Thursday, March 4, 2010

Abrasive Desktops: The Intellectual LIfe of a College Town

You might suppose that living in a college town, as I did in 2007 and 2008, in Madison, Wisconsin, would have been intellectually stimulating. You might imagine, for instance, that in such atmosphere, one would want to have one of Proust’s novels or Carl Jung’s Modern Man in Search of a Soul on his person, pack animals being illegal within the city limits, to whip out as a sort of intellectual evidence of insurance. But no such thing was the case. Madison’s streets were clogged with pimply underclassmen in ill-fitting red sweatshirts wantonly braying the words awesome and like and gross at the slightest provocation, eating hot dogs on a stick with no apparent regard for their moral and nutritional indefensibility, and generally inspiring the observer to question his or her own earlier reservations about the potentially cataclysmic consequences of global warning.

But what of those charged with molding their young minds? Well, there were a few low-level professors on view at the local extremely overpriced organic food store buying ethical drinking water from New Zealand and the like, but for the most part they were in their ivory towers shopping on line for tweed sports jackets with fake leather elbow patches. And you should have seen the men!

It has always intrigued this observer that a great dread of wearing out the elbows in one’s sports jacket seems to go hand with scholarship. Do academics have abrasive desktops or something?

Oh, occasionally you’d see them at the opera or the ballet or some other pretentious highbrow event. But you could tell from their pursed lips and furrowed brows, puffed cheeks and implacable sighing that they didn’t enjoy this stuff any more than you or I, and the last time you and I went to La Boheme, or whatever it’s called, you made your own nose bleed so we’d have an excuse to take a powder and I fell asleep.

When all us salt-of-the-earth types had made our excuses and dashed for the parking lot, do you suppose the show continued? Of course it didn’t. The cast breathed a mass sigh of relief and got on the phone to its agents while Mr. or Ms. Associate Professor and their spouses sat around sipping sherry and talking about how art is wasted on the rabble.

Noting my disdain for college students, some will surely have dismissed me by now as an old stick-in-the-mud, but the fact was that I hated college students most when I was one myself, years ago back in California, a state not known, as Wisconsin is, for its cheese, but how to explain Sonoma jack?

Subscribe, my hearties; oh, do!

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