The New Journal Volume 45, No. 5
The magazine about Yale and New Haven
Courtside Collisions An urban squash program attempts to bridge gaps
Also in this issue: A Post-mortem of the Y Syndicate The Men of Roller Derby Richterâ€™s Retrospective
Editors-in-Chief Sophia Nguyen, Cindy Ok Executive Editor Benjamin Mueller Managing Editors Eric Boodman, Julia Calagiovanni Photo & Design Editors Maya Binyam, Lian Fumerton-Liu, Emmett Kim, David Shatan-Pardo Senior Editors Cathy Huang, Ava Kofman, Isabel Ortiz Associate Editors Maya Averbuch, Lara Sokoloff, Grace Steig, Ike Swetlitz Copy Editors Nathalie Levine, Justine Yan Staff Writers Gideon Broshy, Ashley Dalton
Members and Directors Emily Bazelon, Peter B. Cooper, Jonathan Dach, Kathrin Lassila, Eric Rutkow, Elizabeth Sledge, Jim Sleeper, Fred Strebeigh Advisors Richard Bradley, Jay Carney, Joshua Civin, Richard Conniff, Ruth Conniff, Elisha Cooper, Daniel Kurtz-Phelan, Jennifer Pitts, Julia Preston, Lauren Rabin, David Slifka, John Swansburg, Steven Weisman, Daniel Yergin Friends Michael Addison, Austin Family Fund, Steve Ballou, J. Neela Banerjee, Margaret Bauer, Anson M. Beard, Jr., Blaire Bennett, Richard Bradley, Martha Brant, Susan Braudy, Daniel Brook, Hilary Callahan, Jay Carney, Daphne Chu, Josh Civin, Jonathan M. Clark, Constance Clement, Andy Court, Masi Denison, Albert J. Fox, Mrs. Howard Fox, David Freeman, Geoffrey Fried, Sherwin Goldman, David Greenberg, Stephen Hellman, Laura Heymann, Gerald Hwang, Walter Jacob, Jane Kamensky, Tina Kelley, Roger Kirwood, Jonathan Lear, Lewis E. Lehrman, Jim Lowe, E. Nobles Lowe, Daniel Murphy, Martha E. Neil, Peter Neil, Howard H. Newman, Sean O’Brien, Laura Pappano, Julie Peters, Lewis and Joan Platt, Julia Preston, Lauren Rabin, Fairfax C. Randal, Robert Randolph, Stuart Rohrer Arleen and Arthur Sager, Richard Shields, W. Hampton Sides, Lisa Silverman, Scott Simpson, Adina Proposco and David Sulsman, Thomas Strong, Margarita Whiteleather, Blake Wilson, Daniel Yergin and Angela Stent Yergin
The New Journal
Cover Image: Caroline Lester; Cover Design: Emmett Kim
Publisher Tessa Berenson
The New Journal The magazine about Yale
and New Haven
Vol. 45, No. 5 April 2013 www.thenewjournalatyale.com
FEATURES 18 SOLUTIONS TO SCALE The Connecticut Mental Health Center rethinks wellness. by Ashley Dalton
COURTSIDE COLLISIONS An urban squash program aims to break down walls. by Benjamin Mueller
STANDARDS 4 Points of Departure 8 Snapshots Found In Translation by Yanan Wang
10 Snapshots Derby Dreams
by Christopher Peak
16 Critical Angle The Syn is Dead/Long Live the Syn by Aliyya Swaby
23 Photo Essay Of All The Gin Joints In This Town introduced by Kathryn Osborn
34 Snapshots The Way The Wind Blows by Maya Averbuch
38 Interview Daniel Yergin
The New Journal is published five times during the academic year by The New Journal at Yale, Inc., P.O. Box 203432 Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520. Office address: 305 Crown Street. All contents Copyright 2013 by The New Journal at Yale, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction either in whole or in part without written permission of the publisher and editors-in-chief is prohibited. While this magazine is published by Yale College students, Yale University is not responsible for its contents. Four thousand copies of each issue are distributed free to members of the Yale and New Haven communities. Subscriptions are available to those outside the area. Rates: One year, $18. Two years, $32. The New Journal is printed by Turley Publications, Palmer, MA; bookkeeping and billing services are provided by Colman Bookkeeping of New Haven. The New Journal encourages letters to the editor and comments on Yale and New Haven issues. Write to Editorials, 203432 Yale Station, New Haven, CT 06520. All letters for publication must include address and signature. We reserve the right to edit all letters for publication.
Illustrations by Devon Geyelin
points of departure.
