Say, Man, You Got A Joint? It’d Be A Lot Cooler if You Did…

Snack time. Such an important event of elementary school life. Where you sat usually determined your social status, but what you brought could raise you to the top of the pack. Everyone glanced around at each other as lunchboxes were unzipped and unpacked. Mini muffins were like gold and Gushers, well, Gushers were little packets of jewels glistening with fruit flavor. Eyes darted about and hands clutched their pre-wrapped delicacies closer, suspicious of any longing glance. I was never in this elite. My snacks consisted of organic pretzels and sliced apples, hardly the high-fructose corn syrup packed wealth that my classmates enjoyed. I wanted so badly to be able to open my lunch and find a Fruit-By-The-Foot of my own.  Instead, I was the leper of snack time, as everyone selfishly gobbled his or her respective fruit snacks, Doritos, and Hostess cupcakes.

Many years later, in high school, I slammed my locker door shut only to be greeted with an outstretched hand clutching a tin band-aid box in my face: “Got any money for the weed fund?”  I didn’t, but even despite my lack of contribution, the boy (Gabe) invited my friend and me to smoke with him over the weekend. We soon became friends and it was the start of many other pot-sharing hangouts. Little did I know at the time that five years later he’d be my boyfriend of over a year. Some first-sight, this-is-how-mom-and-dad-met story to tell our kids right?

Writing about this memory now has brought up two realizations: one, I don’t think I ever gave him any money, and two, stoners are some of the best sharers in the world.

I can’t think of a time when I was in a room where a bowl was being passed around and I wasn’t offered a hit.  Every festival or concert I’ve ever been to I’ve been handed a joint. From who, you might ask? Complete and utter strangers. What’s weirdest is you don’t even have to ask; it’s just passed to you. Friend, family, foes, it doesn’t matter. It seems to be a general practice for everyone to share their pot.  In a popular YouTube video, Lady Gaga addresses the crowd at one of her concerts, “I smell marijuana. Who is not sharing?”

Why do stoners want to share?  Weed is not exactly cheap and can be a hassle to acquire, especially the good stuff. Not to mention the whole it’s illegal aspect should certainly put a damper on spreading it around. Perhaps they’re carrying along the message of peace and love set down by the hippies.  Spreading the wealth ensures good karma and allows you to cash in on an unspoken debt when you’re the one without any bud. Usually, it pays later to be generous.

The fact that there even is a weed culture shows that this is not a solo activity. People share their drugs, which is why there are customs, slang, music, and movies related to marijuana. There are even terms for when people are holding on to whatever smoking apparatus for too long. If you’re “babysitting” or “bogarting” the joint, then you’re being selfish by keeping it to yourself too long and its time to hand it on. It’s puff, puff, pass, not puff, puff, puff, puff for eternity. The normal seating for a smoking session is for everyone to be in a circle, allowing for an ease of passing and sharing. In That 70s Show, the smoking circle is a regular occurrence where the characters, and whoever they’re with at the time, all get high and laugh and discuss whatever issue is going on in that episode.

But when it comes down to it, who even likes getting high alone? Being baked among a bunch of sober people can be fun for a few minutes, but eventually you just end up feeling paranoid and socially awkward.  The whole experience of being high is a time for confessions, uncontrollable laughter, and attempts to dissect the world or how faucets work. Seemingly brilliant ideas and concepts are discovered or the oh-my-god-that-was-the-funniest-moment-of-my-entire-life happens. You can only accomplish this by smoking with others and so you share and are shared with.

This universal sharing of marijuana allows it to do something that few activities can: It is a great unifier.  Just about everyone smokes and because of that, everyone can smoke with each other. Think about it. If you were to define a stoner, no longer does just the tie-dye covered, dreadlocked, and patchouli scented image come to mind. Athletes, artists, nerds, rich, poor, girls, boys, they all smoke weed. This is why you can find groups comprised of all manner of people, some who you’d never expect to see in the same room let alone sitting next to each other, passing a bowl around. In the film The Breakfast Club, the previously at odds stereotyped characters finally come together (and make their detention much more fun) when Bender shares his stash with the group.

