Chapter 1: A Formal Account of a Fancy Feast in February. Location: pika.
Across the train tracks, just a few blocks into Cambridge, a big green house on Chestnut Street has a porch light on. This is pika, one of MIT’s independent living groups. It’s a “mixed house,” home to an eclectic assortment of MIT undergrad, two cats, and a brood of hens. Every Friday night is Fancy Feast.
The pikans eat together every night. There are always visitors: alumni, locals, students from Harvard, BU and Wellesley. Friday nights, anybody’s welcome, and for the food and the company, it’s well worth the walk. Last night’s Fancy Feast was elaborate. There was hot, rich spanakopita, Greek salad, eggplant. There were Dan’s hand-wrapped dolmas, golden puffs of fried and honey-soaked dough, and a hundred servings of baklava. “Just try a little bit of everything,” someone warned me, but I was heedlessly hungry, and by the time I’d taken something from each dish, I had enough on my plate to feed all the chickens for a month. Afterwards, basking in the glow of good conversation and satiety, I talked about moving to pika.
“They say there’s always a place at MIT, no matter who you are, that will make you really happy,” my pikan friend (the author of that night’s menu) told me, “and you owe it to yourself to find that place. Even if you’re already medium-happy.”
I’m used to being surrounded by crazy people who love me. My home in Oregon was chaotic, noisy, and creative. Everybody does their own thing, every corner and tabletop has a project underway, the people are up for anything. Pika’s like that. There are murals on the walls and a fireman’s pole from the fourth-story roofdeck.
There’s a kite hanging from the ceiling and a piano anyone can play.
There’s a painting that looks like an insect-alien right-side-up, and a man on a stool upside-down.
There are introductions and candid moments.
And there’s a really cool map someboy painted of the fictional land from The Phantom Tollbooth, which my third grade teacher read aloud to the class, and a guy at pika read aloud in its entirety to an eager audience of like-minded housemates.
Photo credits to Harini Suresh, the pretty painting girl in picture 2.
After dinner, we walked to Kendall Square Cinema to see Happy People: A Year in the Taiga.I loved it. I want my brother to see it, because I know he’ll love it too, but I’m afraid that he’ll be too inspired to run off into the wilderness and live off fish and furry things caught in hand-built traps. He’s close enough to doing that already.
Wise-sounding words from the movie, as I remember them:
“You can take almost anything away from a man. His health, wealth and suchlike. But not his craftsman skills. Once you learn a trade you always have your trade the rest of your life.”
“WIthout moss and wedge to earn his bread, the carpenter would be long dead.”
“Exposing the body [of a canoe] to heat makes the shape of the canoe permanent.”
I feel like all of those apply to MIT a little bit. The past few weeks here have been insane, for me and for my friends. Almost like being held over a fire–I’m crossing my fingers that it’s a part of the process, like the heat exposure step in canoe-making, and we’ll all turn out stronger and finer for it.