115. CAPTAIN MORGAN
I had a slight friendship back
then, train interaction stuff, with
John Nash. Famous, Nobel Prize.
All that. It was as curious as it
gets. He's dead now, and we'll
just leave it. What was funny
though, and so Princeton, is
this. There used to be, for
some years, in the retail strip,
up on Nassau Street, next to
Zorba's Pizza, or Ianno's,
whatever it was called, a
Burger King. Yep, a regular
dumb Burger King. The
townspeople hated it, the kids
went there. 'The King' was finally
forced out, made to leave the
district, because of their mess,
smells, greasy-stained sidewalk
with poor upkeep - all covers,
basically, for 'we don't want you
here' and 'Princeton quality of life'
stuff. What was interesting was that
John Nash had this off-the-wall
son, just a little not right. He'd
sit in that Burger King, many
long hours, over like a 30 cent
coffee and a hamburger or two,
and harangue people, about this
or that, it was said. Harass others.
It got so bad he too was eventually
barred from the store. I'd see him
around, on the train platform or
not, glaring. I just let him alone
and never mentioned or broached
him as a subject, with John. Family
matters, not my business, and
anyway, I guess there's not a
Nobel Prize for parenting.
Nobody wins that one.
How funny was it that the slow
seep of outside culture had to
make its way onto the Boro and
be turned out. It's OK to have the
big-time retailers all lined up in
their small, beautiful shops along
the downtown way, but not plebian
culture. Brooks Brothers, Talbots,
Ralph Lauren, Birkenstick, and all
the rest, they were all arrayed.
Please, not Burger King. Which
is funny, since it at least references
royalty and not serfs.
There's a gravesite down the hill
in the Princeton Cemetery that
reads, 'See, I told you I was sick.'
I always thought that was pretty
funny. Grover Cleveland and
Aaron Burr are also buried there.
Paul Tulane is also there, with a
big statue of himself, his back
facing the University. He had
wanted very much to become
President of Princeton University,
but the job went to someone else;
he was so miffed he left town,
went down to New Orleans or
wherever, and founded, at least
by donation, Tulane University
and had this burial statue erected
for his grave; forever snubbing
back the university. Funny stuff.
Another note about Paul Tulane:
during the periods in question, he
was the largest money donater to
the Confederate States of America
to help promote the Civil War
cause of the Confederacy. I'm
telling you, if you delve there
are exciting surprises to be
found, everywhere. There's
another part of that cemetery,
over by Aaron Burr, the University
section, where all the early
Presidents of the University
are buried in their section -
long flat graves with marble
slabs and sarcophagi. Jonathan
Edwards; Aaron Burr's father (the
founder); John Witherspoon (big
Princeton colonial guy), and others.
Each year the Aaron Burr Society
holds rites at his grave, and the
grave is left cluttered with flowers.
medallions, poems and trinkets.
Beads too, like Mardi Gras beads
from New Orleans. Weird stuff.
That little contest still rages,
In another part of that cemetery is
Sylvia Beach. She was from Princeton,
went to Paris, and opened Shakespeare
& Company Bookstore, and the rest
for her is legion : the Lost Generation,
all those Hemingway, Pound, James
Joyce cats hanging about, Gertrude
Stein, Alice B. Toklas. Big time fame
and like a Euro pre-Beatnik American
liberation : the skies opened up, words
and ideas flowed, people really learned
to speak and write and flower. And
little old Sylvia Beach, nee Sylvia
Woodbridge, was atop it all. She's got
the tiniest little, understated gravesite.
The 1920's could be proud of her.
Over a little, but near to her too is
Kurt Godel : Einsten's pal and buddy,
equal theoretician and big time
everything. From what I recall, he
starved himself to death and got
buried here, with his wife. Long,
crazy, stories. Look it up.
At every turn, there was something.
I never knew the half of it. Strange
Asian restaurants with each their
little specialty : seaweed selections
in one place, mushroom choices in
another, tea parlors, at least 8 or 10
serious male barber shops and
grooming places, bars, clothing.
Who has money like that, let them
spend it, I guess. In the later evenings,
drunk kids everywhere : one time,
I'd gotten friendly with the manager
of the bar next door, and he'd tell
me of the weekend revels I missed.
The place had about 30 stairs to
go down to enter the underground
bar area, and one time a drunk
kid, university kid I mean, late
at night took a tumble all the
way down those stairs, got all
banged up and really injured.
(I thought drunks never got
hurt). Immediately, yes, lawsuit
and trouble : they settled it all
as quickly and quietly as they
could, out of court and privately.
You run the gamut there : ten
kinds of fancy mushrooms or
some scum-sucker falling down
your stairs. Where's the gentility
in that one, I wonder? I sure
looked around but there's no
Captain Morgan buried
in that graveyard.