Friday, March 04, 2005

New Haven in the Vacation

One of my professors once told me that the only people who feel confident that they belong at Yale are those buried in the Grove Street Cemetery. She said that every time you start to savor the thrill of belonging, you learn that there is a yet more exclusive club to which you have not been admitted. Charles Lamb’s imagination took a happier turn, when thinking about a visit to Oxford:
I can here play the gentleman, enact the student. To such a one as myself, who has been defrauded in his young years of the sweet food of academic institution, nowhere is so pleasant, to while away a few idle weeks, as at one or other of the Universities….Here I can take my walks unmolested, and fancy myself of what degree or standing I please.

I had lunch in New Haven yesterday. It’s still true that an envelope from Yale makes my heart skip a beat--they’ve come to take back my degree at last, I think. Nonetheless, those were great years and just walking from the station to the campus, I could feel my brain buzz with the intensity of all those smarties gathered together—until, just a block from my old department, I saw a dozen young undergraduates walking in a pack. One popped a balloon that was advertising an open house at the Cambridge Arms and they all guffawed. Their Yale has a lot more in common with the ethos of our current president than mine. But how lovely to be there again, even for just a few hours. Sadly, I think, New Haven may be my arcadia.

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