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.