Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate
Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
June 5, 2002:
Illustration by Henry Martin 48
from Texas is no laughing matter
right smile can open even the hardest heart
It was 5:45 am, and Amanda and I were standing outside Dillon
Gymnasium, waiting for a ride to a cycling race at West Point. Peter
was 15 minutes late, and Amanda said that it was probably because
he's Flemish. The joke goes that if there's a nuclear holocaust,
the place to be is Belgium, because everything happens there 10
Amanda is from Texas. There's no shortage of jokes about that
part of the world, and Amanda has heard most of them. On the outside
of her laptop computer is a bumper sticker that reads: "Someone
in Texas Loves Me."
"Someone in Texas does love me," she told me when I
asked about it.
Peter pulled into the parking lot. He's a graduate student with
a kind demeanor and a black Miata, two factors which make him the
ideal taxi service for his opportunistic teammates.
It was early, and the sky didn't begin to lighten until we were
heading north on the Garden State Parkway. The little car hummed
along. I was sure that it got excellent gas mileage, just I was
sure of Amanda's disdain for the vehicle. Amanda is contemptuous
of small cars. On the last cycling trip, she cheered every time
a pickup truck passed.
"Look," she said. "There's a pickup truck. And
the man driving it is wearing a cowboy hat. That makes me very happy."
Or, as the case often was:
"That guy's driving a Toyota. Why doesn't he get a real truck?"
It took about two hours to drive from Princeton to West Point,
and another 10 minutes to get through the checkpoint. Security at
West Point is tight. As soon as Peter pulled up to the gate, two
guards descended on the car. Both were wearing camouflage fatigues
and black Military Police armbands, and both were carrying rifles.
Both were noticeably gratified excessively gratified
to have been entrusted with their duty. They had been waiting for
us all morning.
Peter rolled his eyes.
"Pop the trunk," one shouted, bounding toward the rear
of the car. I wondered whose idea it had been to let him walk around
with a loaded gun.
"I hope you don't have any hash in there, Peter," I
Peter didn't laugh.
The other guard came around by the window.
"I'm going to need to see some identification," he said.
"Passport, Green Card, visa..."
I asked if our Princeton University I.D.s would be adequate. They
"Don't you want to see my I.D., too?" Amanda asked.
She smiled winningly at the guard a big smile, a Texas smile.
He melted. Dudley Doright. At your service, ma'am.
"No, you're fine," the guard said. "Just the two
in the front."
I asked Peter what he thought of West Point.
"It's like a fortress," he said.
It was true. Like Princeton, West Point is Gothic, but on a larger
scale. The buildings are immense, somber, and crowned with battlements.
Low-slung walls of gray stone flank the road. The only thing missing
is the moat.
Amanda piped up from the back, wanting to know if we had seen
any cute Army boys. Peter told her that we were completely lost,
and to keep her eyes open for anyone who looked as if he might be
able to provide directions. Amanda spotted a white-haired man jogging
on the opposite side of the road, and Peter called out to him.
"We're looking for Shea Stadium," Peter said. "Do
you know where that is?"
"Shea Stadium. There's a bike race there."
"Hell, I have no idea. The only Shea Stadium I know is in
"That's the one I know, too," he said.
Fifteen minutes later, we found Shea Stadium. Peter pulled into
the parking lot, then ran off to change clothes. Amanda struck up
a conversation with the two cyclists in the car next to us. One
of them remembered her from a race earlier in the spring.
"Hey, you're the girl from Texas," he said. "Are
you a Longhorn or an Aggie?"
"Well, I like maroon better than burnt orange," Amanda
"Yeah, burnt orange is not your color."
Amanda looked down at her Princeton jersey and smiled.
"No, it's really not," she said.
You can reach Kate at email@example.com