My Chemical Romance My kimchi fermented in a jar by my pillow, smelling sour. I imagined the vegetable shreds bubbling in salt and their own juices, as the millions of bacteria in the container facilitated the vegetables’ chemical breakdown into the Korean staple. Nestling it further into an old sweatshirt, I made sure the concoction would be warm enough through the night – if it reached below room temperature, the bacteria would die and the fermentation would stop. My roommate watched my new, slightly bizarre nighttime ritual with skepticism. My obsessive care for these pungent vegetables had only begun in March, after I attended a workshop titled “Break it Down: The Art and Wonder of Fermentation” at the New Haven Free Skool. Started by a group of artists and activists in New Haven, the Free Skool hosts volunteer-run classes on everything from herbal medicine to chicken raising. When I arrived at the first night of fermentation class, the long room was full. Fermentation – which keeps food edible through chemical breakdown by bacteria and yeasts – has grown in popularity over the past few months, both in New Haven and across the country. Both foodies and laypeople have joined in the trend, fermenting various foods and drinks in their own homes with Mason jars, salt, and bacteria cultures. The Free Skool originally intended to have around ten people in its fermentation class, but so many people signed up that the teacher sent around an email before the first class begging those who already knew how to make kimchi and sauerkraut to stay home. “I’ve taught a lot of fermentation classes, and interest just increases every single year,” the teacher Diane Litwin told me. She speaks of fermentation with an almost spiritual devotion, likening the process in class to a magical experience. “I think it’s a big shift in
our generation of the importance of DIY. It also has a lot to do with empowering yourself, bringing back the culture, really taking your health into your own hands.” My classmates and I painstakingly shredded cabbage, carrots, onions, peppers, and radishes into careful slices: too thin and the vegetables lose their crunch, too thick and they don’t absorb enough water in the fermentation process. After chopping everything, we tossed the mixture with salt and divided up the contents into four jars, one for each of us to take home. After two weeks, the vegetables would have soaked in their own juices long enough to turn into kimchi. When I first read about fermentation, it seemed simple: chop up some produce, stick it in a jar with salt, and wait for the bacteria to do their thing. I quickly discovered that the process was not so dispassionate. I returned home from the class with my jar and strict instructions from Litwin to cover it with a plastic bag, compressing the vegetables throughout the day to ensure they remained submerged in their juices. I worried constantly about the health of my kimchi. I considered asking my roommate to check in on my kimchi while I was in class, but restrained myself. I began to view fermentation as not just an activity, but a lifestyle. Perhaps I would branch out into more complicated food and drink, incorporating some sort of fermented concoction in all of my meals. Because of its ancient origins and resurgence in popularity, fermentation awkwardly straddles the realm between tradition and the New Age DIY culture currently embracing it. While it was first used by farmers and those in harsh climates to preserve extra food, it now represents a creative way to create healthy dishes. Litwin stresses fermentation as a way to eliminate food waste and increase farm productivity by preserving any surplus produce that would ordinarily be thrown away – a difficulty that I, having all of my meals provided to me in a dining hall, do not confront directly. Shizue RocheAdachi, a Yale sophomore who interned at a pickling store in Berkeley, California last summer, notes the contrast between fermentation’s various uses. “It’s definitely part of this whole artisanal food movement,” she says. “From the other side, it’s about a lot of people who are into the deprivation, hipster, being thrifty model.” When I met RocheAdachi in a coffee shop, she ordered nothing; instead, she drank water from a Mason jar. A volunteer at the Yale Farm, her passion for selfsufficiency and sustainability had sparked her interest in preservation technique. Her Japanese heritage exposed her to fermentation from a young age. As a child, her The New Journal
family would eat preserved vegetables called tseukemono, which literally translates to “pickled things.” Originally, she says, she hated some of the pickled foods her family ate, but came to develop an enthusiasm for the craft. More than the idea of returning to ancestral foods, I identified with Litwin’s comment that fermenting food is like having a pet. It not only adds a few billion new creatures to your living space, it also requires constant maintenance and commitment. After bestowing so much care upon my kimchi, I almost couldn’t bring myself to consume it. But I eventually gave in, closing my eyes as the sour yet spicy cabbage crunched in my mouth. A few weeks later I found myself walking to Edge of the Woods, a self-described “natural market” in New Haven, to pick up ingredients to make kefir, a type of fermented milk. The recipe I followed stressed that kefir was an acquired taste, but I felt confident enough in my newfound enthusiasm for fermentation to try it. Occasionally I felt embarrassed by my sudden interest in fermentation. Was I simply a bandwagon fan, latching onto the latest trend? “I was that weird kid working at a pickle shop,” RocheAdachi laughs. “And then I came back and all of a sudden fermentation was the thing of 2013.” She informs me that I’m “not the first” to have asked her about fermentation as a craze. “But I do fear that it will be too much of a food fad.” One later afternoon after I strained my kefir, I practiced steeling my nostrils against its harsh, sour scent. My roommate once again looked skeptical when I brought the concoction back to our room. I haven’t yet brought myself to try the dish, as a troubling thought occurred to me upon first smelling it: I can’t tell the difference between kefir and rancid milk. —Emily Efland
Not Rocket Scientology The plain glass door sits between two storefronts on Whalley Avenue, and a sign directs visitors up the gray-carpeted staircase into an L-shaped corridor. Suddenly, his name is everywhere. It’s plastered across posters, running down the spines of books that fill the bookcases lining the walls, and printed beneath his picture, enshrined to the right of the entrance. As soon as you walk into the Church of Scientology of New Haven, you begin to breathe L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Dianetics and Scientology.
Monica Koehler, an employee of the Church, tells me that Scientology means the study of knowledge. Hubbard published his first work in the 1950s and died in 1986, leaving behind a massive body of writings. There are no official leaders of the Church of Scientology—instead, all practices and beliefs are reinforced by Hubbard’s work. Kathryn Lofton, an associate professor of religious studies and professor of American studies at Yale, says there is no area of life that Hubbard did not touch on in his writings, and that practicing Scientology is “a surround-sound experience, where Hubbard is the surround.” Hubbard condensed his earliest research into the idea of Dianetics, which claims that the mind can be divided into the analytical mind, responsible for rational thought, and the reactive mind, the source of all man’s evil. In moments of pain, the analytical mind shuts down and the reactive mind takes over. Within the reactive mind are engrams, or hidden commands, which are formed during traumatic moments and lay dormant until triggered. Dianetics is the process through which a practitioner can clear the mind of these engrams and lead a pain-free existence. The church has stood at its Whalley location for the past thirty years, but it will soon be moving to a larger location nearby, to accommodate more worshippers. Koehler could not reveal any specifics as to when the move was occurring, though plans for the move have been in the works since 2005. Koehler said she couldn’t give me an exact number of practitioners in New Haven. It is difficult to quantify the exact number, she emphasized, because some worship at the center, while others practice at home. Worshipping at the center could include attending seminars, meeting with a representative from the center for a Dianetics session, or simply learning more about Scientology. This nebulous definition is consistent with Scientology’s religious structure as a movement; the organization is typically reluctant to publish figures. What is known is that, typically, Scientology has been most appealing to the aspiring middle class and is concentrated in urban areas, like New Haven, Lofton said. But, according to Koehler, “the way to learn about Scientology is to find out what is true for you.” It does seem contradictory to try to tell the story of Scientology without experiencing it for myself. In an email, she offers me a free trial auditing session. Dianetics teaches that participating in such a session is the first step an individual can take to eliminate the reactive mind.
