Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 9)

Today was one of those momentous days in parenting.  I’ve spent nearly 18 years trying to teach Boo to be a responsible, independent person, and tomorrow she’ll be starting a six week dry run of taking care of herself with minimal supervision in a big city on the other side of the continent from where I will be.

During this last day, I’ve realized how many little things I still haven’t taught her.  She knows how to do laundry, but until today, she had never been to a coin operated laundromat.  She knows how to use an ATM, but didn’t know how to open the security door to the ATM centers they often have in big cities.  She didn’t know how to swipe a credit card or use a chip reader.  She’s learned how to take the Subway and how to reload a Metro card.  We’ve talked about what’s safe to do alone and when she really needs to make sure that she has someone with her.  We’ve talked about not being afraid to ask for help or to tell other people about your problems.  We’ve talked about how if she doesn’t like her program or is homesick, this is only six weeks of what will likely be a very long life.  I’m sure there are a million other things I haven’t taught her, but I just have to trust that I’ve taught her well enough that she’ll be able to figure those things out on her own.

And now, as I’m sitting here fretting over what I haven’t done to prepare her and feeling the weight of this bittersweet moment, I’m trying to remind myself that it’s only six weeks.

This time.

Next up — Finale

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 8)

Today was a momentous day because it marked the likely end of my part of our college tours.  Which is fine because I’m exhausted.

We had a lazy morning before we hopped on the train uptown for Barnard College, the women’s college of Columbia University.  I liked it.  Boo did not.  Why you ask?  Because while they allow trans women to enroll, they do not allow non-binary gendered people to enroll.  Only people who consistently identify as women can enroll.  That was the reason Boo didn’t like Barnard.  Totally not kidding.

I had one of those “kids these days” moments, and we ended up irritated with each other.  I swear that we hardly ever quarrel but when we do, it’s usually about gender identity issues.  Not her gender identity (she’s totally cis-gendered), but the gender identities of other people.  I often wonder what other families quarrel about.  I’d be willing to bet that very few other families have had a major blowout over pronoun usage like we have.  Seriously, our biggest argument in the last year or two was over pronouns. #firstworldarguments

We managed to reach enough detente that we stopped by the TKTS booth in Times Square for theater tickets. Then we headed back to the apartment for a short rest before we went out for Japanese food and headed to the theater to see “The Color Purple.”  It was absolutely brilliant.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a show before that was literally stopped mid show because of cheering from the audience.  By the end I was crying so hard that I was afraid I was going to start audibly ugly-sobbing.

Tomorrow is my last full day with my baby before I head for home and leave her in New York.  Sniff!  I’ll be studiously avoiding discussion of pronouns.

Next up — Day 9

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Days 6 and 7)

You know those dreams you have where you are in familiar surroundings but everything is just a little off?  Yesterday was the lucid version of that dream for me.

Day 6 of the college tour dawned with considerably less drama than the previous morning.  I found the car keys.  I found the car.  And I found the best parking space ever on College Hill in Providence (no mean feat) — just steps away from where we needed to report for the information session and tour at Brown.  It was as if the gods were making nice for the mean trick they had played on me the day before.

Apparently, many kids these days would like to go to Brown.  I like to think that’s because I went there. The info session was crazy crowded.  Given the massive turnout, I half expected to see Brown alum Hermione Granger leading the info session.

The info session was blah, blah, blah.  Systemically, Brown remains pretty much unchanged from my days except that what used to be called the “New Curriculum” is now called the “Open Curriculum” — a reminder that a few years have passed since my Brown days and that what was “new” back then is now “not-so-new anymore.”  I guess they figured that “open” was a better descriptor than “middle aged.”  Because it is officially middle aged.  Boo’s eyes did widen when they talked about how you can take all your courses pass/fail, but otherwise, she was unmoved.

After the info session, we broke up into smaller groups for the campus tour.  The tour guide asked a couple “can you guess this?” style questions.  I appeared to be a genius by answering all of them correctly until I fessed up that I was an alum — and immediately became less a genius and more an annoying know-it-all.

And while Brown remains systemically the same, physically, I barely recognized it.  There are all sorts of new buildings and even the old ones that I could recognize from the outside have been completely modified inside.  I felt like Alice through the Looking Glass.  They also have electrical outlets in all the street lamps.  If they had that back in my day, I was woefully uninformed.

So what did Boo think?  Her thoughts were succinct — “nice school, too big.”  I agreed.  So it looks like the Barnes family is one and done at Brown.

