Nights to Remember
Despite an 18-month hiatus, The Blue and White seniors prepare for this fall by reliving nights gone by of revelry, cheap wine, and long-form improv.
Yes, and …
Despite the fact that I, unlike most, have ballet class on Fridays, the Columbia school week ends on Thursday evening. This, of course, means that Wednesday is Thursday and Tuesday is Wednesday and Monday is Tuesday—or rather, all weekends begin on Thursdays. With the trace of CC class (cinnamon gum and Descartes) lingering on my breath, I joined the masses pouring out of Hamilton at six, on a shockingly dark, bitingly cold, and exceedingly typical October eve. My cluster of friends blocked the wooden doors. People’s puffers swished past us, pushing toward John Jay for Beyond Brats and grain bowls. My roommate and I remembered the leftover Mama’s Too in our Carlton Arms mini-fridge. Was it worth going back to 109th to get it? Absolutely, it was. Once we arrived, we shrugged off our backpacks, shed our winter coats, and devoured the cold gorgonzola pear slices resting on greased-through paper plates.
By 8, we’d made it to Lerner to watch Third Wheel. The improv shows are a who’s who of Columbia: NSOP friends, real friends, the redhead from Stranger Things. Most of the crowd was standing, but we had arrived early enough to secure seats. The soon-to-be-Twitter-famous-senior-in-the-group asked the crowd for “any noun that’s NOT a food.” My offering of SHOFAR was drowned out by someone else’s KIBBLE. The KIBBLE-themed set commenced. I still picture myself as a part of the troupe.
We found ourselves on 114th at the Potluck brownstone for a Caroline Sky SNOCK concert around 10. In the basement entryway, there sat two big plastic plates of catered food, presumably snagged from a table on the Lerner ramps. One overflowed with lukewarm deli meat, the other with brownie bites and cheese cubes. I held court over the vegetarian plate, which quickly grew crowded with revelers shooed downstairs by the hosts, fearful of noise complaints. The cute guy from my CC class sauntered toward the buffet. We talked about today’s Descartes reading as I nervously noshed on cheese and brownies. From across the room, I heard the MC announce my friend on keyboard. I made a joke in our professor’s authoritative British baritone before wriggling my way to the front of the crowd.
—Sam Sacks, Podcast Director
Despite my eyes (paralyzed with fear) and my jaw (dropped to the tile floor), Patrick recited his testimony without pause:
“This is excessive. Nobody needs THIS many soap dishes. Like, the fuck?”
As my horrified expression showed, this simply wasn’t the time for a Sus-Dev revelation. Nonetheless, I couldn’t blame Patrick for berating the shower supplies—I had, after all, just shoved him, Sam, and Dylan into a musty Carman bathroom. Why would I knowingly put my newfound—and, at the time, only—friends in a position to become riddled with the plague, you ask? At that moment, I thought I was protecting them from something much worse: an RA.
That night, we had shed our dorm-party virginity. As John Jay 11 residents, we had a lot of expectations for Carman, but our night out only verified two: the toxic black mold that festers on floors two through six and the terrifying RAs who stalk the halls, ready to bust your balls at any given moment. When I heard a thunderous knock on the suite door, followed by hushed predictions of an RA en route, my soul left my body as I switched into stealth mode. I navigated a crowd of unjustifiably petrified first-years, located the bathroom despite never having been in the suite before, and closed the door behind my floormates before any randos could rush in.
Can you imagine executing the perfect plan, under pressure, and then having your friend scream bloody murder about soap dishes? But, as Sam would soon remind me, Patrick wasn’t wrong about the soap dishes. Dylan, who had been filming the entire conversation, chuckled in agreement. The moment replaced my fear-struck face with a smile and, soon after, an uncontrollable laugh. Maybe I had overreacted, or maybe I was being hit with the side effects of actually coming to appreciate my John Jay single, but my quasi-conscious, spy-like instinct knew these friendships would be lifelong. And that was more important than the RA tyrant who, by the way, was just a first-year begging to be let in.
