Lunch Time? Alright!

Brad weighs in on the new lunch service: the people, the places, the potatoes, the “alright”s, and everything else.

No issue at Pembroke has been more intensely debated, more thoroughly discussed, or marked by so many differing opinions as the new lunch service (Honestly, I really don’t think that’s true, but that just sounded like a more interesting beginning than “I want to talk about lunch.”). The new lunch isn’t all Elysian Fields, not by a long shot, but it’s certainly won my vote in a few key areas.

New Staff, That Guy, Alright!

On the first day of what felt like a painstakingly-long week of what looks to be another bromidic school year, one of the first things I noticed come lunch time, and oddly enough, one of the last things I would have expected, was a brand spankin’ new cafeteria staff. Sure, you’ve got a few of your veterans returning for another season. Starting at the utility position is Dre, teeth as blingin’ as ever. I’m not sure what exactly his job is, other than eliciting giggles from naive Mission Hills girls (and being awesome), but he does it well. Steve is back (really though, did he ever even leave?), and the other people are back too (by “other people” I’m merely assuming that a few people returned; I honestly have no idea who else is back.). And if there’s one thing about the new lunch that everyone can agree on it’s this: Mr. “Alright,” the new hired server (You know who I’m talking about), has single-handedly revolutionized Pembroke Hill lunches. The magic of everyone’s first time (getting food) is a little different, but my first encounter went a bit like this:

I peruse the culinary options. What the hell happened to the paper menus? How do I know what the food is? Pasta looks good.
“You want some chicken?” queries Mr. “Alright,” quite jovially.
How can I say no to him? His excitement is tangible.
“Yeah, I’ll have some chicken,” I reply.
“Chicken? Alright!” He adds, quite convivially, with the last syllables of “alright” trailing off slightly.
But I’m confused. “Alright?” Is the chicken just average? Are you attempting to send me some form of a secret, coded message so as to avert injuring the feelings of your fellow cafeteria workers? (If so, bravo sir for your tactics, bravo.) Are you excited that I ordered the chicken? Should I give you a high five? Would the other cafeteria workers be jealous if I did that? Should I give them high fives as well? Would you have been as excited for the other dishes? Did you want me to disagree with you and choose pasta? Is alright your silent indication of this fact? Do you get this excited for other things?

At home:
“Hey baby, I’m home,” says girlfriend.
“We’re going to see The Bourne Ultimatum. Alright!” says Mr. “Alright.”

On the phone:
“Hey baby, how’s your job?” queries mom.
“Job? ALRIGHT!” says Mr. “Alright.”

Watching the game:

“Touchdown!” exclaims friend.
“Touchdown? ALRIGHT!” shouts Mr. “Alright.”

I know that at first, you’ll think my jests mean-spirited, but they aren’t. I genuinely enjoy taking advantage of his service (so, it seems, does the rest of the school, which is obvious when the line for Mr. “Alright” is two times longer than that of the other woman.). Now, whether or not the chicken was good is a completely different issue (Those of you on the edge of your seats had best cool your jets.), but there is something really exhilarating and delightful about getting your food from someone who seems to actually enjoy their job. This is a far cry from the woman last year, whose apparent anger about having to serve me was not just visible, but audible and, dare I say, managed to add a slight taste of distemper to my spaghetti as well (That’s an angry meatball!). What pains me most, however, is that I don’t even know Mr. “Alright”‘s name.

Character Analysis

“STOP RIGHT THERE. I want you to make parallels from the cafeteria workers to famous film/book characters.” I’ve got you covered. I see it going a little bit like this:

Mr. “Alright” = Sherlock Holmes (Sherlock Holmes) or Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)

Young, Angry, Ex-worker = Dr. Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes) or Nurse Ratched (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

Dre = Jules Winnfield (Pulp Fiction) or Michael Corleone (Godfather)

Steve = Dumbledore (Which, I guess, would make Linda Professor McGonagall?)

But if there’s one thing that makes me truly sad, it’s that Mr. “Alright” has toned down his excitement. No longer is my service peppered with fun “Alright!”s and other such jubilant remarks. I’m crossing my fingers that he’s just having a bad week (maybe he’s hitting his sophomore slump early?).

Overall, I have to give the lunch staff three thumbs and a piece of paper saying “Go Lunch Staff” up! And now for something completely different….

