Aramark Is Target of Cambridge PlotColumn by Anders Hove
A couple of days ago I saw an advertisement in a local newspaper that read, "Balkan Subversive & Revolutionary Bookstore has moved to a new location. You must visit!" I couldn't imagine my crooked, old friend Radovan moving anything, let alone his entire shop. I figured it was worth a look-see. I even invited along my ace-girl, Fly D____, mistakenly supposing she took an interest in the strange world of underground Balkan literature. (I now believe she only agreed to come along because she assumed Earl Grey tea was part of the deal.)
The shop's new address was listed as 2 Banja Luka Alley, in Harvard Square. Turning off Brattle Street, I immediately noticed the old, busted-up "Balkan Subversive" neon sign hanging over a black, half-hidden cellar door. In spite of the recent move, the new entrance looked as old as time itself. Fresh with anticipation, I was about to step off the curb when Fly D____ grabbed my lapel, and pointed at a store next door I had not yet seen.
"Look! The ŒRastafarian Revolutionary & Subversive Pipe Store,'" she said enthusiastically. The pipe store was rakishly decorated with an expansive kente cloth banner, not to mention the half-dozen "Free Mumia Abu Jamal" posters plastered over a glass display window. Although we were still outside, Peter Tosh music filled our ears and the putrid odor of a Grateful Dead concert plugged our nostrils. I clearly had no choice but to follow Fly D___ across the threshold.
I admit to feeling a little apprehension as a glanced around the shop. A group of blond, dreadlocked rastas milled around a corner display stand stacked with sold beeswax and tubes of "Let's Dread." We appeared to be the only two people in the bookstore without dreadlocks or joints tucked behind the ears. Noticing our discomfort, the store owner ambled over to where we stood, gesturing broadly with his coconut bong. "Welcome brother and sister rastas! We have been waiting for you to join us. Will you partake of the hookah-nut?" he asked.
I tried to smile disarmingly. "Actually, we were interested in some subversive books. Do you have any?"
Smiling, the store owner arched and threw his head back - his mane of dreads waving - and laughed. "Do I have them? Does Trenchtown have ticks? But I know what you really came for."
Fly D____ interrupted, "Actually, I just want something to eat!"
"Ah," he replied knowingly, with a deep, catlike yowl. "Yes. Come downstairs."
We followed the owner down a winding staircase to a yellowed, smoke-filled kitchen in the basement. Flour-covered bakers scurried back and forth. A fidgety chef darted a furtive glance at us, then continued garnishing with ganja leaves what appeared to be vegetarian chili. Two smiling women were busy brushing garish-colored paint over a wooden sign that read,"Caribbean Winds" while children scampered about with freshly-baked brownies clamped between their teeth.
I was shocked. I'd never seen (or inhaled) such an operation.
"You see my friends, three little birds told us about some MIT food contract renewal scheme. We are AraMarley. We are using this time to strategize as to how to serve our newest Œcustomers.' When your oppressive regime goes out to bid, we'll be the only green, vegetarian, customer-friendly group available. We'll surely win any taste-test contest. Try one of our special flour-pot cookies!"
Fly D____ has a notoriously ravenous appetite; nothing can come between her and food. Her eyes and mouth were watering profusely; she reached unwillingly for the greenish-brown cookie in the proprietor's hand. My mind racing, I grabbed a rasta pipe from the display case and beaned the owner over the head. I pulled Fly D____ by her suspenders and yanked her through the morass of ganja smoke, up the stairs and out the entrance. I collapsed on a nearby stairway, "I Shot the Sheriff" ringing in my ears. Everything went black.
The next thing I heard was a creaky, familiar voice saying my name. "Hove! Come on boy. Here take some water." I opened my eyelids to see my friend Radovan's twisted, wrinkled face leaning over mine, peering luridly into my eyes.
"Rado! What happened to me?" I gasped.
"Listen, Hove, I gave you a special payment plan on Comrade Abe: America's First Socialist President. If this is your way of saying you don't have the money this week, it's okay. Just don't tell me you've been hanging around those capitalist rastafarian neighbors of mine. They and their childish plot to rule MIT with drug-laced brownies disgust me, not to mention that the very idea is unoriginal. You aren't in league with them, are you?" Radovan looked at me apprehensively.
While I fidgeted for an explanation, Fly D___ came to her senses, apparently awakened by Radovan's Bulgarian disco music. "I have the munchies," she said.
With a convulsive twitch of his soot-caked cheek, Radovan turned and hobbled past a nearby book-heap, disappearing out of sight. From an unseen antechamber, I heard his faint voice creak out, "Why don't you try the Glasnost Cafe upstairs. They have neither rats, nor brownies. It's run by some my old friends from the NKVD."
Fly D___'s face lit up with a smile. We would be staying in Harvard Square a little longer than I had anticipatedŠ