As the first of our winter holidays approaches, the time seems right to thank my faithful readers, and share some responses to several recent columns.
Regarding my recent ticket for failing to stop completely before turning right on red at the corner of Franklin Corner Road and Route 1 (U.S. 1, October 2), a transgression captured by a remote traffic camera at that intersection.
A reader reported that he, too, had been nabbed by that camera for the same violation. He believed he had stopped for a second, but not for the full three seconds as required by law. In our frenetic culture, three seconds seems like an eternity, so I did some checking. It seems that New Jersey traffic law requires only that you come to a “full stop” and “yield to all oncoming traffic and pedestrians before turning right” at a red light. (That assumes, of course, that the intersection isn’t marked with a “no right on red” sign.)
The real challenge is achieving that “full stop,” as another reader reported. In her case she was a pedestrian walking a dog when a motorist made a right turn on red and struck the dog and the pedestrian — both of whom were shaken but survived. The similarity to my episode, this reader reports, is that the motorist was convinced that she had stopped at the light and that she had struck only the dog, not the pedestrian. Where was the video camera when you needed it?
Regarding my low-testosterone column of September 4. A reader of both U.S.1 and the New York Times alerted me to the November 24 business section of the Times and a page 1 article titled “Selling that New-Man Feeling.”
I gave the low T condition and its heavily advertised medical treatments only the smell test, noting that generations of men have grown up, gotten old, and in some cases even gotten wiser and more agreeable with the passage of time. They never thought twice about their T levels. But now there is a treatment, in search of an illness, and big pharma is selling it.
The New York Times dug into the science and came away with similar reservations. “Disease mongering,” one source said. A professor at Georgetown University Medical Center who directs a project called “PharmedOut,” which evaluates drug marketing claims, challenged the questionnaire that some use to screen for low T. Among the questions: “Do you feel tired after dinner?” The professor noted that “we all do eventually. It’s called sleep.”
The Times tracked down the questionnaire’s author, John E. Morley, director of endocrinology and geriatrics at Saint Louis University School of Medicine. A Dutch pharma company asked him to develop it (and later donated $40,000 to his school).
Morley candidly told the Times that he drafted the questionnaire in 20 minutes in the bathroom and scribbled the questions on toilet paper. “I have no trouble calling it a crappy questionnaire,” he told the Times, which did not say whether a pun was intended. As for me, I will stand by the results of my original smell test.
Regarding the November 20 column on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, a number of readers appreciated the comparison of the Texas Book Depository to the Bank of America building at the corner of Nassau and Witherspoon streets in Princeton. “I was expecting something like the Prudential building in Newark, looking down Broad street a few hundred yards away,” wrote one.
For the second time in as many weeks Dick Snedeker of West Windsor, a retired aeronautical engineer, added some insightful follow-up information to one of my columns.
“The part that got to me the most was your using the scale and arrangement of the bank at Witherspoon and Nassau streets and other benchmarks to relate the scale of the actual scene in Dallas that you had visited,” Snedeker wrote. “Giving the distances in feet and familiar analogies was important. Not many critics and doubters of what actually happened have done that.
“But as a weird follow-up, the idea of JFK and the corner of Witherspoon and Nassau evoked an amazing memory. During the 1960 campaign, JFK visited Princeton, and my wife, Mary Ellen, and I went in to town to see him. We stood on the campus side of Nassau Street and watched his ‘motorcade’ pass by.
“He was seated on the top of the back seat of an open convertible waving to everyone just as he passed the bank building that you likened to the book depository. An easy target from the top floor. I wonder how many other times he was similarly exposed.”
Amazing, indeed. My colleague Sara Hastings researched the Daily Princetonian’s Larry Dupraz digital archives (named for one of the key supporters of U.S. 1 newspaper) and found an article from the September 19, 1960, student newspaper that corroborated Snedeker’s account.
The story began with a self-deprecating observation by the future president, who enrolled with Princeton’s Class of 1939 but then dropped out on December 12 of his freshman year and transferred to Harvard, Class of ’40:
“I used to be a student here for a few weeks,” Democratic presidential nominee Senator John F. Kennedy recalled last Thursday, “but it got too tough for me here, so I transferred to Harvard.”
The Democratic nominee passed through Princeton at 3:30 last Thursday afternoon on the last leg of his campaigning tour through New Jersey . . .
Senator Kennedy’s motorcade, which included New Jersey’s Governor Robert B. Meyner, paraded down Washington Road, and Nassau Street to the Governor’s mansion.
As far as the Dupraz archives reveal, that motorcade was Kennedy’s last visit to Princeton. For those of you still around town, have a great Thanksgiving weekend — and may you enjoy at least one full stop before you return to the fray.