At the center, Koehler takes me to an isolated room relatively free of posters and books. She sits across from me at a plain white desk. Her soft brown eyes and calming voice add warmth to the oddly unadorned room. She begins by asking me a few questions about my life, and what in particular I want to fix. For Scientology to have an impact on an individual, she says, that individual must be able to recognize an aspect of her life that could improve: “It can’t just work on its own. You have to be the one that wants to change something.” Across the top of a pile of printer paper, Koehler writes my name in large, loopy cursive, and directly under it she writes her own. This begins our auditing session. She tells me to close my eyes, explaining that I am allowed to stop the session at any time. Auditing sessions are based on the mind’s ability to transport itself back to a particular moment in time. Koehler asks me about my breakfast. Separate from the act of simply remembering, the exercise requires you to relive the experience: to smell the scents, see the surroundings, and hear the noises. The goal of an auditing session, Koehler says, is to isolate engrams in order to reclassify them as memories in the analytical mind. The idea seems ludicrous to me. I smile as I begin recounting my breakfast experience at Blue State on Wall Street that morning. There was no painful emotion associated with that morning’s breakfast, but Koehler wants to make sure I was comfortable with the techniques of Dianetics before processing a more painful incident. After I relive breakfast two or three times, Koehler asks me if I am ready to move on. I think back to a time earlier this semester when I felt like my world seemed to be coming down around me. I felt like I was friendless, I hated my classes, and had gotten involved in all the wrong extracurriculars. I felt that no one I had met at Yale had any idea who I really was. She guides me as I relive this sort-of breakdown. She prompts me with questions about how I am feeling, what I am seeing, hearing, and smelling. I recount the memory twice all the way through. It started in Blue State on Wall Street and ended in my common room. An hour passes. I begin my third recounting. Getting tired and frustrated, I dig the heels of my hands into my 6
eyes and suddenly all I can see is blue. It is a bright royal blue, suddenly extinguishing the blackness that had filled my mind for the last hour. Koehler asks me to describe it, and I tell her was familiar but that I can’t place it. Then I realize it is the blue of the Blue State logo. Shocked, I take my hands away from my eyes, and immediately all I can see is the red of the logo’s text. When I leave the church, I don’t feel that I have learned anything new about myself. The experience was not quite delving, but I imagine what else I could have felt. The experience was not quite probing. What I left with was a mind full of color—visions of bright, bright blue. —Lara Sokoloff
Silent as the Dead I knocked on the door of the caretaker’s office, but no one answered. I could hear a dog barking and someone shuffling around inside, but no one came to the door. I pushed it open myself and walked into a cluttered, smoky room. “Who are you?” the gray-haired caretaker asked. After I introduced myself and asked to talk to him briefly about the cemetery, he called out, “I’m busy. Have a pamphlet,” shoving one in my hand and pushing me out the door. Being so abruptly dismissed shocked me, but the Grove Street Cemetery is, in both its history and its architecture, concerned with boundaries. The cemetery is twice removed from the world of the living—once through the existing barrier between life and death, and once through the tall surrounding wall, which now dampens the sound of passing cars and trucks. It participates in a tradition of the dislocation of death which began with the ekphora, or the secondary stage of ancient Greek funeral rites. The Greek metropolitans carried their dead outside the city to be buried, delineating the city by creating an inverse city of the dead on its outskirts. Similar motivations were behind the creation of the Grove Street Cemetery. The first town cemetery, centrally located on the New Haven Green, was sprawling, haphazardly organized, and pushed beyond its capacity by yellow fever epidemics in 1794 and 1795. In 1797, led by Senator James Hillhouse, a group of citizens successfully petitioned to move the cemetery to a new location on the edge of town, where the dead could be better separated and contained. The carefully-planned structures included wide grassy paths and square family plots. As a result of this remove, walking in the Grove Street Cemetery can be disorienting. When I first saw the street signs that mark each path, I wondered why The New Journal
the roads of the dead need names at all. The bevy of different architectural styles—obelisks, sculptures, bare granite blocks—I found almost too much to look at. As I walked further, however, the organization of the cemetery started to make more sense. In Greek mythology, the mapping of the underworld is never for the benefit of the dead—it is for the living, so that we may make sense of what awaits us. The Grove Street Cemetery’s design made it a tourist attraction. By 1833, its fame was such that writer B. Edwards could claim: “And who has not heard of the beautiful cemetery of New Haven? It has been theme of more frequent praise among us than any other receptacle of the dead, save only Père la Chaise.” In this nowforgotten era, the Grove Street Cemetery was intended to serve as a public park, open to visitors and tourists and couched in a sense of spectacle and grandeur. As its reputation grew, it became a thoroughfare for foot traffic and subject to vandalism. In response, a large
wall was erected around the cemetery in 1845, funded by a group of concerned New Haven citizens. They chose to build with stone because it would be more soundproof and lasting than the cheaper wood. The enclosure was a formalized exclusion of the space of the dead from the space of the living. As I walk, these layers of removal reroute cluttered musings, and the wall’s exterior quiet results in a corresponding stillness of thought. Whenever I’ve visited the cemetery, it has been empty. I’m not complaining—silence and solitude were the reasons I entered the cemetery in the first place. But I’ve also become fascinated by its unusual history and the stories it contains. Today, the cemetery winnows down distraction; it calls attention to simplicity. Away from the distractions of the outside world, the emptiness of the cemetery orders the chaos of my thoughts. As I walk through the cemetery, thinking about its history of distance and detachment, a similar movement of dislocation occurs in my mind. Here in the cemetery the structures of life persist, uninhabited. In the absence of other living beings, I forget about myself. In his poem “Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven,” Lee Edelman puts it perfectly: “Lost stories fill the ear’s one room/ with other rooms—all empty, room on room—/ while widths of sound, blown open, rise like paper.” The strange paradox of this place concerned with removal and separation, however, is that it remains a spot of attraction for the living, a place of bringing together various pasts. It is neither a bustling tourist destination nor an empty Victorian ghost-haunt, but some combination of the two—a place where one can go to be alone and quiet, a place where one can be surrounded by a rich and far-from-silent past, or both. —Margaret Shultz
