a PAW web exclusive column
by Hugh O'Bleary
November, and a commuter's thoughts turn to thanks
The leaves are golden,
the air is crisp, the days are getting shorter. It can mean only
one thing: Another losing season is drawing to a close for Princeton
football. Ha! Ha! Only joking, dear Diary. What it means, of course,
is that Thanksgiving is coming.
As I ride this train,
morning and evening, I have time to think. A lot of time. A ...
whole ... lot ... of ... time.
Mostly I think about
how the man sitting next to me conducting a conversation on his
cellphone that has lasted from New Brunswick to Newark would look
with that same cellphone shoved up his right nostril until only
the little quivering black antena was sticking out. But this time
of year, dear Diary, I try to think more uplifting thoughts. I try
to think what I have to be thankful for. There are many things,
it's true. One thing stands out, however.
I am thankful for Princeton.
I'm not an alum, so I'm
not talking about "the benefits of a Princeton education"
or "all the great friends I met back at Old Nassau." (In
fact, as a non-alum, I am thankful I don't have to P-rade around
in those orange-and-black get-ups every year.)
I'm simply talking about
Princeton - thankful, to borrow from Sir Edmund Hillary, because
it's there. Like Everest, Princeton looms, gleaming in its rarified
altitude, above the surrounding landscape (and, also like Everest
- at least in the old days of Nude Olympics - frequently littered
with frozen corpses).
That is to say, dear
Diary, that even for those of us not on faculty or staff or bound
by ties of a past matriculation, Princeton stands as a graceful,
rewarding presence in our quotidian world.
For one thing, the place
is beautiful. Face it, where else in central New Jersey could my
walk to and from the train take me past such distinguished architecture,
my feet enjoying the roll and resonance of those handsome slate
walkways? The trees, the familiar suprises of the various sculptures
that dot the campus, the splendid vista of Lake Carnegie (thank
Car companies have been
known to film commercials on campus to take advantage of the impossibly
picturesque backdrop. Some days I feel like I'm living in a car
ad (professional commuter. closed course scrolling across the bottom
of the screen as I make my way to the Dinky).
There are worse things
(living in a prescription medicine ad, for instance; side effects
I'm thankful, also, dear
Diary, for the inspiration Princeton provides (if I may use such
a highfalutin word), the daily reminder that excellence is a reasonable
goal - indeed the only goal - to strive for.
Would I remember that
were I living in, say, Scarsdale or Short Hills? I'd like to think
that I would, but it would not be as immediate or as tangible.
What else, dear Diary?
Well, I'm thankful for
Firestone Library and Dillon Gym, for Weaver Track and for the Springdale
golf course. I'm thankful for McCarter Theatre and the university
art gallery and for Hoagie Haven, of course.
Did I mention Lake Carnegie?
I'm thankful I can take my kids to gawk at the P-rade every year.
Now, dear Diary, we are
getting close to the end of this train ride. The cellphone of the
man beside me is ringing for the 47th time, beeping out an electronic
version of "Camptown Races." I think you know what I would
really be thankful for...
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