Corey’s senior picture. Janna comes with the package.
After we toured the Palace and the grounds, I was super adamant about eating at the cafeteria. I am obsessed with the cafeteria!! All cafeterias!!
The cafeteria (Govinda’s) is located about a quarter of a mile down the street from the Palace, where the Temple and Hare Krishna lodging can be found. Right across from Govinda’s is a courtyard and it was teeming with Sunday worshipers who all stared at us because, short of flashing fanny packs, everything about us screamed NOT ONE OF YOU.
Inside Govinda’s, we became immediately confused. First of all, we were the only non-Krishna people. Second, there was no clear instruction on what we were supposed to do, so we all kind of stopped and slammed into each other as soon as we entered the door. Then we did what all socially adjusted people do and whispered uneasily to each other like we had just been kicked out of the back of the Scooby Doo Mystery Van and landed on the threshold of a haunted house.
“Ask if they have the buffet,” I hissed at Janna, who sighed and asked the young Indian girl at the register by the door.
“Oh, no,” the girl answered with a laugh and WHY DO I ALWAYS FEEL LIKE PEE WEE AT THE ALAMO EVERYWHERE I GO. I know I reference that all of the fucking time, but it’s because it’s true. “You may choose from our limited menu,” she said, Vanna White’ing her hand toward a black dry-erase board next to the counter. The undulating question marks in our eyeballs must have been pretty clear, because she added, “Would you like me to explain everything to you?”
We all sighed and shook our heads eagerly as she slowly explained in her best dumb white folk words what everything was. I still couldn’t understand half of it because I’m dumb with ingredients and wound up just picking something at random. Corey ordered something similar to what I got, I think our breads were the only difference, and Janna went with the safe bet of samosas because even dumb city folk know what samosas are. You can buy them in the freezer section!
Since Janna drove us there that day, and it’s kind of a long haul, I paid for her lunch. (And Corey paid for her Palace of Gold tour.) I wonder if she wrote about it that night in her diary, because Corey and I don’t generally do nice things for her.
We chose a booth far away from the other people already eating, and waited for our food over a soundtrack of our own nervous giggles.
A waitress (maybe the same person as the cashier? I wasn’t paying attention) set down Janna’s samosas and a tray that looked remarkably like hog slop and baby vomit, so I knew it was going to be good Indian cuisine, but Corey and I were unsure whose it was supposed to be. I thought she said something that started with a “d,” which is what my choice started with, so I dramatically stopped Corey right before he started eating.
“I THINK THAT MIGHT BE MINE!” my inner fat girl beast cried. So then we had the daunting task of waiting for the waitress to return with the final meal so that we could finally put this minutes-long mystery to bed.
I was right! It was whatever I ordered. But Corey’s ended up being tastier than mine, so who’s laughing now.
We didn’t have silverware, not that Janna needed any for her samosas, but it was kind of difficult for Corey and me to dig in to our lunches.
“I think maybe they don’t believe in forks,” I said honestly, trying to fashion my naan into a serving apparatus, but only succeeding in staining my fingertips orange like I had just smoked fifteen year’s worth of unfiltered Pall Malls. This went on for awhile, Corey and I alternating quiet exclamations of “ouch” every time we burnt ourselves on curry. Meanwhile, we kept darting our eyeballs around the cafeteria, craning our necks to see if any of the seasoned Indians at the nearby tables were also eating with their hands, but everyone seemed to be finished eating at the moment.
“You know,” I said, shaking the pain off my fingers, “maybe I’m confused. I think it’s the Ethiopians that eat with their hands.” And just then, another Govinda’s patron walked over to the kitchen and grabbed a plastic fork out of a bucket; Corey and I totally lost it. Eating lunch became a lot easier after that.
Even though I was too stuffed to finish my meal, I kept harping on Janna to go up and buy me dessert. She totally didn’t want to, but I can be very persuasive. There were these golden balls of wonder that I was dead-set on devouring, so Janna returned with a container of those and a regular old push-pop for herself, which made me laugh because how much more Caucasian can one look in an Indian restaurant than by licking on an American summer delight? And then I found out that the golden balls of wonder cost about as much as Janna’s lunch, totally negating the fact that I treated her, so then I was performing the simultaneous trick of laughing and choking on balls, which is something I mastered my junior year of high school.
