Web Exclusives: Inky Dinky Do
a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary
November 20, 2002:
Sometimes it takes
a fresh set of eyes to see how good we've got it
I was running the other day with my friend Motley Donne '78. It
was a crisp, clear fall afternoon, and we were doing an easy 40
minutes through the woods behind the Institute for Advanced Studies,
having come over the little swinging bridge from the towpath. Above
us, the sky was a brilliant blue through the flaming leaves, and
ahead the Georgian faÁade of the Institute stood like some
impossibly picturesque calendar photo.
"You know what Einstein said when he moved to Princeton?"
said Motley, who has always been given to quoting great thinkers
and writers on the run. "He called it 'being banished
"Well, it's all relative," I gasped, which was the best
Einstein line I could come up with at that pace.
Motley didn't laugh. I glanced over and saw that an expression
of great contentment had settled on his sweat-streaked face. "Banished
to paradise..." he said. "Yes, that's the way I'm going
to look at it."
Motley, you see, had just resettled in Princeton. He'd grown up
in New Jersey and, he says, enjoyed his undergraduate days at Old
Nassau. For the past twenty years, however, he had lived in New
York City, as confirmed and contented a Manhattanite as anyone this
side of Woody Allen. But, now, with two young kids and post-9/11
security concerns, he and his wife had decided it was time to relocate.
I don't think that they seriously considered moving anywhere else.
They spent all of about a week house hunting before buying a nice
old colonial right in town, barely a mile from where I live.
Now, before going any further, I want to stress how delighted
I am at Motley's arrival. One of my very best friends is now a neighbor.
That is cause for celebration, indeed. It is also a boon for Princeton.
A man of boundless intellectual passion and curiosity, as well as
compassion and wit, a wonderful conversationalist and a great mate
over a few miles or a few pints, Motley single-handedly raises the
bar in even so socially-rarified a community as Princeton. At the
same time, I gotta say that Motley's... well, his approach to his
new home has thrown me for a loop. A free-lance writer, Motley has
set up an office in his house. No commute for him. And, as it happens,
Motley being fairly well off, his lance is even freer than it might
be. Which means he has the time and energy to embrace Princeton
and its many opportunities in a way that puts me to shameand,
if I'm honest, leaves me a little envious.
And I'm not just talking about Springdale golf coursewhich,
to me, is the big expanse of green I drive past early in the morning
or late in the evening on my way to and from the Dinky station,
but to Motley is a challenging new course that he can walk to from
his house for a quick afternoon round. Surely, as anyone who has
seen me swing a club will attest, it's better, commute or not, that
I just drive on by any golf course.
No, it's Motley's engagement with the university that has me worrying
about my own attitude (the term brain-dead leaps to mindif
that isn't an oxymoron). Already he has attended lectures, gone
to concerts and readings and art shows. He's looking into auditing
a class or two. He has signed up to officiate at university track
and swim meets. He even auditioned for a couple of Shakespeare productions!
I fully expect to see him running naked across campus come the first
snowfall this winter.
It's easy, of course, to joke about Motley's gung-ho approach
to suburban living, but at the end of the day (i.e., when I'm on
the 6:33 New Jersey Transit train stuck outside of Rahway and he's
sipping gin-and-tonics on the veranda with John Cheever and Shirley
Tilghman Ha! Ha!), I've got to admit that he's a good example
to me, and one that's come at the right time. I've lived in Princeton
for fifteen years. I still rave about the place to friends and colleagues
in the city, citing the town's beauty, its history, its cultural
opportunities. But, let's face it, I haven't exactly been milking
the place for all it's worth. I mean, I might as well be living
in Rahway (where the big sign beside the tracks says, "If you
lived here you'd be home now!").
Given that rather chilling realization, I've decided that it's
time that I go for a few more runs with Motley, and a few walks
as well, and try to rediscover the paradise to which I've been lucky
enough to be banished. Hey, it shouldn't take an Einstein to know
we've got a good deal here.
You can reach Hugh O'Bleary at "Hugh O'Bleary" firstname.lastname@example.org