Friday, January 07, 2005


If You Have to be Stupid...

A friend took me to task last night for the dyspeptic tone of yesterday's screed. I was aware as I was writing it that it was too negative. Naturally, I also made lifelong friendships at Dartmouth, happily pored through all the books the art library, and even had the best place to work I've ever had, a "carrel" (it was really a complete private room) in a locked corridor in the back of the stacks of Baker library. People couldn't even get in to knock on the door. And the windows had three layers of glass and were utterly soundproof. Lovely.

I can't say I'm guiltless of anti-intellectualism, either. I lived on the top floor of an old dorm next to a storage attic, where there were abandoned student footlockers and belongings from the 1940s onwards. One night we put on an "anti-intellectual keg." For our "theme decor" we tore the pages out of hundreds of old textbooks, covering the entire hall in old crumpled-up textbook pages to about shin depth. I'm sure the janitors hated our guts. (The fire marshall probably would have too, if he'd known.)

That was, incidentally, the night of one of my near-death experiences. At about three in the morning it fell to me to empty the rest of the last quarter-keg so that we could return it the next day. It was still nearly full (the assembled multitudes had gone through three or four prior to that one). As I watched the beer drain into the sink, I had a sudden stroke of (drunken) genius--instead of wasting all that beer, I thought, I'd drink it! Well, that just struck me at the time as a fine exercise in efficient thinking.

I woke up the next morning at eight-thirty or so sleeping peacefully but very uncomfortably on the bathroom floor--directly under the still-mostly-full keg, which was balanced on the edge of the sink so precariously that when I gave it a light two-finger tap, it crashed to the floor with a tremendous clang--right on the spot where my head had just been.

If you have to be stupid, it's best to be lucky. (And if that's not an old saying, it should be.)

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