a PAW web exclusive column
by Hugh O'Bleary
in the night
Modeling responsible drinking at Frist
by Hugh O'Bleary
You can't see the new
Frist Campus Center from the Dinky tracks, but I look anyway, as
the train clatters down the tracks toward the Junction. I like knowing
that it's there. I like the idea of a student center. Long
ago, when I was in school (at another northeastern university, one
which - I am reminded constantly by Princeton T-shirts - sucks),
we didn't have a student center. Or, rather, we didn't have a single
every-student student center. There were various ethnic and religious
and interest-oriented centers. My residential college even had something
called a "buttery," a dark, wood-paneled and indeed oleaginous
dispensary of cheeseburgers and bad folk music that purported to
be our student center but would have been more at home at Hogwarts.
So many centers cannot hold.
Thus I am delighted
with this new institution at Princeton, this Frist first, if you
will. Sure, The Street will surely continue to hold sway, but this
seems like a valuable addition. It will not, I am certain, prove
a replacement. Can one imagine a tuxedoed F. Scott Fitzgerald dashing
off on a wild moonlight revel to ... the student center? I think
not. Call it the other side of paradise.
The most intriguing
feature of the Frist, however, I first heard about - as about so
many things - from Smitty, my sometime traveling companion on the
train. I call him Smitty of the Dinky. A hawk-nosed little lawyer
of boundless cynicism, he takes the train every day to his office
in the city, but seems to feel that his real mission in life is
to fill his fellow riders in on the "true" scam behind
whatever happens to be in the news.
"You know how they
made that Elian Gonzalez picture, don't you?" was one of his
typical opening gambits. Smitty likes to start every conversation
with a question. It doesn't matter if you know the answer. One way
or another, he's going to tell you.
This was his Frist take:
"You know what they're going to have at that new student center,
don't you?" he said one morning, peering over his Times.
"I don't know,"
I said. "Students?"
Yeah, right." He
folded his paper. "They're going to have a 'Beverage Lab'."
He gave me the Smitty smirk. "Why don't they just call it a
bar? Hell, when I was in college, a beverage lab was my roommate
Shanley seeing how many types of booze he could mix in the blender
without blowing it up. I mean, picture Marty Feldman in a bartender's
jacket: More bourbon, Maaaahster?" He rolled his eyes. "No,
actually, Shanley had a beverage lab. It was a big golden
lab named Budweiser that he let drink beer out of his water dish."
er, unique take on the news rolls off my back (I never bought into
his Janet-Reno-had-Elian-cloned theory, for instance). But I was
intrigued by this Beverage Lab news. Being an occasionally working
journalist, I made a call.
It turns out that the
Beverage Lab is a small, late-night gathering place at the Frist
Center that serves alcohol, among other beverages. "We came
up with the name as a way to echo the old Palmer Hall physics labs,"
says Paul Breitman, the director of the Frist Center. "We didn't
want a 'pub'."
Breitman, who before
coming to Princeton served for 18 years as a dean at Rutgers, where
he ran three student center facilities, is clearly, well, a bright
man. He knows very well that the "lab" in Beverage Lab
ultimately refers less to its pseudoscientific setting than to its
experimental approach to responsible drinking. The Beverage Lab
seats some 40-50 people and will be open to patrons of all ages,
not just those over 21. Those of age can drink wine or beer; others
can choose from coffees, fruit drinks and smoothies, according to
Breitman. "The whole concept," he explains, "is to
treat people as adults." Radical science, indeed.
Breitman also knows
that drinking at Princeton, as at almost every college, is a - pardon
the expression - loaded issue. "I had to oversee the closing
of the Rutgers Pub in 1985 because of a lot of irresponsible behavior,"
he says. "I've been there, done that. But I think the time
is ripe for a place like this, an alternative to alcohol-centered
socializing where, as it happens, you can get,
say, a glass of wine
or a mug of beer but focus on other things."
You know what Smitty
would say, don't you? He'd say, Don't let Shanley in!
Hugh O'Bleary commutes
to New York City from Princeton. He revels in his daily sojourn
across campus to catch the Dinky. You can reach Hugh O'Bleary by
writing him c/o firstname.lastname@example.org