After our tour, we hopped into the car for the drive to NYC.  We had to drop the car off at JFK and then get into the City, so it turned out to be a 6 hour affair before we made it into the apartment we rented.  We dropped our bags and immediately headed for the TKTS booth at Times Square to try to get tix to “The Color Purple” only to discover that it starts at 7:00 instead of 8:00 on Wednesdays and we were too late.  So instead, we got tickets to a frothy little off-Broadway musical starring Diana Degarmo from American Idol!  Squee!  (Actually, she was very good.)

And on the 7th day, we rested — except for a trip to Kmart to buy some supplies for Boo’s summer at NYU and a delicious Peruvian chicken dinner.  I was seriously tempted to drink the chimmichuri sauce.  It was that good.  I think I may need to move to Peru.

And tomorrow is a momentous day.   Tomorrow will likely be my last college visit.  Unless I can figure out a way to make money by visiting hippie colleges.  Any takers?

Next up — Day 8

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 5)

Today’s theme was: you lose; you love; you learn.

So our day got off to a rather inauspicious start.  We packed our bags and started to head out of the hotel room when I suddenly realized that I didn’t have the keys to our rental car.  Commence search.  30 minutes later, I am in a near panic.  We have emptied 3 bags (including a summer’s worth of clothes/linens/etc. for Boo), checked the room refrigerator and our cosmetics bags, stripped the sheets off the bed, made sure that I did not drop them in the toilet, notified the front desk, and checked to make sure that I did not somehow leave them in the car — everything short of squeezing the toothpaste out of the tube to see if they made their way into there.  But they were nowhere to be found.  I had visions of us being trapped in a (very nice) motel in suburban Boston for days while we waited for the rental car company to come rescue us.  But just when I was about to abandon hope all ye who enter here, I realized there was a small opening under the dresser, so I laid on the floor, reached under the dresser (ick!) and found the keys.  I had somehow managed to kick them way back under the dresser the night before.  Miracles do happen.

We immediately hit the road, driving through swanky suburban Boston until we got to Wellesley College.  Despite the fact that we were super late to the information session, Wellesley turned out to be a big hit!  We both loved it.  Super pretty campus and amazing facilities.  And Boo totally hit it off with our tour guide, the reproductive justice activist.  (Just like home!). I couldn’t help but ask whether Wellesley millennials all felt the Bern like most other millennials or whether they were conflicted because Hillary is an alum.  Our guide told me that she was in favor of a revolution, so she had no conflict.  At all.  Anyway, Wellesley soared into the top tier of Boo’s college list.

After Wellesley, we drove into Central Boston for a visit to Emerson College.  Emerson’s campus is right across the street from the Common, so the location is fantastic (except that it overlooks the graveyard in the Common).  It specializes in performing arts and communications and has superb state of the art facilities.  But . . . Emerson’s theater program is a BFA program which Boo has now confirmed is more restrictive in terms of choice and flexibility than what she wants.  So it looks like Emerson is out of the running unless she has a change of heart.

Tomorrow is our last true hippie college — the hippie Ivy (and my alma mater), Brown University.  It’s where our family hippie roots began.

Next up — Days 6 and 7

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Days 3 and 4)

To paraphrase Dickens — It was the best of times.  It was the time that you were reminded that you are traveling with a teenager.

Day 3 (Sunday) was spent again in Philadelphia on a walking tour — this time of colonial era sites.  Boo tends to get very up in arms when someone’s version of American history does not completely jibe with the version she learned from the Socialist British hippie who taught her U.S. History class.  (Yes, she learned about the Revolution from someone who came from the losing side.  Reminds me of how it’s done in Texas — only with less outright denial of facts.)  Fortunately, Boo had few complaints about our guide to colonial Philadelphia.  He’s probably a socialist and secretly British too.

At the end of our tour, we hopped into the car, drove up the New Jersey turnpike, waved at the skyline of Manhattan, and landed in Wallingford, CT where we had a father-free celebration of fathers’ day. We went out to dinner, followed by watching my ankles swell into cankles while the Warriors lost.  I probably should have just watched my ankles swell.  It would have been less painful.

We got up bright and early for a visit to Wesleyan University.  I was absolutely positive that Boo was going to love Wesleyan.  It’s hippie.  It’s artsy.  It has no required classes.  It has a super-impressive list of alumni.  (Joss Wheedon, Matthew Weiner, D.B. Weiss of Game of Thrones, Lemony Snicket, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Thomas Kail from Hamilton, and of course there’s my college roommate’s husband, Seth.  Hi Seth!  Bill Belichick went there too — proving that no place is perfect. )  There are 10-20 theater productions per semester! How could Boo not love this place?

