Tooke's Take:  March 10, 2000

The Omnipresent Princeton

By Wes Tooke '98 (email:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA-Two years ago, while working as the student columnist for PAW, I wrote one of those self-indulgent articles that undergraduates have a penchant for churning out. I urged my fellow students to ignore the riches of Wall Street and try taking Frost's "Road Less Traveled."

Today I began to write the logical follow-up to that column-the typical self-congratulatory alumni article about how F. Scott's young egoist had wandered the world and evolved into someone older and wiser. A few paragraphs into the piece I realized that it was the worst thing I've typed in several months.

I'm certain the appalling quality of my first effort wasn't a coincidence. Over the last few years I've discovered that I do far more chest pounding when I'm surrounded by Princeton people-perhaps a vestige of my original insecurity when Dean Hargadon bucked the odds and let me into the university six years ago. And I know I'm not alone. What other explanation exists for the tone that so often appears in PAW or the competitive conversations we overhear at Reunions?

So let me, somewhat uncharacteristically, stick to the facts. I spent a year working as an editor at PAW after graduation, but for the last nine months I've lived most of my life on the road. Although I can't precisely explain why I find it so difficult to be in one place for more than a few weeks, I think it has something to do with the feeling I developed at Princeton that I need to see more of the real world if I want to become a writer.

A few weeks ago a former colleague of mine at PAW asked me if I would consider writing an online column for the magazine. The suggestion caught me off guard. My recent contact with the university has been almost exclusively limited to checking men's basketball scores online, and I was unsure that I could generate a Princeton-related article every couple weeks.

But as I thought about it, I realized that Princeton remains omnipresent in my life. While standing in a Thai "nightclub," about as far as a person can get on this earth from Princeton-both physically and metaphorically-I remember a distinct feeling of satisfaction in finding a place that didn't remind me at all of the Cottage taproom. Except, of course, for the beer.

So while I reserve the right to spew my ignorant opinions on matters that happen on campus, this column is chiefly dedicated to exploring the curious ways in which Princeton continues to impact our lives after graduation. I fully expect to be writing these pieces from a wide variety of places, and perhaps the locations will influence the content. To paraphrase Papa, consider it a movable snack.

And since this venture is online, I hope that the readers of this column will feel free to e-mail me ( with comments, criticisms, and suggestions. Although if you're too offensive I will follow the example of the Prince and quote you grossly out of context. Writer beware.

Thank you to everyone who read this first online column, and I hope you will find your way back. A topic for debate until next time: Princeton's modern motto is a wishy-washy debacle. Discuss amongst yourselves. Oh, and the Vegas over-under on how many issues before I get sacked is six. My mom's got a pile on the under. And as I learned long ago, it's never wise to bet against my mother.

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