Read our third print issue of the year, including stories about Stony Brook University’s paid parking proposal, up-and-coming band Seeing Double, the seizure of pirated e-book “shadow libraries,” hearing Black voices on campus and more. Cover photos by Keating Zelenke.
Letter from the Editor
By Keating Zelenke
I told my friend last night while we were walking to the Press office that I feel like a piece of kelp in the ocean. Not in a good way or a bad way — kelp doesn’t care that it bends to the will of the current, it’s just kelp. It’s seaweed. It wiggles under the water, sucks up nutrients from fish poop and rotting carcasses on the seafloor, photosynthesizes.
As of writing this, my 22nd birthday is tomorrow. I never had a birthday at Chuck E. Cheese growing up — I never even bothered asking. I just knew the answer would be no. I don’t know why. But I think it was Carly Hinman who had her birthday party at a Chuck E. Cheese when we were in first or second grade. I didn’t pay much attention to the games because I always lost, but the jungle gym never ceased to entertain me. I climbed up the steps into the multicolored tunnel. I went through every turn I could find, just in case there was one corner where something amazing was hiding just around the tunnel’s bend. I slid down the slide and landed in the ball pit, then waded out as quickly as possible so I could go up the stairs and crawl into those red, yellow and blue tubes — so hidden and wonderful to me — once again.
I used to go to McDonald’s multiple times a week when I was a little kid. My grandmother and aunt, the main culprits of my McDonald’s habit, used to say that if I ate any more chicken nuggets, I’d become one. One time, I crawled to the top of the tunnels in a PlayPlace and found a scratched porthole that overlooked the seating area, where my grandmother sat drinking her unsweetened ice tea with lemon from the Dunkin’ Donuts across the street. There, on the textured floor of that red tube, was a small puddle of yellow-gray vomit — completely smooth, no chunks. My little body, rattled and sheet-white, scuttled back down the greasy slides and tunnels and steps, and I stepped back out in the regular dining area. I finished my chicken nuggets and fries without saying anything. My grandmother and I left. I haven’t been in a McDonald’s PlayPlace or a Chuck E. Cheese jungle gym since that day.
My 22nd birthday party will not be held at Chuck E. Cheese — none of my birthdays will. Is this sad? I’m a stalk of kelp in the water. I never sway too far in any direction, I can feel the air bubbles come up through my yellow-green leaves — it tickles. That’s nice. Maybe you’re wondering if any of this means anything: Is the kelp a metaphor? Are the tunnels a metaphor? Is the vomit? I will answer those questions for you: No. They are all just things that I’ve seen and felt. Did you see them? Do you feel like this too?