Food

I’ll start out by saying that, not obligated under any sort of “school” rules or restraints, I don’t have to spew fourth this propagandist, brown-nosing crap about the lunch being “HEALTHY AND NEW!!!!LOLZ!!eleven!” “ORGANICZ FOOD IS DA SHITZ!!!ROFLCOPTER!!! IT’S CHANGING MY LIFEZZZ!!” and “PEMBROKE LUNCH CHANGED!!!ZOMG!!!!ARMAGEDON!!!” No. We have a new carrier (ironically just a different branch of the exact same company) and a little bit new layout (PLUS SOME FANTASTIC FLAVORED WATER). The lunch is probably healthier, but everyone’s acting like the school just invented electricity (Not a joke; this summer, after twelve, 24-hour days, Dre and Mr. “Alright” did in fact re-invent electricity. Benjamin Franklin would have been proud.). But will the tastes hold up in this healthier, organic food? Do the new drinks hold up? On the whole, yes. A lot of the food is great, and a lot of the flavors were things we couldn’t get last year. But there are a few quick things I’d like to address.

1. POTATOES – Is it just me, or have we had potatoes every day for the last two weeks? Does the potato variety change? No. Yukon gold potatoes. Every day.

“What’re the odds that we’ll have Yukon gold potatoes today?”

“What are the odds that I will wake up tomorrow?”

For shit’s sake; we aren’t living in 19th century Ireland (see Great Irish Famine) here. Our survival for the year does not depend upon the size of the potato stockpile in the back of the cafeteria. Call me crazy (or reasonable), but something deep down is telling me that the cafeteria can probably get its collective hands on a different starch every once in a while.

2. Flavored Water – All I want to know is if the person who suggested flavored water in the cafeteria is the same person who took away the soft drinks a few years back. If so, double shame on you sir/madam. It seems that at this point, there isn’t any rhyme nor reason to what they’ll give us drink-wise, so in the hopes someone influential stumbles upon this article, Piña Coladas and smoothies would be sweet for next year.

3. Cafeteria Re-design

Subpoint A – Those little food shelters are oh so inconvenient for serving food. The cafeteria workers either have to duck down and pass it under the little mini-roof (in which case I worry that I’ll drop the plate and face the snickers of people around me), or stand on tip-toes and pass the food awkwardly over the top (maneuvering around the decorations). This slows the line movement down and that’s bad (see below). And while I’m at it, the little food shelters also make seeing the food just a smidgen more difficult. Add that to the lack of paper menus and we’re talking about a genuine not-being-able-to-tell-what-the-hell-I-just-ordered problem.

Subpoint B – The lines for food are ridiculous this year; and I don’t know what the cause of this is. Maybe it’s those damned food roofs. How to fix this? Not entirely sure, but I suppose Dre could have his own tertiary food line (I would go there everyday).

4. Small Portions – Unlike some people (I’m looking at you, girls), I don’t go to lunch for a carton of milk and a forkful of rice. It’s lunch, I’m hungry, and I want some food. So please, cafeteria workers, just hook me up with a little bit more. Maybe I’m deceptively skinny or something; but really, this has got to change.

The emphasis on health is definitely big this year. Presumably as a message to fat kids like myself to stop eating twenty ice cream cones covered in chocolate syrup and butter everyday. Honestly though, I couldn’t care less about how unhealthy (or, I suppose, healthy) my cafeteria food is. If I wanted to eat healthier, I wouldn’t be eating cafeteria food. Healthy cafeteria food seems like an oxymoron. For those of you who partook in the wonderful world of Wordmasters® (WOW!), here’s an explanation you might understand better.

Healthy : Cafeteria Food :: Accidental : Beaten Unconscious With An Iron Pipe

Now, don’t write me off as ungrateful and bitter. It’s not that I don’t like the new food; it’s just that I don’t have to be browbeaten over the head ad nauseum by this obvious change to appreciate it. I like the new food, a lot of the dishes are things I couldn’t get last year, I dislike the new design, and love the staff – it’s as simple as that. Pat yourself on the back. You just read more of my writing than will of Jane Eyre.

Watch Out Cursive – The Future’s Wondering Why You’re Still Here

An attempt at trying to understand why cursive is still around, and a proposal of a few reasons why that should change.

