To the extent that PAW has its own George Plimpton, Mark F. Bernstein ’83 is it.
Plimpton, for readers who may not have heard of him (he died in 2003), was a witty writer known for his willingness to try his hand at anything. He felt he could not fully understand something until he did it himself — leading to brief stints as a stand-up comedian, wild-animal photographer, boxer, and orchestra percussionist.For Mark, like Plimpton, every assignment is an invitation to an experience. In 2011, he took a harmonica class with Adam Gussow ’79 *00, an English professor and blues musician. To research a piece about a gourmet cookbook for dogs, Mark not only enlisted his Labrador retriever, Butter, for taste testing — he sampled the chicken meatloaf himself. (Both dog and man enjoyed it, though Mark said Butter would have displayed the same enthusiasm for a greasy napkin.)
Mark’s latest story, in this issue, is about his summer road trip to sites with Princeton connections. He devised a route that included spots to see in every state. It’s a reflection of Princeton’s history as a school that drew many students from the South that it was easier to find sites in the Carolinas than in New England. Mark made it only as far as St. Louis (diligent stewards of PAW funds that we are, we could not pay for a cross-country trip). Still, readers bitten by the travel bug might want to attempt the full itinerary, including sites listed in his Tiger Guide.
“As the old saying goes, a good pig eats everything, meaning that people should consume new experiences with the same gusto that a pig exhibits in devouring whatever is set before it,” Mark wrote in his article about canine cuisine. “Dogs take a similar approach to life. There is something endearing, even inspiring, in their tail-wagging gratitude and willingness to sample new things. Aren’t those qualities we all should try to cultivate?” For those readers who believe their Princeton education cultivated exactly that, consider this an invitation to hit the road.
Readers of our On the Campus section will find a new feature: A Day With … . Each installment will describe a typical day in the life of a Princeton student or faculty member — a partial response to alumni wishes, expressed in our reader survey last year, to learn more about the experiences of those studying and teaching on campus.
Our first installment is about Heather Prince, a graduate student in astrophysics. PAW caught up with her on a day she was in New York, where she was writing code to process the massive amount of data received from the Atacama Cosmology Telescope in Chile. But she didn’t just sit at a computer all day long. After all, she was in New York — as Mark would do and say, consuming new experiences ... with gusto. — Marilyn H. Marks *86