Translation The Fair Haven PreK-8 school finds a common language. By Yanan Wang
ith its clock tower, stone columns, and vast front steps, the entrance of Fair Haven PreK8 School in the New Haven neighborhood of the same name looks classically neo-Gothic. But one glance inside the school, with its mural-lined walls adorned by writing and drawings of every language and culture, revealed that its student body hardly matches its 19th-century façade. On a Wednesday afternoon, English-as-a-secondlanguage (ESL) teacher Michael Soares retrieved Yasser* from his sixth-grade reading class to help calm down his first-grade sister. The girl had been running around, hiding under tables and refusing to listen to instructions. From afar, the interaction looked like a typical exchange between a teacher and his students. In fact, it was a communication chain: Soares spoke English to another sixth-grader named Tahir*, who translated his words in Arabic for Yasser, who then conveyed the sentiments to his sister. “Can you tell Yasser to ask his sister why she is mad?” “He says that she does this sometimes at home.” “What does his mom do when she gets mad? Does she let her be mad?” “He says it goes away.” After a few more questions, Soares put one hand on Yasser’s shoulder and shook his hand. The boy, who spoke no English and looked at the ground as he talked,
smiled a little. Yasser and his sister are Yemeni refugees. They had arrived at school the day before with little prior English language instruction and no exposure to American customs. Their situation is not unique. For over half of the 660 Fair Haven students, English is not their native language. One hundred of these students have been in the U.S. for less than a year, and thirty-eight are resettled refugees from Africa and the Middle East. “Every day I’m amazed at how resilient the kids are,” Soares said. He has been teaching ESL to kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade classes at Fair Haven for six years. The biggest challenges arise, he told me, when the students’ problems are beyond the school’s resources. With its integrated Newcomer program, Fair Haven School is the default destination for children of refugee and other immigrant families in New Haven. The school has had a long relationship with the non-profit Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), Connecticut’s center for immigrant support. Many of the refugees, especially the younger ones, arrive at Fair Haven having undergone emotional trauma. Some suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, others from separation anxiety. Many of their parents also distrust the public school system. The Newcomer program works to ease the transition from the students’ home countries and remedy parents’ worries, goals
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always easier said than done. “You can only do so much over the course of a school day,” ESL teacher Kristin Mendoza said. But she added that the students at Fair Haven are able to make friendships across cultural lines, which she had not seen at the Brooklyn elementary school where she previously taught. Though it also had a diverse student body, ethnic divisions had been clear. There was a table in the cafeteria where all the Haitians sat, and tables where all the Caucasians sat. By contrast, Fair Haven students seem to be unaware of the ways in which their cultural differences could separate them. Instead, they relish the opportunities to share their perspectives. New English learners and native speakers are not separated in classrooms at Fair Haven. Instead, all newcomers are enrolled in mainstream classes and assigned ESL teachers who provide on-thespot support. Walking down the hall, Soares picked students out of their classrooms to participate in the day’s speaking exercises. He asked a class of first-graders for volunteers to talk about their experiences adapting to American life, and half a dozen hands shot up. He chose Landry*, a boy from Burundi. Earlier, Soares had shown me Landry’s latest project: a print made with a collection of ink stamps depicting two human silhouettes surrounded by a cluster of trees, with a star floating above the scene. He had moved his hand across the picture. “Most kids at this age just put a combination of objects, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Landry was the only one who made a whole image.” Landry was unhappy to be called out into the hallway, where the ESL students often did verbal exercises with Soares. He sulked, leaning against the wall while two children from China played tag around him. Soares asked Landry what was going on, but Landry just shrugged. “What color are you on?” Soares tapped Landry’s shoulder. Landry shrugged again. “Green.” “Ah, I thought you might be on red,” Soares said. “I thought that maybe you were mad because you were on red.” When asked to explain what the schoolwide color system meant, Sarah*, a Chinese girl, spoke up. “Red is bad, yellow is a little good, green is good.”
“What do you have to do to be on green?” Soares asked. “Be nice. Don’t fight. Try your best.” The other boy was Ming*. Both Ming and Sarah had been in America for less than a year, and were amused to learn that I also spoke Chinese. Excited to converse with a stranger in their native tongue, they chattered excitedly about the strangeness of America—the big country, and its fast-talking people. Soares pointed out that Sarah’s parents work at a Chinese restaurant, while Ming’s dad is a researcher at Yale. Landry’s parents had left him at a refugee camp. Yet watching the students interact, there was no indication of a difference in their socioeconomic backgrounds. During the school’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration, the students came to school decked out in green. Many come from families who are unfamiliar with the holiday. But Principal Margaret-Mary Gethings said that their time at Fair Haven has made them “background blind.” The school is no stranger to all-inclusive cultural festivities: it had an African Heritage Celebration in early March, and a Hispanic Heritage Celebration last October. Mendoza and her fellow ESL teachers are planning a cultural fair for this spring, when they hope to bring community cultural associations and arts organizations to the school in a showcase of New Haven’s immigrant population. Mendoza asked a class of sixth graders what the hardest part of their immigrant experience has been. Many of them laughed, because the answer seemed obvious: learning English. A boy from Puerto Rico recalled, “Everyone walks around, talking and talking, and you get dizzy!” But Katie*, a rambunctious, bright-eyed girl from Burundi, gave a different response. “I’m scared ’cause sometimes people be dying in the streets.” She paused. “There’s shooting and bullying. People judging how you look.” She looked up at Mendoza. “I wish in America there can only be peace.”
TNJ * The names of the students have been changed. YANAN WANG is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College.
Graphic by Susannah Shattuck; map by Google
Mendoza asked a class of sixth graders what the hardest part of their immigrant experience has been. Many of them laughed, because the answer seemed obvious: learning English.
