Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Starting Off with a Bang

 View from the pier

The conspicuously leisurely tenor of last week’s post was already succumbing to pre-packing jitters when the ringing of the telephone interrupted this initial sentence after its third word.  (I am not making this up.)  On the other end of the line was my daughter in New York.  She was concerned that I might be on campus—meaning, of course, the Princeton University campus.  Now as a matter of fact I was sitting in my private house, in what my wife calls my “Empire” and I call either my “library” or “the pressroom” as fancy directs me.  Although it was only eleven in the morning I had already twice been to, and returned from, the campus.  I had gone swimming early as usual, conveying myself to and from the gymnasium at a lively pace on foot.   I later returned by vehicle after the Student Center had opened to see whether I could achieve a piece of travel-related business.  I couldn’t.  And so I got back in the pick-up and drove across Route 1 to the Credit Union, where I could.

            My daughter then explained her strangely urgent concern about my location as it related to the location of the Princeton campus.  For the Princeton campus had been, for the last twenty-four minutes, under an emergency order of evacuation.  There had been a bomb threat!  Why should my daughter, roughly fifty miles away on the campus of another university—why should she be aware of an emergency on my campus, one mile away, of which I was entirely unaware?  I have not yet found the time to explore that question, but I did go immediately to the University website where I found, under the lurid rubric: “BOMB THREAT ON CAMPUS; evacuate immediately!” the following:

There has been a bomb threat to multiple unspecified campus buildings. Please evacuate the campus and all University offices immediately and go home unless otherwise directed by your supervisor. Public Safety officers and Princeton Police will direct drivers leaving the campus and those without cars will be directed to evacuation sites. You will receive an update later today. Do not return to campus for any reason until advised otherwise.

            Lately the university website has been noisy with alarums.  Last week it was a black bear poking about Dodge Osborne Hall.  When precious, manicured Princeton NJ becomes too Wild West, it is obviously time to take off for the Mysterious East, which I propose to do tomorrow.  In the meantime, though, all the putative excitement has rather diverted me from my bloguistical plan, which probably can, however, even yet be manhandled into a spurious conformity with the day’s explosive theme.

            As we are planning to be gone for a couple of weeks, we thought it might be nice to work in a visit to Rich, Katie D., and Ruby, who kindly invited us for an overnight on Saturday.  Their house on Coffey Street is being prepped for some major additions and renovations, but by extreme good fortune they have found a rental, on the same street, a couple of hundred yards even closer to the water.  One feature of their temporary abode is extremely unusual in New York houses: it has a narrow extensive, leafy front garden.  Practically all the others are set close to the street and have back yards.

            The yard has a small brick patio shaded by a substantial maple tree.  Between a couple of other trees Rich has slung a hammock.  The effect is of their own urban Catskill cottage or, perhaps, given the particular use to which we put it, a cabin in the Smokies.  For Katie D. is a Tennessean and a fair guitar-picker—an outstanding one, actually, for a Yalie.  Joan had thought to bring along her violin and the music for some old jigs and reels, and Rich, Ruby, and I got to enjoy a Red Hook Hoedown right there in the leafy front garden.

Red Hookers fiddling, Ruby raviing           

 But that was actually the second installment of the “circuses” subdivision of our pagan Sunday morning—the “bread” part consisting of huevos rancheros and other transgressions at a local eatery known as Fort Defiance.  The morning began early with a big bang—or several of them, to be precise, and in rapid succession.  Coffey Street ends, sort of, at Valentino Park, from which a sizeable, well built pier juts out into the bay, affording a superb view of the Statue of Liberty.  That means that the pier likewise affords a superb view of parts of nearby Governor’s Island—including a certain large abandoned building thereon that, at precisely 7:36 am, was spectacularly destroyed by controlled implosion.

   not long for this world
         The building had once served as military housing, I believe, and was of an exquisite ugliness.  If ever there was a building that deserved what it got, this was it.  In-the-know early birds, of whom there were probably fifty or more, congregated on the viewing plaza of the pier.  This is what we saw.  Rich got it all on tape.  You can read more about it on his blog.  The campus bomb threat, I am happy to say, has ended in a welcome whimper. 

           Next week, Sri Lanka!


  1. Enjoy Sri Lanka! I was just there a few weeks ago, and I heard you were going so I'm sorry I missed seeing you at Reunions. We docked in the capitol of Colombo and from there took the delightful Viceroy train twice, once to visit the interior capitol Kandy where we enjoyed the Temple of the Tooth (Buddha's tooth, in a reliquary, it reminded me of Anthony's tongue in Padua) and the second time not quite as far but to visit the elephant orphanage (quite interesting!) at Pinnawalla. The interior is mountainous and lushly green, very enjoyable!

    I hope you have a wonderful time!!

  2. The technical term for that space is "man cave".

  3. Dear Prof. Fleming; I enjoy your blog immensely and you have always been my favorite professor that I never met. :-) If you are interested in receiving alerts from the University, please go to the Princeton HR website at: and sign up for what they call "PTENS: Princeton Telephone & Email Notification System" -- you can configure it to receive alerts in different ways and whenever there is a University emergency all the bells and whistles on all your phones will alert you. It is only used for real emergencies and sounds as if it might be useful to you. Be well and enjoy your travels! Annie

  4. Thanks for the press! Looking forward to reading about Ceylon.