Well, I’ll tell you how.  She was tired and in a bad mood.  Her interviewer asked her a bunch of pre-programmed questions.  (Q: “What’s your greatest academic achievement?”  A: “Um, I go to a hippie school.  We don’t think that way.  I didn’t even know that my ACT score could affect my college prospects until after I took the test.  Next question.”) The information session was not the most riveting (although far from the worst we’ve seen), and worst of all, I hadn’t heard Boo say something that led to some confusion and got her pissed at me.  That’s how she could not love it.

After that, we decided to skip our “might as well since we’re in the neighborhood” visit to Yale.  (She’s not going to go there anyway.)  Over lunch, after she had eaten and her irritation with me had subsided, she conceded that Wesleyan actually does have pretty much everything she wants and that she knows not to judge a school based on her mood and an interviewer mismatch.  (I HATED my Brown alumni interviewer.  He was a pompous, sexist jerk.)  So I think that Wesleyan will stay on the list — just not as high up the list as I think it should be.  But I’m not the one going to college, so it’s her call.

Even though mother knows best.

Next up — Day 5

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Day 1)

You know how every picture of the founding fathers shows them with long hair?  Plus, they’re all wearing pouffy ruffled shirts?  Kind of reminds you of a bunch of hippies, doesn’t it?

Well, Philadelphia, birthplace of the American hippie, turns out to not be that hippieish these days.  We visited two Philadelphia-area colleges today with nary a mention of gender — much less gendered bathrooms.  One college had a legitimate excuse.  Bryn Mawr is a women’s college, so how bathrooms are gendered is probably less of an issue there, but Swarthmore has no excuse.  Swarthmore seemed like a good school but nothing made it stand out from the crowd except for a giant lawn chair and a spectacular rose garden.  (And in comparison to a spectacularly strange Yoko Ono sculpture that is used for seating by Sarah Lawrence students, the giant lawn chair seems pretty tame.) Bryn Mawr was a little more interesting.  It is gorgeous!  Boo and I were both buying what Bryn Mawr was selling until we found out that it doesn’t have music or theater departments. That’s a deal breaker for Boo.

So our trip to Philadelphia for college purposes was meh.  Tomorrow, we’ll give the home of the founding hippies a chance for redemption when we spend the day sightseeing.

Next up — Day 2

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast — Part 2 (Prologue)

[Note: Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie Colleges of America starts here with Part 1.]

Hello, my name is Page, and I am a Hippie College addict.

I’ve been in denial about my addiction for some time now, but I finally realized the seriousness of my problem when my definition of “Hippie College” started to include schools like Bryn Mawr and Barnard.

And even though I know I should not blame others for my problem, my addiction was fueled by my supplier, who appears in the guise of an innocent college counselor at Boo’s high school. She is, in reality, a Hippie College pusher. It was she who told Boo about some additional schools that she thought might be a good fit for Boo.

Then, Boo went and ended up doing better on her ACT’s than anyone had anticipated – which opened up a whole new world of colleges that Boo won’t get into — because no actual humans are admitted to those schools anymore. Only our alien overlords in human form are allowed to attend. Plus, Boo was heading to New York for the summer anyway to attend a vocal performance program at NYU.

So even though I now recognize that I have a Hippie College problem, I ended up with several extremely lame excuses for one last all-out Hippie College bender before I go cold turkey. During the trip, I’ll be attempting to wean myself off of Hippie Colleges with some days in Philadelphia and New York that will not include college visits.

But I don’t want to talk about that now because it makes me shake and feel nauseous. Time for a discussion of gender neutral bathrooms to make me feel better.