Photo by Sean Hale
A fringe sport goes mainstream, and now the boys come out to play. By Christopher Peak
all me H.G. Welts,” he said, extending a hand. “That’s my skater name.” I was in a strip mall parking lot to catch a ride to Sunday night practice with the Death Quads, the men’s roller derby team from the suburbs of Connecticut. I had learned of them from a flyer at a vegetarian restaurant in New Haven. “Join the roller derby revolution,” it said in golden characters. The team’s logo was a goateed man, attired like a soldier in the trenches and raising a single fist. The fine print: “Men 18+” and “Primary Insurance REQUIRED.” Welts did not look like the athlete I’d expected, much less one to embody his sobriquet. He was 5’10”, 175 pounds, and entering middle age. His hair was still sprouting in curly black tufts, but wrinkles lurked at the 10
corners of his eyes beneath his glasses. He seemed closer to vegetarian than brute, as did his girlfriend, Metal Malady, who was waiting patiently in the passenger seat of the gray SUV. Welts joined the Death Quads last spring. Metal had been skating with the local girls’ team, CT Roller Girls, since July 2011, when the sport was still almost entirely female. Welts often tagged along—he wanted to learn to skate. Lacking a full roster, the men of the Death Quads constantly asked him to come to their practices. “As soon as I can let go of the wall,” Welts always responded. “I’m just sitting around at a desk on the computer all day,” he told me. Welts is a civil engineer, designing and overseeing construction of water mains, storage tanks, sewer pump stations, “basically anything that takes The New Journal
water to your house or takes waste away, we’re doing it.” He’d been working at the same company for nearly two decades, and wanted a physical outlet. Welts decided to see what roller derby was all about. To the uninitiated, a roller derby bout seems like a nonsensical blur, a mob jostling each other around the track. The bout is divided into rounds, called “jams,” that can last up to two minutes. Each team has five players skating at once, four blockers and a jammer, who scores points for every opposing blocker he passes. Some escape the nine-to-five routine with tropical vacations; others get involved in charity. Welts takes to his skates. There is nothing surprising in this. Anyone could cherish what Welts loves about derby: the speed and smoothness of revolutions in the rink; the mystical vibration of another man’s shoulder crashing into your ribcage; the familiar ache of exhaustion. Like Welts, the majority of the Death Quads’ first skaters joined because of women. Some coached or refereed women’s bouts, but more often, a boyfriend wanted to participate in the game that obsessed his girlfriend. Modern-day roller derby began as a feminist revival of a sport dating to 1935, when twenty-five coed teams competed in a month-long race that simulated the distance from Los Angeles to New York. By 1973, the sport had all but died, dropping its athleticism for scripted violence. Derby reemerged sporadically through the ’80s and ’90s, with added spectacles—one variation had alligator pits—but derby as it’s practiced today was resurrected in a bar in Austin, Texas, in 2001. In little over a decade, the sport has exploded into 1,100 female teams. Men’s roller derby—sometimes condescendingly referred to as “merby”—began in 2006 with the founding of the Dirty Dozen from Northampton, Massachusetts, who faced the New York Shock Exchange in their first match in 2007. Bonnie Thunders of New York’s Gotham Girls led the feminist charge against men’s intrusion into what she referred to as “our sport,” saying that men needed to create their own sport or play one of the dozens they already had. Since then, she’s “evolved” on the issue, largely because she needed co-ed support to bring roller derby to the mainstream. The Gotham Girls and Shock Exchange now scrimmage
once a month, and the Men’s Roller Derby Association now has thirty-one member teams, including Southern Discomfort in London and Mont Royals in Quebec. But roller derby is still far from achieving equality between the sexes. The Death Quads, the fourth men’s team in the world, draws few fans compared to the team they practice with, the CT Roller Girls. The Roller Girls have two full travel teams and three more for home games, while the men can barely fill out a single team roster. As the sky at dusk darkened to a bruised purple, we arrived at the RollerMagic Roller Rink in Waterbury for coed practice. The place was a time capsule of 1970s trendiness. Geometric murals wobbled on the walls, dimly lit by a web of pink, yellow, and white neon tubes on the ceiling. The worn blue carpet swirled with green eddies and snakes, looking like hard swampwater; arcade games floated precariously atop. Dante, one of the men, said the floor pattern has been the same since he was five. The pimply teenagers behind the full-service snack bar were finishing their shifts and clocking out—literally. One by one they punched their cards on an old-school machine, one that some of the skaters might have been familiar with from their own adolescence. In the middle of all this, the large skating rink looked timeless, its polished maple gleaming faintly. The Death Quads are coached by a short but stunningly musclar woman named Pearl Jammer. She ordered the men and women onto the rink to run laps and Circle Jerk, a founder and co-captain, led the pack. He looks like what you might expect from a guy who willingly dubbed himself Circle Jerk: he ran barefoot, pink-and-yellow hair almost as fluorescent as the neon lights above, hoop earrings dangling from his lobes. When he first gathered a group in 2008, it was the fourth men’s team in the world. C.J. wanted the team to be called the Circle Jerks, until the other captain, Skatebreed, objected. An assistant at a banking firm and now the team’s president, Skatebreed then adopted a name from a local group of punk musicians, the Death Squads, dropping a letter to match the sport’s fourwheeled quad skates. C.J. and Skatebreed fit the sport’s older demographic, guys too old for contact in lacrosse and ice hockey who still wanted a team sport, or maybe skateboarders who had never played on a team but now
Anyone could cherish what Welts loves about derby: the speed and smoothness of revolutions in the rink; the mystical vibration of another man’s shoulder crashing into your ribcage; the familiar ache of exhaustion.
Photo by Sean Hale
wanted a chance. Pearl Jammer led the group through highkicks, lunges, squats, grapevines, and an exercise involving primordial crawling across the floor. By the time they’d finished with pushups, the guys were sweating. The women popped up, ready for more. After another lap, the two teams put on their skates, protective helmets, elbow pads, kneepads, wrist guards, and mouth guards. Girl Fawkes, the men’s team manager, sat on a tabletop wearing Pokémon hot pants over stockings. She skates with the Stepford Sabotage (a group self-described as a meeting of Betty Crocker and Betty Ford), the top women’s travel team. She says the men have had difficulty recruiting new members. Roller derby has changed rapidly over the last few years as the sport’s governing boards experimented with new rules to improve the emerging sport. Their efforts have been successful: roller derby now sometimes makes it into a newspaper’s sports section, rather than lifestyle. Some high-profile skaters talk of one day playing at the X Games, maybe even the Olympics. But roller derby’s founders are pulled between competing interests: they want the sport to gain an audience and respect, but they don’t want to lose their punk origins by going mainstream. “I still love that I get to play this really offbeat sport,” Fawkes said. “Before roller derby I did not do anything athletic. I was a poetry-club, film-student, read-a-book-inthe-dark geek. I do not want to skate and get hit. But it
was just entrancing.” Folsom Bruise (real name Laurie Lawless, a roller derby name in its own right) had skated over to ask Fawkes about her wheels. Folsom said she was the same way: athletically challenged. “I didn’t play anything in high school. I partied a lot. This is pretty much the first time in my life I’ve done anything competitive,” she said. After she got her life together in college, Folsom worried she would regress without the structure of school. But there was roller derby. “Roller derby saved my soul,” she said. “In a weird way.” The guys practiced a few more drills for the next week’s match in Albany, working on their offensive blocking. Pearl Jammer called them over. “Be there by four,” she said. “We are in maroon.” The Albany fans “are a bunch of douchebags,” Fawkes warned everyone. “But why worry about things you can’t control?” “Can we swear at the fans?” a tall man asked. “Read your fucking rulebook,” Fawkes said. “You can swear,” another guy whispered to him. “Just not excessively.” Welts and Malady walked back to the car, apologizing that I would have to sit next to them in their “stinky derby gear” on the way home. As we drove, Welts couldn’t stop talking derby. “Sometimes, you’re there, standing up straight. The next thing you know your feet are out from under you,
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and you’re falling, going whichever way gravity takes you.” He chuckled at the thought, the way you do in daylight, as you remember details of a baffling dream.
