Observing Bulldog Days as a host begets reflection, pride, nostalgia

On Monday evening, I walked out of Lanman-Wright to meet some friends in the courtyard before going to dinner. I must have been somewhat early, because as I waited, I glanced around Old Campus and caught a glimpse of a sight that seemed unusual to me: a giant inflatable bulldog, right in front of Farnam. After getting over my initial shock — somehow, I hadn’t noticed the enormous creature all day — I realized that Bulldog Days had begun.

There seemed to be three types of prefrosh on campus this year. The first group consisted of the wide-eyed ones who were holding a blue folder in one hand and the hand of a reassuring parent in the other. The second group seemed to feel confident enough to ditch their parents, but not quite confident enough to ditch their folders, and were still kind of clueless — you could tell they had never seen a green “Exit” button before. Finally, there were the prefrosh who had dropped both their parents and their folders and looked as if they had already adjusted to college life.

Throughout Bulldog Days, I nursed a nagging feeling that failed to disappear. It hit me when two parents asked for directions to Payne Whitney and whether or not the rooms were small on Old Campus — and I gave the latter question a politically correct response. I was no longer that wide-eyed prefrosh. I was the smooth and confident college student.

Sure, I’m still only a freshman, and it was not that long ago that I was a prefrosh from one of the first two groups. And I certainly have no right to complain about how quickly time has gone by, as that privilege belongs to graduating seniors. But I am a second-semester freshman, which I think meant a lot.

Academically, it meant that instead of taking the honors or AP program laid out to me by my high school, I could choose to take interesting classes in fields I would never have imagined a year ago, like the history of Egypt and Nubia in the Middle Ages. It also meant that I had to rely on myself to budget my own time.

Socially, it meant I needed to readjust myself from the high school world — playing video games, watching movies and going to the occasional house party — to the college universe of constant action. This new sphere included a cappella concerts, comedy shows, sports events, parties and, of course, playing video games and watching movies.

Coming to Yale also means taking in the Yale tradition. School spirit existed in high school, but college takes it to a whole new level. A high-school student could never comprehend the pure excitement of the Game weekend, beginning on Friday night when my astonished friends and I saw someone, probably inebriated and almost certainly from Harvard, bash in a storefront on the corner of York and Elm streets. The fever pitch continued the following afternoon when everyone on our side of the Yale Bowl joined in for a rousing rendition of the Yale fight song, by Cole Porter ’13. That day, I felt like I finally became a Yalie.

I could continue almost indefinitely, describing more memorable events of my first year away from home, running the spectrum from the disbelief I experienced the first time I heard that the Pleasureman was coming to our campus to the utter awe I felt at being able to see John Bolton, Bob Woodward and Madeleine Albright up close and personal. But you’ve probably heard about enough to understand my point. This year’s Bulldog Days made me realize all that had changed since its last incarnation, when I was the unsure prefrosh, sitting in Atticus and wondering if I had made the right choice. Now, I find it difficult to believe I ever gave my decision a second thought.

Ben Tannen is a freshman in Saybrook College.


  • KWeber

    I am a New Haven-area author with a slight Yale affiliation these days (as a Fellow of one of the Colleges) though I taught in the English department for eight years. I would have loved to feel that Labyrinth was my bookstore, and I certainly tried to support them, in the beginning — but they have really ignored the non-Yale community since first opening their doors. There was every opportunity for this bookstore to become THE hometown independent bookstore for New Haven, given that the Yale Bookstore is a bland chain, and Atticus is a halfbaked bookstore that is really a restaurant, or is it a restaurant that is really a bookstore? Either way, each thing mitigates the mediocrity of the other thing, and it’s just not a real bookstore; there is no serious intellect applied to what they stock. Henry Schwab (Book Haven) had his customer base. Henry Berliner (Foundry Bookstore) had his customer base. Did Labyrinth make any effort whatsoever to serve the book-buying New Haven community?

    Labyrinth had the Loeb Classical Library! Labyrinth was the real thing! But Labyrinth didn’t even bother to STOCK many books by local authors, and showed had no clue or interest in non-Yale-afiliated intellectual life of the city. How many non-Yale author events were held in this store (and I don;t count spouses of faculty as non-Yale)? Labyrinth never tried to look beyond Yale. This is why my “hometown” bookstore is all the way up 95 in Madison.