Anyway, these balls were made of chick peas, cashews and honey. They were an oral treasure, in my opinion. Corey kind of liked them, but not enough to finish the one I gave him, and Janna took one bite and then handed it back to me. MORE FOR ME.
After lunch, we crossed through the courtyard, which was now suspiciously empty, and walked into the temple. There were shoes splayed all over the floor and on the shelves in the shoe room, but only three people were in the temple itself. One was an old white man who looked like he definitely has been foraging in the mountains his whole life. I wanted desperately to take his picture, but that motherfucker never took his eyes off me.
The shoe:person ratio is all the evidence I need to know for fact that these deity statues are feeding on human flesh. You’re not fooling this girl, New Vrindaban society. I’m on to you.
There was an Indian couple in the temple with us, and from a short distance away, I spied the man ladle some sort of liquid into his woman’s palm, which she then brought to her mouth and DRANK. I needed to do this too, so I lingered casually in front of a eerily realistic statue of Swami Prabhupada and waited for them to leave. Then I pulled Janna over to the bowl of hopefully-not-poison and made her try it first.
“It’s just like, rose water,” was her official Yelp review. So I allowed her to dump some of it into my palm, and then I immediately gagged and thought for sure I was perishing as the intense floral notes clogged my windpipe.
“Oh my god, what did you do?” asked Corey, who had just re-joined us after selling his soul to the Cult of Krishna by making accidental eye contact with one of the manga-like deity statues. Janna explained to him that I saw other people doing it and I’m sure she rolled her eyes too but I couldn’t tell since I was pretty much blacking out at that point.
Corey started laughing. “You were peer-pressured into drinking weird flower water?!” YES, PRETTY MUCH, OK?!
Janna had to use the bathroom in the temple before we left, so Corey and I stood outside and talked about her, obviously. Suddenly, a peacock trotted over from god only knows where, and it looked like it was going to start to head into the temple. I suggested that we try to usher it into the bathroom with Janna, and Corey thought this was the best idea since the Nintendo Power Glove, but there were two Hare Krishna people standing nearby so we thought maybe it wouldn’t be the hottest idea to disrespect their token animal while standing in front of the temple, no less. Even us Kelly kids know when to draw the line.
After the temple, we walked off some of our curry-heavy lunch while paying our giddy-yet-horrified respects to the Dancing Acolyte statues on the other side of the creepy (one lone) swan-infested man-made lake. Hidden by trees behind the statues sat a cabin which had eerie Krishna tunes wafting out through the screened windows. I wanted to climb up the hill and peek into the windows, but Janna was like, “No. Don’t.”
The last stop on the agenda was the gift shop back up on the Palace of Gold grounds. I bought a religious ring and a pretty blue bracelet that everyone at work has been admiring and I say, “Thanks it was like $5 at the Palace of Gold!” and then I think that might kind of mar their opinion. But anyway, on the way back to the car, Janna was crossing the street at the same time a car* was coming. I shoved her out of the way while screaming, “JANNNNNNNA!! LOOOOOOK OUTTTTT!” I mean, I SCREAMED it. Corey had already crossed the street and was standing next to Janna’s car, so he whirled around to see what the fuck was happening, and then he started laughing really hard, because what I didn’t know yet was that the doors to the minivan parked next to Janna were open and about 10 Indian people were standing there looking horrified.
*(It might be conducive to the story to explain here that the car was like, a lot of yards away and going 15mph.)
Of course, they were standing on the side of Janna’s car that I had to get into, so it was extremely embarrassing and I was literally squealing from trying to hold back my laughter. At that point, I was also crying. So I opened the backdoor of Janna’s car and pretty much dove in, nearly spilling my container of golden balls of wonder on the floor of her car. Corey and Janna got in and once all the doors were shut, we collectively lost it. Well, maybe Janna wasn’t laughing that hard, but Corey and I were doubled over. I think Janna was probably just more exhausted from having spent so many hours with the Kelly siblings.
Once Janna dropped us off, I came into the house and tried to recall the day’s events to Henry, while choking on another golden honey ball of wonder and having to squat down to keep from peeing; I was a hot, giddy mess. Chooch took one look at me and then went back on the computer.
Henry didn’t think any of it was funny, nor did he think I was a hero for saving Janna from vehicular manslaughter. I guess he had to be there.