Friday, December 10, 2004

I haven't written about Barrington Hall in a while so here's Part 3 of my year at Barrington Hall. You may wish to read the first and second posts, written earlier this year. If you prefer, here's the management summary:

I lived in the Barrington Hall Cooperative in Berkeley, California during my sophomore year of college. It was an exaggerated stereotype of life in "hippie" Berkeley, replete with copious drugs, psychedelic murals, and entrenched filth. I was a squeaky clean boy from the suburbs. Fish out of water hilarity ensued. Although I had a good friend as a roommate, we shared a suite with two nudists, a violent and brilliant stripper, 7 adorable kittens, and an extraodinarily flatulent mother cat. Today this would be a short-lived series on Fox.

Now we're all caught up. Let's talk about Barrington grub.

Barrington, like all the Co-op houses, was student run. Students did the cooking and cleaning. They ordered the food and served the meals. In short, we did everything required to run the building. Consequently, the place was kind of... well, what's the opposite of a well-oiled machine? A dump. Yeah, it was a dump.

I always enjoyed how my fellow Barringtonians reacted to the various unsanitary conditions. Let's say there were no clean glasses and someone wanted some milk from our industrial-sized milk dispenser. Would they wash a glass? Would they forgo hygiene entirely and use a dirty glass? No! Often the answer was to use some other vessel. I often saw beverages consumed out of ladles, giant serving bowls, and my personal favorite, plates. I LOVED watching people try to drink off of a plate. Some residents were experts at it, while eithers just forlornly watched the beverage dribble down their clothes onto the floor, where it happily mingled with the other floor filth.

Dinner was the most exciting meal at Barrington. It was a group meal and vaguely resembled one of the challenges on Survivor. Not only was it physically difficult to get at your meal, but once you had it cornered on your plate, you really weren't always sure if it was something you should ingest.

Typically, the hungry unwashed masses would gather in the dining room at dinner time, and would anxiously await that evening's feast. If dinner was a bit late, the crowd would often spontaneously break out into a drumming cacophony. Silverware, plates, ladles, bongs, hacky sacks, whatever, were used to create some pre-dinner music. To this day I cannot hear the opening to The Who's "Magic Bus" without feeling both nostalgic and vaguely nauseated.

When dinner was finally ready, it would get served by that evening's cooking crew. Although this sounds like a simple task, it was a suprisingly dangerous assignment. There was rarely enough food to eat at dinner and this was a well-known fact. Consequently, the servers would bring out large bowls of whatever to each table and would then attempt to extricate themselves from the feeding frenzy that immediately pounced upon the food.

The mad rush to get food from the serving bowl onto your own plate/pan/teacup/tongue was a nightly occurrance. There were many nights when I wasn't quick enough or strong enough to get any dinner. Those hippies were suprisingly wiry. Other times, I just couldn't bear to eat the food after it had been pawed at. I recall one evening they served some chicken in a savory and dingy grey sauce. Right before I could plop some onto my plate, the woman next to me ran her fingers through the serving bowl and scooped up a handful of chicken and sauce, which was promptly delivered to her mouth. I hadn't gotten there fast enough to see if this was her first or second iteration through the bowl. I passed on dinner that evening.

Another night they were serving some sort of baked chicken breast thing. Inexplicably, the servers decided to bring out the chicken breasts using the trays that they had been baked on. These trays were HOT and the servers ran through the dining room, rushing to get their limb-scorching trays to the tables. One server, in his haste to avoid 3rd degree burns, tripped, and the chicken flew off the trays and slid across the grime-encrusted floor. Nobody missed a beat. While I hesitated, the other Barringtonians pounced and devoured the now filth-spiced chicken. Mmmmmmm, floor chicken.

And that's the story of how I ate at Blondies Pizza about 3 times a week for one year of my life. You could get a big slice of pizza and a Coke for about $1.50. Although it was also prepared by hippies, you didn't have to be particularly fast or strong to acquire the food. You just had to have $1.50.

More Barrington Hall stories another day.

12 comments:

amy said...

Cool! I can't wait for chapter four. Very cool indeed. Reminds me of the time I was nanny for a family of Canadian Buddhists in Gloucester, Mass. (1989). Crazy stuff indeed....from a naive girl from a strict Catholic home in Southeastern South Dakota. I had the time of my life in those 11 months...definately changed me as a person....most don't believe me stories either but I do have photos for proof. Anyways, great stories... keep on telling them.

Mike said...

Inky, that sounds like a setup for a joke.

A Catholic girl, a nanny, and some Canadian Buddhists walk into a bar....

You fill in the rest. :)

amy said...

and the booze was a flowin' let me tell ya... As Molly Shannon would say in her skit on SNL, "good times, good times"....

Tasty said...

I'm both alarmed and amused by this story. I'm glad you lived through the event. BTW, I have family that attended Berkeley.

Mike said...

Stacey, I aims to alarm. The amuse part? That's just gravy. Mmmmmmm, gravy.

Anonymous said...

dude, i was there 1983-5. i'm having a flashback....

Mike said...

Dude, enjoy the trip.

NoelleMac said...

I lived in Barrington 1984-85.
While dinner was chaotic, no one ever ate off the floor -- though it is also not hard to imagine.

As for the cleanliness factor, I never got food poisoning like when I made the mistake of living in Chateau the "appeared" clean. I got food poisoning twice.

"Aquarius" is my friend

Mike said...

Hi NoelleMac. As you can probably attest, there's no reason for me to make up Barrington stories. Enough interesting things happened without the need for me to fabricate them. So, I assure you that I witnessed the floor chicken debacle.

And, I can also report that I've been having a charming email thread going with Aquarius. She's a good egg.

Celia said...

You did a very good work with this report; you have good and interesting information about this topic. It’s really good!!!
Do you want to see something more? Look at this:
Glass Bongs and Bong featuring Herbal Smoke, water bongs, bongs online head shop, Marijuana Alternative,glass water bongs, Hashish, Ganja, homemade bongs, Smokeshop, cannibis, legal smoking alternatives for herbal highs and aphrodisia. http://www.headshopinternational.com

mst said...

Hey Mike!

I lived in Barrington in Fall 89, the last semester it was open. The dinner scene was exactly as you described, utter chaos, not enough food, no effort to maintain sanitation. My work shift was Thursday night snack, and it's where I learned to love baking (being Chinese, baking has never been part of our cultural cuisine).

I must admit, while I lived there, the dirt and disorganization irritated me a little, even though my own room and roommate were havens of cleanliness and discipline...but looking back, I'm very grateful for the experience. It taught me to let things go and enjoy life in a way that nothing else has.

Anonymous said...

i lived next door to barrington hall for a few years. very interesting experience... impolite, insensitive, pretentious, uncivilized, arrogant savages for the most part. i was instrumental in closing it down. they called me red.