Next up — Day 1

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest

Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 1) — Even though I have lived in California for 25 years, the area between Sacramento and the Oregon border had been unexplored territory for me until today. (I know. Ridiculous.) I discovered today that far Northern California has far fewer Amish than rural Ohio — the venue of our last hippie college tour. Also, Ohio is shockingly devoid of volcanoes. (WTF, Ohio?) Boo and I took an 8 hour drive to our first pit stop, Roseburg, Oregon. It was the first time we have taken a road trip where she did half the driving. (Yay! My first significant step toward fulfilling my dream of being driven like Miss Daisy.) We had a full 8 hours of listening to the Sirius XM “On Broadway” channel. I’m pretty sure we got hippie demerits for that. But our nerd ratings are through the roof. We are now comfortably in the Comfort Inn in Roseburg which is conveniently located just steps away from a cannabis dispensary. (Open 7 days!) Boo asked me what the legal purchase age is. I told her 40. Thanks to my awesome street cred, she did not question my response. Tomorrow, we visit our first hippie college of the PNW — Willamette University.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 2) — Today we bid a tearful goodbye to the cannabis dispensary, packed up my brownies, and hit the road for Oregon’s capital, Salem, to visit Willamette University. Salem has all the charm and sophistication of Sacramento — only with fewer celebrities, more rain and a capitol building that resembles an Art Deco prison. Right across the street from the Erte-meets-Alcatraz Capitol is Willamette U. I’ve started to judge colleges exclusively by the level of torture involved in locating the admissions office (Hampshire College, I’m looking at you), and Willamette’s was clearly labeled, so I was sold before we exited the parking lot. After our tour, however, Boo declared Willamette “not hippie enough.” I’ll concede that there WAS an awful lot of discussion about the exercise science major (totally not a hippie major; oppression studies — THAT’s a hippie major) and no mention of gender neutral bathrooms (which is pretty much de rigueur at any school that claims to be a hippie college), so I could understand Boo’s point of view. The tour was followed up by a chemistry-free interview with an admissions officer. As a result, Willamette has been crossed off the list, despite its superior labeling. Tonight we’re in Portland, resting up for a double header of college visits tomorrow. If Boo tells me that Portland is not hippie enough, I’m giving up.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 3) — Today was a double header of hippie colleges — Reed followed by Lewis & Clark. Both colleges got off to a somewhat shaky start as they were not labeled as clearly as I like. But they were no Hampshire in that we found the admissions offices without too much difficulty, and I did not feel like punching the first person I saw. Unfortunately, that feeling did not last long at Reed. I think I discovered a new subspecies of homo sapiens today at Reed which I am calling the western homo sapien-more-than-you. The eastern variety is known to frequent the area around Harvard University.  #sorrynotsorryHarvardfriends #youknowitstrue‬. The western variety thinks as highly of its intellectual prowess as the eastern variety only with extra heroin. (I later discovered — via the always reliable Wikipedia — that Reed’s school song is literally written to the tune of “Fair Harvard.” That explains SO much.) Reedies may look like hippies on the outside, but in their heart of hearts, they are massive gunners. No wonder Reedies have a reputation for taking lots and lots of drugs. In fact, the pressure cooker atmosphere was so intense that *I* was ready to scarf down a whole pan of cannabis brownies by the time we were halfway through the information session. To Reed’s credit, the subject of agendered bathrooms WAS mentioned on the tour, but that and its lovely campus were among its few redeeming qualities. Lewis & Clark was much, much better. L&C satisfied the bathroom gender prerequisite needed to be considered a “hippie college” and was way friendlier and more laid back than Reed. I don’t feel like Boo will turn out to be a pretentious drug addicted twit if she goes to L&C. Plus, L&C also has a lovely campus. I will have to check to make sure that they have not plagiarized their school song from Wesleyan or Brown, but even if they have, the source material is much better. So, we end the day with one thumbs up and one thumbs down. Tomorrow, no colleges! Instead, we have a morning in Portland with old friends and then an afternoon drive to Walla Walla for a Thursday visit to Whitman.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 4) — No colleges today. Instead, this morning we met up with our old friends and recent Portland area transplants, Anna and Olivia Church. (The names have been changed to protect the innocent.) Poor Oliviia had to go to school to take a standardized test in the early morning. Then, poor Olivia was not allowed to play hooky for the rest of the day because playing hooky is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. So instead, poor Olivia had to leave school to do four hours of “field work” in the “hospitality industry” with a couple of dumb tourists named “Page” and “Boo.” First, we met for coffee in a warehouse downtown. (Boo thought Anna might be pranking us with the location, but it was delightful inside.). Then, Anna helped us complete the donut tour of Portland. The verdict? Blue Star > Voodoo. No contest. Next, we did a driving/walking tour of the city and confirmed that there are, indeed, many, many man-buns on display in Portland. We then had some delicious tapas in the Pine Street Market and finished up with a tour of the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. After giving Olivia an A+ grade on her “field work” and bidding the Churches a tearful goodbye, Boo and I hopped into the car for the drive to Walla Walla. The first hundred miles are a lovely drive up the Columbia River Gorge but after that, it turns pretty bleak. I made the mistake of trying to pump my own gas at a service station and was severely rebuked by the attendant who told me that pumping your own gas is “highly illegal” in Oregon. Since I try to keep my infractions to those that are, at most, “moderately illegal,” I felt duly chastened. I can only hope that no one rats me out to the Oregon gas station authorities as I do not want to go to prison for such a shameful transgression against the glue that holds the fabric of our society together. I, with my libertine gas pumping ways, am apparently why America is no longer great. Finally we reached Walla Walla, the home of Whitman College. The bad news — Walla Walla is in the middle of freaking nowhere.

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(The view from our motel window — proving that Walla Walla is, indeed, in the middle of nowhere.)

