From the Issue: Blue Notes

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Michael Adame takes a ride in the Dental Van of  Upper Manhattan.

When confronted earlier this year with new accusations of steroid use, Yankees powerhouse Alex Rodriguez kept his mouth shut—an ironic move for a man whose concern for open mouths all over New York led him to donate $250,000 last July to Columbia’s Community DentCare Network. Established in 1996, Community DentCare is the College of Dentristy’s outreach program, with staff operating in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx.

The jewel in this pale-blue dental crown is a van—the “Dental Van.” This specially constructed, Winnebago- style vehicle travels to various grade schools throughout the network’s territory offering dental consultations and services at a reduced fee. Dr. Stephen Marshall, director of the network, explained that the van program has been operating for the better part of 10 years, but it was at the dedication of the program’s most recent vehicular incarnation that A-Rod announced his generous contribution.

Inside, a Disney princess shower curtain hides the driver’s seat and posters of Marvel and Disney characters line the plastic walls. “All of this,” says long-time driver and general handy-man John McCormick, “was the idea of the girls,” as he points to Grullon, another assistant, and their boss, Dr. Asma Muzaffar. “These are great kids we are serving. If they come once and are no longer afraid of the dentist, we did it. Just do it. Like Nike, you know?”

Today the van is parked at the Sisulu-Walker Charter School of Harlem, and a dental student dressed as a dental hygiene-obsessed Spiderman entertains those waiting. Laughing in her white lab coat matched with leather thigh-highs—cue grade-school swooning—Dr. Muzaffar points to the shower curtain and says, “They call me Snow White! She’s the only one missing so I just say it’s because she wants these kids to learn dental care. We have to make it fun. Magical. Make it exceptional!” Third-grader Callieje Tesis confirms their success, comparing the Dental Van’s visit to one by Chris Brown the day before. “Chris Brown is not as exciting,” she says. “I got my teeth cleaned and a toy dinosaur!”

Illustration by Grant D’Avino

After the jump, Hannah Goldstein finds out that some memories can escape Facebook.

If future historians ever decide to research Columbia life in the early 21st century, it is doubtful they will have archives of the countless blog posts, tweets, and Facebook status updates that chronicle modern life today. Far more likely, they will instead turn to The Columbian, the university’s 350-page, hardcover-bound yearbook that needs no electricity and is never at risk of a hard-drive failure.

Like a time capsule, the massive tome attempts to “capture the essence of the academic year–the events, the scandals, the people, the places,” says this year’s Editor-in-Chief Cliff Massey, CC ’10, who leads a staff of a dozen in producing the yearbook out of an office in Lerner’s fifth floor Student Government Office. Planning begins in September and continues through the end of the spring semester as the staff chooses the focus and content for every page of the yearbook, a difficult task. “In athletics, the content usually remains the same from year to year,” he says, explaining that the yearbook staff often runs into trouble in attempting to adapt Columbia’s changing arts, culture, and nightlife scenes for a traditional Student Life section.

But these special features are what the staff hopes can keep The Columbian relevant in a time when parties, events, and other memories can be relived instantly on the Internet through countless photos and videos. “With the advent of Facebook,” Massey admits, “I think interest in the yearbook has somewhat declined, as people feel like they can look at photos online to remember their time at Columbia.” On average, only 50 percent of the senior class elects to purchase a copy. “My mom told me to order one,” says Alex Marchysyn, CC ’10, “But I really am ambivalent about it. She just said that if I didnt get one, I’d wish I had.” Still, come each May, their parents have submitted embarrassing baby photo ads and shelled out $100 for a copy, which arrives by mail several months after graduation. In addition, Massey notes, “I find that there are many recent alumni who send me e-mails asking if they can purchase their yearbook, since they didn’t order it by graduation. So it seems Facebook isn’t enough.”

And for some, nostalgia has already won out: “I figure, in 20 years, I can look back and see how goofy I was,” predicts Rich Barzaga, CC ’10, “And realize that nothing has changed.”

Illustration by Adela Yawitz

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