Blue Notes, Orientation 2014

“Halal” is an Arabic word that means “permissible.” Permissible according to Islamic law that is, not necessarily New York City health codes. But stumbling out of the Heights at 1 a.m. on a lonely summer night, a lamb over rice sounded pretty darn permissible. I decided to put my grumbling stomach before my bowels and stopped at Hooda’s.

You may have also enjoyed halal during your late-night Morningside exploits. And perhaps, like me, the extent of your conversation with the halal guy is begging for free fries. But this Blue and White writer, emboldened by several raspberry margaritas and a tyrannical editor’s threats, sought answers about the history of this neighborhood fixture.

Hooda’s first arrived on 115th Street 9 years ago, Kareem the nighttime proprietor informed me. “It’s not like you just show up one day,” he said. “There are regulations.”

More complex than city laws, however, are the unspoken rules between vendors. City agencies do not dictate locations for carts, so vendors settle questions of location amongst themselves. “Spots are like private property,” Kareem told me. “People even try to sell them.”

Some vendors resort to intimidation to scare off newcomers. On arriving in Morningside, Hooda’s unknowingly encroached upon the turf of another longtime cart, Amir’s. “A few weeks after moving here, the tires on my cousin’s truck were slashed,” Kareem stated. “We think it was this guy Amir who had a cart up the block.”

When I asked what happened, Kareem paused. “We stayed, of course,” he said. “We don’t play dirty,” he added nervously. As for Amir now? “He left a few years ago,” Kareem told me with a hint of a smile.

The landscape of halal food on the Upper West Side is set to change even more this fall with the opening of the “Halal Guys” shop on 95th and Amsterdam. The wildly popular food cart from 53rd and 6th Avenue drew huge crowds last year when they came to College Walk. Kareem said he wasn’t worried, however.

“Yes this guy is famous, but people come here because it’s convenient and cheap,” he said. “No one’s going to walk 20 blocks for a gyro.”

As I stood there, the smell of urine and cumin wafted to my nose. Right you are Kareem, I thought, right you are.

Channing Prend 

For Columbians who appreciate the peculiarities of our campus aesthetic, one recurring image provides a perplexing Easter egg for the observant. In Butler Library, in Ferris Dining Hall, on lamp posts around the campus, the same image is stamped onto flat surfaces: Pineapple Man, known for his sunglasses, his cool attitude, and the spiky leaves that identify him as an anthropomorphic fruit. While his image also appears around the world, the co-creator of Pineapple Man is an undergraduate student at Columbia University.

“It’s a good litmus test for people’s character,” she says enigmatically of the stickers, which feature the fruit standing assertively atop text reading “THEY CALL ME PINEAPPLE MAN.” “Some people look at it and they’re like, ‘It’s Pineapple Man.’”

The anonymous creator originally came up with Pineapple Man in China with her friend Calvin. One day, while joking around, they conceived of the character and started to incorporate him into their lingo. “It’d be like ‘Pineapple Man—he makes his own ravioli,’” she says of these early commentaries. She and Calvin began to make drawings and graffitis of the fictional fruit.

From these humble beginnings, Pineapple Man went on to become a global phenomenon. “Calvin’s cousin owned a sticker factory in Indonesia, so we were able to have thousands of stickers made.” His image has appeared all over the US and as far overseas as Singapore (“that was really scary because in Singapore they’ll kick you out of the country if you’re caught graffitiing”) and has found many supporters at Columbia. “I declared my absolute fanhood of them,” one devotee told me about his first encounter with the Pineapple Man stickers. This dedicated fan once stood on the shoulders of his friend to place a Pineapple Man sticker in the Woodbridge stairwell.

The co-creator doesn’t see Pineapple Man as a critical part of her identity. “It’s not as if me and Calvin are Pineapple Man,” she told me. “We’re more sort of midwives to his birth.”

Joe Milholland 

On a breezy Wednesday morning in June, two commuters and a curious tourist had their morning routines rudely interrupted when they were hit by BB gun pellets on the corner of Tiemann and Broadway.

Matthew Levine, CC ’15, was hit at the base of his neck. “I heard the shot and felt it at the same time… when I reached back I could feel metal, but no blood,” he said.

Levine considered his options, and decided that the hospital was the reasonable place to go. He thus continued to wait for the shuttle bus to the Columbia Medical Center, where he fortuitously works above the emergency room.

Another victim was an elderly woman on the upper level of a double decker bus. And the third victim was a commuter, shot at the same shuttle stop where Levine had been. No one seemed very alarmed by the sequence of events, though surrounding events heightened the drama. According to police officials, there had been a gang bust in the wee hours of that morning, in the same building that the shots were fired from.

Police officers speculated to Levine that the events could have been connected. The following day, a fourth victim came forward with a BB pellet injury. Since then, no one has been apprehended as a suspect.

The Center for Disease Control states there are some 25,000 air gun injuries each year. The majority are unintentional injuries between adolescents playing a game, not assaults, which make up only 10% of reported cases. In New York, the air gun injury is especially uncommon, as the city mandates that even BB guns and pellet guns must be licensed and cannot be carried in public.

Though none of the victims were seriously injured, Levine says it has made him more paranoid on the street. Even with an air rifle, it’s disconcerting to be shot at for fun. Then again, if what the officers speculated to Levine holds any water, fun may not have been the motivation. Which leaves us with something more disconcerting.

Tamsin Partiger 

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