for the meeting. I sauntered in, ate three plates of their food and sat on the floor.

The first order of business was spelunking. The three in-charge girls, all wearing long pants in summer, asked for a show of hands for a vote on the trip. They counted an arm from everyone in the room, and the trip was approved. I should have given them my email address and left then; instead I stayed and watched the meeting stumble around from possible museums to on-campus BBQ themes. I only saw that I didn't care about humanity enough.

A girl I had not noticed once for the two hours I'd spent in the apartment raised the necessity for further exploration into Native American culture for the school-wide Native American Heritage Week. If I tapped her, I'm sure a portion of the extracted blood would be of Original American descent. I spoke up with the same thing I say any time Native American Heritage Week is mentioned.
"Yeah, they should serve buffalo meat in the dining hall."
Unfortunately, unlike every other time I've said that, my comment was met with quiet contemplation. And also the horror of Natalie and Tyrell.
"I mean, they always just serve Thanksgiving food. It can't be authentic."
Tyrell recalls thinking, "ALAINA, LET IT GO."
"That's what I was thinking," said the American Indian. "A concentration on authentic foods."

A boy who lives in the apartment walked from his bedroom to the kitchen. He was wearing boxers and tube socks, and yelled, "Purchase Casino!"
I laughed hard and alone.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gideon Yago On The Street And Project Jay In Yaffa Cafe

An overweight woman was walking toward me on the street, and I was coming at her, too. I had the option meandering around the mini-fenced, dirt bed of a thin tree, or to follow the path right next to hers, stepping neighbor to where her wide feet would land. I chose to get near; by walking close to her, I've decided, I can compliment her: city walrus, it's O.K. if your arm brushes mine because you don't disgust me.

Passing the movie theater next to Webster Hall and, in turn, a slew of girls in layered outfits, Tamara growled, "That NYU girl did not need to walk that close to me."
"Maybe she's just saying you're not gross." That NYU girl would be right.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Got the Whole World on my Neck

At the Pitchfork Music Festival I bought a necklace for $6. Rounded, it features the blue-water-and-multi-colored-nations scheme found on childhood light-up globes. In hating on PitchforkMedia.com and the concert there of, Rocawear noted that the charm probably came from a key chain. Two things later made it clear that he was unfortunately right.

The globe, strung on a red ribbon without a latch, is impossible to remove without a scissor. In the shower, it fills with water, so once I'm dressed, it begins to spill out and make a small puddle in the middle of my shirt. After long days of hugging old friends, I have a horrible chest pain. The imitation earth is too big to be regularly pressed against me. When I had not yet realized that the heart ache was external, I resolved to quit fried food; but now I'm back on taquitos.

Last semester a woman approached me during my lunch in the Terra Ve.
"Can I use your cell phone? I'm supposed to meet my son but I'm lost."
I'm probably a snob, but I inherently feel adults without cell phones are freakish. Her uneven voice and crispy hair reverted back to my descrimination. I handed her the phone, which is one of the more easily navigated electronics I've owned, but she was unable to make the call. I dialed her son's number and they chose a new meeting spot.

On move-in day, Hed, Taub and I went to lunch at a decrepit, village-of-Purchase restaurant. After the heavy, cheese-oriented meal, they had to hurry back to Long Island. Leaving their car, I was hailed by a woman in the driver's seat of another car.
"I'm sorry, do you have a cell phone I could borrow? My son forgot a piece of his equipment."
"Haven't we done this before?" I smiled at the freak.
"That was you? What a coincidence!" She held my phone for a few seconds and then remembered that she still didn't know how to use it. Dialing her son's number, I heard her say, "Nice necklace."
I looked over and she was holding up her set of keys. Dangling from it was a smaller but otherwise identical globe.

I didn't feel embarassed in front of her, but I thought back to when I'd purchased the necklace. The jewlery designer I was buying it from was away from the table, but her table-mate sold it to me.
"I'm very excited," I told the vendor, paying $6 plus tax for a reinvigorated key companion. "Tell your friend I really like her style."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Recognition Scene

Anne Niesenbaum voiced her concern. "I can't figure out what it is exactly," she giggled. "You're wearing it as a dress but what was it meant for?" I had on a long-sleeve, beach towel-material experiment from Adidas, printed with the New York skyline and a disproportionately-large but captivating-and-blond flying woman, and there was one vertical zipper that kept it on and closed.
After I explained it as a sarong for fat people, I admitted my fear. "I was worried this morning at the airport that when I went through security, someone would say, Excuse Me Ma'am, You'll Have To Remove Your Jacket."

I had put my two carry-on items in separate bins. My shoes were with my pocketbook, and my laptop occupied a third bin. As my group of property entered the X-Ray machine, the conveyer belt was stopped. A woman who easily filled the rounded design of her chair was in control. She began yelling for someone to walk over for a screen check. The attractive guy in front of me, whose bins of belongings were also being held up, could hear me sighing, "Fuck."

Upsetting my prediction of watching my large carry-on item being emptied and swabbed and then left for me to re-pack, a woman from Airport Security handed me my shoes [for dignity purposes] and then rifled through my pocketbook. She smiled in victory as her two fingers emerged with my moderately-expensive mascara.
"We ruled out mascara at the briefing last night, right?" she asked her nodding coworker.
"God, you're right. Mascara's a liquid."
The Airport Security guard dangled my makeup as a hypnotic pocket watch. "Would you like to put this in a bag and check it?"
I shook my disappointed head so she tossed it into the confiscated-goodies pail. I had banked on touching myself up with it after the flight.

Terry and I pulled up to the crowded curbside at 5 a.m. He declared that I should go inside the airport to check-in. Althought vechicles must be attended at all times, one of my duffle bags weighed 49 lbs and the other was a little less. With one for each of his hands, Terry speed-walked me into the terminal. Dropping them onto the line, he needed to leave immediately.
"O.K.," he rasped, pulling the large bills from his wallet.
Recognizing that I wouldn't see him for the next three months, easily the longest Terry-less period in my life, I started chirping little tears. Some of them were projected onto the hand that was holding my change purse.Terry's nose was running and there were cracks in his voice as he held out a wad of cash. I packed the money in and squeezed his stomach goodbye.