Believe me when I say I would never build a column simply on the sands of rhetorical "I told you so’s." But please do grant me the indulgence of following up on a few items that have appeared in recent columns:
Pedestrian safety. As faithful readers know, I find it somewhat ironic that some of the best and brightest young minds in the country, the undergraduates of Princeton University, literally have a hard time getting from one side of the street to the other. The particular street is Washington Road, of course, which bisects the campus and which is the scene of all-too-frequent accidents involving cars striking pedestrians. An equal or perhaps greater irony is that it’s not all the students’ or motorists’ fault — the road’s design has put head-in-the-tree students and rushing commuters on a collision course for many years.
My most recent column on the subject ran October 30, 2002. Earlier this month, on the evening of Monday, October 13, a female graduate student was struck while attempting to cross the road in the crosswalk at the intersection of Washington Road and William Street. That intersection is one of two crossings that is still not controlled by a traffic light. The other, near Fine Hall and Princeton Stadium, is where two freshmen were struck by one car a year ago.
The McPhee-Sullivan women. On November 27, 2002, I recounted some of the many accomplishments of the daughters of Pryde Brown, the Nassau Street photographer whose first husband was John McPhee, the writer, and whose second husband was Dan Sullivan, a lapsed Jesuit who became a gentleman farmer, philosopher, and Gestalt therapist, and stay-at-home dad.
Since that column the New York Times has taken an interest in the work of Joan Sullivan, the only child of Pryde and Dan in their large, blended family. Now, the Times reports in its Public Lives column on October 21, Sullivan is attracting attention as the founder and principal of a small public high school in the South Bronx dedicated to reading writing.
The Paul Robeson plaque in Princeton. In the October 15 issue, while discussing the rather lame tributes to two of Princeton’s more prominent residents, Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson, I referred to the Robeson plaque in front of the Arts Council building, now the subject of a bitter dispute between arts advocates who want to renovate and expand it, and neighbors (from the same neighborhood where Paul Robeson was raised), who believe that an expanded arts building would tax an already crowded neighborhood with additional traffic and parking.
That reference caught the attention of Marvin Harold Cheiten, a longtime supporter of the arts and one of the contributors to U.S. 1’s annual Summer Fiction issue. Has anyone considered relocating the Arts Council to the old Valley Road School, Cheiten wondered, referring to the building that most recently was used as the administrative offices for Princeton Township.
Good question, and perhaps grist for a future column on the Arts Council’s expansion hopes, which clearly have landed between a rock and a hard place.
The fickle finger. The September 24 issue of U.S. 1, featuring adults in kiddie cars taunting each other with clenched fist and extended middle finger to illustrate the problem of road rage, has already gone through its 15 minutes of fame and controversy.
But the middle finger rises in places well beyond the limits of U.S. 1. As several readers pointed out, the same week that the infamous digit graced the cover of U.S. 1, it also appeared on the cover of the Economist. The image showed a cactus growing in an arid desert, with stalks arranged in the shape of a hand and a protruding middle finger. The cover story headline: "The charming outcome of the Cancun trade talks."
And in a story with an October 15th dateline from Houston, Texas, the New York Times reported on another moment of fame for the esteemed middle finger. The incident occurred on October 25, 2001, when an impatient Texas motorist "shot the bird" at the occupants of a slower moving car in the passing lane in front of him. The occupants of the slower car called the police and the impatient motorist — a 36-year-old computer chip designer — was later given a citation and fined $250 for "disorderly conduct — gesture."
But, reported the Times, a Texas appeals court overturned the conviction by a 2-1 vote. The judges ruled that "the opprobrium of this gesture may be in decline" and quoted a news report that stated "These days `the bird’ is flying everywhere and, in many instances, losing its taboo status, especially among the younger set."
Again, this is not an "I told you so" column. But I do thank you all for allowing this indulgence.