I once read about a woman who married the Eiffel Tower. She first fell for a bow and arrow, habitually crushes on the Berlin Wall and claims to have a physical relationship with a piece of fence she keeps in her bedroom. But it is the Eiffel Tower that she pledged to love, honor and obey (in an actual ceremony).
While I don’t think I’ll ever understand the fence thing, I get what it’s like to love a place. Maybe it’s all the fresh flowers, latent affects of fling or my own senior nostalgia, but I am in love with Locust Walk.
It certainly wasn’t love at first sight, and our relationship has been anything but smooth (I’ve destroyed more pairs of shoes on those bricks than I can count). In fact, I avoided Locust for a fair chunk of my Penn career — not wanting to be hassled by fliers, slow-moving tourists and that hellish pedestrian bridge, I opted for the straight (albeit windy) shot down Walnut Street.
But I have mellowed in my old age and I’m ready to settle down — taking only one route to class. I’m no longer tempted to kick slow walkers in the back of the knees. I get it now, Locust is beautiful. Slowpokes, take all the time you need. I even find myself yielding to cliches like stopping to smell the roses or daffodils. And Walnut, despite its efficiency, has very few roses.
From my various architecture courses, I’ve learned that Locust is the prototype for integrating a campus into an urban fabric. Let Penn President Amy Gutmann gush over the postal lands all she wants, but I firmly believe that the construction of Locust Walk was the best planning decision the University will ever make. Like an artery, it links the eastern and western ends of Penn. It’s wide enough to allow for side conversations, packs of freshman and impromptu performances. And of course, it is unquestioningly picturesque — with ivy-covered walls that fulfill our prefrosh fantasies.
In fact, Temple University has caught on to the wonder that is Locust Walk. Temple is in the process of executing its master plan for the University’s urban renewal. The centerpiece of this plan is a closed-off 13th Street, filled in with brick and overhauled with trees and planters. The new pedestrian artery will run the length of the campus, connecting new developments on either end. Sound familiar?
In our cut-and-paste age, it seems like a logical decision to replicate a successful scheme on another urban campus. But I have my doubts. After all, the best parts about Locust (and the reasons that I love it) are the things that can’t be replicated.
Most obviously, Penn students — Locust wouldn’t be the same without ’em. The walk has spawned a whole culture particular to this University, with its etiquette on when to wave and when to put on your sunglasses and keep walking.
And God, those Christmas lights. They are the single greatest investment that the University makes. And thank you for not taking them down on time. I know keeping holiday lights up year round is a little trailer park, but I can’t help myself. They seriously make me that happy.
Locust Walk is also home to one of my happiest and most blissfully drunken moments (sorry mom) at Penn — Hey Day (say what you will about the cleanup costs and hazing aspects).
As Hey Day approaches, I’ll be at the final toast ready to celebrate Penn for one of the last times. I’m sure the procession will inspire a new crop of ketchup-stained juniors to rekindle their romance with Locust Walk. To all the underclassmen, it’s okay to fall in love with a bunch of bricks. Go ahead and enjoy it — I’m not the jealous type.
Ashley Takacs is a College senior from Buffalo, N.Y. Her e-mail address is email@example.com. Ash Wednesday appears on alternate Wednesdays.Comments powered by Disqus
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