The good news — Whitman is lovely and the town of Walla Walla itself seems quirkily charming — which is a good thing for the students because there is no easy escape. Hey, wait a minute! Maybe Walla Walla is where they send service station scofflaws to serve out their terms. I guess we’ll find out when I attempt to leave town tomorrow.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 5) — Today was our last official college visit of this trip at Whitman College in Walla Walla. Despite the absence of a billboard and flashing arrows (my preferred geolocators), we were able to find the admissions office with no difficulty. The college is lovely and does not seem to be an academic pressure cooker. Our tour guide was super friendly and the deal was sealed when she brought up the bathroom (a)gender issue without prompting. After the info session, we took a quick look around Walla Walla. The good news is that about every 4th storefront is a wine tasting room.  My kind of town!  I then decided it was time to try to make my escape from the Gas Station Stasi who I suspected might be building a wall around Walla Walla to keep gas pumping dissidents like me contained. So I threw a blanket over my head and told Boo to floor it on the way out of town. She gave me the usual teenage “what the f*** are you talking about?” stare and calmly drove out of town. (BTW: the movie rights to my riveting escape story are now available to the highest bidder.) We then retraced our steps back toward Portland and finally caught a glimpse of Mt. Hood. I kept telling Boo that there was a huge volcano nearby but because we hadn’t been able to see it, I think she thought that my stories about Mt. Hood were like my stories of having my Miss America crown taken away because of acts of moral turpitude. But tonight we sleep in a motel on the slopes of said volcano before our wild girls’ weekend in Ashland commences tomorrow. Nighty night, sleep tight.  Here’s hoping the pyroclastic flows don’t bite.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Day 6) — Today we were dull. We ate. We drove. We were not killed by a volcano. The end.

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Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest Tour 2016 (Final Day) — So we actually weren’t completely dull yesterday. Just mostly dull. We got to Ashland in time to drop off our bags at our Airbnb. (A first for us. I’m feeling like quite the middle aged sharing economy hipster except that the bed is so high that I have to do a Fosbury flop on to the bed, landing backwards on my shoulders and then pray that I have the abdominal strength to get my legs into the bed too.) We then headed into town to see “Great Expectations” at the Oregon Shakespeare festival. This is my first trip to Ashland, but Boo has been here before and loves, loves, loves it. Not surprising. It is hippie central with fantastic theater so it’s right up her alley. She says she might like to live here someday, and since I’ll be moving in next door to her wherever she lands, that works for me too. Tonight, we’ll be bringing this hippie college tour to a close with one last show — Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Yeoman of the Guard” set in the Wild West. Really. And even though this tour is wrapping up, stay tuned. The Hippie(ish) Colleges of the Northeast Tour (Part 2) starts in less than 3 weeks.

Click here for the next hippie college review.

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie Colleges of Ohio

Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Day 1) Following a red eye flight, Boo and I arrived safely in Pittsburgh at an obscene hour PDT. Within 10 minutes, the word “patriarchy” came out of my daughter’s mouth. Just warming up for the main events, I think. BTW: People park like absolute lunatics in Pittsburgh.  Between the lack of sleep and the crazy parking, I felt totally discombobulated.  After braving the lunatic fringe of Pittsburgh parkers, we hit the Warhol museum where I decided that I really need a Warhol “Superstar ” name. The current front runner is “Fluorescent Beige” but it’s not settled yet. Then we hightailed it across one of the many rivers around here to the campus of Carnegie Mellon (not a hippie college and not in Ohio) for a very crowded campus tour led by students who were remarkable in their normalcy but disappointingly ill-informed about the difference between an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Golden Globe — no small matter at CMU because CMU arguably has one of the top drama programs in the country. Really, engineering, computer science and drama — a natural combination. Boo has been offered a spot in CMU’s summer vocal performance program, so I figured that while we were in the neighborhood, she should have a look. (Her other option is NYU Steinhardt. If anyone has strong opinions about which program she should attend, please weigh in because it’s really a case of the Fluorescent leading the blind-with-perfect-pitch here). After a quick caffeine infusion, we were able to get into our room at the Hampton Superfund Inn of Pittsburgh. It’s literally built on the former site of a bunch a steel mills. The smoke stacks artfully loom over the Starbucks and PF Chang’s. I’m thinking I might actually be fluorescent in the morning.

