Sunday, August 4, 2013

Trending Topics: The end of a Rutgers tradition? - [a case of the summer]

Earlier today, the following story was posted on the New Brunswick Today website:

The grease trucks are a thing of legend around Rutgers.  In fact, it is widely known about within colleges in and around all of New Jersey.  People who come to visit Rutgers consider getting a fat sandwich at the grease trucks a bit of a rite of passage.  Hell, Maxim Magazine even named the Fat Darrell the best sandwich in the country!  These grease trucks are a legitimate big deal!  Incidentally, there is a Fatty's chain which is inspired by the fat sandwiches, although I don't find them quite as tasty (I joke that it's probably because the utensils and stoves are clean).

And personally speaking, the grease trucks are one of my fondest memories from my four years at Rutgers.  Hell, if you recall, last year's Summer of Excitement had me leaving the #ZRvsDZ sticker on one of the grease trucks.  I had a favorite sandwich -- the Fat Mom (which was, prepare yourself for this, cheesesteak, bacon, eggs, french fries, lettuce, tomato, and ketchup....all one one sandwich) -- and as crazy as it might sound, my friends and I used to actually leave parties early in order to get to the trucks before they closed.

Yet, it seemed like every single year there was some sort of controversy that attempted to get them removed from the Rutgers campus.  One year it was noise issues.  Another year, health issues.  There were other reasons as well, like safety and pollution.  And yet, it seems that the thing that is finally getting them removed from their space -- a parking lot on the main campus -- is the fact that Rutgers wants to use the space for something else.

I do have several endearing memories regarding the grease trucks.  One time, my buddy and I (Masked Emotions, actually!) went to the grease truck after a party.  At the time, we were living on the Livingston campus.  It was the weekend, which meant that the buses only came, like, once an hour.  And since it was well after midnight, we weren't looking to miss the bus.  So I'm waiting for my sandwich to get ready, and the bus arrives.  Masked Emotions (bless his soul) actually held the bus open by keeping his foot in the door, until I received my sandwich and got on the bus.  I imagine that driver was pissed.  Another time, I was on line for one truck....and a lady from another truck yelled at me to come to her truck instead.  And finally, just last summer, I was visiting Rutgers with a friend and decided to stop at the trucks before going home.  While there, I noticed these cool "Save the Grease Truck" t-shirts.  On the back was a cartoon version of one of the trucks with "A Rutgers Tradition" written around it.  They were only $5 so I jumped at it.  I still wear the shirt fairly regularly.

While the article does note that the grease trucks will likely still exist in some form or fashion -- just not necessarily in its current form and at its current location -- the traditionalist in me still takes issue with the fact that a genuine institution is being displaced and redefined.  They were right smack in the middle of all the activity.  On one side of the street you had the university, for those of you coming from class, and on the other side you had all of the frat houses, off campus housing, and bars for people who were coming off of a night of drinking.  Moving it to some of those proposed areas disrupts that dynamic.  The news is certainly upsetting to me.

Rest assured, I will be visiting the grease trucks before August 15th.  Maybe that'll be that week's Summer of Excitement.

For more information on the Rutgers grease trucks, visit their Wikipedia page.

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