Web Exclusives: On the Campus

March 21, 2007:

Bourbon Street heat; Lake Carnegie ice

By P.G. Sittenfeld ’07

With New York and Philadelphia an easy Dinky plus choo-choo away, Princeton party-animal wannabes usually seek out proximate urban excitement. But for the truly ambitious, a wilder scene beckons: Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Every year, a handful of Tigers journey to the Big Easy for the Fat Tuesday bash. Jeff Pinner ’07, a New Orleans native, and Liz Inkellis ’07 had so much fun on last year’s visit that they couldn’t resist going back this year. “It’s one of these college things you just have to do,” said Inkellis. “Plus, I’m going to be in grad school soon and my behavior at Mardi Gras would be much less appropriate then.”

Pinner and Inkellis were joined by four Princeton classmates, all of them New Orleans novices. One of these first-timers was a Long Islander who, prior to the trip, thought Manhattan was the only metropolis worth knowing.“I knew we’d had a good time when he told me New Orleans was the craziest, best city he’d ever been in,” Pinner said.

Despite all the partying, Hayley Crowell ’08, another New Orleans native, said the city provides a nice change of pace from Princeton. “It’s a relaxed mentality,” she said. “Here, there’s always something to do, you’re always on the go.” One group of seniors that headed south for the festivities agreed there was to be no mention of the word “thesis.”

(Solely in the interest of scrupulous, in-depth journalism, this columnist felt compelled to confront Mardi Gras in New Orleans himself and is now able to vouch both for the sinful nature of the celebration and its downward-spiraling impact on one’s thesis.)

The bulk of students who made the trek confirmed that the greatest pleasure was neither screaming for beads at the parades nor meandering through the masses in the French Quarter but, instead, the local Cajun cuisine. The night Pinner returned to campus, his eating club served up a special Mardi Gras-themed meal that included crawfish, shrimp, and even alligator. “I know we were back in New Jersey, but the meal tasted nothing like it was supposed to,” said Pinner, still savoring the flavors of the previous few days.

WHILE THE SCENE ON BOURBON Street heated up, the town of Princeton cooled down. Temperatures dropped so low, in fact, that for the first time since 2003, ice-skating was permitted on Lake Carnegie. Local recreation officials tested conditions (requiring at least five inches of ice) before flying a white flag that signaled the all-clear to skate between the Washington Road and Harrison Street bridges.

Students and townies alike turned out to display their skating skills (or lack thereof), partake in impromptu hockey games, and revel in slipping and sliding. Alec Williams ’09 was on his normal outdoor run when his route took him past the lake. The next thing he knew, he was jogging on ice – not quite walking on water, but still harder exercise than a run on normal terrain, he reported.

Bennett Graham ’07 concurred that skates were not necessary to enjoy the slick surface. Neither was daylight. Graham and a group of friends headed down to the lake one night when no one else was there. The midnight moonlight provided the only illumination. “We were all Southerners, and none of us had ever skated on a natural lake before,” said Graham, who hails from Nashville, Tenn. “Mostly, we just flopped around on our bellies like penguins.”

AS STUDENTS MADE THE MOST of a chilly winter, the Princeton Israel Public Affairs Committee (PIPAC) invited them to warm up at the Center for Jewish Life with a mid-February hookah study break. The popular Middle Eastern means of relaxing uses a glass water pipe for smoking. Students unwound during the after-dinner hour, while munching on pita and hummus and listening to the easy, earthy rhythms Israeli folk music. The study break was a sequel to an outdoor event PIPAC sponsored in the fall, “Hookah in the Sukkah,” which drew about 60 students.

“People love hookah – college students especially,” said Daniella Raveh ’09, social chairwoman of PIPAC and a native of Tel Aviv. Nathan Edgerton ’07 confessed that he showed up for the study break out of curiosity to try smoking hookah for the first time.  Beyond adding to a relaxing social environment, hookah, according to study break attendees, has another important quality: “It’s completely non-addictive,” said one senior, who asked to remain anonymous for fear her “crazy Jewish mother” might not believe her. 

P.G. Sittenfeld ’07P.G. Sittenfeld ’07 is an English major from Cincinnati, Ohio

Photo by Hyunseok Shim ’08