—Nicole Kohut, Senior Editor
Mountain Trolls, Autumn Strolls, Growing Old
Despite the fact that this chilled October night was the dead center of my first semester of college and the dead end of my first college theatre production, it was also my 19th birthday.
The evening had many phases: first, a pre-show meal of stellar green curry at Thai Market; then, a descent into Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, a world of green strobe lights and caramel-scented smoke machines; and finally, a cast party with multiple sub-phases spanning different residence halls.
Fall crept forward, swaddling New York in warm colors and cool breezes. That night, the wind twisted through Broadway’s cross streets, carrying the smells of waste and halal spices, sounds galore. I left the troll-infested mountains of the Minor Latham Playhouse to enter a fairy-lit double in Owl House, modestly sipping concoctions of “Peer” (pear) cocktails. We twirled and chatted. Later, the task became balancing plastic cups of prosecco and playing Psych in a Sulz Tower lounge, overlooking the Hudson River with the peppered lights of New Jersey outshining the night sky. Pssh—imagery, tingles.
When the clock struck midnight on October 21, 2018, I was smiling with people I could not have met at any other time or place. I was doing what I love. I was growing older and glowing, ever so subtly and just beneath my skin, with glee. And birthday snickerdoodles were in my future. It was a moment worth savoring. I had been a part of something—my first thing in New York, in college, away from home—that had now come to completion, just as I was to commence another year of life.
If only for a fleeting moment many moons ago, my feet felt grounded on Columbia’s granite and brick, in lockstep with new and friendly faces. Numerous mystical and memorable nights fill the space between then and now (even through “the Great Between,” as Ibsen may have called 2020), and here’s to hoping even more will dapple the year to come.
—Maya Weed, Staff Illustrator
Hot, A Splash of Milk, One Splenda
Despite the cold, we always managed to find warmth. It was one of those frigid New York City nights broken up only by trips to Westside Market and sprints across the Quad. We found warmth under the twinkle lights on College Walk or under the covers in a Sulz double, squeezing one too many hallmates onto a twin extra-long bed. But that night we craved a different kind of warmth—the fever dream of spontaneity that always gives rise to adventure. We longed for a heat that could only be found off a downtown stop on the 1 train.
We rode down to 34th Street, the normally glaring Penn Station lights perfectly blurred by sips of International’s cheapest bottle: Barefoot’s $8 pinot grigio. There are only two acceptable reasons to go to Midtown, and since we weren’t catching a train to New Jersey, we were on our way to K-Town.
On Korea Way, also known as West 32nd Street, we were greeted by an orchestra of karaoke bars, flickering neon signs, and tofu houses. We stopped at the first street cart we could find, pressed up against the sizzling trays of food as passersby—barhoppers, bouncers, and busboys—rushed to their destinations. We waited for our order, wondering aloud what the streets looked like from within a halal cart. What did the friendly man at the corner of 116th and Broadway see when he handed me my morning coffee—hot, a splash of milk, one Splenda? From the karaoke bar above us, we heard a heartwarming rendition of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” bellowed by drunken teenagers. We couldn’t help but sing along, glowing like the street lights dangling over us.
Eventually, we found our way back to the 1, to the twinkle lights on College Walk, and to our twin extra-long beds in the Quad. We were already dreaming about ordering our morning coffee from the cart—hot, a splash of milk, one Splenda.
