“What if we sent someone to spend 24 hours in Allegro?” Asked some terrible person.
“Yeah, I’ll do that.” The words were out of my mouth before I could grab them back. Fuck.
Over the next couple of days, I convinced myself that spending 24 hours in Allegro would be a great idea for a couple of reasons:
1. Who’s really at Allegro between 4am and 9am?
2. Who else can say they’ve spent 24 hours in Allegro?
I get there at 11am on Saturday, Nov. 14. I encourage friends to come and visit. Peter Jeffrey (W ’16) strolls in at 11:45am and orders breakfast food: two eggs over medium with bacon, fries and toast. He loves it. “You might see me getting this at 12:10am,” he says as he leaves.
Key Discovery Number One: Allegro has breakfast.
* * *
My second visitor, Linnea Cederberg (Huntsman '16), has the same question. “So you’re going to pull an all–nighter, in Allegro, for fun?” she asks. In my notes, a version of me responds, “YES, WHAT DON’T PEOPLE GET ABOUT THIS?” I still don’t get it.
Key Discovery Number Two: I don’t really know why I’m doing this.
* * *
I try to buy a six–pack at noon, but the cashier informs me that I can’t buy a six–pack in Allegro and then drink it inside of Allegro. This is nonsensical. I could, presumably, buy single bottles and drink those, but that’s not cost–effective. I do what seems to make the most sense at the time: I blast Facebook and listservs with requests for booze.
A friend offers me the choice between tequila and whiskey, which means she’s actively trying to kill me. She brings me half of a water bottle of Maker’s Mark.
Another friend brings me a thermos full of Malibu, which is a nice gesture, but doesn't do the trick.
And yet another friend brings me a water bottle half–full of warm beer from a flat keg, because he thinks very little of me.
I sent a friend back to my house to bring me my remaining Tanqueray. I make it through most of the night drinking gin and Cokes (I’m aware these aren’t a real thing, but Allegro does not have tonic water): Gin to pass the time, Coke to keep me awake.
But the best/worst thing I put in my mouth during this experience—and that includes Allegro wings—is a concoction referred to as “The Floridian.” My roommate Erik Glen (M&T '16) brings me a water bottle of this at 3:34pm. He slams it down on my table. “There you go, Slotkin.”
He attempts to take the cap off, but when he twists it, physics takes hold and the cap flies across the room. The look of surprise on Glen’s face is as if I just told him that his mother quit her job to become a carny: Well how the fuck did that happen?
He takes a generous swig for someone who was already plastered from a boozy brunch. I take a sip and nearly gag. “What the fuck is that?” This drink is “65–percent vodka and 35– percent Pepsi.” Glen is adamant that Coke is not the mixer here. “It’s Pepsi, goddammit.”
Key Discovery Number Three: The best way to do this is drunk.
* * *
I keep going. My friends from the Parlimentary Debate Team, Jesse Berliner–Sachs (C ’19) and Emily Rush (C ’19), arrive. Jesse is stone– cold sober; Emily is very much not. Jesse wants to check up on me before running off to catch up with some friends. Emily is shouting at her tablemates, "Do you know who I am? Do you know, like, the context of me?"
A little after midnight a crowd of maybe twenty people attempt to arrange tables next to a booth so they can sit at one long table; they end up in an awkward “L” formation and shout at each other.
A Glee Club freshman announces that he has a 3D printer in his bedroom and wonders how the elephant he set to print when he left earlier in the evening came out. Another friend on the debate team enters the conversation at this point and warns the freshman, “Don’t fuck that elephant in the vagina.”
Seth immediately redirects the conversation and asks, "Are you satisfied with reality? If you could change reality, would you?" Probably.
Peter comes back with a friend who is, for some reason, incredibly impressed with this endeavor of mine. A squad of my housemates show up, and they gamely fill up a thermos with my gin and bring it back to me.
My two housemates, Glen and Andrew Altman (C '17), come in hot, with a veritable two–liter of Floridian.
