Web Exclusives: Inky Dinky Do
a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary

April 24, 2002:

Happy campers
Hello, Mudda, Hello, Fadda. Here am I at Camp Alma Mata

By Hugh O'Bleary

It is spring, and a young man’s fancy turns to — to what? To summer internships, to judge by the undergraduate conversations I hear. But what do I know about young these days? I do know that my friend Clyde Hasselman’s fancy turns toward what it always turns toward: half-baked schemes to make a quick buck.

Hasselman (who, come to think of it, has a name of almost Dickensian aptness) called last week to set up a lunch. Now, don’t get me wrong, Clyde can be diverting company at a ballgame or over a couple of beers, but I knew that whatever pleasure this meal brought was going to come with a price — I’d have to listen to some new concept and then be hit up for "seed" money. Once it had literally been seed money, as Hasselman’s vision that year had involved growing sunflowers for solar energy. Then there was his plan to run gourmet barge tours on the Delaware & Raritan Canal (which came a cropper when the mule ran off), or his concept for a talking golf ball featuring speakers tucked into the dimples and a recorded voice that yelled, "Ouch! You da man!" when you teed off and "Hey, I’m over here," when lost in the rough. (He’s still hoping for an endorsement from Tiger Woods.) Of course, Hasselman has had, as he puts it, "some dumb ideas too," so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I sat down at the Annex last week.

It didn’t take long. His mouth stuffed with baked scrod (I had the omelet), Clyde began talking about my "Princeton connections." I have no Princeton connections, of course, beyond football season tickets (15-yard line, mind you) and a Dinky parking pass, but Clyde seems to think I hob-nob regularly with Shirley Tilghman.

"I’m telling you," he said, "as soon as the administration hears this idea they’re going to run with it. Run with it, O’Bleary!"

I couldn’t help myself.

"What’s the idea," I said.

"Fantasy," he said, grabbing a French fry off my plate. I must have looked puzzled.

"Fan-ta-zee," he said.

I must have looked just as puzzled.

"Look, O’Bleary, what happens on campus during the summer?" "Nothing," I said.

"Wrong!" he said. "Everything happens. Princeton runs a thousand programs, courses, camps, all summer, every summer. The campus is crawling with adults and kids — basketball campers, cross-country runners, band members, language students — every one of them paying good money to use Princeton facilities and stay in Princeton dorms. It’s a gold mine." He paused, a smile spreading across his face.

"Where’s the fantasy," I asked.

"Here!" he said, slapping a glossy, four-color brochure on the table. "I had this printed up. Just imagine."

The cover featured a photograph of a rather dumpy looking middle-aged couple wearing matching Princeton T-shirts and posing in front of Nassau Hall. Across the top was printed A TASTE OF IVY — GOING BACK FOR THOSE WHO NEVER WENT.

"I don’t get it," I said.

"Fantasy camp," he said. "Like for guys who wanna know what it’s like to play in the big leagues — they pay big bucks to go field grounders from Yankees benchwarmers and listen to Phil Rizzuto tell stories. This would be for all the people — Princeton parents who wanna know what their kids’ experience is like, high school dropouts, Rutgers grads — who have ever fantasized about going to Princeton."

He spread the brochure out across my omelet. "If you could just get this to somebody in the Summer Programs department, we’d have ourselves a winner."

Against my better judgment, I looked down and began to read. "Spend a heavenly week on the other side of paradise!" the headline screamed. "It’s books, bickers and bingeing, as YOU live the life of a Princeton student." I had to hand it to Hasselman. He had thought of everything. "The experience begins with the ‘ADMISSIONS PROCESS,’" the brochure read. "After taking a realisticly grueling mock-SAT test, you will have your ‘scores’ sent to the ‘Admissions office,’ where your case will be carefully weighed by an actual former intern to Dean Hargadon, who — pending clearance of your check — will send out a reproduction of an actual acceptance letter (just like the ones sent to thousands of Princeton acceptees every April). Congr atulations!"

From there, Hasselman had mapped out a whirlwind week for his campers that included everything from "the temporary dorm experience" (which seemd to involve mobile homes) to "the challenge of the senior thesis" (working with "actual former Princeton applicants" as advisers, campers would "select a thesis topic, perform research on the Internet and deliver an outline," and then in the afternoon, "write or photocopy a 100- to 150-page thesis" which would be "graded according to rigorous Princeton-like standards" by "a specially-qualified reader").

"We’ll graduate ’em on Friday afternoon, and then bus ’em back in on Saturday morning for their own P-rade," said Clyde. "How many campers do you envision in each session," was all I could think to ask.

"I figure we can take 100 at a time," he said. "And no more than 30 per cent can be legacies!"

I wonder how that golf ball’s coming.

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