You make friends when you smoke with someone. Suddenly, all of the differences you may have felt before are washed away when you find yourselves laughing at the same ridiculous thing for hours. Oftentimes when you meet someone, weed is one of the first subjects that are brought up to find some common ground.  In the case of my boyfriend, if he had never shared his weed that weekend back in freshman year of high school, we may never have become friends who progressed into the couple that we are today.

Maybe this just sounds like some hippie-dippie peace and love mentality, but for something so criminalized and taboo, it is interesting that weed brings such a feeling of community and togetherness. Maybe it’s that secret collectiveness, the unspoken feeling that we’re all part of a club that transcends stereotypes, social class, age, and gender. You don’t have to do or be anything special to enjoy getting high and so everyone can take pleasure in it. And sharing that camaraderie and pleasure has got to be one of the nicest things anyone can do.

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The Best/Worst Vacation Ever

I sullenly clomped up the stairs to the hotel apartment, dreading what awaited me behind the heavy front door. Glancing back at the resort grounds I felt a twinge of guilt as I realized how amazing it was to be here. Then my mood quickly fell back into surliness, resentful of the people I was forced to share it with.

It had been the best and worst vacation of my life, a rollercoaster of ten days, with each moment bringing a fresh surprise of either pure wonder or extreme embarrassment. Despite the beautiful and incredible country we were experiencing, my family was quickly beginning to wear on me. I’d always dreaded family vacations for the sheer reason that we were so volatile with one another. From laughing uproariously in the car on the way home from a tour of the jungle to screaming at each other by the pool over who splashed who in the eye, it was never predictable. And my brother was the catalyst.

Fiery, temperamental, and totally immature, he was the root of either crazy hilarity or intense family feuds. His latest feat was a piercing sunburn that he acquired from ignoring my mother’s pleas to apply some sun block despite the combination of broiling sun, his ghostly skin, and hours spent in the pool. Though his skin was the only one blistering, somehow we all felt its burn. His screams echoed through the hotel, calling my father every bad name his ten-year-old brain could think of as my dad attempted to apply aloe to his scarlet back.

I was so ashamed to be around them, worried that at any moment a flare-up could occur and we would be once again regarded as the typical American family: obnoxious, spoiled rotten, and way too loud. The people we were among had so little and we could so easily come off as the disgusting Americans, always unhappy no matter what we had. In fact, we were just fulfilling the stereotype by being ourselves. Thankfully at thirteen I could wander around by myself, playing soccer with locals and swimming in the pool. I sighed as I turned the knob, preparing myself for the volume of yet another screaming aloe-applying session.

It was surprisingly quiet. I settled on the couch with the television on, savoring the moments of calm and waiting for the rest of my family to get back. My brothers were the first to come in, bickering about something or another. They too plopped down next to me. Then came my parents. It took us a few minutes to realize we were missing somebody. “Where’s Olivia?” my father asked. My sister Olivia was five, the youngest of us four kids, and ultimately the one who was always left in the background as the rest of us fumed and screamed at each other.

“Thought she was with you,” my elder brother responded.

Then my heart sank as I remembered who was with her last. My family all turned their heads and looked at me. “Alyssa, where is she?” my father repeated. Everyone turned to me as I numbly opened my mouth. No sound came out.  I had been playing with my sister by the pool, but somehow I had forgotten about her. We all bolted from the room, our hearts likely beating in a uniform panic. Heading towards the large pool area, I hurriedly scanned the perimeter, too afraid of what I might find in the water. I felt nauseous as possible scenarios flashed horribly through my head. I didn’t know what to do. How long had it been? How could I have lost track of her? I remember rolling my eyes at my mother as she walked away after a quarrel over getting my hair braided and then stalking off towards the room. That must have been when I left Olivia by the pool. My flip-flops slapped against the cement blocks as I ran through the resort, feeling more panicked and terrified with each minute that I didn’t see her pink wrap skirt in the crowds.

Finally, one of my parents called out from the hotel room that they had found her. My sister had somehow wandered up to a hotel employee and said that she didn’t know where her family was and he had somehow delivered her to our room. I was amazed and thankful that she could have the knowledge to do such a thing at her age. A twinge of embarrassment soon followed as I imagined the hotel employee shaking his head at the irresponsible, screwed-up American family yet again.

