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Salve for the Steamed, Summer Soul

Most Columbian undergrads only live in the city for the nine cooler months out of the year. Those who have remained for the summer observe a city-wide, metaphysical transformation. Brief experience with the truly oppressive combination of ~100 degree weather and giant concrete/metal heatsinks forces a renegotiation of one’s relationship with basic infrastructure. “Urban jungle” takes on a new meaning once your glasses fog while descending into a sweltering subway stop. Gold Bond becomes the haute scent.

Beating the heat usually involves several strategies familiar to the average college student: discarding all but essential clothing, redefining “essential clothing,” crashing with the friend who is lucky enough to have a/c, and, predictably, lots and lots of beer. Ben Ratliff, CC ’80-something, suggests something that is, again, familiar; yet intuitively radical: going to Butler. In fact, Ratliff waxes poetic about the formal intimacy and intellectual serendipity of the experience to such an extent that he almost induces a pang of studious regret. Almost.

The heat comes quickly in the summer. By early June, working at home with no air-conditioning, I have no concentration. Everything feels close and impolite and loud.

So I go to Butler Library, on the southern end of Columbia’s campus in Morningside Heights. What began as a diversion has become a self-preserving summer thing: not just Butler, but the Butler stacks, the stillness capital of my imagination.

The Butler stacks are in a different sensory category, starting from the threshold: If you’re tall, you bow your head as you pass through the low door frame. They form an enclosed rectangular prism at the center of Butler — no windows, a bit cooler than the rest of the building. Two or three levels of the inner stacks can correspond to one floor of the outer library. All this reinforces the feeling that the stacks are something special: a separate province or a vital inner organ.

NBA champs via LiveNYNow

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12 Comments

  • why says:

    @why can’t butler get proper air conditioning

  • That article... says:

    @That article... One of the dumbest, most pretentious piles of crap I have ever read.

    1. The author says:

      @The author A true columbian

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous can ex-students enter for free?!

    1. the gentleman above says:

      @the gentleman above also a true Columbian–who else would call himself an “ex-student” rather than an alumnus?

      1. Forever A Loan says:

        @Forever A Loan Ex-student is putting it gently.

  • my best friend says:

    @my best friend is obsessed with jewish women.

    is there some organization i can refer him to for something like, JLA, jewish-lovers anonymous or some shit?

    signed,
    concerned jewish guy who thinks jewish women are just regular chicks, nothing special.

    1. LOL says:

      @LOL is he asian? or part asian at least?

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous Stop spamming, you troll-fucking dimwit.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous why do asian guys love jewish chicks?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous why do jewish guys love asian chicks?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous why does he not know the difference between capital and capitol?

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