Web Exclusives:

Inky Dinky Do

a PAW web exclusive column by Hugh O'Bleary

November 22, 2000:

It's November, and a commuter's thoughts turn to thanks

Dear Diary,

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 you, Andy)?

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 may include...).

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 paw@princeton.edu