Last week’s “apologia” in this space was correct: Given the press of the Business Directory deadline, going to the printer the day after April Fool’s Day, I’m just too busy to write a column this week or next for that matter.
Which is a shame. If I weren’t so busy I’d write a column about the closing this week of Micawber Books, the independent bookstore that has graced Nassau Street since 1981. Just stepping into the store you could sense what made the store so appealing to the many book lovers in this town.
In recent years I have always been a little envious of Logan Fox, the founder of the store. Like me he took a personal passion and turned it into a business. Like me he slaved away at the shop until the business could sustain him and his family. Unlike me he managed to find a business partner, Margaret Griffin, who shared his vision but who also had some complementary talent to add to the mix. And Logan and Margaret took turns minding the store.
I ran into Logan one day a few years ago at the train station. I must have been refilling U.S. 1 news boxes or some other detail from the daily grind. Logan was waiting for a train to the airport, and a month-long trip to visit a kid on the west coast. Logan had it knocked, I thought at the time, the best of both worlds.
Now he’s giving up one part of that world. I’d like to write a column asking him about that choice and about his transition plans, if any. Then I’d track him down in a year and do another column, and ask him if he has any regrets or any 20-20 hindsight to share.
If I weren’t so busy I might write a column about the NCAA basketball tournament and how it once again has delivered a succession of down-to-the-wire games that create fans out of people whose own teams ended their season long ago.
And that column could turn into a Princeton story pretty quickly: The university’s athletic director, Gary Walters, was the head of the committee that made the final invitations.
And Walters’ story would have taken an interesting turn, since in the middle of this March madness Princeton’s basketball coach, Joe Scott, suddenly resigned to take the coaching job at the University of Denver. Since Princeton’s approach to athletics has always been that winning is not everything, the question would have to be raised: Was Joe Scott a marked man because in his three years at Princeton he compiled a terrible won-loss record and this year the team fell into the Ivy League cellar, with its worst record in history?
If I weren’t so busy I’d ask around and see if Scott’s departure is a reflection of big-time pressure that creeps into scholarship programs such as Princeton’s.
If I weren’t so busy I’d write a column about the historic preservation district ordinance being proposed for the western section of Princeton Borough, the “gold coast” of Princeton where some residents are concerned that architecturally significant houses, including several that were once homes to Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland and George Kennan, might get torn down and replaced by McMansions or get transformed by some vinyl siding company into a post-modern architectural hodge-podge.
The ordinance would establish a Historic Preservation Review Committee that would review and grant approval before homeowners in the district could demolish any part of their house or add to it, replace or remove shutters, change the type of roofing material or gutters, add awnings or light fixtures, or even put up a fence where there wasn’t one before. The application fee would be $35.
All that sounds a little onerous to some residents who are opposing the historic district. Onerous? Over on my side of town, which you might think of as the lower east side compared to the western section, I wanted to install air conditioning units in my side yard. There’s no history to my little house, I’m afraid, but it is on an undersized lot. So to install the units, measuring two feet square by three feet high, I had to obtain zoning approval.
My application cost well over $500 in fees, plus around $250 to send certified letters to the more than 50 neighbors within 200 feet of my property, plus more than a few hours of my time. If I had a little more time I’d write a column explaining to the western section folks why — despite the demands of such reviews — they would probably be better off with the ordinance than without it.
If I weren’t so busy I would write another column about the second charrette I attended in West Windsor, where ordinary people are contributing ideas for how the area around the Princeton Junction train station might be used more intensively and creatively.
It’s a fascinating exercise, and it will be intriguing to see what, if any, ideas come to fruition. But I’m too busy now to entertain such thoughts.
And if I weren’t so busy I might write a column about where all the time goes. If I knew the answer then maybe I would have figured out a way to crank out a colum this time around. But my time is up and I have to run. Which is a shame.