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Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Day 2). I awoke this morning at the Hampton Superfund Inn with no visible signs of fluorescence. But I haven’t been near a blacklight all day, so who knows? We drove through snow dusted western Pennsylvania and into Ohio, land of $1.89 gasoline, suicidal birds, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And hippie colleges. Boo and I spent the afternoon at the R&R HOF which is completely awesome. Borderline close to worth a special trip to Cleveland. Except that you have to go to Cleveland. Boo and I spent some time figuring out some of the artists who we were shocked to discover have been snubbed by the HOF. No Moody Blues, B-52’s, Bon Jovi, Billy Preston, Journey, Cars, Lionel Richie/Commodores, Whitney Houston, Neil Diamond (oh wait, Neil Diamond IS in the HOF. So is KISS. Explain that to Jon Bon Jovi). Ridiculously, it took Linda Ronstadt 19 years to be inducted while Van Halen made it in 3. (SMH!). We have now settled in for the evening at the Hampton Inn in Elyria, Ohio, home of a mall, lots of chain restaurants, and many “Notable People” of whom I have never heard. (Arthur Lovett Garford, anyone? He invented the padded bicycle seat!) Tomorrow, we hit Oberlin and the real purpose of this trip begins. I’m figuring out ways to check my privilege as we speak.

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Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Day 3) — Boo and I finally made it to the Mecca of Ohio hippie colleges — Oberlin College. We performed the usual rituals (throwing stones at a statue of Dick Cheney, circling a “Sanders for President” sign seven times, dressing in organic vegan garments, determining which gendered or agendered pronouns to use when referring to others, etc.). Unfortunately, the weather goddess did not look down on us favorably. It was 32 degrees and lightly raining all day — which seemed effing freezing to us spoiled Californians. Boo did a couple of lessons at the conservatory, then we went on a tour of the college. Our guide described herself as having attended a tiny hippie school in D.C. It turned out she was an amateur when it came to tiny hippie schools. It had three times as many kids as Boo’s high school, and Boo’s high school is in Berkeley. There’s no way she could top that. The highlight of the tour was a lengthy discussion of how dormitory bathrooms are gendered or not gendered or whatever. But we were assured that group showers were not part of the program — unless, of course, that’s your thing. Whatever. It’s totally cool.

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Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Day 4) — I write tonight from the Overlook Hotel of Central Ohio. It’s a nearly empty large resort in the middle of nowhere. I suspect that in season, the location is lovely, but now, in the off season, I expect to see creepy little twins saying “REDRUM” every time I step into the hall. We began the day by returning to Mecca for a visit to the Oberlin Conservatory. Boo visibly surprised the receptionist by not being a boy.  (Her real name is more commonly a boy’s name.)  We had a “group” meeting (us plus one other student and her mom) with one of the associate directors of admission for the conservatory. I’ll give him credit for being honest, but he basically said to Boo, “You’re a soprano? Good luck with that.” Awesome. Good thing Boo doesn’t have her heart set on the Oberlin Conservatory. After a quick tour, we hopped into the car and drove through the farmlands and small towns of Central Ohio. I kept thinking of “Our Town” and half expected to see the ghost of Emily Webb in the cemeteries we passed. We saw an Amish horse and buggy on the road.  Also lots of “Trump for President” signs.  I managed to only gag a little.  (I had to keep it together. I was driving, after all.)  We then checked into the Ohio Overlook, had some pizza, and watched the topiary walk around.  If I don’t post tomorrow, it’s probably because Jack Nicholson has murdered me.

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Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Day 5) — So we were not murdered in our beds at the Ohio Overlook Hotel. Today, we drove deeper into rural Central Ohio. No Trump signs in sight, but lots and lots of buggies and even a mule team. And horrible roads. Portions unpaved. The Amish clearly don’t complain enough. We finally arrived in the tiny, cute and remote town of Granville, home of Denison University. Denison is probably more preppy than hippie, but it was by far the friendliest campus we’ve visited anywhere, and I think a hippie could be happy there. They do a superb job of selling the school, starting with excellent labeling of the directions to the admissions office.  Boo and I both walked away very impressed. Then back on the crappy roads to the Overlook — this time in a rainstorm. No time for more. Someone is at the door.  He says his name is Johnny.

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Hippie Colleges of Ohio Tour 2016 (Final Day) — I’m pleased to say that we survived our last night at the Overlook. This morning we partially retraced our route along the unpaved Amish roads to Kenyon College. Forget what I said yesterday about Granville being tiny and remote. Granville looks like Times Square next to Gambier, Ohio, home of Kenyon. We started the morning with a tour of the college where they separated the kids into one group and the parents into another. Our tour was pretty standard, but I kept imagining what was going on on the kids’ tour. “Is it hard to get a fake ID?” “Are there orgies?” “Can I major in hip hop?” At the end of the tour, we reunited for the world’s worst information session. Boring and hard to hear. Made all the more intolerable when we were joined half way through by a mother and her sullen, sapphire-haired daughter. The mother proceeded to ask approximately 40 questions very specific to her daughter (including the inevitable bathroom gender question ) while the mortified daughter alternately rolled her eyes and hid her face in her hands. Boo then had an interview with a senior who was an admissions office “fellow” where Boo either assured her admission or completely killed her chances. The interviewer asked Boo what her spirit animal would be.  Hilariously, Boo responded by saying that that her spirit animal was a sloth.  Best. Answer. Ever.

