Roman Holiday

2012-11-25 – My son Cal is home from college for the Thanksgiving weekend. He goes back today. When Cal’s around we get to see his high school buddy Roman. Last night we took Cal and Roman out for pizza after Roman came over to help us move a large cabinet back into the house now that our floors are done. My back was shot after I tried to help moving the piano. It took Roman, Cal, and Nat to get the cabinet into the living room. We’ll have to move it again when we paint the room, but we couldn’t leave all the furniture outside until the painting is done.

Roman is a freshman at Northwestern University, which is not very far from us. Once in a while, Kit and I aim our long walks in the direction of Northwestern. It takes a couple of hours, but it’s doable. Cal is a freshman at Grinnell College in Iowa. We can’t walk to Grinnell.

Northwestern was a kind of rival of my alma mater the University of Chicago. UofC students in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s had Northwestern totally beat  on any measure of nerdiness. I don’t know how it is today. Roman could have borderline fit in at the UofC back when I was there, but he has a tiny bit too much hipness. If that’s the word – I wouldn’t know, since I don’t have it.

Kit and I like Roman because he laughs at our jokes and because he likes our dog Lefty and takes Lefty for walks when Cal is dragging his feet. Oh, and we like him because he’s been a great friend for Cal. They chill together, which is supposed to be good.

Roman is aiming at being some kind of biologist. One of the differences between the University of Chicago and Northwestern in my day was that Northwestern students actually wanted to do something with their lives. Roman fits this image. We at the UofC had two Latin phrases to describe this difference. Northwestern students wanted the vita active (the active life). UofC students wanted vitam contemplativam (the contemplative life).

This was reflected in the UofC curriculum. An undergraduate at the UofC could not major in education, journalism, engineering, or pretty much anything that would lead to a job. (My major was Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, which pretty much forces you to go to grad school if you want to work.) The world is very different today, so the UofC’s reluctance to be minimally relevant may no longer be true. I recently heard that the UofC was giving up the old ways and is building an engineering school. They had to find Northwestern graduates to draw up the plans.

Cal’s program at Grinnell seems more like the University of Chicago. Roman has a lot of requirements to meet in his program. Cal has almost none. (They do have an office, though, to council you on getting a job.)

One of Roman’s requirements for next quarter is to take a course on the concept of “the animal” as reflected in mythology. Frankly, it sounds like a UofC-style topic. I asked Roman if Northwestern wouldn’t give him credit for the course on the basis of his name. Unfortunately, the course deals mostly with Greek mythology.

In the meantime, Cal is signed up for two music courses.

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