I just went for a jog along the canal and through the Princeton campus amidst their graduation ceremony. Quite the Ivy League show – topsiders and Izods from the 1980’s held over from my generation now adorn the parents of new grads. Opposite the maddening crowd of hungover undergrads was the Firestone chapel – a nice faux neo-gothic build in the early 1900’s with echoes of Fitzgerald’s Amory Blaine screaming at the sky for his lost generation that had seen all gods die and all wars fought for mere self awareness. I walked through the empty chapel, the clean concrete pressing up into the choir loft and toward the replication of a reformation pulpit. The silence of the pews and cool of the nave was a stark contrast to the strains of (yes… this is fact, not fiction) a Steve Winwood recording of “Higher Love” off of Back in the High Life (hey, at least that was released in 1990… some progress…) blaring out in the square while the parents in Ray Bans waved their programs.
I was taken by the contrast – the storm of holiness in this fake chapel which was trying so hard to gain the authority of the grand European churches is sought to emulate contrasted to the strange carnivale of snythetic graduation gowns, retro fashion, and hyper manicured lawns outside.
I said my prayers, walked into the sunshine, and ran back to my hotel along the canal while New Jersey’s truest son sang
Now those memories come back to haunt me
they haunt me like a curse
Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true
Or is it something worse
that sends me down to the river
though I know the river is dry
That sends me down to the river tonight
Down to the river
my baby and I
Oh down to the river we ride…