|Maryland Terpwear and Gifts. Previously: Terp Territory.|
All I really wanted was a new "University of Maryland" sticker for the back of my car. For over a year now, ever since an ice storm peeled off part of the existing one, I've been driving around with this sticker that says "UNIVERSIT OF MARYLAND." There's something very uncomfortable about an English major's expression of college pride being marred by a typo. But every time I tried to buy a replacement, something would crop up. Last time, I was literally half a mile from the store when the school nurse called and told me my daughter was throwing up in the health room. But now my quarry was almost within my reach.
Driving past the old Dollar Theater that is now an Applebee's-- I saw "Inner Space" there-- at the theater, I mean, not at the Applebee's-- and turning left at the old 'Vous bar that is now the "Cornerstone Grill" or some nonsense, I proceeded to make another left just before the old Pi Kappa Alpha house that burned down fifteen years ago and is now a high-rise apartment building, and parked in the strip mall. Oh College Park, how I miss your grungier days and your grungier ways. These students walking your streets will never know what it meant to own a pair of "Vous shoes" designated to walk in the spilled beer and vomit of that establishment. Nor will they see the embarrassing spectacle of the toilet-papered PIKA house, moldering and lacking large sections of paint, as they shop across the street; they will never know the alleged slogan of that fraternity is "PIKA Is The Shit." Instead they live in these glossy high-rises, drinking bubble tea and window-shopping at Game Stop.
|The Cornerstone Grill: great-grandchild of The 'Vous.|
Finding nothing at the first store I tried, I dashed across Route One toward the Maryland Book Exchange. But first-- sidetracked again!-- I walked past the Bagel Place where Laura and I used to often stop for breakfast on our way to high school. I couldn't resist going inside.
|Oh, bless you, Bagel Place. You haven't changed one bit since 1992.|
|My order number even got a proper Beavis and Butt-head-era snicker out of me.|
|You see that? THAT is proper veggie cream cheese. None of this "tiny bits of diced vegetable" crap. This is a salad held together with cheese.|
At the Book Exchange I found the window sticker that had managed to evade me for so long. It almost got away again; the lines were insanely long with students buying their new-semester textbooks, but I refused to be deterred. If it caused me to get a parking ticket, well, this is College Park, and I'm all about tradition.
While I waited in line, I pulled up my Words With Friends games on my phone. I'm playing against someone I'll refer to only as Famous Best-Selling Novelist. I managed to beat her last time, but this time...
You see my letters there? That's not a game board, it's a yodel. Or perhaps a primal scream. And the Triple Word Score is WIDE OPEN. Sighing, I completed my pathetic turn and paid for my sticker. SUCCESS.
I headed back to retrieve my car; my phone was reminding me that it would be time to meet my mother in an hour, and I still needed to go to Ikea. But food sidetracked me once again.
|Curse you, Marathon Deli. Interfering with my desire for Swedish meatballs.|
Confession: I had never eaten at Marathon Deli. It was only because I realized my fellow alumni were going to turn me in for this and my degree would be rescinded that I decided to drop in today. And they were right-- it was an amazing gyro. In case you're thinking, "But you JUST ATE a cream cheese bagel"-- I only ate half. And I didn't finish the fries. So there.
Although Marathon Deli has been there forever, I noticed they have a new neighbor.
Is that what all the cool kids are doing these days? Back in my day, we had this:
Okay, it looked a little better back then, but this WAS the Santa Fe Cafe, where everyone went on Saturday nights and had a grand old time. If you walk through College Park you will see there are picturesque low brick walls along the sidewalks; those are for keeping the drunken students from falling into the street. Full disclosure: I never partied at the Santa Fe Cafe. My undergrad career was socially pretty pathetic, which explains why all [ed note: yes, all] of my books include people attending college, teaching at college, wandering around on college campuses, or reflecting on college. Our sublimated desires show up in our fiction, and yes, I confess it, I want to go back to school.
After all that, I hurried off to meet my mother. The Ikea trip never happened; it's sad. But I'll go there next time; it's just past the concrete slab where the strip club used to be, up the road from the shell of the old Sizzler. Turn left.