What are the biggest lies I’ve ever been told by an adult? Well, excluding everything involving a legitimate reason for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, they would have to be all the boldface falsifications involving that ancient form of writing commonly known as “cursive.” For those of you born in the quote-unquote hood, you may know of it as running writing. (Those ready to pounce, please cool your politically correct jets — I’m just trying to reach all my potential audiences.) So before we delve into how I (and my fellow Pembroke Lower Schoolers) have been wronged, let’s take a quick look at the vibrant history of this “in extremis” (that’s dying for the “slow” ones among us) writing form.

Back in the 17th century, some dude from England thought it was cool to connect his letters. Then T-Jeff (more commonly referred to as Thomas Jefferson) wrote most of the Declaration of Independence in cursive. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address in cursive (Yes, history was wrong. It wasn’t Grant’s military ability, but cursive that won the Civil War.). I suppose that it’s been uphill for cursive ever since.

Let’s fast-forward a few years. I’m but a wee, impressionable lad in the 3rd grade. I’m told about a groundbreaking secret. It is a secret so powerful and so amazing that everything up to this point in my life up will be nullified (Don’t worry. I’m not talking about that weird cult book that people were gobbling up on Amazon.) That secret is called “cursive,” it’s going to revolutionize the way I think about and do my writing. HOT DAMN! Count me in! Talk about excitement. Now I will be honest with you, I really didn’t realize that my writing could be revolutionized. I sort of thought we were done with the innovation after the Phoenicians, Greeks, and Romans. But boy was I wrong! Cursive was going to change things around these parts. I could imagine the cool wind blowing through my hair as I connected those first letters. The beauty of the capital Q that doesn’t look at all like a q (Seriously, did that ever bother anyone else?).

It’s been a few years. I look at my handwriting and those of my peers, and much like the question so often asked about the infamous Waldo, I have to pose this inquiry – “Where’s cursive?” (Or more bluntly “What the hell happened to cursive?”) Finding people who still write in cursive is about as hard as finding a complex, scintillating plot in a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie (If you’ve seen such empty beauties as Street Fighter and Universal Soldier: The Return then you know what I mean). I challenge you to find one 10th grade student who still writes in cursive. You quickly respond, “BUT WAIT! I DO still write in cursive!” All I have to say in return is, “Quiet Neal, I really don’t want to hear it.” I know from personal experience that trying to decipher Neal’s notes is about as easy as it is for an eight-year old to try his hands at decoding Sanskrit. Neal and his cursive are usually the last ones to finish writing down class notes. I would go so far as to argue that cursive has, in some ways, been detrimental to Neal’s scholarship. You think he’s smart now; imagine where Neal would be without cursive! If you’re thinking a bridge-building, crime-fighting, king of the universe, you’re probably not too far off. But let’s move away from our Desai discussion (I love alliteration), shall we?.

It’s the year 2007. I’m older than that awed 3rd grader, and computers permeate my existence. I don’t write in twenty-feet tall, little-kid letters anymore and as sure as I am about the Laws of Buoyancy and the fact that MTV is destroying our youth (Wild n’ Out? Come on. Ridiculous spelling aside, that show is about as funny as Jamie Kennedy on a bad day.), I don’t write in cursive any more. Have the hours I spent learning this ancient art-form helped me in my schooling? To answer that I pose this counter-question: Did Iraq help Bush’s popularity? Point proven.

So here I am, older, arguably wiser, and still waiting to be awed. I’ve got my ticket in hand, I’m wearing a nice little metaphorical suit jacket (Tweed, if you were wondering), holding my pleasant metaphorical suitcase, and I’m still waiting for the innovation train to stop by and rock my world (Rock of Love anyone? Hopefully the answer is no, because that show is downright trash.). I suppose that soon enough, I’m going to have to accept that cursive is as dead as Jacob Marley (Christmas Carol reference: “…as dead as a doornail.”), Latin (except in Mr. Young’s heart), and Aaron Schwartz’s career (Remember him? The fat kid from Heavy Weights? The one who won the go-kart race? “But he must have had a long, exciting career!” you say. Here’s a challenge: Name one other movie he’s been in since Heavy Weights. Enough said.). Yes, cursive is so dead that even that guy from Man vs. Wild couldn’t polish this turd-of-a-writing-form into something exciting (The man squeezed the water out of elephant shit to fend off dehydration, and I was CAPTIVATED!). But cursive is still around. The big problem seems to be that some people just won’t let this poor, sleeping dog lie.

