Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Time has gaps. We fall through
them sometimes. Here, I fall
and leap - 50 years. Princeton,
NJ, 2006. I'm sitting on one of
those benches out front of the
stores on Nassau Street. Some
guy from India, part of a visiting
group, is sitting next to me, by
chance. In his funny little accent
he says to me, 'Do you come
from this town, if you do not
mind that I should ask? It is so
very gentle that they have these
benches here? For all the people?
I am very tired, and this is good,
to sit. I have been walking to
very long today.' (It may have
actually been 'too' very long
today. I couldn't tell, and from
the way he spoke he may have
very well thought he actually
was walking to some place
called 'very long today'). I
nodded back and said, 'Yes,
for everyone, and they're
very nice Sit and rest. I've
been coming here since 1965,
when that university there was
men only. But, no, I don't live
here.' It was in, perhaps. 1969
that Princeton University began
allowing females. I had a friend
then, Mary Martell, who was a
member of that first, girl's,
class. There were quite a few
parties that Fall, and I'd gone to
one, sort of in celebration  -  they
were held  -  of the girls' arrival
onto campus. Not that it was all
very welcomed. There remained a
lot of grudge and opposition to
the move. The first year or two,
as I recall, they really had no
'place' prepared to house the
girls. For some reason no
especial 'girl's dorm' had been
put together and they were instead
stuffed into an outlying house. I
think maybe there were 12 or 15
girls total. It was kind of ramshackle,
wood, and run down. Ad hoc. They
made do. I lost touch. At this party
(everyone was older than me,
realize, by some two years), and
what I can recall is a bunch of
uppity boys, Princeton men, they
called themselves, acting flippant
and royal, imbibing great globs
of very self-important drinks,
and having it all over the girls
that they were, basically,
beneath contempt and had
better find ways immediately
to make themselves worthy of
'Princeton,' or be gone. Back
into the whirlwind from whence
they came, to put it poetically
now. To my eyes, it was all very
funny. Here were college guys,
adrift and stupid enough, who'd
usually start fornicating with
anything not tied down, somehow
drinking themselves into a flutter
and turning their backs on 12
or 15 'girls'. All of a sudden
they had to act as pinprick
prudes rather than as horny
toads, to make some ridiculous
point about preferential levels
of personal 'quality.' I myself
was only there with a friend
or two, Rutgers guys actually,
and Mary, just to lend support.
I forget the exact year too, but
I bounced around a lot back then.
I stayed out of all this issue's
stuff. By the way, as it turned
out, the Rutgers guys could
outdrink and apparently outman
any of these Princeton hoodlums
on a dime and without a doubt.
I don't know what any of the
girls, that night, noticed. BUT,
for myself, one ting I noticed
right off was how stupid and
silly the rich-people (I called
anybody there rich, because they
were certainly rich by any of my
standards) seemed to 'stratify'
the society below them, beneath
them. It's only them  -  those
beneath  -  who can validify for
the rich the fact they are richer
and better and haughtier and
far-surpasseth, the little schlubs
below them. Which is all very
well and true enough, I guess,
and why there are 'service;
industries to serve these people.
Why bakers bake, and plumbers
plumb  - all in the hopes of one
of these illustrious money one
buying their services, throwing
them a bone. But, the problem, and
this is, say, 1969 remember) was
that any of these little shits had
not done anything on their own to
attain this, they were just born to
it. Their attitude was, therefore,
to me, unbecoming. That old saw
about people 'being born on third
base who think they hit the triple
that put them there' holds pretty
true. That was the feeling I got
from the night, petty tomfoolery
and false pride. But, what do I
know. Any of those guys  -  and
I can actually think of two whom
I do know from those years,  -
could have been smart, worked
really hard, and gotten it all right.
I know already that from those
years have come statesmen,
big-time attorneys, writers,
and more. Names you'd know.
Princeton always did hold a special
magic for me. Nothing to put a
finger on, it was just 'elsewhere',
I guess. I had a seminary friend
who ended up there as an undergrad,
a student. I guess he graduated
about '72 or so. I guess. I saw
him around a few times, said hi.
I always remembered, about Eddie,
(everybody called him Eddie. It
was never any of that Ed, or
Edward, stuff; just Eddie, thanks).
He too, even in seminary, was
one of our 'richer' kids, and we
had a goodly number of them.
What I remember was how he
nearly got laughed off the face
of the earth by us, all of us, in
the classroom once, for finishing
a long and pretty good oral report
he'd done, about something, I can't
remember. It was pretty cruel, what
we did. We somehow had gotten
onto the subject of what sources
he'd used for the information
and report, I forget if he was
telling hem or we were asking.
Anyway, his sources, or main
source, seemed to be 'Reader's
Digest', which back then was
a monthly compendium of
usually pretty plain and dull,
or dumb, essays and such,
edited, truncated, and
otherwise fairly useless. A
million people a month
received it in their homes.
When he blurted it out as a
'source', we crucified him.
Catcalls and huzzahs, like
some British prep school
crowd. That moment and
what occurred has always
stayed with me. Poor Eddie
Adams; I wish him well.
When I got that junk car
from that guy's yard, running
and all, one of the fist places 
I took my girlfriend was 
Princeton. In that little 
'jebeep' as my mother 
called it. Death trap, Euro
car, two different horns.
You remember. We got
there OK, of course, and
she was flabbergasted. For
her, getting to Princeton was
all strange and wonderful.
There's a big old school there,
a you enter Nassau Street and
downtown, (it's now the Princeton
University Art School and art 
gallery). Back then it was just 
still a regular school. On the
lawn that day, was an huge 
art show  -  easels and paintings
and all sorts of people milling
about. She was really taken.
As if I'd introduced her to 
something and someplace 
fantastic and really exotic.
There used to be a regular
diner there, long gone now, 
stuffed in between buildings,
the silver, diner car kind of
old-line American diner. The
Princeton Diner, or something.
We ate, had coffee, all that.
She thought it was great. That
was a good feeling for me; it
somehow connected It was funny
because her parents had been 
always taking her all sorts of 
places, flying around for vacations 
to California, Hawaii, driving to 
New Hampshire, all that stuff.   
This, by contrast, was but 20
miles from home and another
world entire, connected to 
all other things and all other 
currents. I'd touched a nerve, 
and it really got her going.

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