Photos by Sean Hale
met Welts again the following Friday in Fair Haven at Channel 1, a tiny showroom and gallery within a former swimsuit factory. The Death Quads had organized a screening of This is How I Roll, a documentary on the struggles men’s derby has faced for recognition equal to their female peers. The guests milled about, chatting and sipping Narragansetts beneath a projection of a Death Quads game against the Magic City Misfits from Florida. Skatebreed hoped the event would raise funds for tournament travel and attract new recruits. The Death Quads are currently the thirteenth-best men’s team in the world, their identity caught in limbo between all-star team and beer league. On one side is Crashasuarus Rex, who joined in 2010 after a lengthy search that took him through road cycling, mountain biking, jiu jitsu, and mixed martial arts. He describes himself as “competitive” and says he plays to win. A former college athlete, Rex is still young and attractive, the kind of guy who would look good smiling on the winner’s podium. But the team’s founders are an older group whose bodies often can’t keep up. One of the first recruits, Pastor of Muppets, has been benched while he recovers from stomach surgery. Welts ended the replay of the game (which they eventually had lost) to cue the movie. “I don’t have floor lighting or anything like that,” the Channel 1 host said. “If you’re afraid of the dark… hold somebody’s hand.” The documentary focused on the men of the Shock Exchange, whose captain was scheduling matches before he had even drafted a team. After the
movie I talked with Maulin’ Brando, one of the Shock Exchange’s first players. “God, we were awful,” he recalled. During their first games, is team could barely skate, let alone race. “Now we are all doing tricks and skating backwards. It’s amazing how far the sport has come in such a short period. I guess we knew we were bad. We were judged against this template that women had already established.” While women’s roller derby has sped to underground fame and even broken through to mainstream culture with derby-themed episodes of The Bachelor, CSI, What Not to Wear, Top Chef, Psych, and Bones, men’s derby still lags behind. Most of the guys seemed happy enough watching the briefer and more obscure history they had lived, even though most of the scenes with the Death Quads had been cut. But Skatebreed seemed disappointed. The team had made a bit of money selling snacks and admission, but it wasn’t the turnout he hoped for. I was one of the few people there who wasn’t a derby player already or a friend of the Death Quads. “We’ve kind of struggled,” Skatebreed said. “It’s really rough actually.” The night’s event was largely uneventful. No recruits had signed up. It seemed to Skatebreed that the men’s roller derby revolution wasn’t happening unless it was played before a TV audience. Worrying about funds, recruits, exposure, he seemed to miss the point. The men of the Death Quads, businessmen and engineers, had already achieved a slice of roller derby glory. I’d seen it at the first practice, in the flashes of Death Quad skates, humming across the polished maple floor of the RollerMagic Roller Rink. TNJ CHRISTOPHER PEAK is a senior in Morse College.
THE SYN IS DEAD/LONG LIVE THE SYN An autopsy of student anarchism.
By Aliyya Swaby
s a spectator of the burgeoning activism scene on campus, I’ve been struggling to keep track of the major players. Groups and causes at Yale have high turnover rates, and I’ve learned the hard way that it’s best not to get too attached. After all, it’s tough to have one’s heart set on Occupying Morgan Stanley when everyone else has long since begun Pushing for Divestment. But this year, I forgot about my pledge of disengagement. I chose to champion the Yale Syndicate, an underdog group with what I hoped was just enough audacity to successfully patch the university’s various wounds. I cheered when its tiny rabblerousing army orchestrated a walkout of Rick Santorum’s debate with the Yale Political Union on “traditional marriage.” I felt I could trust my damaged heart with the artistes who had manufactured a zine the Yale Herald deemed “Best Rival Publication” earlier this winter. They vowed to save me — and fellow campus sinners —from the temptations of “unjust power, despondent apathy and paralyzing complacency.” But, as I learned in the last several weeks, the Y Syndicate is dead. Or at least in a deep coma, lacking nearly all vital signs of life. Don’t worry: the process was slow, but not painful. In fact, they barely realized it was happening. Or maybe the Syn hasn’t died so much as dissolved. The solvent was time, and maybe a dash of apathy—along with over-commitment. Perhaps it’s best if, like most of the campus, you were only marginally aware of its presence. Fewer to mourn its inopportune passing. In mid-March I spoke with the student collective’s leaders-by-default Carl Chen ’13 and Marc DeWitt ’15, along with a few others, in order to perform its last rites—a verbal autopsy of sorts. We began with its birth. The group started in the spring of 2012 as a circle of four or five students frustrated by a perceived neoliberal status quo and seeking a space for radical leftist intellectual discussion. They individually “brewed on that for most of the summer” and returned in the fall ready to christen their shared anger, Chen told me. The term “syndicate” comes out of the anarchist branch of anarcho-syndicalism, which rallies an underclass to band together to control its own fate. Y Syn wanted an organizational structure that was similarly “kind of collective, kind of union, but a little more autonomist and horizontal,” Chen said.