One Middle School teacher tried to revive it. She required her students to write in cursive — essays, notes, you name it. Which means, that in some bottom drawer or dusty cabinet hidden away in the Middle School, there is a veritable treasure-trove of barely legible, cursively-infused, Middle School essays just waiting to be loved. But 8th grade seems like a long time to wait for this valuable learning (sarcasm). HAVE NO FEAR, FEARLESS READER! At PHS, we get ’em started early. Each child gets a complimentary (well it’s hard to call anything at Pembroke complimentary if you look at our yearly tuition) cursive browbeating that will stay with them forever (or until lunch). And let’s face it, my Spidey senses are telling me that the use of cursive throughout their lives has brought few – if any — physical (or even emotional) rewards.

Here are some potential situations:

#377 – After School
“Mommy, I learned cursive today! Look how nice my writing is.”
“That’s nice Jimmy, too bad you’re still a prostrate, little pansy with no friends and low self-esteem.”

#19 – Job Interview
“…And one essential skill that I want to point out is my strong ability to write in beautiful cursive.”
“Well, that’s nice sir. Too bad your resume still says you’re a prostrate pansy with difficulty talking to women and low self-esteem.”

I will admit, I’m not entirely sure that cursive is still taught at Pembroke. Knowing the good ole alma mater, I would assume so. And what will shock your socks off (anything is a saying if I pretend hard enough) — Pembroke is not alone. Schools all around the metro still teach cursive. So seriously, if PHS is still spreading the gospel of cursive, can we finally put that to bed? Cursive is outdated. Let’s teach some important lessons, like, improving math skills, or how to not turn into a humongous douche bag in high school.

As I noted in my prior article (A Letter to Lottie Dietrich – If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and click that link A.S.A.P. I’ve heard that Mother Theresa cried when she read it.), Pembroke is removing old stuff — old buildings, teachers, and techniques — at breakneck pace. Lottie D. is gone, the old high school is gone, even the early development building has a new name. In the vein of these other developments, I think it’s about time we bid farewell to cursive too.

If my experience mirrors that of other Pembroke students, while also considering the fact I dropped the use of cursive as soon as I arrived in 6th grade, not knowing cursive will do no harm. Let’s pay the piper (face the facts?): cursive was cool in the 70’s. Do you know what else was cool in the 70’s? Hippies. We don’t teach kids to be hippies in the 3rd grade, so let’s save them some agony and let cursive go the way of hippie training. Pembroke can take this easy ladder out of the Stone Age. If we want students to take notes quicker, teach them systems for abbreviating common words and phrases. Or even better, let’s just give them laptops (I would LOVE a laptop in case the administration is listening.). Computers are the the future, and I think that the future is getting a little bit impatient. It’s been knocking on our door for quite a long time, and I think it’s about time we let him (or her) in.

A Letter to Lottie Dietrich

A (fond?) farewell to the enigmatic building that was Lottie Dietrich. I’ve heard it’s funny, but don’t quote me on that.

(This is to the building, not the person. I’m not Bruce Willis. I suppose it’s weird enough to write to a building, but that never stopped me before.)

As the one remaining wall from the never-grand, but always awkward building, formally known as Lottie D., is demarcated for destruction, it behooves me to spare a few lasting words for an old friend.

*Update* That building got messed up worse than Evander Holyfield.

I’ll always remember your asbestos-and-mediocre-art-infested walls, dirty floors, and rotting carpets. I won’t forget the distinct feeling of teen “angst” not quite available in other buildings on campus. I’ll remember how the prospects of winning a running race with the people around me always seemed to improve dramatically as I entered your decaying doors. The sorrow that emanated from the few poor sops who got stuck with lockers on the lower floor will stay with me. I’ll remember that, if someone ever came on campus with malicious intentions, the Lottie Dietrich folk wouldn’t even be notified. Yes, there is a lot I’m going to miss; a lot more than just miniature offices and low ceilings, eerily reminiscent of Being John Malkovich, are going to be lost when Lottie D. meets its penultimate demise. (Is “its” the right pronoun? What sort of gender do you attribute to buildings? Are they feminine like ships? Do they not get a gender, like rocks and people without genders?) Whatever the answer to my grammatical inquiry, that ugly building, once perched like an eagle over that atrophic field (The field doesn’t even have a name. We name all our fields, but that parcel of useless land gets nothing. We’re building things so fast we’ve run out of people to name them after), will stay with me.

