While we’re horrified by people who have anything good to say about their high school experience, we’re always up for a little reminiscing about college (where, we admit, some good times were had). Now, it’s not going to make you any younger, nor will you necessarily be able to stay up arguing about time travel every night, but taking a few college courses might really broaden your horizons. And though Rodney Dangerfield made it look so very easy, we thought you might need a little help figuring out how best to approximate the college experience here in our beloved city, so we put together the following A-to-Z guide featuring course recommendations (how practical!) and tips on where best to go so you can squint your eyes and pretend you’re an undergrad (less practical).
A is for Adolescence, the Age of Film-Going
The programmers of the Landmark Sunshine’s weekend midnight movie series periodically peek around undergrad dorm rooms to see what posters are on the wall these days, then screen them so that kids will have a place to brown-bag forties. Wear a ratty trenchcoat and carry four overstuffed shopping bags, or get your Creepy Older Guy on at the IFC Center’s Waverly Classics series, featuring canonical matinees for cinephiles-in-the-making with no reason to sleep in.
B is for Border Patrol
Remember how a couple falls ago, Columbia’s College Republicans invited anti-immigration vigilantes from the Minuteman Project to speak, and student protesters and Minutemen supporters unaffiliated with the U set it off for serious? Perhaps they should have had it out in discussions in the poli-sci department’s Race and Ethnicity in American Politics course.
C is for the Cloisters, the Ultimate Grown-Up Field Trip
We loved pretty much everything about field trips when we were in school, even to ridiculous and dull places like box factories or Ithaca... except for the fact that we were surrounded by loud, stupid youth the whole time. Well, the Cloisters, a reconstructed amalgam of five French medieval cloisters, nestled way up north in the idyllic glades of Fort Tryon, is a fairly teenager-free place most of the time. Operated by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters has a marvelous collection of medieval artifacts, including a Celtic sword from the first-century B.C., which isn’t even remotely medieval but is really effing cool.
D is for Doing Shots, Dude
A friend of ours spent his 21st birthday pretty miserable about the fact that his days of underage drinking were over. But among the leggings, Yes-I-Can mustaches and vodka Red Bulls at Cooper 35 (35 Cooper Square) and first-time fantasy football commissioners at Phebe’s (359 Bowery) you can be courageous and be brave, and in your heart you’ll always stay, forever young.
E is for Empire (and its Literature)
Hey, it’s no secret that America is the last great 20th-century empire (and by great we mean big); and you don’t have to dig very deep to find some academic or talking head or other who will claim its imminent collapse… So maybe we’d better start learning about those other old empires, no? Yes — with literature. The New School is offering The Literature of Empire as a night course, and will cover such wonderful writing about big, mean empires as Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace and V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River. Of course, to cover America’s funtime imperial adventure, Apocalypse Now will be screened (what, Tim O’Brien isn’t good enough?). Begins September 4, 6pm to 7:30pm. $570.
F is for the Fertile Crescent
Oh Columbia, that was so cute that time you had Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over for drinks. Even though he is wacky and belligerent, we supported the decision at the time, mainly because the more information the better, even if it comes wrapped in hyperbole and jingoism. Thankfully, though, it’s possible to learn about Islamic culture without all the protesters and mudslinging: see Columbia’s course on Muslim Societies, which examines religion and society within the Middle East and beyond — specifically, how Muslim societies differ from place to place. Certain presidential candidates could benefit from a little Shia vs. Sunni refresher.
G is for Gallery Tour!
You like art. Sure you do. Pollock, Warhol, the guy who put that shark in aspic or whatever… You don’t really know that much about contemporary art, do you? Well, if you‘re tired of getting sand kicked in your face at dinner parties by art snobs (seriously, that happened), then we have the course for you: The New School’s Viewing Art Intelligently: Learning from Current Exhibitions. Instead of learning about art from books or slides (booooo-ring!) this class forces you out into the best resources of them all, the city’s museums and galleries. Guest speakers will include curators, art critics and local gallery owners, so you can totally name-drop at the next dinner party (take that, art snobs). Begins September 4, 1pm to 3pm. $570.
H is for Hookah Bars
Why do college students flip for hookah bars? The 18th birthday marks, for many, the start of a phase of self-fashioned connoisseurship undertaken in an effort to prove that the appeal of tobacco has to do with sophisticated tastes, and not the fact that it was cool because it was illegal. Just try to convince anyone otherwise at Sahara East (184 First Ave).
