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ISSUE 118 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/15/2004

Carleton, Undercover

By Nathaniel Hopkins
Contributing Writer


Friday, October 15, 2004

The mission: infiltrate Carleton, gather intelligence and report back to the St. Olaf student body. Being the starry-eyed youth that I am, the thought of a perilous quest into the unknown appealed to my romantic self. Secretly, I would descend from my beloved campus, venture across river and hill and discover what great mysteries lay beyond. Finally, the realization of my greatest dream: my legend enduring alongside men like Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark and Bilbo Baggins. So come, fellows, and listen to the tale of that journey which won me a place among history's greatest adventurers.

First, preparation. I had to adopt the persona of a Carl. But, one must ask, what does this actually entail? I went to Goodbye Blue Monday's -- neutral ground -- to investigate. Even as a jovial and clean-cut Ole, the primary elements of the Carl (cool detachment, disheveled hair and basically unkempt appearance) were not completely foreign to me, so I was able to acquire them without much effort. Thankfully, my last name does not end in -son, so all my guise would really require was the avoidance of soap and razor for a few (short) days.

My ruse must have been quite well executed, for penetration (giggle) of the Carleton campus proved rather effortless. Still, whenever a student passed, panicked thoughts raced through my brain: Dont make direct eye contact, but dont conspicuously avoid it. Crap; shes looking at me. Dont smile; dont say hello; maybe a little nod of the head? That would be cool; that would be Carleton, wouldnt it? Oh, God. Shes grinning. She knows. Abort mission! What could have given me away? It must have been that curséd ocular twinkle so common among my people! Oh, shes looking at the guy behind me.

After a few scares, I eventually became more at ease on the campus -- the enormous, gargantuan, sprawling campus. Seriously, why is this place so huge? Only, like, 2,000 people even go here! I had thought that the place seemed vacant, but that is not the case at all. Everyone is just really spread out, like a teaspoon of butter on a 900 acre piece of bread.

Well, some places at Carleton must get crowded sometimes. Everyone has to go to one single location to eat, don't they? Think again, my friends. We all know that it can get very cramped on a campus when 3,000 students have a single cafeteria, but this is not the case when a mere 1,800 students have two totally separate dining halls from which to choose. That's right: East Dining Hall and Burton Dining Hall/Severance Tea Room (Tea Room?) are each distinct dining options that offer a variety of high-quality meals in a format similar to our very own Stav Hall. Also, I must not fail to mention the Sayles-Hill Snack Bar: similar to the Cage, but always open until midnight. I don't know why, but it seems that things at Carleton are always open significantly later than anything at St. Olaf. Despite all this luxury, however, I still doubt that the Carls have ever had the pleasure of being served Moroccan Game Hens in their cafeteria. Boo-yah, Carleton, boo-yah.

One place I had to visit before my day ended was the campus art gallery. It has a collection of paintings by contemporary Japanese artist Masami Teraoka which supposedly contain adult images. While I must admit that Dittman is a much nicer space then Carleton's gallery, I was also forced to ask myself, Would I ever see this art displayed at St. Olaf? Judging by how the campus reacted to the anonymous display in the Buntrock corridor last year, I don't think a painting of a woman being molested by an octopus would go over well on the Hill. Still, it is a really cool exhibit and I recommend that everyone see it sometime.

I visited a few other relatively unexciting places, but the highlight I planned for my evening was a visit to Carleton's student-run pub, the Cave. Viva Voce was playing that evening, and I had wanted to go to the concert anyway, so it was an obvious location for reconnaissance. I expected the Cave to reveal the seedy underbelly of the Carleton campus. I hoped for students in dark corners sipping absinthe, sprawled on pillows of Chinese silk, smoking opium from wine-filled hookahs, and screaming homoerotic Ginsberg poems from atop rickety barstools. As you will find, I was slightly disappointed.

When I first arrived, the place was deserted except for the musicians; the workers, you see, were already 10 minutes late for set up, and this was not my only complaint of the night. They were out of coffee, the espresso was terrible, only about five Carls showed up, the show started 30 minutes late, Viva Voce had to cut their set short because the drummer kept getting electrocuted by his microphone and no one appeared to be using any hallucinogenic drugs!

I would have been pretty irked if it weren't for the fantastic music, free pool and one other little thing & ahhh, the sweet nectar of secular education. You know, I probably shouldn't be so hard on the Cave. It really is a pretty sweet place. A small, grungy bar ambiance would never fly at St. Olaf for myriad reasons, but the Cave (despite its heinous lack of pizza) has infinitely more character, history and charm than the Pause.

So what does it really mean to be a Carl? Honestly, I have no idea: I was only there for one day. At this point, I don't feel comfortable confirming or denying any of the popular stereotypes about our friends across the river. Do they lock themselves in dark basements and plot to overthrow the government? Are they all dark, pretentious, drunken nihilists? Angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night? Probably not, but it sure is fun to think so.





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