Like their namesake tradition, they aimed to avoid power’s corruptive tendencies. “We didn’t want a place at the table,” DeWitt clarified. Unlike fellow activist group Students Unite Now (SUN), Y Syn wanted to deconstruct powerful institutions like Yale without forming new ones. It was the perfect set-up: a nearimpossible challenge, a greedy corporate archenemy, and a healthy rivalry. In the beginning, things worked. They held assemblies that netted as many as fifty members in front of Beinecke Plaza’s war memorial. They invited professors to speak with them, including political scientist Jim Sleeper, known for his scathing criticisms of many Yale administrative decisions. They even kept up a website until late September. Nick Leingang ’13 was most involved with the process of creating the zine—a homemade, collage-style publication common in activist circles. He solicited submissions from friends with similar political leanings to “revitalize public discourse,” the Syn’s stated goal. Distributed erratically across campus in hard copy and eventually posted online, the zine featured illustrations, lists, articles and manifestos. Leingang wrote a personal essay called “Straddlers” about the struggles of being a Yale student from a working class background. Kendra Dawsey ’14 curated a “Basic Bitch List,” which includes Christopher Columbus, “legitimate rape” believer Todd Akin, and Yale’s slaveholding residential college namesake John C. Calhoun. But their attempts to move from discourse to public action hit a roadblock: how could they turn their idealized alternatives into concrete solutions? “Can you live out…theory?” Chen asked. The simple answer is: probably not. Especially not while at Yale. But I can see the appeal of setting vague goals and taking a meandering path to meet them. Thinking about that path, I get a flashback. A grassless lawn, a sea of tents, huddled bodies. Occupying. A 2011 New York Times article described Occupy Wall Street as a protest movement with “faulty aim,” a “lack of cohesion,” and a “wish to pantomime progressivism rather than practice it knowledgably.” And that was a relatively tame critique, before the protesters slunk out of their encampments and out of the major press. Both leaders were familiar with Occupy’s welldocumented pitfalls, but Chen says they wondered if they could be the ones to get a little closer to closing the gap between theory and reality, as students “in a safe space with a lot of time.”
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And when President Richard Levin announced his departure, the presidential search proved to be good for a test drive. Both Y Syn and its friendly competitior SUN petitioned for transparency in the process. While Y Syn tried to “create its ideal world,” SUN’s approach to activism was more “direct,” Alejandro Gutierrez ’13 said. The group rallied students to speak with the search committee at an open forum. But a forum was a little too formal for Y Syn’s style. No wheedling for change—they wanted action. And they wanted it to be “playful,” DeWitt said. SUN was angry with the university administrators for excluding student voices, but Y Syn never expected anything better from them in the first place. In late September, SUN and Y Syn started a petition on change.org that received almost four hundred signatures from across the community—albeit out of a community that includes eleven thousand current students. At the open forum on September 28, students expressed their grievances to the search committee for over two hours. Earlier that day, Y Syn members chalked classrooms in Harkness Hall and Linsly-Chittenden Hall with “playful, but critical” slogans, to encourage the student body to attend the meeting, DeWitt said. Can you In early October, they placed empty wooden chairs on Cross Campus, Old Campus and Beinecke Plaza, with signs taped to them that read “The Empty Seat of Student Representation in the Presidential Search Committee.” A photo of one of the chairs made it into the Yale Daily News’ Cross Campus section. Presumably, students passed by the grouping on their way to section that Wednesday night. This initiative, like other Y Syn public actions, DeWitt clarified, was not “endorsed democratically by the Y Syndicate assembly.” The organization was founded not to strictly organize students in the traditional sense, but rather to encourage participation in proactive and reactive critiques of the university. A month after the chairs were placed, the Yale Corporation chose Peter Salovey as Yale’s new president. Famed Yale anarchist James Scott theorizes in his 1985 work “Weapons of the Weak” that powerless people use small rebellious acts to protect their interests against institutions trying to extract their labor, goods, money, or interest. If we zoom in so uncomfortably close that Yale is the world and the Corporation is the state, maybe we can see Y Syn’s strategies as analogous to those Scott describes, which include “foot dragging, dissimulation, April 2013
false compliance, pilfering [and] feigned ignorance.” In the right circumstances, resistance by marginalized peoples can drastically change the course of the state’s decisions and severely undermine oppressive projects. Without student input, the Corporation may have forgone the safe option and “chosen someone more imperial,” DeWitt said. Plus the Syndicate’s existence gave SUN a public relations boost, Chen said, preventing either from seeming like “some fringe, marginal sort of organization.” But Leingang thinks the group’s focus on the presidential search was misdirected, especially since many were seniors, unlikely to be affected by the university’s future president. “Yale faculty, Yale workers, New Haven people should be involved. Our opinions don’t really matter,” he said. Ultimately, Y Syndicate may have been the wrong vehicle for grassroots activism altogether. “Hierarchical institutions are more efficient. We just weren’t about efficiency,” DeWitt said. Realistically, perhaps Y-Syn is just a ragtag band of pranksters. I’m sure others could successfully argue they’re neither, both, or somewhere in between. Either way, they’ve done something, mainly whatever they felt like doing, whenever they felt like out theory? doing it. Numbers, structure, organizational longevity? Not that important. Over this year, Chen and DeWitt said they’ve seen individual acts likely inspired by the Y Syndicate. For example, neither was sure exactly who sent out an e-mail from President-elect Peter Salovey’s e-mail referring to himself as the “President-select,” with the explanation, “It seems that my ‘s’ key was malfunctioning.” And neither knew who had painted event fliers blue and pasted them on the bulletin boards on Cross Campus. DeWitt suspects it may have been a statement about Yale’s controversial plans for a liberal arts college in Singapore. Gutierrez confirmed that SUN was not responsible for either action. For those seeking to continue the trend of sporadic semi-subversive hijinks, Y Syn leaves behind a heaping dose of institutional skepticism, a devil-may-care attitude, and vague plans for more zines. No one I spoke to knows definitively when or whether the group will continue its coordinated efforts. Perhaps when the weather is nicer, they said. TNJ ALIYYA SWABY is a senior in Pierson College and former editor-in-chief of TNJ. 15
Solutions to Scale
Photo by Elif Erez
The Connecticut Mental Health Center rethinks a doubly-marginalized population. By Ashley Dalton 16