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(Boo’s spirit animal)

I’m guessing no one has ever responded that way in any interview anywhere before. (She went on to explain that she’s laid-back and deliberate but still.). It totally cracked me up. At least she’ll be memorable. And so ends this tour. Very early tomorrow we fly back home. But stay tuned, the Hippie Colleges of the Northwest Tour 2016 is coming soon.

Next — The Hippie Colleges of the Pacific Northwest

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Your Mom’s Guide to the Hippie Colleges of the Northeast (Part 1)

Hippie Colleges of the Northeast Tour 2015 (Day 1) — Today we embarked on our quest to find Boo the college of her dreams.   So what is the college of her dreams?  Probably something small(ish), liberal arts with strong music and theater options, possibly a conservatory or joint degree program.  Must have lots of hippies, be LGBTQ-friendly, and the more protests, the better.  (I’m saving up for bail money while I save up for college.)  Our first stop was Bard College.  Bard is #2 on the Princeton Review’s list of colleges for Birkenstock-wearing, tree-hugging vegetarians, which is perfect for Boo except for the Birkenstock part.  (She’s a girl who loves her high heels.) Also, not so much the vegetarian part either.  (She likes her bacon.) But tree-hugging is awesome.  Anyway, Bard’s campus is way the hell out in the middle of nowhere, but it is lovely.  Bard has the strangest placement of a campus building I have ever seen.  They have a gorgeous Frank Gehry designed performing arts center plopped down in a pasture.  It’s like the Bilbao Guggenheim got caught in the Twilight Zone and transported to a field in upstate New York.

Bard

(There should be cows in the picture.)

Anyway, Boo really liked Bard, and but for the fact that it’s in the middle of nowhere, it would likely be a good fit.  So Bard stays on the list.

In the afternoon, we backtracked to Vassar, the only extant college of the former seven sisters that is co-ed.  Thanks to a merger with Harvard, one sister is dead.  It figures that it would be Harvard that would kill its sister.  (RIP Radcliffe.)  Vassar is definitely less isolated than Bard.   It has a beautiful library that looks like something out of Hogwarts.

vassar

(Where’s Hermione?)

Plus, they allegedly have really great theater options.  I thought Boo would love Vassar.  She liked it fine, but not as much as Bard.  Perhaps because Vassar is only #8 on the Princeton Review tree-huggers list.  So Vassar is on the bubble.

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Hippie Colleges of the Northeast Tour 2015 (Day 2) — We arrived late yesterday in Saratoga Springs, home of Skidmore College.  First, I have to say that I heart me some Saratoga Springs.  I had never been there before, but it is about as adorable as it can be.  Like our hometown, Saratoga Springs was built as a resort for city dwellers and while our hometown has its charming Victorians, SS has massive Victorian mansions everywhere.  (In other words, SS was way, way swankier in its heyday than our town.)   Nowadays, however, the cost of a charmless condo in our town will buy you one of those Victorian mansions in SS.  The times, they have changed.  Boo once again had a different reaction to Skidmore than I expected.  I loved it.  She was meh — even though Skidmore is #4 on the tree-huggers list.  Go figure.  So it looks like I will not have an excuse for selling my house and acquiring a mansion in Saratoga Springs.  Wah!

This afternoon was a different story.  We crossed into Vermont to visit Bennington College, alma mater of Tyrion Lannister.  Who would have thought that Tyrion was educated in the bucolic environs of Nowheresville, Vermont?  It must have been quite a change from King’s Landing.  Anyway, Bennington (#3 on the tree-huggers list) was a hit.  For such a tiny school, it has fabulous theater facilities, and it has a groovy design-your-own-major curriculum.  The downside is that it is tiny.  I mean tiny.  I told Boo that if she goes to Bennington, she is not allowed to have a bad breakup because there will be no avoiding that person.  And it’s in the middle of nowhere.  But it would be fabulous if Boo wants to be deeply involved in theater.  Plus, it’s full of hippies. So Boo loved it.

