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Cloyne Court, Episode 26
By Dodie Katague
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Rated "R" by the Author.
A creative memoir about Cloyne Court in Berkeley, California in the late 1970s.
“I think I’ll have to do that. If the vegans can cook separately for their little group, I’m going to start our little special interest dinner group of carnivores and we are going to cook beefy meals once a week. And the house is going to pay for it!”
“Yeah, right. Bring it up at the next council meeting,” Peter said sarcastically. He walked back into the kitchen to check the sound of a metal platter hitting the floor.
“Great idea, Alan,” I said. “We can offer a carnivore dish as an alternative to this vegetarian shit. We can call ourselves ‘Carnies’ and start a Carnie Club.”
“Sounds like a workable plan,” Alan said. “I think we can sell it. What do the rest of you think?”
“We can set up a weekly schedule and take turns cooking palatable meals for a change,” Polly said.
“And we can have a dining table reserved for us,” Hadas said, “like the vegans.”
Mike said, “And because we’re a minority group, we can get special admissions to the dining room and get scholarships and grants.” He sneered at Miguel when he said this.
I was to learn much later after several semesters of listening to Mike’s diatribes on the Cloyne basketball court that he disapproved of the University’s affirmative action policies. He argued that admission should be strictly based on grades and not ethnic background. He knew it wasn’t politically correct to announce his position at a liberal university, so he took out his frustration on the minority members of the house.
Miguel heard Mike’s veiled insult and clenched a fist. I could see tattooed on three knuckles were the letters CAL. At the time, I thought he was a fanatical Berkeley supporter, with a permanent love for the school. I hoped he graduated and didn’t switch schools. Only after he was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in South Central Los Angeles in 1983, would I discover the letters stood for Crazy-Assed Latinos and his acceptance to Cal was his ticket out of the gangland barrio he had grown up in.
“And we can sing the Monty Python Spam chant as our club song.” I started to sing. “Spam, spam, spam, spam.” The table group looked at me strangely. I guess they didn’t understand the non sequitur.
The only one who laughed was Katy, and Dan scowled again. I guess he didn’t like her laughing.
With that ingenious idea spurred by hunger, Alan clanged his fork against his glass jar and stood on his chair to address the dining room. “I’m tired of eating this crap, and I’m not going to take it anymore!” He took his plate of slop and threw it at the kitchen door. It struck the door flat like a pancake and slid to the floor. Some food stuck to the door.
I think Alan expected others to revolt. After having seen the newly released movie Animal House, he expected a clamorous food fight. However, no one else followed his example. They went back to eating their dinners.
Alan taunted the crowd, “You mean to tell me you want to eat this stuff. This is unnatural. We’re humans. We’re hardwired to eat meat.”
Still no one paid any attention until he launched the first insult.
“Not this vegan shit!” Alan pointed to the vegetarian table and pointed at a member. It was obvious to me that he was trying to upset someone into action.
A member of the vegetarian table rose to address the insult, but the diner next to him pulled him back into his chair. “Leave the cannibals alone,” the diner said.
Alan could see he was fighting a losing battle, so he said, “If anyone wants to form a carnie club, where we cook dinners with meat, we will get together in the sunroom after dinner to talk about it.”
He sat and spent the rest of the hour drinking milk from his mason jar.
Shortly after dinner, a dozen of us, mostly men, went to the sunroom trying to establish a consensus on how to convince the house members to vote money to pay for the carnie program and how to divide the cooking duties.
The trouble was we were still hungry and lazy. Nobody wanted to go to the efforts the vegetarians did to practice their principles.
“I move we adjourn this meeting to La Val’s Pizza and discuss the carnie proposal over pizza and beer,” I said, and we headed toward the restaurant on Euclid Ave.
I saw Dan in the group. “Is Katy going to join us?” I asked.
“No, she said she’d go with whatever I decided. She has a term paper to write.”
With Alan leading the motley crew, we entered the restaurant and joined several small tables together. Alan sat at the head of the table to preside over the discussion. “The first order of business is how many heart-attack pizza specials should we order?” The special had different meats on it: sausage, ham, pepperoni and linguisaas well as vegetable toppings and extra cheese.
The waitress came with menus. “Hey, I remember you,” she said. “Weren’t you here yesterday for dinner?”
Alan smiled. Somebody of the opposite sex had actually remembered him. He read the waitress’s nametag. “Yes, Kim. It’s nice of you to remember me.”
Kim was overweight, but hid her extra pounds well in a loose fitting T-shirt and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans. She had a youthful face, but it was marred by her overbite when she smiled. Her eyes looked fatigued, as if she had been working all her life. They were gazing at Alan in admiration. I hoped Alan saw it, but he went back to reading the menu.
“His name is Alan,” I said. “Great guy, once you get to know him.”
Kim was surprised to see so many of us. “What house are you boys from?” she asked.
“Cloyne Court,” Alan replied.
Kim turned to the bartender and yelled as if he were out in the back forty acres on the homestead. “Jim, what were the Co-ops serving tonight?”
Jim looked at a paper taped on a refrigerator. “Their weekly menu says it’s chicken patties au gratin.”
“Is there a problem?” I asked.
Kim turned back. “We usually prepare extra pizza dough on South of the Border Surprise night. But no matter, what’ll you boys have?”
We all began ordering at once.
Cloyne Court is currently available to buy at a deep discount to "everyone" at Barnes & Noble.com. There's no telling how long Barnes & Noble will keep this discount where it is.
This episode is based on a true story.
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