“Where the hell where you!” my father shouted, his face red and furrowed with rage.

“What is wrong with you!” my mother added. “Do you have any idea what could have happened? We are in a foreign country!”

I prepared a retort, ready to snap back with a biting reply to make them both shut up, but then I felt my face sear with fear and shame. I hung my head in silence as hot tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t know how I could have let this happen. How could I lose my little sister, who I had prayed for so fervently when we found out my mother was pregnant, who I had loved and cherished so diligently. I had unknowingly lumped her in with my frustration at the rest of my family, making her as much a target of my anger by forgetting her. My mind berated me with guilt.

As elated as I was that she was safe, I couldn’t shake the humiliation and remorse I felt for being the cause of a possible catastrophe. I had taken on the role of the family menace far worse than my brother ever had. Rather than being the cause for a few ruined moments on vacation, I was responsible for nearly triggering a serious disaster. And worse, I had almost let my teenage angst towards my family actually ruin my family.

If I really thought about it, my family was awesome. Here we were in Costa Rica when many families never travelled at all. Its true we were loud and obnoxious, but we were also silly and laughed together, something many families may not enjoy. We were dysfunctional, but what family wasn’t. And in truth, much of my misery was probably caused by my own stubbornness and hormones. I looked around at them all and then pulled Olivia towards me. “I’m so sorry,” I whispered.

Twitter Infographic!

 

Since I’m new to twitter, I found the distribution of twitter users to be pretty interesting. The United States is obviously in the lead, but it’s interesting that smaller countries like Indonesia surpass countries you would expect to see on the list (such as France, don’t they tweet too?).

Behind Closed Doors

Check out the Public Service Announcement my group and I created for Depression Screening Awareness. We didn’t win the contest, but I still think its pretty cool. Thank you to our wonderful actor friends and also check out my partners in crime Danielle Johns and Shaheena Nathani’s blogs!

This is the website for the contest. It’s very important work that they’re doing. While doing our research for the PSA, we found out that one out of every four college students or adults suffers from some form of diagnosable mental illness. That’s a lot!

Yummy Love

As the cardboard box ripped open, a feeling of familiar warmth swelled through my body. The kitchen was full of steam and I smiled at the soft kiss my boyfriend placed upon my cheek. We go to schools that are a $50 bus trip apart, so a visit is rare on our impoverished student budgets. This makes us ache and yearn for those three short days where we are reunited once again. And when we’re together, a probably (no, definitely) unhealthy amount of eating inevitably follows. Food brings everyone together, from family meals to business lunches to romantic dates. Everyone loves to eat. It gives people something in common right off the bat. Awkward first dates take place over food, allowing one to shove their face with mashed potatoes when the conversation runs out, hoping to gain a few seconds of time to think of a witticism to impress your date. Favorite foods are a secret weapon used to soothe over a mistake or to seek out forgiveness. Anniversaries, birthdays, and promotions are celebrated through elegant dinners and champagne. It all comes down to the same basic gesture. You show the one you love how much they mean to you through a meal. Gabe and I are no different. It is our one-year anniversary and we’re going to have dinner together. Except, we don’t need the expensive, fancy outings to feel like we’re a couple or that we’re doing something special together. All we need is a purple cardboard box of Annie’s shells and cheddar. And shaky cheese, lots and lots of parmesan shaky cheese.

In case you didn't know, this is shaky cheese.

By way of the Green Line Bus

Picking up from where he left off with Rushmore, Wes Anderson’s third film The Royal Tenenbaums highlights his obsession with quirky, dysfunctional relationships by examining in exquisite detail a family of failed geniuses who are brought back together through unlikely circumstances. Without confining themselves to genre, writing duo Anderson and Owen Wilson are light-handed with both drama and comedy, instead creating an eccentric family that both amuses and fascinates.

