UCSD Chicken Festival 2: Rotisserie Boogaloo — Reflecting on Last Month’s Strange Rumblings at Sun God

UCSD Chicken Festival 2: Rotisserie Boogaloo — Reflecting on Last Month’s Strange Rumblings at Sun God
Image by Thomas Murphy for The UCSD Guardian

Tuesday, March 12. 4:35 p.m. I stroll down Library Walk with Dave, friend and suspected federal agent. 

“We are not planning any acts of domestic terrorism!” I shouted. “You tell your FBI handlers that!”

“I’m not a Fed!” Dave protested. “I don’t know why you people think I am.”

“It’s the physiognomy. You have the face of a federal agent. Besides, you’re too normal — why would you hang out with us if you weren’t spying on us? Kristoff learned how to make a fertilizer bomb from watching Instagram Reels and then you show up all of a sudden. That’s supposed to be a coincidence?”

“Yes!”

“Well, I don’t believe you. But believe me, Mr. DC Goon Squad Man, the bomb thing was a joke! He liked the video by accident. He just watched it out of morbid curiosity. You tell Hoover about that!”

“J. Edgar Hoover has been dead for fifty years. How would I tell him?”

“There’s the paranormal club that tables on Library Walk. You can use their ouija board.” 

We drew up to the Target. I stopped suddenly. “No way.”

The board in front was plastered with at least a dozen identical flyers. Come JOIN me eat an entire rotisserie chicken! The chicken will be consumed at 12 o’clock in front of Sun God. March 15th, 2024. This is not a party.

“It’s happening again!” I cried. 

Instantly I was seized by a feeling of undiluted brotherly love for Dave, who I had previously been convinced was trying to put wiretaps in my walls. Comradery was in the air. This time, we would not only watch a man eat an entire rotisserie chicken — we would bring our own and join him and hundreds of others in a great brotherhood of meat. 

Much to my continuing embarrassment, I wasn’t there the first time someone ate an entire rotisserie chicken in front of Geisel Library. It seems like I was the only person at UC San Diego who wasn’t. At the time, I took my work seriously and refused to miss my poli sci quiz to watch a man wolf down a dead bird. This was before I realized that taking anything seriously is the greatest mistake a man can make — anything, that is, except chicken. 

Still, thanks to TikTok and other new-age infotainment platforms, hundreds of thousands of people around the country saw video evidence that a man had in fact eaten an entire rotisserie chicken in front of Geisel Library on the 10th of March, 2023. I was inundated with texts from various old friends asking for all kinds of details about what had happened. Clearly, in the minds of others, I was part of something bigger than myself — part of something I hadn’t even been a part of. The chicken thing was that powerful.

 

Thursday, March 14. 5:30 p.m. A large crowd gathers in the Price Center Theater to watch a documentary about last year’s chicken-eating, produced by Triton TV and UCSD Costco Club. The next day, hundreds will come together to eat their own rotisserie chickens in a depraved communal feast.

Dave appeared, double fisting foot-long pretzels from Subway. “I have an idea,” he said, taking bites from alternating pretzel rods. “What if we get all fancy with it, tomorrow? Show up in suits, with a cutting board and a carving knife and grape juice in wine glasses, turn it into a fine dining experience.”

“If we show up in suits, you’re never beating the fed allegations.”

“But it’s a bit, Alex.”

“I’d failed to consider that. I’ll bring the wine glasses.”

As we entered the theater, I remembered that it was more than four years since I had last been there, for the closing ceremony of a high school Model UN conference. We, frankly, had not done jack [s—] to unite the nations back then. Mainly, it was a lot of petty squabbling and angling for awards that allegedly look good on college applications. The real UN hasn’t done much better. I wondered whether, if all the world’s leaders and diplomats got together and chowed down on a succulent rotisserie chicken in the cavernous chamber of the UN General Assembly in New York, maybe we would forget all about our desire to kill each other. 

The Chicken Man – legally speaking, a senior named Jonathan Gong – appeared on stage for a brief speech. Though it had been a year since he strode out in front of Geisel Library to eat an entire rotisserie chicken by himself, his face was fresh in everyone’s minds thanks to the posters scattered around campus. It immediately sent the assembled movie-goers into an addled frenzy. “Marry me!” someone shouted. “Chicken!” cried someone else. 

