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Made from the second-best stuff on earth

I’ve lived in Seattle for three full years now, but I’m just starting to feel really at home. It’s nice. I know all my favorite routes by heart, can point out familiar landmarks to guide my way, have been to all the secret places nestled like pockets of rare earth in-between the mundane. I don’t need to think about my path or destination; my feet know the way, they’ll get me there. I lived in McCarty for two years, of course, but that doesn’t really count. So you can get to the physics building without thinking about it, wow. Stay here, I’ve got your medal in the car.

I bring up the topic of neighborhoods because I recently discovered a new niche in my own. This certainly isn’t my new favorite place, as most of those are in my apartment or otherwise so familiar as to render their discussion banal, but it is noteworthy. Pay attention – especially you, Michele.

Saturday night Michele and I joined Kwadwo, henceforth referred to as Q for the sake of my spellchecker (and because that’s what people call him), to get some bubble tea on the Ave. Bubble tea is an interesting phenomenon, in that as recently as a year ago it was nearly unheard of, but today there are at least five stores on the Ave which specialize in its concoction and retail. The idea: take milk, add fruit juices, tea, and some other ingredients which are, no doubt, Ancient Chinese Secrets, and toss in a few dozen tapioca pearls. For those unfamiliar with the latter ingredient, imagine the pudding of the same name from your youth, and then imagine a single one of those bubbles being bombarded with gamma radiation and then made very angry. That’s a tapioca pearl. They’re see-through and about the size of marble, and have the consistency of very soft rubber with no real taste. You don’t glean any nutritional value from them; they’re just for fun, like parsley or beer.

The UW community expresses mixed feelings about the little nuggets of fiber. Bryan, henceforth referred to as Socialist Bryan in light of his political views, considers them to be something of a nuisance, a roadblock between him and delicious fruity refreshment. “You’re sitting there drinking the tea, and all of a sudden one of these things comes shooting up the straw and down your throat! It sucks!” He has a point. Saturday was my first bubble tea experience, my having held out until then owing to the sheer weirdness of sucking solid spheres of matter through a straw on purpose. But now I’m hooked. Here’s how the situation went down.

Michele, Q, and I are seated on white, faux leather couches around a glass table inside Wow! bubble tea. Michele and I both have big plastic cups of the drink with gaudy, neon-colored straws poking out the top, and I’m almost to the bottom of mine. I’m slurping noisily in the dregs of milk and ice cubes, absolutely determined to get every last tapioca pearl out of the cup and into my mouth, and it’s because of this preoccupation that I don’t notice the music at first. It’s gentle and soaring, electric guitars mingling with an orchestra. Up until this point I’ve assumed that it’s Asian soft rock, because I can’t really understand the words and everything about the store is achingly Asian: the decor, the clientele, the owners, the menu, everything. But then I cock my head to the side and listen, curious, and can make out a refrain being repeated by the throaty lead singer: “Holy is the Lord!” I turn to Michele. “Do you believe this?” I can barely contain my sudden joy – irony is like mother’s milk to me, and the situation suddenly bleeds it. “Believe what?” Michele asks, presently unaware of the subliminal evangelism in which she is immersed. “They’re playing Christian rock music! In the bubble tea store!” I’m laughing hysterically now, swaddling myself in the incongruity like a sweater.

I carry little pieces of paper around with me sometimes, just in case I have a good idea and I need to write it down. So inspired am I by the situation that I presently whip out one of these and write “Christian fucking rock music!” in my large, loping print. Q watches me do this, and he doesn’t know what to think, whether to laugh or scold me for my blasphemy. “Zach, you can’t write that!” he says, laughing in spite of himself. The paper is folded, placed in my hip pocket, and forgotten about until several minutes ago. Aren’t you glad I have foresight?

Posted in Musings.


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