The Cocktail Conversation Is Better (I Can't Speak to the Sex)

14 May 2008

My mate tells me that, when at the tender age of 18 he entered the Honors College of Indiana University, the faculty member welcoming the new class had this to say:

“Why be in the Honors College? Because the sex is better.”

This is the sort of thing you couldn’t get away with saying today, but come on, the guy who said it was right. The fact is, smart people make for great company, and sex is largely about great company, unless it is a quickie in a park or something.

I was reminded of this insight as I was utterly wowed by the people I met at the Guggenheim Foundation reception last week in New York City. No, I didn’t have sex with any of them, but it was so amazing to talk with the other Fellows and learn about what they do. I only had a chance to talk with each for five minutes or so each, because the Guggenheim folks are great hosts who keep introducing you around. But even those five minute conversations were more interesting than some two-hour conversations I’ve had in my day.

This, by the way, sort of answers the questions my friends and blog readers have been asking me: Where the heck have I been? Why so quiet lately? Well, as it turns out, when you get a Guggenheim Fellowship, there is a lot of mail to answer. But that’s not what’s been taking up most of my days.

Most of my days lately have been spent helping my neighbors agitate against a poorly conceived redevelopment project in our town. Why spend so much time on this? Well, part of the reason is that I care about what happens to my town, especially our beautiful neighborhood and fragile downtown.

But a bigger part of the reason is that living in an old faculty neighborhood means living with a lot of cool, interesting people. Take, for instance, my neighbor Ann, who writes a nationally-recognized blog about food and life. Or my neighbor Joe, who wrote me yesterday to say “Hey, Alice, I have a line on some good llama shit.” (No, it’s not a euphemism for drugs, it’s good news about manure for our gardens.) Or my neighbor Sue, who last night lectured City Council on the history of our local green spaces, because she bothered to research it. (Sue found Frederick Law Olmsted in our midst.)

You know, that’s life around academia. The sex is better, the cocktail parties are better, the gardens are better, the food is better, the uprisings against the greedy developers are better. Sometimes, lost in committee work, we forget that. Let’s not. Let’s all try to have more shared gardens, more cocktail parties. And....

Here’s just a sampling of some of the incredible people I met at the Guggenheim Foundation reception:

  1. the writer Toni Bentley

  2. the photographer Builder Levy

  3. the environmental artist Erika Blumenfeld

  4. the playwright Danny Hoch

Wow. Did I say “wow” already?