Bucks. I tried being a vegetarian once, when I was a sophomore at Florida Presbyterian College. At FPC you had to eat in the cafeteria because the student union was worse. We were in the suburbs. There were no nearby eateries. You could eat off campus if you had a car, but no car for me until I finished school. My folks were paying for college so I didn't have to work a job and could study full time. Hah. Well I could. They gave me an allowance, but the bucks stopped there.
Wolfies. Sometimes I'd get ride to Wolfies, a New York deli style restaurant about four miles up South 34th Street, at 1st Avenue South. They made an overstuffed reuben, delicious and greasy as hell. I once ordered it with pastrami. It wasn't a rachel. Just a reuben with pastrami; no coleslaw. I never went back. To corned beef, that is. I went back to Wolfies every chance I got.
Not anymore. I got a visit from an old friend from Mel High, one of the six or seven of us. We agreed that a picnic would be fun. He wanted to drive into Tampa, I don't remember why. We could have our picnic over there in some park. Fine by me. We swung by Wolfies for picnic supplies. I liked to get a loaf of their fresh baked bread, still warm, and a hunk of muenster. I'd sit on the beach with some girl who'd friendzoned me. I used to get that a lot. We'd tear off hunks of fresh bread and eat it with hunks of cheese and dabs of Reine De Dijon Whole Grain Mustard; heavenly. So when they asked if we wanted it sliced I said no. But he was buying and he scoffed at my hippie crap. We got the bread and cheese sliced. It was almost as good. Well, not really. No mustard.
Traffic on the bridge. He was driving a little Fiat which he proclaimed had a 1:1 steering ratio. Maybe he meant 10:1? He let me drive it across the Howard Frankland Bridge. It was indeed twitchy, hard to keep between the lines. But what I remember most about that drive was the music. He asked what I'd been listening to (Spirit, some Jefferson Airplane, Abbey Road).
He nodded tolerantly. He said he had an album he wanted me to hear. He'd copied it onto a cassette, and his little Fiat had a great stereo. We set off across Tampa Bay with me driving and he cranked up The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, just out. OMFG. No wonder I was having a hard time keeping it between the lines.
Mogambo. Wolfies was also big on ice cream: shakes, malts, and every kind of sundae. Their ultimate ice cream dish was called The Mogambo Extravaganza: something like 30 scoops and every topping, every add-on in the book, including some I'd never heard of. A mountain fat and sugar served on a big round platter. They had a standing offer: if you ate the whole thing, you got it for free. As far as I know, none of my friends ever tried. But I did see the sad remains slowly melting on some fool's platter a few times.
Almost cool. OK back to FPC. Don't let the name fool you: my school was no ingrown bible-thumping church institution. It was one of the two most progressive colleges in Florida at the time. Only New College in Sarasota was cooler, dammit. But by 1971 I'd already burned out on pot and psychedelic pills; they threatened my mental integrity. I'd settled instead into an alcoholic haze which would last me till 2016.
A slice of heaven. The cafeteria food was institutional. The entree server, the one you encountered first as you slid your tray along the three polished steel tubes, greeted each student identically: And yours? That's what we called him, And Yours. A balding fat guy dressed in white, with a white paper hat. Mystery meat was the worst entree: a piece of ground or cubed meat product profoundly smothered in thick beige gravy that tasted slightly disturbing. Like, what was that flavor? It made overbaked chicken look like a slice of heaven.
Natural foods. So when a student convinced the authorities to let him put together a natural foods line, it was a nobrainer. However, you had to do one or the other, no mixing. So I became a vegetarian. There was good stuff in the natural foods line. Fresh whole fruit, a salad bar, nut butters (not just peanut), tahini, granola, and and… I can't remember too much else. Oh yeah yogurt, and whole-wheat bread. I lived on peanut butter and banana sandwiches. I would substitute almond butter or tahini for variety, but the peanut butter was Deaf Smith crunchy; hard to resist. I also ate granola with fruit and yogurt or milk. Salad occasionally. But the entrees were unimaginative. Like squash cut in half and steamed. Just that, no sauce or seasoning. You could put salad dressing on them. Blue cheese dressing makes anything taste better. Or at least blue cheesier. The tang of penicillium mold was welcome relief from the blandeur of plain steamed squash.
Murder. One day a wag had taped up a poster at the entrance to the natural foods line. It was beautifully done decorative art, Leaf by Niggle style in elaborate curlicues, an intricate garden scene. So intricate the words were hard to make out at first, a productive use of obscuring by decoration. It was a brilliant slogan: Just because they can't run away doesn't mean they don't see you coming. I'm good with that. We live by murder. Only primary producers are innocent of that.
Sizzlin'. I stuck with my vegetarian diet for four months. I wasn't thinking about quitting. I felt fine, no different. But one day my sister Peggy stopped by and offered to take me out to supper anywhere I wanted. I didn't hesitate an instant: Sizzlin'! I drowned my vegetarianism in a big juicy t-bone. I was ravenous. Now I trust what my body loves. That's Leela talking.
Eckerd Drug College. I went through a lot of changes during my time at FPC, and not just me: even the name of my school changed. I was actually a member of the first graduating class of Eckerd College, named for drugstore magnate Jack Eckerd. Word on the street was naming rights for a small college ran Jack about $7M. T-shirts proclaiming Eckerd Drug College in the familiar Eckerd Drug logo appeared almost immediately.