saga

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saga /n./ [WPI] A cuspy but bogus raving story about N random broken people.

Here is a classic example of the saga form, as told by Guy L. Steele:

     Jon L. White (login name JONL) and I (GLS) were office mates at
     MIT for many years.  One April, we both flew from Boston to
     California for a week on research business, to consult
     face-to-face with some people at Stanford, particularly our
     mutual friend Richard P.  Gabriel (RPG; see gabriel).
     RPG picked us up at the San Francisco airport and drove us back
     to Palo Alto (going logical south on route 101, parallel to El
     Camino Bignum).  Palo Alto is adjacent to Stanford University
     and about 40 miles south of San Francisco.  We ate at The Good
     Earth, a `health food' restaurant, very popular, the sort whose
     milkshakes all contain honey and protein powder.  JONL ordered
     such a shake -- the waitress claimed the flavor of the day was
     "lalaberry".  I still have no idea what that might be, but it
     became a running joke.  It was the color of raspberry, and JONL
     said it tasted rather bitter.  I ate a better tostada there than
     I have ever had in a Mexican restaurant.
     After this we went to the local Uncle Gaylord's Old Fashioned Ice
     Cream Parlor.  They make ice cream fresh daily, in a variety of
     intriguing flavors.  It's a chain, and they have a slogan: "If
     you don't live near an Uncle Gaylord's -- MOVE!"  Also, Uncle
     Gaylord (a real person) wages a constant battle to force big-name
     ice cream makers to print their ingredients on the package (like
     air and plastic and other non-natural garbage).  JONL and I had
     first discovered Uncle Gaylord's the previous August, when we had
     flown to a computer-science conference in Berkeley, California,
     the first time either of us had been on the West Coast.  When not
     in the conference sessions, we had spent our time wandering the
     length of Telegraph Avenue, which (like Harvard Square in
     Cambridge) was lined with picturesque street vendors and
     interesting little shops.  On that street we discovered Uncle
     Gaylord's Berkeley store.  The ice cream there was very good.
     During that August visit JONL went absolutely bananas (so to
     speak) over one particular flavor, ginger honey.
     Therefore, after eating at The Good Earth -- indeed, after every
     lunch and dinner and before bed during our April visit -- a trip
     to Uncle Gaylord's (the one in Palo Alto) was mandatory.  We had
     arrived on a Wednesday, and by Thursday evening we had been there
     at least four times.  Each time, JONL would get ginger honey ice
     cream, and proclaim to all bystanders that "Ginger was the spice
     that drove the Europeans mad!  That's why they sought a route to
     the East!  They used it to preserve their otherwise off-taste
     meat."  After the third or fourth repetition RPG and I were
     getting a little tired of this spiel, and began to paraphrase
     him: "Wow!  Ginger!  The spice that makes rotten meat taste
     good!"  "Say!  Why don't we find some dog that's been run over
     and sat in the sun for a week and put some *ginger* on it for
     dinner?!"  "Right!  With a lalaberry shake!"  And so on.  This
     failed to faze JONL; he took it in good humor, as long as we kept
     returning to Uncle Gaylord's.  He loves ginger honey ice cream.
     Now RPG and his then-wife KBT (Kathy Tracy) were putting us up
     (putting up with us?) in their home for our visit, so to thank them
     JONL and I took them out to a nice French restaurant of their
     choosing.  I unadventurously chose the filet mignon, and KBT had
     je ne sais quoi du jour, but RPG and JONL had lapin
     (rabbit).  (Waitress: "Oui, we have fresh rabbit, fresh
     today."  RPG: "Well, JONL, I guess we won't need any
     *ginger*!")
     We finished the meal late, about 11 P.M., which is 2 A.M Boston
     time, so JONL and I were rather droopy.  But it wasn't yet
     midnight.  Off to Uncle Gaylord's!
     Now the French restaurant was in Redwood City, north of Palo
     Alto.  In leaving Redwood City, we somehow got onto route 101
     going north instead of south.  JONL and I wouldn't have known the
     difference had RPG not mentioned it.  We still knew very little
     of the local geography.  I did figure out, however, that we were
