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

June 16, 2001:
Paradise regained
A summer in Princeton can be the best vacation of all

By Hugh O'Bleary

Summer is here. Suddenly, fully, flowery. The campus lies empty and quiet
under hazy morning sunshine.

Hot and muggy, this most splendid of seasons seems to stretch out forever
before us (a somewhat alarming thought, given that Marty Pickendorf '56 has
taken to wearing shorts on the train). That timelessness, of course, is an
illusion. In a matter of weeks - an instant really - the students will be
back, classes will start and summer will be over. (Hey, at least old
Pickendorf will be back under wraps.)

When I was a kid, teachers still greeted their returning students in
September with the classic What-I-Did-on-My-Summer-Vacation essay
assignment. I always finished with a feeling of That's it?, a sense that
not only was what I had done pretty lame, but that there were so many
things I hadn't done. The feeling often still applies, though thankfully
Mrs. Beecher isn't still around to hand out grades. Anyway, the thought
occurred to me, as I walked home last Friday evening across a campus bathed
in golden light (no wonder they film movies at this place), that a more
profitable exercise would be to write an essay on What I'm Going to Do on
My Summer Vacation. This is my Princeton version.

This summer I am going to ride the Dinky one morning when I don't have to
go to work in New York. I'm going to get to Princeton Junction and stay
right in my seat, doing the Times crossword, and then I'm going to ride
straight back to Princeton - maybe even facing backwards - and get off,
tipping my cap to the conductor, and go on about my business.

This summer I am going to go find the bulletholes in the wall of Nassau
Hall and touch them with my fingers and remember that this redoubtable
building that I pass every day was once the capitol of the United States
and that it has seen some remarkable events in its day.
One morning, before it gets too hot and before the old duffers in their
plaid shorts are out, I am going to go for a run on the Springdale golf

On another morning - if I can get one of those old duffers to vouch for me
- I'm going to play a round on the Springdale golf course and hope that the
lovely view of the Graduate Tower makes up for my hacking.
This summer, diet be damned, I'm going to stop in at Hoagie Haven one
afternoon for a bacon cheesesteak hoagie and eat it right there on Nassau

And, diet still damned, I'm going to stand on line on a sticky July evening
at Thomas Sweet for a cup of mint chocolate chip and eat it with a plastic
spoon on the grass in front of 185 Nassau while little kids run around
catching fireflies.

And, as long as we're damning that damn diet, one morning, maybe in August,
I'm going to take the newspapers and hunker down at the Carrousel Diner
over some eggs and home fries and too many cups of coffee and watch the
regulars come and go and wish Pete Carril were still in town.

This summer I'm going to get a map showing all the outdoor sculpture on
campus and, on a bright and sunny afternoon, I'm going to take an art hike.
And when I get to the Hedgehog and the Fox, those three mesmerizing,
curving walls of rusted steel by Richard Serra, I'm going to walk back and
forth between them, looking up at the sky as if from the bottom of a canyon.
On another day, one when it's raining and gray and there are puddles on the
slate walkways, I'm going to get a different map and go on a gargoyle hunt.
From the "Literate Ape" on Dillon to the "Head of a Football Player" (same
thing?) on Foulke to "Ben Franklin" on Palmer, I'm going to track down all
those overlooked little overlookers.

This summer I'm going to spend a few hot afternoons in the cool, dim stacks
at Firestone Library - not doing research, simply browsing.
I'm going to spend a few other hot afternoons in a rented canoe, paddling
in the shade along the D&R Canal, drinking lemonade from a cooler and
reading P.G. Wodehouse.

On the hottest afternoon, I'm going to take off my shoes and shirt and
climb right intothe fountain at the Woodrow Wilson School.
This summer I am going to take my dog for a walk at the Princeton
Battlefield and gaze at the little sapling planted on the spot of the
venerable Mercer Oak, which gave up the ghost last year. And then we'll
plunge into the twisting paths of the Institute Woods and hope we can find
our way back out in time for supper.

Speaking of supper, this summer I will eat at Conte's, a pepper and onion
pie, with a long-neck bottle of Rolling Rock and the baseball game on the
TV above the bar.

This summer I'm going to go to Micawber Books on Nassau Street as soon as
they open and buy a book of poems by Paul Muldoon and then spend the
morning reading in 1936's little brick-walled garden behind Maclean House.
I'll learn one of the poems by heart.

We have trips planned this summer-a week in New Hampshire, a house at the
shore later - but when September rolls around and the teachers ask me what
I did on my summer vacation, I'm going to write that I lived in Princeton.

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 paw@princeton.edu