I is for International Relations
Many actual college students get the most out of their university experience with the much beloved semester abroad. (Dear drunken NYU student, leave Prague alone.) You, too, can immerse yourself in a variety of rich, heretofore mysterious cultures by taking a trip to any of the five boroughs. Sure, we all know Chinatown, Little Italy and Lithuaniaville, but did you know there are Filipinos in Woodside, Trinidadians in Flatbush, Albanians in the Bronx, Peruvians in Jackson Heights, Senegalese on 116th Street and Turks in Bay Ridge? See, there’s still a lot to learn in this town, and with the buying power of the dollar, it’ll be just like that time in Minsk. Minsk!
J is for Jams, Slow
College was when you made a concerted effort to buy lots of music that was cooler and New Yorkier than the music you were known to listen to in high school, but it’s not too late for a bit more popcultural positioning: hit up secondhand mecca Generation Records (210 Thompson St) for all the 70s glam on vinyl you missed the first time around, and Sound Fix Music (110 Bedford Ave) for mixtapes, bootlegs, imports and all the Now bands you can read about on “Pitch Fork” but not see for free at the student union.
K is for the K in MFK Fisher
Everybody seems to write about food in this city. Maybe it’s because everybody needs to eat and virtually everybody knows how to write, so, ipso facto, Q.E.D. a lot of blog posts about beet greens and grass-fed bison. But if you have any interest in real food writing, the New School, in honor of the centenary of her birth, is offering a course about legendary food writer, MFK Fisher, called, appropriately, Poet of the Appetites. The class will examine the influence her writing had on foodies like Julia Child and James Beard, and will do close readings of seminal books like An Alphabet for Gourmets and How To Cook a Wolf. (The K stands for Kennedy, by the way.) Begins September 15, 8pm to 10pm on Mondays. $270.
L is for Locavore
Ok, so usage of the word “locavore” is getting pretty close to a terminally irritating local news human-interest saturation point, but it’s still useful as a descriptive term for eating delicious food that hasn’t traveled weeks in a cargo hold. Now that you’ve honed your ability to talk about food (see above), you should probably learn a bit more about where your food comes from. The New School’s Food Policy for the Local Food Revolution digs into the tragedies and complexities of global-industrial food production and addresses the consequences of an outdated system in terms of energy use, the environment and health. The non-depressing part will look at community-based solutions to the problem, including greenmarkets, neighborhood gardens, CSAs and other aspects of the local revolution. Begins September 4, 6pm to 8pm. $570.
M is for MUJI
Yes, yes. Everybody’s favorite, (relatively) newly arrived Japanese design-a-porium (formerly available only through the MoMA Design Store) is having… wait for it… its first ever back to school sale! Yup, through September 1 they’re offering ten percent off fancy stationery, pens and notebooks. This will insure that everyone in your class will love you forever. Unlike middle school, high school, driving school and college. MUJI Soho, 455 Broadway; MUJI Times Square, 620 Eighth Ave.
N is for that crazy Noose Scandal
The last few years have been tricky up there at Columbia, aka, Scandal U. Last fall, Madonna Constantine, a professor of psychology, found a noose hanging outside her office door: gross, bizarre and a little bit scary. The day before that, in an unrelated incident, a swastika was found on a bathroom door near a caricature of a man in a yarmulke. So, wow, some of the folks up there could use a little instruction on how not to be racist idiots. Introduction to Human Rights might be a good place to start, and is offered at the convenient grown-up time of 6pm. We’re not saying you’re racist, but everyone could benefit from a refresher course on human dignity — at the end of the day, it’s the most important subject there is.
O is for Orientalism
Ok, ok, we learned from late-great Columbia prof Edward Said that Orientalism — specifically, the idea that false, romanticized notions of Eastern and Middle-Eastern culture facilitate Western imperial power — is a very bad thing. So let’s just assume that most of the people at Columbia don’t teach like that, which is why you should definitely take The History of Modern China, so you can learn as much as possible about our soon-to-be imperial overlords. Welcome! (Or, wait, was that Orientalist of us?)
P is for Postbaccalaureate Studies at Columbia
You knew, of course, that your bachelor’s degree wouldn’t have any real-world applications, but how could you have predicted that it’d also leave you completely unqualified for the graduate program you need to apply to for your, like, life? Columbia’s Postbacc program grants continuing education students access to the undergrad curriculum, though unfortunately there’s no way to correct any of your other collegiate mistakes (those pictures will be on Facebook until at least end times).
Q is for Quarterly Reports
We’re bad with money. And the people we know who are really good with money are rich anyway, so it doesn’t really count. If you, too, are bad with money (How much did you pay for this magazine? See, there you go, it’s actually free…) don’t worry, CUNY has a course for you (also for free, so put down your wallet): Basic Financial Literacy for Consumers is a twelve-hour, four-part course that covers things like credit history, money management and home ownership. Four consecutive Saturdays, October 4-25, at 10am.