But it isn’t just the zero tears that I will shed in remembrance of the past; no, Lottie Dietrich’s departure is going to change a lot for my future too. Consider:

Now that there is no building set aside for “artistically-enabled” students, and art classes are being spread around the school faster than Maurice Green running a 100 meter in his glory days, band class will take place in a trailer. If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, that this sounds like a great idea for an ABC reality hit (20 kids, 1 trailer, YOU decide who lives), you’re right. But you also might be thinking that a year of band in a trailer is a bit of a step in the wrong direction. Oh ye of little faith. I’m willing to bet that the acoustics of a trailer would beat Lottie D.’s shitty acoustics in a 50’s boxing match any day. Plus, band in a trailer sure as hell beats making sculptures on dirty urinals and developing pictures in old bathrooms in the language hall. EAT THAT ART FOLK!

*Update* I just learned that band isn’t in a trailer anymore, that it will instead take place inside Hall Student Center. Band 2, Art Folk 0.

Another potential impact of the construction, one that has gone completely ignored, is the impact it might have on Pembroke Hill Gang Violence Rates (commonly known as the PHGVRs). Everyone knows that the Pembroke Hill campus is a dangerous place, just look at the 2007 crime statistics (I don’t actually have any 2007 crime statistics, I did however make a brief Excel chart for what they might look like, see link.). View Graph (As a special side note, the one criminal act on the chart arose when an overzealous clothesline mother ran over a Showcase kid on her way to an evening of hot bargains. With deals that good, can you even blame her?) But with the rampant graffiti, lax security guards (that’s a joke, honestly, I haven’t seen jobs taken this seriously since Ken Lay (that’s a double joke, but seriously, we’ve got sweet security guards)), and the multitude of gang-related violence and deaths, it’s easy to believe that you might be scared to go to school in the morning. Reminds me a bit of Middle School, but I may get to Cults of Personality in a later article.

It doesn’t take much of a leap of faith to imagine how dangerous our alma mater will become. With skyrocketing violence rates, the school may have no choice but to bring Lottie Dietrich back from the dead (Once again, the building, not the person. AP Necromancy got pulled from the schedule. Maybe next year Dr. Graves.). Yet by the time they can finish the construction on LD 2.0, it may be far too late, and, with Pembroke engulfed in violent euphoria, the city will have no choice but to declare a state of emergency and seize control of the school. YES, in short, we will become what we fear most: a public school. SHOCK HORROR!

Not only that, but with Lottie Dietrich gone, and without a place to focus their angst, dark clothing, and My Chemical Romance music, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to surmise that the art kids may start to cluster. Everyone knows that art kids become most dangerous when in clusters. Remember Gremlins? Imagine that, but a thousand-times worse. View the chart to get a clearer picture.

There are of course multiple other scenarios of doom that become much more likely — a zombie infestation, an XDR-TB pandemic, and a serious dog fighting problem (sans Atlanta quarterback), but those I’ll save for another day.

Yet in all honesty, I couldn’t be more excited to be bidding that Titanic of a building (they’re alike in the destruction sense, not in size, or Academy Award-winning ability) goodbye. We get a sweet new “performing arts center” with high tech equipment and the lot. Larger rooms, less health problems, a few new faculty to inaugurate the building. The art building isn’t just going to be for the rejects anymore. Could this get any more exciting? Done and done. Rumor has it that the map to an enormous treasure is hidden on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Whoops, that’s the plot to National Treasure, not a rumor. My bad! If anything though, I’d like to think that the removal of Lottie D. from the Pembroke Campus is one of the final steps in our historic “get rid of the old shit” campaign. Perhaps it’s symbolic of a Pembroke renaissance. Hopefully this Renaissance focuses more on the art and creativity than on the rising importance of Papal prestige (Although the PHS Pope does have a nice ring to it). With a new headmaster, new staff, new buildings and big plans for the future, there are a lot of uncertainties, but there is also a lot to look forward too.

As a side note: What the hell is up with having the construction workers caged off like animals?