Because my day job involves working at a major university, I am naturally attuned to seasonal student population shifts. Today marks the first week of final exams, which in turn means that I can actually find parking on campus again. Not that I don’t love students (there wouldn’t be a university, or a job for me, without them) but oh how happy I am to see them graduate and go away each year. I hope they move on to bigger and better things, things that don’t involve fast food or basement living, but I’m sure many of them will fall victim to a mild case of Reality Bites depression. This is of course in reference to the film Reality Bites (DVD/Download), an incredibly accurate portrait of post-college life. Even 20 years (!!!) later, the same stereotypes still hold true- the smart, creative superstar of academia who fails to find actual real-world employment, her friend who “temporarily” works at The Gap (maybe forever), the gorgeous slacker who uses his charm to mooch off everyone around him, and the “yuppie head cheese ball” who means well, but is still a sell-out to The Man and unabashedly listens to Peter Frampton. I definitely fell into the Winona Ryder subgenre, astounded that nobody in the real world cared that I aced my Genres of Film final 3 years prior. I didn’t make a psychic friend, but it was close.
Reality Bites follows four friends in Houston as they navigate the tricky waters of adulthood. Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, valedictorian of her college class, and struggling television producer. After failed attempts at finding a job in her field, she resorts to scamming her dad’s gas card (a GENIUS move) before finally meeting a corporate big-wig (played by the film’s director Ben Stiller), who wants to turn her short film about her friends into a Real World-esque TV show. The movie’s supporting cast is incredible, with hilarious and heartfelt performances by Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, and above all Ethan Hawke, who plays the sexiest slacker in the history of slackers. I don’t care how much acclaim he receives for Boyhood and Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, to me he’ll always be Troy Dyer 4EVER.
My beverage pairing this week is a tribute to anyone who’s ever been hungover, late to class, and just needs a sugar rush to get through the day. Enter- the Big Gulp. Winona Ryder extolls the virtue of this 7-Eleven beverage on a first date, while sipping from a container that is about 4 times the circumference of her arm. While watching Reality Bites, I recommend drinking an Adult Slurpee.
2 cups cold club soda
½ cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cherry extract
1/2 teaspoon cherry Kool-Aid
3/4 cup vodka
3 cups crushed ice
Pour 1 cup of the club soda into a blender. Add the sugar, cherry extract, and Kool-Aid and blend until the sugar is dissolved. Add the crushed ice and blend on high speed until the drink becomes slushy with a smooth consistency. Add the vodka and remaining club soda and blend briefly until mixed. Pour into glasses and drink with a straw, or spoon straw if you feel like raiding your nearest 7-Eleven. (Note: It’s easy to make this one non-alcoholic- just leave out the vodka. Still delicious!)
My favorite quote from this movie is when Ethan Hawke says, “All you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.” I wish I had paid more attention to that line when I was 23, instead of freaking out that I wasn’t “living up to my potential”, or worrying that I’d be asked to define irony at a job interview. So what if the only thing I really learned in college was my social security number? (TRUTH). I still managed to land on my feet, without having to sell fruit at an intersection. Cheers!