R is for Rush Hour
Oh, late-night deliveryman who brings greasy food to college students barely sober enough to ride the elevator down to the lobby, you are remarkably unjudgmental, perhaps because of drunken overtips. Under no circumstances are you, dear reader, to enter the actual Rush Hour (134 Ludlow St) during daylight hours, but if you order some late, it’ll come with a side order of sloppy, sloppy memories. And maybe a loosey in a Ziploc bag.
S is for Surveillance
Everywhere we go, our actions, purchases and, sometimes, words, are recorded by the information-industrial complex, for both government and corporate use. Sure, we sound paranoid, but in this case, the truth is probably a lot more alarming than you could imagine. To learn more (from a reputable institution, no less) enroll in the New School’s Privacy and Surveillance course, and be the person at the dinner party who alarms other guests with really scary stories about the end of civil rights (we love that person). Begins October 20, $570.
T is for Trimming Your Budget, Greenly
Saving the planet is good. Saving money is also good. Oh. My. God. Now you can do both at the same time! Do you have a low-flow showerhead? A dual-flush toilet? No! Well, you should get them because they could make you very rich (err, not exactly). CUNY is offering a one-day seminar called Green Your Home and Trim Your Budget that will provide a handy checklist to help you green your home/apartment and will cover everything you need to know to make a difference (and a buck). October 30, 6:30-9:30pm, $40.
U is for the United Arab Emirates
The logical next step in New York University’s tumorous expansion. Yes, University Prez John “J-Sex” Sexton has entered into a partnership with the oil oligarchs of Abu Dhabi to build an NYU campus (same curriculum, administration and perhaps faculty), on their turf (a desert island also slated for Guggenheim and Louvre outlets), with their money (plus a little extra for the mothership). NYU Abu Dhabi is projected to matriculate its first class in the fall of 2010. McDonald’s diplomacy is just so vulgar, y’know?
V is for Vintage Clothes
Replicate the rush of prepackaged worldliness that came the first time you donned a dead person’s argyle sweater vest/sun dress with a lemon wedge pattern that actually maybe looks more like wallpaper/cigarette holder/bowling shoes, at No Relation (204 First Ave), hipster T-ball t-shirt emporium Village Style (111 E 7th St) and Monk Thrift Shop (the one at 175 Macdougal St, just off Washington Square, has the best selection; Salvation Army and Goodwill only get good stuff in the suburbs), or the more conspicuously trendy boutiques like Screaming Mimi’s (382 Lafayette St) and Physical Graffiti (96 St. Mark’s Pl).
W is for Weimar
So, a warlike country approaching financial ruin at the beginning of the century… When is shit around here going to get really interesting, in a Weimar-era art-or-die Berlin kind of way? For a little historical context as you debate the death/rebirth of the avant-garde in New York (which we do, actually, all the time), the New School has a course called Paris-Berlin Express, which investigates the cultural relationship between the two great cities, with a focus around the World Wars. If anyone has ever called you pretentious for caring about this kind of thing (Surrealism, Dada, Joel Grey in Cabaret) you just tell them to “fuck off” — and then draw a mustache on their upper lip and set yourself on fire. That’ll learn em. Begins September 2, $570.
X is for XHTML
So you have a dinky little website with a few links to freelance clips and a resume page, and every time you want to update it you have to pay your nerd “friend” $50 to make the change. EXTORTION! ROBBERY! Ok, calm down. Why don’t you just learn how to do it yourself, and save the cash? The good people at CUNY are offering a web design course beginning October 18 for $295. Who knows, you might even get to charge some other sucker $50 to update their website. Extortionist.
Y is for Youth, Sweet Bird of
(It’s a book. All the good letters were taken.) Lots goes over your head now, but you used to be able to invoke deconstructionist theory in bull sessions about mass media, connect classical texts to contemporary cultural traditions and invoke world-historical precedent in heated debates about politics… then you sold your textbooks. And now you are back to being stupid. As the semester starts, just head to The Strand (828 Broadway), pick out a couple prematurely tweedy guys and jack-booted girls with syllabi, follow them around, and buy whatever they buy.
Z is for Zum Schneider and Zebulon
Learning a second or third language is a key component to any fully rounded college education; and the key to learning a new language is getting drunk and trying it out on native speakers, so… If French or German is your bag, you can toss back some Kolch/Cabernet at either of these fine establishments and let fly with the schons and voilas, and no one will bat an eyelid. Zebulon, 258 Wythe Ave; Zum Schneider (107 Ave C).