• Joe Pace

Granite State of Mind, #133: C-Lot, University of New Hampshire, Durham


Stragglers!

Back from hiatus with one of my favorite places in the state. Funny, considering it's really just a fairly small equilateral of pavement, a parking lot infamous to commuter students for occupying the vertex of perfect location and vanishingly infrequent availability. A space in C-Lot was the Holy Grail, the macguffin of the parking quest, earned through blind luck or the patience of the lurking predator. As a resident student, I never had much call to participate in the carousel of aging Subarus. For me, C-Lot meant two things: Spring Fling and Karl's.


For we denizens of the Upper Quad, proximity to C-Lot meant the occasional obligatory visit to Karl's lunch truck, nestled in the western corner. For UNH alums, Karl's needs no description, but for the uninitiated, a brief sketch: Karl's was a greasy spoon on wheels, a rolling griddle that served up burgers and fries and other healthy fare to the customers who queued up Friday and Saturday evenings starting around dinnertime and stretching until the wee small hours, when drunken revelers layered cheese fries on top of many beers. Ah, the young stomach. You could order off the menu scrawled on the truck's exterior, of course, but most regulars relied instead on the odd, organic language that Karl himself, an avuncular, iconic figure to the community for some three decades, encouraged. Cheese fries were a snotty box, for instance, while a cheeseburger was a little guy. It's an extensive lexicon - there's a Facebook page dedicated to Karl's (https://www.facebook.com/groups/8156631930/) where you can check it out. Much of it would be considered impolite. Consider this your trigger warning. I was a two little guys with rag and dry box man myself. With a coke. How many times Joel Mellin and I reveled in and later regretted the Karl's experience I couldn't count.


The best part of Karl's was when you moved up in the world sufficiently to brave the interior of the truck, sidling into the small bench area at the rear with a window into the "kitchen". There was no password or shibboleth required for entry, just the brazen willingness to trade jibes with the frat guys working the spatulas. Oh, and ask for stragglers while you wait for your order. They'll throw some free fries on the counter for you.


The other aspect of C-Lot that endears it to my memory was the Spring Fling experience. As discussed earlier in this series, Spring Fling was a carnival event managed by the student Campus Activities Board (CAB) in conjunction for a few years with Senate's Students for the University council (SFU) and some downtown merchants. CAB handled the C-Lot side of things, with rides and games and bouncy houses. The pinnacle had to be the Jell-O wrestling. In 1995 we orchestrated a heavyweight title match between Student Trustee Mike Vlacich and SCOPE Director Shima. Donning a referee's jersey, I emceed and officiated the bout, which included entries to the Imperial Death March from Star Wars and Jules Winnfield's Ezekiel 25:17 speech from Pulp FIction. The fun we had before smart phones.


I don't remember if there were matches in 1996, but in 1997 the activity resumed, headlined by a less even contest between the outgoing Student Body President (me) and his incoming successor (future Mayor of Boston, Tito Jackson). I was giving up plenty of inches and pounds, though I like to think I held my own. The attached picture may beg to differ. Oh - and that stuff wasn't Jell-O, no matter what anyone says. Whatever it was, three showers weren't enough to get it all off.


I know Karl's is gone, and I don't know if political figures wrestle in not-Jell-O in the springtime anymore. But what a good time we had.

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