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Hippie Colleges of the Northeast Tour 2015 (Day 3) — This morning we visited Hampshire College.  Our visit did not get off to a good start because they have the world’s worst signage when it comes to locating the admissions office.  We drove in a circle for 20 mins. I figured they were trying to play some sort of head game with us because the sign allegedly pointing towards the admissions office turned out to point away from the admissions office.   Maybe they meant this as some sort of weird metaphor.  (“If you closely follow signs then you are a conforming tool.  If you go where the signs tell you not to go, you will end up where you need to be.”)  I finally had to call the office to ask them where they were.  Surprisingly, Hampshire does not make the tree-hugging list.  My theory is that Hampshire is so far beyond “hippie” that it doesn’t even qualify as hippie.   They have a yurt.  No really, a yurt.  The Hampshire crowd made the Bard and Bennington hippies look like a bunch of stuffed shirt investment bankers. It was WAY too much for me, and even too much for Boo.  But IF Boo ends up at Hampshire, I will be running a “design Boo’s first tattoo” contest.

We followed up our morning at Hampshire with visits to Mt. Holyoke and Smith — which were pretty much indistinguishable in my eyes except that you can apparently get credit for dog walking at Holyoke (which is particularly impressive because that’s something they don’t even offer at Brown).  Boo liked Holyoke better.  It might have been the dog walking.  We finished our day with a drive to Cambridge and a walk around the periphery of MIT — which is likely as close as Boo is ever going to get to attending MIT given that I am the person called for “tech help” at our house, and my version of “tech help” is disconnecting the machine from its power source and then plugging it back in.

Tomorrow we will take a brief break from visiting colleges for a morning walk through American history along the Freedom Trail in Boston followed by an afternoon walk through my personal history when we visit my alma mater, Brown University.  I’ll be stocking up on cheap liquor just to make the experience a more realistic representation of my past.

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Day 4 of College Tour 2015 — This morning we took a break from looking at colleges to explore a little American history. We took a guided Freedom Trail walk through Boston. Boo spent much of the walk muttering under her breath about how the guide was oversimplifying things. Like a guy in a costume with a tri-cornered hat, knee breeches and buckled shoes is going to get into the subtleties of the philosophies of the various Sons of Liberty.

Then we spent some time at the Kennedy Library where Boo asked me what I had thought of JFK when he was in office. I told her that my opinion of him at the time was somewhat unformed given that I had not yet celebrated my 2nd birthday when he was killed. But I’m sure that whatever my opinion was at the time, it was oversimplified.

We ended the day with a visit to my alma mater, Brown University, where I gave Boo a tour. So now she knows what it would be like to go to Brown — in 1984. Which was awesome! So now she’s ready to go to Brown circa 1984. Which might be an issue, but I think that if she is able to invent a time travel machine, it will improve her chances of being admitted to Brown. No guarantees of course — because these days Brown has many excellent applicants who undoubtedly have done things far more impressive than inventing a working time machine.

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Day 5 of College Tour 2015 — Psych! No colleges today! Instead, we got up early and drove from Providence to New York. Boo slept all the way across Connecticut. I can’t blame her. Connecticut from I-95 is kinda boring. I had to stop halfway across the state for a caffeine infusion or I might have fallen asleep too. I also had a Dunkin’ Donut — which definitely did NOT live up to my memories. I guess over the years I’ve become a donut snob — a title I will wear with a mixture of pride and horror.

We dropped the car off at JFK and raced into Manhattan in time for the matinee of “Fun Home.” Awesome show made even more memorable by the fact that one of the children is played by another student of Boo’s voice teacher.  So we got to meet some of the cast after the show.  Fun indeed.

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Day 6 of College Tour 2015 — our last college visit of this trip.  We took a half hour train ride from Manhattan to Sarah Lawrence College — the #1 college on the tree-huggers list.  SLC is to arts dropouts what Harvard is to tech dropouts.  Seriously, SLC has the most impressive list of dropouts.  (Carrie Fisher, Kyra Sedgewick, Sigourney Weaver, Tea Leoni, Carly Simon, plus both Yoko Ono and Linda McCartney.)  Fortunately, there are also some very successful people who have managed to graduate.  (JJ Abrams, Barbara Walters, Vera Wang, Alice Walker, Julianna Margulies, etc.)  Boo loved this place.  I saw her starting to fall when she was told about the annual screening of her favorite movie, “The Princess Bride” (starring SLC dropout, Cary Elwes) on the college lawn with everyone reciting the lines and the annual Halloween enactments of “Rocky Horror.” Then she was told about the tiny classes and the mandatory close work with professors (you have to meet with them one on one every 2 weeks for most classes). There are no distribution requirements and no majors or letter grades. There’s tons of theater and music and other arts on campus, and Manhattan is only a half hour away. Great study abroad programs. Beautiful campus near a cute town. And there’s a swing set right outside the main administration building. Plus, the unofficial slogan is “Queer by New Year.”  She was sold.

It may turn out that this is just infatuation but at the moment she’s in love — with the most expensive college in the country. Figures.

Next — The Hippie Colleges of Ohio

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