     headed in the direction of Berkeley, and half-jokingly suggested
     that we continue north and go to Uncle Gaylord's in Berkeley.
     RPG said "Fine!" and we drove on for a while and talked.  I was
     drowsy, and JONL actually dropped off to sleep for 5 minutes.
     When he awoke, RPG said, "Gee, JONL, you must have slept all the
     way over the bridge!", referring to the one spanning San
     Francisco Bay.  Just then we came to a sign that said "University
     Avenue".  I mumbled something about working our way over to
     Telegraph Avenue; RPG said "Right!" and maneuvered some more.
     Eventually we pulled up in front of an Uncle Gaylord's.
     Now, I hadn't really been paying attention because I was so
     sleepy, and I didn't really understand what was happening until
     RPG let me in on it a few moments later, but I was just alert
     enough to notice that we had somehow come to the Palo Alto Uncle
     Gaylord's after all.
     JONL noticed the resemblance to the Palo Alto store, but hadn't
     caught on.  (The place is lit with red and yellow lights at
     night, and looks much different from the way it does in
     daylight.)  He said, "This isn't the Uncle Gaylord's I went to in
     Berkeley!  It looked like a barn!  But this place looks *just
     like* the one back in Palo Alto!"
     RPG deadpanned, "Well, this is the one *I* always come to when
     I'm in Berkeley.  They've got two in San Francisco, too.
     Remember, they're a chain."
     JONL accepted this bit of wisdom.  And he was not totally ignorant
     --- he knew perfectly well that University Avenue was in Berkeley,
     not far from Telegraph Avenue.  What he didn't know was that
     there is a completely different University Avenue in Palo Alto.
     JONL went up to the counter and asked for ginger honey.  The guy
     at the counter asked whether JONL would like to taste it first,
     evidently their standard procedure with that flavor, as not too
     many people like it.
     JONL said, "I'm sure I like it.  Just give me a cone."  The guy
     behind the counter insisted that JONL try just a taste first.
     "Some people think it tastes like soap."  JONL insisted, "Look, I
     *love* ginger.  I eat Chinese food.  I eat raw ginger roots.  I
     already went through this hassle with the guy back in Palo Alto.
     I *know* I like that flavor!"
     At the words "back in Palo Alto" the guy behind the counter got a
     very strange look on his face, but said nothing.  KBT caught his
     eye and winked.  Through my stupor I still hadn't quite grasped
     what was going on, and thought RPG was rolling on the floor
     laughing and clutching his stomach just because JONL had launched
     into his spiel ("makes rotten meat a dish for princes") for the
     forty-third time.  At this point, RPG clued me in fully.
     RPG, KBT, and I retreated to a table, trying to stifle our
     chuckles.  JONL remained at the counter, talking about ice cream
     with the guy b.t.c., comparing Uncle Gaylord's to other ice cream
     shops and generally having a good old time.
     At length the g.b.t.c. said, "How's the ginger honey?"  JONL
     said, "Fine!  I wonder what exactly is in it?"  Now Uncle Gaylord
     publishes all his recipes and even teaches classes on how to make
     his ice cream at home.  So the g.b.t.c. got out the recipe, and
     he and JONL pored over it for a while.  But the g.b.t.c. could
     contain his curiosity no longer, and asked again, "You really
     like that stuff, huh?"  JONL said, "Yeah, I've been eating it
     constantly back in Palo Alto for the past two days.  In fact, I
     think this batch is about as good as the cones I got back in Palo
     Alto!"
     G.b.t.c. looked him straight in the eye and said, "You're
     *in* Palo Alto!"
     JONL turned slowly around, and saw the three of us collapse in a
     fit of giggles.  He clapped a hand to his forehead and exclaimed,
     "I've been hacked!"
[My spies on the West Coast inform me that there is a close relative of the raspberry found out there called an `ollalieberry' --ESR]

[Ironic footnote: it appears that the meme about ginger vs. rotting meat may be an urban legend. It's not borne out by an examination of medieval recipes or period purchase records for spices, and appears full-blown in the works of Samuel Pegge, a gourmand and notorious flake case who originated numerous food myths. --ESR]


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