Unfortunately the Academy Awards had taken place four days before, or else the Chicken Documentary might’ve put all those Hollywood pricks to shame by sweeping all the categories. Dramatic footage from the 2023 chicken incident was interspersed with interviews with students and monologues by the Chicken Man himself. The interviewees approached the subject of the documentary as something almost messianic. “It was like Jesus reincarnated,” one said. The most surprising revelation in the documentary was that the Chicken Man is in the Navy ROTC and is getting shipped off on a submarine right after he graduates. I try to be as much of a pacifist as I can, but should anything happen to him I will make Dick Cheney look like a flower power hippie peacenik. If any of our foreign enemies put the Chicken Man in danger, our capacity to retaliate must be massive. The use of nuclear weapons must be on the table. 

 

Friday, March 15. 12:00 p.m. The day of the Chicken Festival. The crowd begins to gather in front of Sun God. 

It was a beautiful day. The sky was clear, and the sunlight filled the craggy prisonscape of Muir and bathed Sun God Lawn in loving warmth. Everything seemed very fortuitous. We had perfect weather, and the Sun God statue even looked a little like a chicken as I hurried towards the crowd coalescing in front of it. I located my entourage, including Kristoff, my audio-videographic specialist. “Where’s Dave?” I asked. “He has our chicken.”

“Maybe he’s not a fed after all,” Kristoff said. “Feds tend to be on time.”

I looked to sit down on the grass, and decided to use my satchel as a seat. When I sat down on it I heard a horrific crunch and for the first time remembered the small wine glasses I’d put in there the night before.

“You lardass!” Kristoff cried. “Look what you just did to us!”

“Us?” I bellowed. “If you think it’s tough on you, think about how the glasses feel!”

The chicken-eaters were gathering in front of the statue, each carrying their own bird in a plastic container. White Costco Club t-shirts marked the event organizers. The Chicken Man was making the rounds, greeting people warmly. I even spotted the AS President himself, loitering in all his imperial majesty. Around them, hundreds of onlookers stood and sat in a hungry hemicycle. 

The clock struck twelve. The chimes rang out from somewhere in the distance.

The Chicken Man stepped to the front and raised his bullhorn to speak. 

“My fellow Tritons, fellow friends — the fellow chicken! I stand before you all today with a fiery passion that burns so hot you would singe your fingers if you could touch it — a passion for Costco, a passion for chicken, and a passion for community. Honestly, I need say no more. It has been 371 days since that fateful Friday, March 10th, 2023. 371 days since the students of UC San Diego and the public made history by watching a strange man eat an entire rotisserie chicken in front of Geisel Library. 371 is our number that tells the story of a thousand words. But I have a new number for you, and that number is — zero! Zero days since the students of UC San Diego, the travelers from faraway lands, like UCLA, and the public, came together to make history again — by joining each other to eat an entire rotisserie chicken. Zero! The amount of chicken that we will have by the end of this consumption!”

“Let him be the AS president,” someone said.

“But a question: why? Why here, why now? But to that I pose a question of the same weight to you: why not? We’ve all gone through so much, the perils of life, the toils of existence itself, being in that boxing ring with your soul, being put through the fucking shredder, then you tell me that we are not deserving of every last delicious morsel of this chicken? Do we not deserve each and every succulent bite of rotisserie and the like? Honestly, I need say no more. So yes, let go of what quells you so much. Let go of previous inhibitions. Make friends with that person to either side of you. Do something you wouldn’t do on the regular, and come join me eat an entire rotisserie chicken!”

“This is like a Mussolini speech.”

“Blood alone turns the wheels of history!”

“I care about you and your well-being,” the Chicken Man said. “Please tell me you will not die today. This is not a competition. This is not a party. This is chicken! So let’s get to eating — I am starving!”

The crowd chanted, “Chick-en! Chick-en! Chick-en! Chick-en!”

“You’re going to get chicken all over your suit,” Kristoff said.

“There are certain things in life which cannot be helped,” I replied. 

By this point, Dave had arrived with the chicken and the cutting board. I explained to him the situation with the glasses, and he forgave me. Everyone was in a forgiving mood. 

We began carving the bird with all the skill and dexterity of a drunken old man with a tremor, slicing and dicing it so many different ways that it quickly degenerated into a meat pile on the cutting board. I sipped cranberry juice from one of the two glasses that had survived me sitting on them. 

The Chicken Man returned to the front. “In ten seconds, I will take the first bite of the second annual UCSD rotisserie chicken consumption,” he intoned. “Can I get a countdown?”

The crowd began to count backward from ten. When we hit zero, it was like a pack of hungry animals had been let out of a cage. Those standing at the front began to tear the chickens apart with their bare hands. There was something almost prehistoric about the scene. 

It took less than eight minutes for the first chicken to be finished. I rushed over to speak to the man who did it. “Here’s your microphone,” Dave said, handing me a drumstick. 

