Exclusives: Raising Kate
PAW web exclusive column by Kate Swearengen '04 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Kate Swearengen '04
friend Liz, a high school junior wiser than her years, visited Princeton
toward the end of May. Prior to visiting Princeton, she had visited
Vassar. And, while she complained about the studied intellectualism
and all-black wardrobes of the student body, I could tell that the
college had left a favorable impression on her. My job, therefore,
was to convince her that Princeton could be just as edgy as some
Swarthmore wannabe in upstate New York.
"Usually, there's great
stuff happening on the weekends," I told her. "Ralph Nader gave
a speech here in October. Puff Daddy performed here in November.
So did Bob Dylan."
"Bob Dylan performed
at the Blue Note, too," Liz said, referring to a club in our hometown
of Columbia, Missouri. "Last month."
"Oh," I said.
"Anyway, you'll never
guess who I saw when I was up at Vassar," Liz continued. "Sandra
Bernhard. She did at stand-up routine in the auditorium, and she
downed six shots of vodka while onstage. Not only that, but her
infant daughter was sitting on her lap the entire time."
"Well," I said. "Well.
There's nothing quite that exciting going on here tonight, but I
heard that one of the student theater groups is performing Beowulf.
The downside is that they've made it into a musical. I don't suppose
you're interested in seeing it?"
"I saw it last night,"
Liz said. "My only regret is that my father wasn't here to see it
with me. I really think it would have killed him."
father is an English professor who has written several famous books
about the transmission of oral literatures. Every year, he and the
other three people in the country who speak Old English get together
and reminisce about the 12th century. The funny thing is that Theatre
Intime's musical interpretation of Beowulf really would have killed
"Maybe so," I said. "You
don't have to tell him about that, though. Just tell him how much
you liked the Latin class you visited. Your dad's got to be impressed
with Princeton's classics department, right?"
"He doesn't really think
I should major in classics anymore," Liz said. "He wants me to be
It went on like that.
I said that Princeton students were more individualistic than commonly
thought, and then a horde of girls in Capri pants walked by. I told
her that the rumors of anti-intellectualism weren't true, and then
we passed a couple of guys in sprint football jackets throwing rocks
at West College. I did cheer up, though, when Liz mentioned that
she had liked the Princeton Record Exchange.
"It's pretty cool, isn't
it?" I said. "I heard that people come all the way from New York
to shop there."
Liz agreed, and went
on to say she had read that Christian Lebrat was going to be showing
some of his films at 185 Nassau. Christian Lebrat is an avant garde
French filmmaker who made a lot of movies in the 1970s. Apparently,
he was very popular with the Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall set. The
fact that Mr. Lebrat was spending his Saturday night at 185 Nassau,
and not, say, in a posh New York club, should probably have worried
me more than it did. Nevertheless, although I had never seen an
avant garde French film, I figured I had a leg up on the genre.
After all, I speak French. Besides, I once had a fourteen-dollar
late video fee for Au Revoir Les Enfants.
I went into the film
screening expecting some fancy camera angles, maybe even a couple
of innovative montages, whatever those are. At the very least, I
expected to see character development and well-constructed plotlines.
I was, therefore, shocked and dismayed to realize that French avant
garde films, or at least the kind that Christian Lebrat makes, don't
have actors. Or plots. Or, for that matter, even sound. Picture
a series of flashing, pastel-colored horizontal bars, and you'll
have the general idea of the kinds of films I watched. The films
were like television test patterns. The good thing about test patterns,
though, is that they eventually end. The films, on the other hand,
went on for seemingly interminable twelve-minute periods.
Naturally, we left. We
had to. I have an indiscreet voice, and two men in front of me were
displeased when I inquired, midway through a film, if there was
popcorn for sale in the lobby. Rather than face the wrath of two
goateed, cable sweater-clad graduate students, I slunk out.
Liz followed me. We went
next door to T. Sweets, where we ate ice cream and made gratuitous
jokes at Mr. Lebrat's expense.
"Hey, this stuff is pretty
good," Liz said, as she chipped away at her gingersnap ice cream.
"It's great," I agreed.
"And just think: if you decide to come to Princeton, you'll be able
to eat here all the time."
"How could I say no to
all this?" Liz said cryptically.
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