Anyone arriving late for Christopher Eisgruber's installation as president of Princeton University last weekend would have encountered a scene reminiscent of a yard sale, with a few fans, clothesracks, and a tiger or two still lingering in front of Nassau Hall.
I had been delayed by an installation of my own, lesser in portent and ceremony, of a spring and gasket set for a leaky kitchen faucet. Though the university installation would surely have been moving, I was moved by a sense of gratitude at the proximity of my home to the Princeton Shopping Center, where one of the Ace Hardware employees had led me to just the right part for one leaky faucet, and suggested flipping over the worn gasket on another. $4 bought me the right part, plus advice on how to fix the other faucet for free. Life's little annoyances just got smaller. (There's a useful concept called the 3/50 Project that helps channel the desire to support local business.)
Another reason for arriving late was that I knew that Eisengruber's speech could be found online. From the deserted bandstand, with a little imagination I could still hear the kettle drums stirring a sense of gravitas and even courage in all who managed to get there on time.
It was less satisfying to imagine the lavish buffet, which had dwindled to a few green apples and the dregs of ice tea.
Fortunately, a chestnut tree grew nearby,
with a few chestnuts to take home, cure for a week and then boil or roast. Even latecomers can reap rewards. The move towards local food at the university has yet to lead to foraging on campus grounds, as I did back in the 70s, when a food workers strike at my college led me to discover the edibility of violets growing outside the dorm.
I finally caught up with the post-installation party at Blair Courtyard. Princeton's reputation for feeding its students very well didn't fit with the extremely long and extremely slow line for food.
Word had it that the pizza and Bent Spoon ice cream were worth the long wait,
and standing in line is a lot easier when the music of Grace Potter and The Nocturnals is floating out over the green.
Potter had a fine protege in the audience. With a daughter just off to college, I was moved to memories by this scene of a proud father filming his daughter from a makeshift seat.