Monday, February 20, 2006

Melina's weekend with Zed

This weekend I went up to see my little brother Zed at college. I baked him a pineapple upside down cake and carried it up with plates and knives, since students don't usually have these things. It was a good recipe.

We had a blast. He has tons of friendly people living on his hall who all know him. They have a lot of space and everyone wanders to and fro all the time. When I first came in, it was somebody's birthday and they were having a party in their enormous common room. I was about to walk by, but Zed said "Oh, don't worry, we're invited" and charged right in. He even pulled me over to be in the picture that the birthday girl's friends were taking of the thirty people on the hall who'd come to participate. They were friendly to Zed's sister and even gave me some birthday cake.

Very early the next morning, we got up so that Zed could do his first show on the college radio station. He's licensed and everything. His show is international in theme and is excellent if you're up at 7 AM on a Sunday.

Our next activity was helping some neo-hippies, including one of Zed's friends, cook for the homeless.
Baby Boomers take notice: hippies no longer make up a full movement on campus, but have evolved into their own ethnicity to join in the fun of modern-day liberal arts schools' pluralism, taking a proud and legitimate place alongside science nerds, Korean Christians, athletes and Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queers (LGBTQ's).

This activity - which was titled "Food not bombs" - began an hour and a half later than it was supposed to, due to the hippies having a hard time getting up early on a Sunday morning. We picked up some vegetables at the Jewish house (a tray of raw sliced eggplant; a tray of cooked sliced eggplant; a bunch of tomatoes; a bunch of parsley; potatoes) and carried them over to the "Wellness House" or something like that, which is where the hippies abide at Zed's college. Judging by the front porch, one of the hippies was very interested in take-apart as a hobby. Judging by the kitchen, none of them were particularly interested in doing dishes.

There were a lot of fun signs up around this house.


And the most entertaining thing I saw all weekend:

In case that's too small for you to read, let me translate:
Dear Quean or Jinn (whichever one you are today), it is highly unadvisable to percolate one's coffee libations with ordinary paper hand towels. Such towels are not engineered to maximize the aroma of the arabica bean. Besides, your creative (albeit misguided) utilization of paper towels jeopardizes the jobs of union coffee filter workers. Enclosed are a quantity of the appropriate devices in question. Please consider this advice carefully. I have only your palate and good taste in mind.

Don't get me wrong. I love hippies. But they were trying to cook a fancy and gigantic and hippie-tastic vegetable casserole for the homeless, who would probably maybe rather be eating sandwiches than all this garlicky whatever, and they had less than an hour to do it before a van showed up to pick up whatever they were making. And their timing was all off. One of the hippies was painstakingly cutting up three entire heads of garlic (about thirty cloves). Zed and a compadre followed orders to slice up pounds upon pounds of potatoes. A small preliminary batch of these potatoes went directly into a rickety old wok that was the wrong shape to cook potatoes, alongside, for some reason, those slices of eggplant which were *already cooked*.

I was trying really hard not to start bossing everyone around, because I understood that would make me look like a jackass.However... I really really wanted to tell them... You cannot cook ten pounds of potatoes at a time in a wok!

Halfway through preparing the casserole ingredients the hippies decided there wasn't enough time. They were suggesting things like "let's just saute up some spinach and kale with this garlic" and "butternut squash will be good cooked in the microwave with maple syrup" and "maybe we can just turn these [almost-raw potatoes, soggy overcooked eggplant slices, and five cups of stewed tomatoes] into a stir fry." All these ideas started to happen simultaneously, and me and Zed decided to make a dash for the door.

Zed and I hung out for the rest of the afternoon, consulted on his political science homework, and had lunch in the gigantic main dining room, and then I had to try to figure out how to get home. I had already missed the one bus per day that went from his town to New York. I had heard rumors that a Chinatown bus now stopped at this town, while eavesdropping on Greyhound employees in Port Authority before I left New York, but when I called Fung-Wah bus lines they disavowed knowledge of any such bus. None of Zed's friends had cars. The commuter bus lines in Zed's towns all but shut down on weekends. I was thinking of taking a taxi to the nearest amtrak station, but that would have cost thirty dollars plus an amtrak ticket.

Finally, thanks to the suggestion of one of the hippies, I looked at the ride-board in the post office, and found out that an enterprising student was offering rides to New Haven for thirty dollars, at which point I could pick up the super-cheap Metro North train to new york. I called the guy (who was very grouchy and hung-over sounding) and he agreed to give me a ride. Zed said goodbye to me and I got in the car, after first quietly text-messaging the car's license plate to Yankel so that if the guy tried to kill me, Yankel could give the cops something to work off of.

But he didn't try to kill me - he very sensibly packed three of his buddies in the car and drove me to New Haven. The driver and his buddies were all hung over and starving, and they spent the whole ride down talking about the foods that they enjoyed, such as:

Lucky Charms
Rice Krispie treat cereal.

The fare I paid him would do them for gas money and dinner, and so everyone was happy, and I got on the train to New York with minutes to spare, and rode home, where Yankl is now cooking me dinner.

What an excellent adventure!


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