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The Yale of My Day
A Confusion of Lures

Yale is a memory of confused images. The Ingalls Rink was a place where I got drunk with my jock friends at hockey games, sometimes so drunk that my buddies said my posture mimicked the slanted walls. But it was also the place where I went to save the world—the place where I watched and cheered the Black Panthers. Cheered, that is, until someone from Teaneck screamed about “all power to the straight shooters,” whereupon one of the straight shooters talked about wanting to shoot our white parents. I liked my parents, and listened enough to stop clapping at that point.

I drove past the rink a few months ago and thought of it as a place where I had trouble figuring out who I was.

I knew I was a good, progressive liberal who sympathized with everyone who wanted to drive back the Nixonian forces of evil. I’d been a Timothy Dwight organizer of the campus-wide toilet flush timed for the moment of President Nixon’s inauguration. And I had almost lived the following fall at a table I’d set up in the plaza in front of the Beinecke Library, recruiting students to ring doorbells in Brooklyn for John Lindsay so he could beat back Mario Procaccino. But when I saw that serious, nice man who was dean of the Law School (Lou Pollak) standing in tears one night at the same plaza after some other avowed progressives started a fire at the Law Library because law was so “repressive,” I sympathized with him (without even knowing what I came to know after I got to the Law School myself: that any “political act” that could bring him to tears couldn’t be all that progressive ).

I walked past that plaza with my kids a few months ago and remembered it, too, for how confusing the memory was of a place where I had organized kids to change the system, but where I had seen a grown man cry about the destruction of some dry, old law books and had wanted to cry with him.

The Sterling Library is the place I burrowed in for lonely, obsessive, cram sessions for courses I’d chosen in large part because I knew I could ace them. But it is also the place where I’d go to unwind by reading decades-old issues of magazines and newspapers in hopes of finding subjects and writing styles that would inspire or distract. It was the place where I had to, and usually did, get down to work, but also the place where I was so tempted to forget about grades and learn. Who was I in that place ? The grade grubber, or the dreamer?

That was (and is, I hope) what Yale is all about: a confusion of images and lures and ideas and friends, so jarring that you really did have to use those years to figure out who and what you were, and what you wanted to stand for.  the end





The Yale of My Day

Young Lords and Lower Classes

Distant Thunder

New Haven On Stage

From White Shoe to Combat Boot

Defying Dink

Harold Bloom and the “Orc Cycles”

Vietnam On Our Mind

Of Reading, and a Wink

Chronicling a Cauldron

Surviving “Grim Professionalism”

Diary Daze

A Not Unwelcome Senselessness

When the World Barged In


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