Friday, August 10, 2012

Skull&Bones 10

The second, adventure-packed week in the life of this Yale cohort chaperon.

From July 29th to August 3rd I was alone (see Skull&Bones 9). On August 3rd I drove to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn--Little Odessa--to collect my wife and kids, who had flown to NY three days before and were staying with my aunt and uncle, right on the boardwalk, a five minute stroll from Coney Island’s Luna Park.

Breakfast and lunch with the meshpuhe was full of soul, full of belly, and, as always, full of volume. Leaving that ghetto is, invariably, a sadness and a relief, both. We decided to take the ferry from Port Jefferson on Long Island to Bridgeport, Connecticut, just a few minutes from New Haven. The drive to the ferry across half of Long Island is full of culturally revealing road-signs: “Now leaving Brooklyn. Fuggedaboudit.”, Hicksville, Levittown… Port Jefferson is an idyllic little harbor village next to the town of Stonybrook, site of the respected university. The ferry takes about an hour and fifteen minutes to cross Long Island Sound.
Sunset over Long Island Sound

Early evening Saturday the fourth, while the family continued touring the campus and its immediate environs, I sat in on a class from the Grand Strategies curriculum called Everyday Machiavellianism, and taught by our district’s very own alumna and now Yale’s rising junior, Yohanna Pepa. The class lasted an hour and a half, seminar style around a long table. Yohanna was very creative at applying the concepts from The Prince to the kinds of things the kids might experience in their everyday present and future lives. Yohanna was also very gentle and kind, enriching the understanding of those students who obviously had studied the master, while making sure not to forget those—a sizable chunk of the small class—who had obviously never cracked the book open, by introducing and explaining Machiavelli’s motives, method, and concepts. Watching this group of students from all over the country and the world made me realize how the Yale cohort must be kicking some serious behind in these two weeks of Grand Strategies. It made me realize how important our district’s various Advanced Placement programs are, how good they are, and how they need to be treasured and supported by the higher-ups, who often are, understandably, scrambling to deal with the other end of the academic continuum.

A saint's celebration in
Boston's Little Italy;
those are bills
plastered to the statue

Next day, Sunday, was Boston: Beacon Hill, Little Italy, The Freedom Trail; also Cambridge over the bridge: MIT and Harvard. Ten hours of walking and one metro ride yield a lot of photos, a ton of history, some clam chowder, lobster bisque and rolls, and finally, Boston Cream Pie.

MIT, Gates Building

Monday it was Rhode Island’s turn: Narragansett Bay and kayaks, Providence and College Hill and Brown University. Of all the schools I’d seen on this trip, Brown is the most beautiful, the most elegant, the most architecturally consistent, the most perfectly placed in relationship to its adjacent big little city.
Brown bears

Tuesday was spent showing off to my family my New Haven chops, gotten from all that running and walking in the first five days. We went to the port and the waterfront, to the West River Memorial Park with Yale’s stadia and athletic grounds at its north end, to Lighthouse Park and its beach, and to East Rock Park and its summit views.

Wednesday evening my people had to fly home out of Westchester County Airport near White Plains, NY. So we took the opportunity to tour Hyde Park, with FDR’s family home, and Frederick Vanderbilt’s mansion nearby. 
Servants' stairs,
Vanderbilt Mansion

Washington Irving's
grave, Sleepy Hollow
We drove south along the Hudson through Poughkeepsie and Vassar College, through Sleepy Hollow and its cemetery and Manors, and east through White Plains and Westchester County, home of some New York City’s wealthier bedroom communities.

It was a very sad Yale cohort chaperon who saw his wife and kids off and had to drive back to New Haven all alone, again.

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