“Thanks,” I said, and I set off to fulfill my journalistic obligations.

“Say what you want about Revelle College, but we know how to eat chicken over there!” the record-breaker said. 

“[F—] Revelle, on my mama!” someone shouted.

“[F—] your mama, on Revelle!” replied another.

It was then that I first saw the vegan protester wearing an enigmatic black mask. 

“What the [f—] does he think this is?” Kristoff said. “Phantom of the Opera?”

The protester held up two pictures, one of a chicken that was substantially more alive than any of the ones in front of us; the other of what he apparently believed to be chicks but which were actually ducklings. I tried to talk to the guy, but unfortunately did not get much out of him. It might’ve been the fact that the microphone I offered him to speak into was actually the leg of a dead chicken. (I had, in my commitment to the journalistic bit, forgotten that part.) In any case, he seemed to be a man of few words generally. While the crowd chanted “Chick-en! Chick-en! Chick-en!” he stood there mutely with his photographs, hoping to change our minds with silence. 

Standing nearby, and never content to be silent, was the AS President. I locked onto him as my next target. He was shoveling chicken bits into his mouth with his bare hands, as was everyone else (except Dave, who sat on the grass working at our chicken with a knife and fork between sips of cranberry juice).  When asked what brought him out, the president said, “Just want to be with the community. Today’s a Friday, everyone is getting out of class. If the chicken can bring all 33,000 students together, then the chicken is what brings us together. It’s always great to have student leaders taking initiative to represent UCSD. I’m sure that this will make some news on the local level!” 

“God, what a tool,” Kristoff said, once safely out of earshot.

Some student organizations, as much hungry for new recruits as for succulent rotisserie chicken, had set up tables on the fringes of the crowd. One of these was manned by some chlorinated happy-go-lucky dudes in tank tops waving a flag that said “Atlantis.”

I identified myself as a journalist (a very serious one, obviously), and asked what Atlantis was. 

“It’s classified,” said one dude.

“It’s a secret society,” said the second.

“It’s a nonprofit organization promoting water polo in San Diego,” said the third. 

“I liked it better when you guys were a secret society,” I said. 

There was one thing I still wanted to do. 

The Great Man Theory of history is out of date. Nowadays it’s fashionable to see history as being made by gigantic unseen metaphysical forces that we can scarcely comprehend or change as they act on us, or as the sum of millions of individual wills. But, lest there be any doubt that one man can still stand astride history and alter its course, I had to talk to the Chicken Man — who was, directly or indirectly, the reason we were here. 

I found him tugging at the dregs of his chicken, talking with various bystanders about how unfair it was that Chancellor Khosla’s house is surrounded by a large number of “KEEP OUT” signs. 

“We pay his salary. It’s our house,” someone was saying. “We should be able to go in there whenever we want.”

“That’s how I feel about policeman’s guns,” the Chicken Man said. “I pay your salary, with my tax money. That’s my gun. I should be able to grab it.”

I asked him if he had anything else that he wanted to convey to the people on this special day. 

“Man — I … I wanna say that I love you guys,” he said. “Like not in a weird way, either. Just genuinely the love you have for a fellow human being, the fellow man. I think it’s really great that people come out here today to join together around something so simple, so silly. People from all walks of life. I think it’s magical, honestly. I think if we keep doing this every year, it’s only going to get better and better and better … All in all, I want to say to the people — whoever’s reading this — I love you. And I love you like a human loves another of its kind.”

Maybe love is a good place to end — love for chicken, love for humanity. But I am too arrogant to let that stand, and I have to add some thoughts of my own. 

The boomers marched for causes: peace, flower power, acid. Our parents’ generation avoided extremes of belief and embraced the idea of having a good time. They grew up on fast food and Pac-Man and MTV. And yet, the old ideas of having fun don’t seem to do it for us anymore. We have our causes too, but maybe our generation needs to get our kicks in stranger and more absurd ways than our parents did.  

I fear what will happen when this lust for chaos is turned loose on the real world. We will make the dadaists look like a bunch of uptight squares. 

Watch out world, here come the chicken-eaters.

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About the Contributors
Alex Reinsch-Goldstein
Alex Reinsch-Goldstein, Staff Writer
Alex Reinsch-Goldstein is a third-year student at UCSD. His hobbies include lying immobilized in the jungle for several days at a time under the influence of psychoactive herbs.
Thomas Murphy
Thomas Murphy, Co-Webmaster & Associate Photo Editor
I work on the website and take-a the pretty pictures
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    m bApr 15, 2024 at 4:16 pm

    my bubs

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