Web Exclusives: Raising Kate
a PAW web exclusive column by Kate
Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
October 22, 2003:
and falling down
Classes, parties, and
the Jewish new year
The Return of Ambassador Finn *78
Every Thursday at 1:30 p.m., the course Current Perspectives on
Central Asia meets on the third floor of the Frist Campus Center.
The three-hour seminar, held once a week, is taught by Professor
Robert Finn *78, former ambassador to Afghanistan.
Current Perspectives was not in the course listings distributed
last spring, and many students did not hear about it until the first
week of classes this fall. Even so, almost 25 students enrolled
in the class, enough that it had to be moved from the oak-paneled
seminar room in Jones Hall to a larger location in Frist.
Most of the students in the seminar are from the Near Eastern
studies department, although there are many MPA candidates, including
a Canadian diplomat, from the Woodrow Wilson School. The MPA candidates
have worked in places like Ashgabat and Tashkent, and converse intelligently
about President Nursultan Nazarbaev's domination of the Kazakh media
and about environmental problems in the Aral Sea. Predictably, there's
a lot of shoptalk, prefaced with comments like "when I was
swimming in the Caspian back in '98" and "that time I
was mugged by a cabdriver in Bishkek."
Professor Finn, who peppers his speech with words like "irascible"
and "assiduous" is, at first glance, entirely too tall
and too well-dressed to be a Princeton professor. Additionally,
he has made the almost-unheard of pledge that his seminar would
be entertaining. He has promised to bring in boxes of photographs
of his travels, and said that he would have brought in his collection
of Central Asian hats if they had not been appropriated the year
before by his son Ed '03.
"My son wanted them for a party at Terrace. I can't imagine
what happened to them there," Finn said.
Terrace: Plus Ça Change
Terrace Club has changed a lot while remaining exactly the same.
First there was the taproom renovation, financed by an increase
in dues to the Washington Road Fund Terrace's slush fund
for beer from $100 to $200. The new taproom is just like
the old one fetid and dirty. Even the plastic torso is still
hanging out by the bar. The officers say the taproom is more roomy,
which could be true, but all the cigarette smoke makes it hard to
Then came the Ivy Diaspora the influx of five or so people
who left Ivy Club because either the food was lousy or because no
one there liked them, depending on who you talk to. The transition
has been rough, with rumors flying that the former Ivy members,
accustomed to having their meals ferried to them by the kitchen
staff, were leaving their plates on the tables at Terrace rather
than taking them to the window in the kitchen, scraping them clean,
and dropping their utensils off in the sudsy water. Turns out those
The only thing that stands out more than the new members is the
new carpeting, which makes everything else in the club look shabby.
I came to Terrace one afternoon to study when I ran into an alum
who was inspecting the new carpet forlornly.
"It looks pretty good, doesn't it?" I asked.
"We'll see how long it stays that way. There were a lot of
cigarette burns in the old one," he said.
And lots of chocolate syrup and Jello, I wanted to add.
Someone once told me that Terrace used to be the club for jocks
and that the alumni board isn't happy with the club's current identity.
I don't know if that's true, but I do know there's steady, sad trickle
of alumni who, before heading off to watch Princeton blow another
home football game, drop by to pay a visit to their old eating club.
They don't look nostalgic so much as scared and slightly sick to
A week ago Terrace had one of its theme dinners for which its
members go all-out. The theme was Wild Wild West, and standard attire
for that night was holsters, cowboy hats, corsets, and fishnet stockings
(there was a prize for best desperado and best whore). The food
was corn on the cob, biscuits, and barbeque ribs. Because the theme
dinner coincided with Cocktail Night every Thursday is Cocktail
Night there was whiskey in addition to the standard fountain
soda and pink-tinged water. Because there was whiskey, one of the
club members was passed out on the front lawn wearing nothing but
a cowboy hat. At one point I noticed a white-haired man in a suit
pick his way up the front drive and, with visible trepidation, enter
Lest one think that Terrace is all debauchery all the time, the
arrival of the Tzivos Hashem Shofar Factory should prove otherwise.
At noon on September 22, a large blue van pulled up on the front
lawn of the club and discharged one Rabbi Michoel Albukurk and several
taxidermied animal heads. Rabbi Albukurk had come from Brooklyn
on a mission: to explain the mystical significance of the shofar
and to show Princeton students how to craft their own.
The shofar is a curved musical instrument generally made from
the horn of a ram, although any kosher animal with hollow horns
is fair game. It is blown on Rosh Hashanah or the day after
if the holiday falls on Shabbat in commemoration of God sparing
Isaac and instructing Abraham to sacrifice a ram in his place. Jews
are commanded to hear 100 blasts of the shofar on the Jewish New
Rabbi Albukurk got to work with a power drill, mounting the animal
heads on a large board of Astroturf that he leaned against the side
of the van. A circle of students formed around him on the grass;
more drifted out of Terrace and made their way over to the strange
spectacle. Most were still eating their lunches.
"What do you think about my friends? You know, my dear friend
over there who hangs around with me?" Albukurk asked, gesturing
to one of the heads. "Is the deer a kosher animal? Can you
make a shofar out of it?"
The deer is kosher it has cloven hooves but its
horns are not hollow, and are therefore not suitable for shofars.
"For all you vegetarians out there, blowing a plastic horn
on Rosh Hashanah won't cut it." Rabbi Albukurk continued. "God's
not going to say, 'Oh look, he blew the shofar.' God's going to
say something else."
Making a shofar is a messy business. It involves foul-smelling
chemicals to soften the cartilage, metal tongs to pull it from the
keratin sheath, and hacksaws to cut a mouthpiece at the tip of the
horn. The hardest part is yet to come blowing the shofar
so that it produces a deep, sonorous blast.
You can reach Kate at email@example.com