Newsletter of the Association of Library and Information Science Students (ALISS)




 title of the newsletter: The Silverfish


April/May 2004

Vol VIII Issue IV

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Doughnuts and Dime Bags: An iSchool Subculture Explored
[Names have been changed to protect the posse.]

B y John Glover, MLIS Day

There are many subcultures within the iSchool. You know them – the knitters, the singers, the Trentists, the pinball-players, the labrats, and so forth. In my tenure thus far I have encountered many groups with many fascinating traits, but one has stood out to me above all. No group is so diverse, subversive, or can be matched for unbridled savagery as the doughnut eaters.

Do the knitters have an initiation ritual? I don’t know; I don’t knit. I hadn’t had a doughnut for ages before I started to notice the doughnut eaters and overhear their conversations. Eventually they noticed me noticing (isn’t that always the way?) and invited me to a late night “party” at Mary Gates Hall a couple Fridays ago. They said it would be fun, easy, and wouldn’t cost me a red cent. Trusting soul that I am, I did not figure the cost that would accrue to my soul and body… but neither did I figure on the new family I would gain.

It was late – around 2:30 AM and I was excited to be finally meeting these cool people. I’d seen them hanging around in their leather jackets, sneering their what-the-Hell-do-you-want sneers, and generally telling people where to get off. As I approached the front of the building, I encountered a trio of my fellow Informationists lurking in the shadows by the bike rack. In the glow from the arc-sodium lights outside the building, the chocolate frosting around their lips looked like blood. You’d think it would have been a sign, no? But it wasn’t – not for our hero (or so I like to think of myself).

I walked up to the group and started asking questions of them, addressing them by their real names. This did not go over well. One of them, a dangerous-looking woman in black leather in front of whom I once sat in 520, fixed me with her dead eyes and said, as she wiped the Bavarian cream from her lips, “no. That’s not the way it works. You sit there and listen and we tell you. And we have different names here, see? I’m Madam Doughnut. You can call him Le Cruller,” she said, pointing to a silent hulk reclining against a pillar. “And this—“

“I’m Lord Fritter,” said the tall, whip-thin individual whose back had hitherto been turned to me as he finished his humble repast. He tossed the box into the bushes and advanced on me. Nervous but not wanting to be excluded, I held my ground while he advanced. Two feet away he stopped and looked at me with a speculative glance.

“So you think you know doughnuts, huh? You’ve had an old-fashioned or two? Think you can hang with us? I’m here to say you don’t know a doughnut hole from a hole in the ground. You listen and learn from us and maybe we’ll take you upstairs. Maybe.”

“First, we don’t care how you spell it. A doughnut by any other name would taste equally delicious,” he said.

“Each of the spelling has its merits,” said Madam D. “ ‘Doughnut’ speaks to the process… but I won’t disparage the ‘donut’ because it speaks to simplicity.”

From out of the shadows came a gravelly voice that I realized must be that of Le Cruller. “Personally it causes me pain – that I can’t decide. It’s an important issue, but… we leave those fights to the youngsters. We’ve moved up the chain and are actually doing some supply these days. Let the kids fight about what you call it.”

I asked, somewhat nervously, “who’s ‘we’?”

They exchanged glances, after which Madame D said “we’re the Central Cartel. We cover most of mid-campus, with occasional clashes with the SciEng Triad. They’re vicious bastards when it comes to turf. I mean, we let this fund-raising Krispy Kreme stuff go on, but when it comes to real sales and distribution? You’ve gotta be up, showing the flag, always walking the paths. You don’t do that and one day the Triad’s at the fountain and… you’re out of business.”

“We’re grateful for them, though,” added Le Cruller. “South of them is the Med Dogs. We sent someone down there once to talk about the Triad with them and he never came back. Just walked into Health Sciences and was never heard from again. They aren’t flashy; they’re serious. We’ve got our bling, our posse, all that, but you never see the Dogs out. Don’t know what their system is, but we don’t mess down there.”

“Anyway,” said Lord F., “we’re about the doughnut. We introduce certain people we think are worthy to their glory, but we don’t care about the coffee. Leave that to the boys in blue.”

“Yes, a doughnut is an experience in and of itself, not to be diluted by coffee,” said Madam D.

Next they launched into a discussion of suppliers, temperatures, drew glucose/chilling diagrams, and generally tried to explain to me where to buy doughnuts. Failing to remember all that was said, especially given my condition the next morning, I only remembered fragments of their wisdom.

On Top Pot: “In Seattle, I think Top Pot is the best doughnut I’ve had.”
On Krispy Kreme: there seemed to be a consensus that Krispy Kreme doughnuts are too sweet, except when they are pulled right off the production line.
On Westernco: “Westernco donuts are passable, though not spectacular, but more importantly, Westernco is open 24 hours, so you can get your doughnut on at 4:27 in the morning or any other time you feel it appropriate.”
On Hostess: “Hostess is the Miller Lite of pastry.”
On Safeway: “Here’s the thing about Safeway doughnuts. If they have an in-store bakery and you get there at the right time of day and if you know the baker, you can get a good doughnut. A Safeway doughnut is good for three hours, four tops. Let’s not even talk about the places that don’t have in-store bakeries.”

At the end of the discussion of where to go for “supplies,” Madam D turned to me and began to speak quietly and in the glow from the security lights I could see the unshed tears waiting to fall, the passion behind the power. “Seattle’s not much of a doughnut town. Seattle’s a scone town. They have Starbucks here, the place where you buy pretentious pastry. You need to know that doughnuts are time-intensive, yes, but they’re love-intensive too.”

They stood in silence, meditating on the significance of the doughnut, perhaps. At last Le Cruller could contain himself no longer: “doughnuts fill a specific cultural niche. And yeast is the only proper leavening agent for doughnuts!”

The other two turned and looked at him briefly as he smoldered in the shadows, but eventually they turned back to me and grew still.

“Are you ready?” asked Lord F. “Are we going to do this thing?”

I hesitated a moment, realizing that I was at a defining moment in my life, relishing the transition and knowing that whatever came after tonight would inevitably reflect what went on here. A quick nod and we were headed inside. Lord F. used a card I couldn’t see well but with which he swiped us in. They all pulled up their hoods as they passed through and so I joined them.

Here I must recuse myself from testimony. What went on upstairs was my initiation into the Central Cartel and I am forbidden to speak of it. Suffice it to say that, much as some American Indians “ran the gauntlet,” I experienced the “whole doughnut” treatment. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen, but it was my rite of passage. Now I’m a member of the Cartel and have my own name. The doughnut has opened up a new way of life to me. I don’t know if it’s better, but at least I know that I have brothers and sisters, that I belong to something bigger than I am. And if you need anything? Just come by my corner of Red Square and I’ll hook you up. Yeast or cake, glazed or raspberry-filled, I do ‘em all.


"In the glow from the arc-sodium lights outside the building, the chocolate frosting around their lips looked like blood. You’d think it would have been a sign, no? But it wasn’t – not for our hero (or so I like to think of myself)."

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