—Hailey Ryan, Publisher
Time Runs On
Despite having only just met her, I had the confidence to cut her name and our Friday evening in two, given that we’d become fast friends over JJ’s curly fries after a million people said we’d get along, so Ariana was now Ari, and we vowed to meet again in her room at 10, because I had to stop by a party at my senior friend’s on 112th, so I ambled out to windy Amsterdam, where I linked with a friend who shared the same senior friend as me, and we conferred and determined that given all the seniors our senior friend knew, she probably had plenty of alcohol on hand, so we brought havarti and mangos from Westside and plopped ourselves on a couch in the corner of our senior friend’s plush apartment until her senior friends—St. A’s-adjacent, Comp Lit, Newports—talked to us, which only lasted until everyone stopped talking because a senior friend fainted, though not from substances, we were told, as we made our way out the door, where I was greeted with the rude truth of International’s early closure and forced to schlep to Liquors and back for a bottle of red, which got Ari and me drunk enough to talk about our exes and our crushes and our classes and our grandpas, until her friend knocked and plopped down, criss-cross-apple-sauce, and asked for a glass of wine, saying absolutely nothing about himself and leaving it up to me to learn, somewhere down the line, that he was the most talented painter in ’21, bar none—that a portrait by him meant everything to anyone—and instead letting Ari show us her posters, including the least derivative Warhol in all of dorm history and a funky map of Seattle, a gift from her high school boyfriend, with whom I’d one day eat arepas in the East Village over winter break, and guiding us eventually to the only EC party where we knew everyone, which made dancing and gabbing quite effortless until I craved my typically early, unannounced, and solo party departure, leaving myself room to breathe in the placid Kent-Philosophy plaza, a reprieve that fortified me well enough to swim against the Beta-bound tide on 114th, toward Ruggles, where my friend, who had been an integral part of the EC party where we knew everyone, was waiting, as he was practically every night that semester, with weed and vitamin gummies and a vat of Mountain Valley, which we devoured in rounds until I opted to drift toward McBain, where I swore the only other person up was my friend who tended to have bad dates, and after asking her to recount that evening’s, I lurched into my bowling-alley room and annotated a little Machiavelli and told myself it wasn’t worth it to wake until the Absolute line died down the next afternoon.
—Sam Needleman, Senior Editor
The Midnight Train
Despite our best efforts to fight against time, the hands of my watch inched toward 10 p.m., which meant we had about seven minutes to get the drunkest we’d ever been in our lives. Dressed like Jon Voight in Midnight Cowboy, we were ready to ride the relentless mechanical bull we call the MTA. The Subway Party was beginning at any minute.
This was my first, and, thanks to Covid, only Subway Party, held in April of my freshman year. Hundreds of students flooded the 116th stop, high on adrenaline and ketamine, set on riding to Rockaway and skinny dipping. I pitied those hoping for an easy commute home from work. Drunk bodies blockaded every 1-train entrance on our entire line. I couldn’t move, we were packed so densely. I was preoccupied thinking about the subway cars, and how I’d never know if I’d ridden the exact same one before. I thought about how there are currently 6,418 MTA subway cars on the roster. If I left my wallet on the train, it would surely be gone forever, lost to the sea of metal crates ebbing and flowing like waves, sweeping an electric ocean of passengers across town. I thought about how, years from now, all of Manhattan will be submerged in saltwater, and how we already know exactly what that will look like because the city throws its retired subway cars into the ocean for safe-keeping. Although eerie, it’s reassuring that, deep in the Atlantic Ocean, the cars are preserved: a museum of the Big Apple reserved for subaquatic tourists.
Subway Party gave us a kaleidoscopic supercut of our time at Columbia. In one car, the cool seniors who led our river rafting expedition through the Delaware Water Gap swayed back and forth. In another, friends from orientation sang ABBA songs in perfect harmony. The next car over, a neighbor from home’s baby cousin, all grown up, and all the friends we might make in semesters to come. The people in the final car held hands and sat on laps and passed around bottles of Svedka.
Unlike Sylvia Plath’s Esther, who can only reach for one fig from the fig tree, I collected many that night, plucking and tasting sweet moments from Columbia’s long-reaching branches.
In no time at all, give or take two hours, we arrived at a Jewish pizzeria deep in Brooklyn and ate greasy cheese and kosher pepperoni. We then went home and tucked ourselves into our beds. We woke up and ate bagels at John Jay or egg scrambles at Ferris or breakfast sandwiches at JJ’s. We talked about last night or the essay due the next day or which library best chased away the Sunday scaries. The nights, and even the mornings after, blur together. All I really remember is laughing. Everything else is a smear of red and blue carried in memory, to the hum and perennial sway of charging subways on their tracks, moving somewhere just beneath our feet.
—Chloë Gottlieb, Staff Writer
Survivor and Chocolate Almonds
I watched Survivor in bed and ate chocolate-covered almonds.