When it gets too hot in the dining room, we move outside. As I begin a swig of the drink, Andrew farts, and I start laughing uncontrollably, to the point where Floridian starts coming out of my nose. I spit it out to avoid choking on it, right onto the window of a booth where a couple is dining. Sorry.
It's 4:46am and Andrew leaves, but Glen and I go back inside and ask the last table of people what they’re still doing here. They’re honest: “We’re just a bunch of single people Tindering and Bumbling and Hingeing, trying to find something."
At 5:10am, Glen goes home, and I finally have a minute to myself.
I think, damn, that’s the best I’ve felt in a long time..
Key Discovery Number Four: That was fun.
* * *
What’s interesting is how anonymous you can be in Allegro. This is an extremely visible exercise. I stay in the same booth the entire time, with my laptop and an assortment of water bottles on my table and my backpack on the bench next to me. I am near the window; you can walk by outside and see me Twittering or browsing Longreads. I have notes about various times employees and students side–eye me:
- 11:11am: Some betch judges the shit out of me for sitting in Allegro with a laptop. Honestly, I deserve it.
- 1:20pm: Theos guys give me weird looks. Idk what to say about that. Maybe I should get some 'za.
- 6:01pm: I think the cashier lady recognizes me. She gives me a Coke for free. Little does she know, I’M USING IT TO DRINK WHISKEY.
- 7:35pm: Big dinner time rush, to the point where it’s taken about a half hour to get the TV changed to the Oklahoma game. When I asked to change the channel, the cashier gave me a DIRTY look.
- 6:59am: Girl walks by and judges me. Have fun with your workout, boo.
- 7:10am: Manager finally displays a healthy concern for my wellbeing and asks what I’m doing.
I’m only really noticeable, as far as I can tell, when the restaurant is kind of empty. As it fills up, as people start planning their nights or going through play–by–play recaps of whatever antics just occurred, I’m invisible. T
here’s something beautiful about that anonymity, a space in which you can ignore all of the baggage that comes with being your social self and just sit down down and eat. There’s nothing else like it on this campus.
Over by the soda fountain is the most infamous dude on campus, the kid who allegedly tried to burn down Castle; I don’t notice him until someone points him out to me, and even then, he’s just standing inconspicuously in the corner, waiting for his food.
Adults trickle in and out throughout the night. I block two of them from getting to a table when a Street writer uses me in an attempted recreation of The Last Supper. I’m Jesus, obviously. I’m a brown–skinned Jew
Key Discovery Number Five: Allegro is a place for everybody.
* * *
The early morning brings extreme loneliness. Some cops leave at 5:42am, and I’m by myself for the first time in nineteen hours. It’s dark outside. It’s very hot. The manager switches the TV to NFL Network, presumably to torture me.
I’m bloated and feel awful. I’ve had three slices of pizza and ten wings over the last nineteen hours and no physical activity to burn off those calories. They, like me, are just sitting there. I’ve drank three cups of Coke, which is a lot of caffeine and soda for someone who normally avoids both. I feel like I have to burp. I can’t burp. I could really use an Alka–Seltzer.
As the sun is just starting to turn the sky purple, I sit there and think hard about what my life at Penn has been like. Who are my friends here and what do I enjoy doing? More morbid: If I were to die in this restaurant alone at 6:36 in the morning, who would come to my funeral? Who would speak? Who would care?
I’m a writer for Street. That much is self–evidently true. But that’s new. I’m a brother in a fraternity that I feel increasingly disconnected with, both on an interpersonal level and a cultural level. I don’t like talking about that. I’m a member of the Parliamentary Debate Team, but never really got the officer positions I wanted there. I work at the Annenberg Public Policy Center. I tutor some other PPE majors in game theory. I’m working on a thesis.
I guess that’s it?
I still don’t quite know why I did this.
Key Discovery Number Six: Allegro is a place for contemplation.