The story begins a few decades after the Tenenbaums’ initial glory, as Royal Tenenbaum, the fun loving, yet completely insensitive father is thrown out of his hotel once management discovers that he’s broke. After finding out that his separated wife Etheline has been recently proposed to, he devises a pity scheme of feigning a terminal illness to win back the favor of his wife and children. Here we are reintroduced to the Tenenbaum children: a paranoid businessman obsessed with exercise, a moody playwright with a secret 22-year-long smoking habit, and former tennis pro with a sister complex. They are a broken family, split by jealousy, depression, and disappointment. The offspring are drawn back to their childhood home, shells of their former prodigal selves, wrestling with the idea of accepting back a father who has left them with years of neglect and disappointment.

In truth, the story is not new. We’ve all seen the outcast attempt to win back the family or the betrayal of a scheme exposed.  What makes this take fresh is the plot revolves around the characters — instead of a major action or event. Almost a third of the film is character description detailed through narration. Anderson has created a fascinating set of characters, all cast impeccably with a range of talented veterans to respected newcomers. Angelica Houston comforts as the all-knowing elegant matriarch, constantly attending to the needs of her children. Gene Hackman shines as the inadequate, yet somehow lovable schemer bent on getting his family back, by whatever means necessary (“Damnit, I want this family to love me!”). Gwyneth Paltrow, in perhaps her most interesting role, provides a surprisingly versatile straight-faced performance, while Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller banter like real brothers as they are simultaneously both suffering from internal misery. Owen Wilson and Bill Murray occasionally steal the spotlight as drug-addicted western novelist Eli Cash and Margot’s neurologist husband Raleigh St. Clair. It is the quirkiness that fascinates us. Margot oozes coolness and glamour with each empty stare and cigarette drag. Chas commands our attention with a brisk business attitude while still displaying his vulnerabilities as a widower. Ritchie’s forbidden love for Margot plays sweetly off of his general good-naturedness towards everyone.

The impeccable cast... except where's Pagoda?

What is most strange, yet rewarding about this film is its ability to make you both laugh and cry with little change in tone. The ambivalence of emotion allows it to teeter between a heartfelt and daring you to take it seriously. As Royal attempts to reprimand Margot, he says, “You used to be a genius.” Margot calmly replies, in her characteristic deadpan voice, “No I didn’t.” The characters are not trying to be funny, but once their bizarre personalities interact, you can’t help but be amused. At the same time, there are small moments of melancholy that cause our insides to ache. The script is blunt and powerful, using its simplicity to make the maximum impact. We laugh when Royal calls Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) “Coltrane” while daring him to “talk some jive” and our hearts are broken when Chas tearfully admits, “I’ve had a rough year, Dad.”

Anderson’s indie style of filmmaking gives the impression of a low-budget film. A closer look, however, reveals a very delicate attention. His careful use of mise-en-scene to convey a dominant theme of nostalgia for the Tenenbaums’ childhood fame can be seen throughout the film. Objects within the sets are carefully chosen to either represent a character trait and to hark back to another era. Small details like the forgotten toilet paper on the face of perpetual good man Henry Sherman and the embroidered Recovery Area over the heart on the hospital shirt of Ritchie Tenenbaum continue to give us clues into the character’s inner conflict and development. The 60s/70s style warm tinting of the film and Nico, Velvet Underground, and Rolling Stones-filled soundtrack hide the film’s present-day setting. Even the Tenenbaums’ clothes give away their reluctance to leave their heyday, hoping to retain some of their former brilliance. Margot, with her thick eyeliner and glamorous fur coat, still wears the striped polo dresses and plastic hairclips of her youth.  Anderson is not heavy-handed, but beautifully subtle, allowing the detail to fade into the background while still cumulatively conveying a larger feeling of time passing on without the Tenenbaums.

Oh, there he is

Basically, the Tenenbaums are weird and as members of our own respectively weird families, we can relate. Maybe we’re not failed wonder kids or living in a beautiful townhouse in Manhattan, but we all know the feeling of that moment when you look around at your own family and think Who the hell are you people? We all have our issues, no matter our situation. This film, in all its quirks and eccentricities, shows us the true value of accepting your family despite their oddities. In the end, they’re always there. No matter how pathetic or dysfunctional the Tenenbaums become, it is their reluctant ability to stay together that saves them.

