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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


(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.



(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.


(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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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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