Chicken and Waffles
By Peter Stein, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 18, 2012
This is the story of Green Key.
Green Key is the best big weekend. Freshmen are finally a real part of the community and rage as such. Seniors use it as their last real chance to destroy themselves for the love of the game. And it’s nice out, so all the other kids like it too. It’s the part of the term when you play hardest, and you squeeze in a spring fling or two. You’ll enjoy it. Great. Have fun. Moving on.
This is the story of toys.
My grandparents loved getting toys for my brothers and me. My mom did too. My dad said it was a waste of money, but I think he secretly kinda loved it too. We had a lot of toys. We played with most of them at least once. We played with some of them more than once. Like the cardboard boxes and the wiffle ball bats. Because you can make forts and hit each other with those kinds of things, and that’s just a great time. Sometimes I wish we still made forts.
I don’t really think that the rate at which I got toys ever slowed. I don’t think it really does for anyone. They just start looking a little different. I think that words are toys. I have fun playing with them. And yeah, I guess I probably look clumsy and graceless when I do, but I’ve never really cared. I’m OK being the “Star Wars kid” of words. Thirty million views is hella facetime.
I used to love kaleidoscopes. They’re those things that look like telescopes and have little colored beads in them that make everything look trippy. You look through them when you’re eight and curious about what tripping on shrooms is like. The best toys change your perspective. They put you in a new place. And the nice part about toys is that all of them do that. That means that all toys are the best toys. It’s kinda like how no one is ever wrong in grammar school English class. Everyone just has a different perspective.
The sciences are really into toys. Much more so than the arts or the humanities or wood shop. I think it’s because the kids in the sciences don’t really deal with nihilism and Foucault and all that crap. They play with these toys that get rid of everything that we don’t understand. This is how a 10-kg block moves on ice. That’s how a spring oscillates in the absence of air. This is how gravity shapes the motion of the planets. Stuff like that. Details are ugly. No. Actually, they’re beautiful. But they’re complicated, and, really, only masochistic phil majors like dealing with that stuff.
Things tend to be intricate. They’ve got lots of parts. Maybe they have no parts, but that’s still pretty intricate. It’s hard to grapple with emptiness because there is nothing there. I remember there was a kid down the block who had a toy fire truck. He would always play with that when we hung out. He’d patrol our towns of blocks and Legos, zipping around, ever vigilant. The house he’d grown up in had burned down before his family moved into the neighborhood.
It is easy to see the forest around us through a lot of the windows on campus. It’s harder to see the trees. Some people go on hikes to see the trees. And, yeah, they’re OK. They’re all unique and pretty and stuff. I’ve never cared too much about seeing either the forest or the trees. I would rather see some people in the forest. Maybe make some s’mores among the trees. Maybe streak a trip. Maybe pitch a tent and hang out for a couple days.
I’ve built houses and cities and countries. I’ve built planets and solar systems and galaxies. I’ve built universes. They’ve been full of people and history and politics and romance and magic. Some of them have survived years. Others seconds. Some people say that ignorance is bliss. That’s ignorant. Understanding, complete understanding, is bliss. Because instant gratification is great. And that’s why I always read the last page of mystery novels first.
I often idly dream. I actively dream too. I’ll dream about what the future holds. I’ll think about that one time on the Green or that one time at the river or that one time at the golf course. I’ll think about what would happen if dinosaurs were still around. Or if I were a pirate. Or if I could fly. I’ll make models of new places or people, imaginary toy soldiers. I’ll dream about everything and nothing and things that were and things that might have been and things that aren’t and things that never can be and things that might be and things that weren’t and things that are and things that will be. And then I’ll open my eyes, and I’ll see you, and nothing makes sense anymore. We play with toys. A toy fire truck makes sense. So do forts made of cardboard boxes. So does Newton’s law of general gravitation. So does “work hard, play hard.” So does a spring fling. You don’t. I only love reading mystery novels when I don’t read the last page first.