Heartwarming and poignant, The Royal Tenenbaums leaves us with a strange, yet comforting, feeling of wistfulness, as if we too were yearning for some lost era. As the Tenenbaums’ childhood friend Eli Cash forlornly states, “I always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” We do too, Eli. We do too.

 

This is my absolute favorite part of the film:

 

Food Trucks Roll into Boston

Customers place their orders at Bon Me food truck window (Source: http://newsoulfood.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/2011-04-22_12-47-07_894.jpg)

Regulations for the new Boston Food Trucks program have caused roadblocks for some and created opportunity for others, as 15 trucks were launched this past July. This launch was a result of a collaborative effort by several departments in the city, including the Mayor’s Office and Boston Redevelopment Authority. Although many are excited about the introduction of trucks, officials and food truck vendors are still trying to iron out the kinks in the regulations of the young program.

Boston has been behind the food truck trend and is hoping to catch up to other cities such as Philadelphia and New York. “This is just the beginning of a process to foster an active food truck culture in Boston,” said Mayor Menino, adding that the trucks will be serving up “wicked good food.”

Boston began its food truck mania by holding its first Food Truck Challenge to attract more trucks to the city. About 30 new and existing food trucks competed, each seeking the coveted prize of six months free rent on City Hall Plaza. The victorious trucks were also promised technical assistance, guidance in permits, and help applying for low-interest loans from the city.

The three victors, Bon Me, Momogoose, and Clover Fast Food, presented a business plan, 60-second promotional video, and underwent taste testing. Two rounds of public voting determined the winners. “We felt like huge underdogs going up against all these established businesses,” said Patrick Lynch, who co-owns Bon Me along with a BU alum. “If we hadn’t won, I don’t think we would have started a truck.”

This past April, according to a press release published by the Mayor’s Office, Mayor Menino worked with the City Council in order to “streamline and expedite the permitting process and make it easier for entrepreneurs to launch their businesses.” He hopes to continue to attract food trucks to Boston as a way to “enliven public spaces” and to create a fun, food truck culture within the city.

However, some food trucks got off to a rocky start when they failed to pass initial health code regulations. According to an inspection list published by CBS Boston, three trucks had their licenses suspended after several code violations, including Boston Food Truck Challenge winner Clover.

Violations included keeping food at temperatures low enough for bacteria to grow, not providing suitable hand-washing facilities, and employees eating in the service area. These critical infringements caused the temporary suspension of Clover’s permit, something that has a few consumers worried. “It’s scary to think that people handling our food can make so many mistakes,” said student Paige Bradley.

The city is new to food trucks and so is also new on how to apply the health codes to the food trucks. This may be the reason why many trucks had difficulties in knowing how to keep their own trucks up to regulations. Bon Me hasn’t had any violations however they found it difficult to find information on what equipment would be best to allow them to pass health inspections.

“A lot of the challenges come from the space being very small,” said Lynch. “We decided early on that we didn’t want to prepare raw meat in the truck. It’s taken a while to figure out how to keep the proteins moist and flavorful while also doing everything up to code.”

According to CBS Boston, Clover and the other trucks are now completely up to code and again serving food from their trucks at several different locations. “I think if they fixed the problems and no one got sick, then it’s fine. Their food is delicious,” BU student Candice Bancheri said.

Mayor Menino sampling some food truck fare (Source: Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff)

This brings up Mayor Menino’s Healthy Food Initiative, another regulation that may have caused a speed bump for some trucks. According to a July 12, 2011 press release from the Mayor’s Office, trucks were given the parameter that their menu had to include “one healthy menu option that does not include fried foods, trans-fats, or high fructose corn syrup. The healthy menu option also has to include at least three of the following: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, reduced fat or lean meats that are grilled, broiled, or baked.” The vendors were also encouraged to utilize local and sustainable food sources and to offer healthy beverages as an alternative to soda.

For many trucks, this adds to the challenge. “The [health] code isn’t really written to favor healthy food. It’s very easy if you use lots of packaged and processed stuff, or if you deep-fry everything. It’s hard to make fresh food like we do,” said Lynch.

This Healthy Food Initiative could have proved especially difficult for such food trucks as The Cupcakory; however, they fulfilled the requirements by providing vegan and gluten-free cupcakes.

Students are responding very positively to the promotion of healthier, more sustainable food choices being offered at affordable prices. “It’s great to have access to healthy food even during the day when you’re in a rush,” explained student Paige Bradley. “When I normally would grab some fattening fast food, I can now get a cheap vegan sandwich that tastes amazing and the service is just as fast.”

Although the food truck program in Boston has made progress in the past year, the struggle is not over.  Impending cold weather may decrease the amount of customers willing to purchase and eat their food outside. Others face challenges of keeping the spots that are vital to their businesses.

Yet, even though prizewinner Bon Me may still face some issues in the future, they are hopeful. “We’ve been struggling to figure out how long we can stay at City Hall Plaza, and that process has put us in a tough spot. BU has been great, but lunch is still the bulk of our business. We need a good lunch spot in order to be able to operate now. Maybe in a few months once BU has gotten to know us things will be different though,” said Lynch.

Glitches and snags are to be expected from a program as young as the Boston Food Trucks. And by the increasing lines, it doesn’t appear that the customers seem to mind.

“I think people like the entrepreneurial spirit of food trucks,” said Lynch. “Cities like trucks in part because it helps get people outdoors using common spaces.  Trucks make the streets more vibrant, which makes them more enjoyable for citizens and safer.”

 

Find a full list and schedule of the Boston Food Trucks here

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My Night with DFW

My blogging experience amounts to the occasional browsing of the few that I stumble across on my Internet travels, so needless to say I was apprehensive about my first posting. Never before would something I seriously sat down and thought about be so publicly available. As I settled in for a night of what seemed to be an overwhelming amount  (perhaps because I left myself so little time to read it) of material on David Foster Wallace, I could only hope that I would at least find the writing interesting.
I must say, I was pleasantly surprised.
I found DFW’s prose refreshing in a way that at first I couldn’t pinpoint. It’s true that his articles are long, involved, and somewhat dense. I often found myself rereading sections to sink them into my brain, particularly in “Consider the Lobster” which listed off dozens of facts, scientific terms, and philosophical queries. However, this is what led me to the reason why I found him so great.

I think biggest culprit for blogging writing style is the simplest. Now that everyone can publish their writing, we all think that everyone wants to hear what we have to say. With the invention of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social networking sites, it is possible to let everyone know exactly what you are thinking at any given moment of any day. It’s just how life works now. And this ego-centric culture gives many bloggers (definitely not all), the opportunity to rant and rave on topics that they know little about. When grand opinions and sweeping statements can be made all in a split second, why waste time? This is where Wallace distinguishes himself. By clearly researching and providing ample information regarding the topic at hand, Wallace presents his arguments by knowing the whole story, but still not knowing the answer. And that’s why I enjoy it. He’s incredibly intelligent, yet he’s continuously questioning, backtracking and re-thinking in a manner that I, as a lesser intelligent, can definitely relate to. When he does make a point, it’s subtle, almost leading you to believe that you came upon it yourself. Wallace himself said, “If a writer does his job right, what he basically does is remind the reader of how smart they are. Wake the reader up to stuff that reader’s been aware of all the time” (read more here). He is not forceful or in-your-face, but instead leaves the way open for us to struggle through all he has to say in order to find what we think he really means. Maybe it is rambling, but at least it’s interesting rambling.

After reading Maud Newton’s piece on DFW, I could not help but disagree. She claims he aims to soothe, but as I read I did not feel soothed. I felt provoked to think through the same questions he was proposing himself. His commencement speech made me feel exposed, guilty even, at how accurately and unabashedly he described how we all view the world.
As I said before, I myself am making some sweeping statements on my impressions of Wallace without having read much of him. However, I can tell you this: I liked my first taste. Maybe it is because I am speaking from a time of millions of self-published writers and self-centered technology, but I found little to criticize. And if one man could truly be cupable for an entire generation’s writing style, I would tip my hat to David Foster Wallace.
Also this is kind of funny.
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