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ithin the sepia-toned cafeteria of the Connecticut Mental Health Center, Serena Spruill is a vision in dazzling Technicolor. I find her seated in a plastic chair, dressed in a rainbow poncho which only slightly conceals a flashy Obama T-shirt. A fist-sized wooden cross swings from her neck, and a Rastafarian beanie tops her hiplength dreadlocks. In a world beyond the beige rooms of CMHC, Spruill’s size might stand out more than her oufit. She is close to six feet tall and weighs over three hundred pounds. And she isn’t happy about it. “I look at myself, and I realize—what you’re seeing here on the outside doesn’t reflect who I am on the inside.” Spruill motions to the rest of the cafeteria. “Everybody around here sits around like blobs,” she says. “But I’m trying to make my life better. I want to improve my health.” Spruill’s weight struggles started fifteen years ago, when she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Her doctor at CMHC started her on an antidepressant and then an antipsychotic. The medication worked—Spruill was happier and stopped hearing voices. But like most medications of its kind, it had one significant side effect: increase in appetite. In her first year of treatment, Spruill gained almost one hundred pounds. Her cholesterol rose and she contracted hypertension and type II diabetes—not uncommon for patients on antipsychotic medicines. Since then, she’s participated in weight loss studies and joined an African dance troupe. She attends bi-weekly exercise classes, and consults a nutritionist. She shops for groceries at health stores and farmer’s markets. But she still hasn’t seen any significant weight loss. Spruill resists attributing her obesity to the side effects of her anti-psychotic medication: “If I did what the nutritionist told me to do, I wouldn’t be overweight. But I just eat too many carbs,” she said. “You see, it’s the pills, but it’s also me.” Because of her weight, Spruill—and sixty percent of seriously mentally ill patients in America—is four times more likely to contract and die of heart disease, and likely to die twenty to twenty-five years earlier than, the average American. In the past ten years, CMHC has provided patients with formal weight loss trials, exercise groups, a fully-equipped gym, healthier cafeteria food
options, a weekly farmer’s market during the summer, and, most recently, a primary care clinic providing nutritional information—all without any cost to the patients. But somehow, nothing seems to work, not even for highly motivated patients like Spruill.
efore the 1990s, most Americans fell within a normal body mass index (BMI) range of between 18.5 and 24.9, and the mentally ill were a bit thinner than most. Now, over thirty-five percent of Americans adults are obese, and almost sixty percent of the mentally ill are severely obese. What has changed for the mentally ill is in part what has changed for the American population as a whole: now, as never before in human history, foods high in carbs, calories, and fat are cheap and readily available in our country. But the increased accessibility of processed food is not all that has changed for the mentally ill. The miracle of anti-psychotic medicines—beginning in 1950, with the introduction of Lithium—which can relieve the symptoms of mental illness, exacerbated the problem. Their appetite-increasing side effects made gaining weight all too easy. Additionally, since many people with severe mental illness struggle to secure education or employment, they are likely to be very poor and, as a result, have limited food options. Psychiatric hospitals suddenly had a major obesity problem on their hands. CMHC was one of the first mental health institutions in the United States to try to tackle this problem, through clinical efforts, like weight loss trials, or holistic efforts such as philanthropically-funded farmer’s markets. Their fight against obesity in the mentally ill population began in 2004, when Dr. Cenk Tek, who specializes in schizophrenia, became alarmed about his patients’ weight. “The first year I was here, two people died of heart disease,” says Tek, “I saw that it is not just a statistic that these patients die early. You are living with them sometimes, you take care of them, you establish a relationship with them… I have some degree of responsibility here.” In response, he developed a weight loss program called SIMPLE (Simplified Intervention to Modify Physical activity, Lifestyle, and Eating), whose structure was comparable to Weight Watchers but with less complex guidelines. During its four-month clinical trial in 2004, SIMPLE taught a group of CMHC patients
“The first year I was here, two people died of heart disease. I saw that it is not just a statistic that these patients die early.”
about the dangers of emotional eating, the benefits of exercise, and how to shop for healthy, affordable foods at the supermarket. But most importantly, SIMPLE emphasized education and weight-monitoring—efforts that have been proven to help patients lose weight. They were successful within the terms of the study. On average, participants lost five percent of their body weight, and they kept it off for another six months. But when the monitoring stopped, participants started to gain back the weight. Now, five years later, all the participants are back where they started. Tek stills keeps up this monitoring, however, in a less formal way. “Everyone who comes into my office gets on the scale,” he insisted, despite my protestations, “Even you.” This forced confrontation of one’s body size— an experience that was painful for me and is painful for many—is supposed to help people lose weight. But none of Tek’s patients seem to be doing so, and with this in mind, I am wary when Tek says that SIMPLE will help CMHC patients once it is finally reviewed and certified. If the general American population is any model, my suspicion is warranted. Only 27% of Americans who participate in Weight Watchers, for example, succeed in maintaining their new weight for two years. Tek still assures me that SIMPLE can work. He explains that his patients have different motives and goals for weight loss, blaming the failure of programs like Weight Watchers on their business model: they primarily target people trying to get beach bodies. Tek is not running a business, or even trying to make his patients thin. He just wants them to be healthy. “I am dealing with very sick people,” he says. What really separates SIMPLE from other programs is its idea that people don’t need to be thin, or even a normal weight, to be healthy. They can be somewhat overweight and still prevent hypertension, type II diabetes, and heart disease—if they’re living a healthy lifestyle. People who start walking around the block and buying canned veggies at the grocery store can prevent the onset of many fatal health problems. It sounds easy—so why is it so hard? Perhaps because I am not the only person who sees more than a number when they get on Tek’s scale.
ost health care institutions have invested in Tek’s methods, including the new Wellness Center within CMHC. The Wellness Center is a subsidiary of Cornell Scott Hill-Health Center, Connecticut’s oldest and largest community health center, and it provides free primary health care to all CMHC patients. The only marker of this recently opened and long-anticipated office is a small printed sign taped to a light wooden door; I almost missed it among the many bulletin boards. For now, it is empty: the Wellness Center only opened a week ago, and most patients don’t yet know it exists. But doctors assure me that once the word does get around, the Wellness Center will play a vital role in helping CMHC patients lose weight. It will monitor the weight of every patient who comes in, a requirement of the federal grant that allows the Wellness Center to exist. Additionally, nurses will educate patients on healthy lifestyle choices and the effects of their obesity-related diseases. John Brenner, the primary nurse practitioner at CMHC’s new Wellness Center, has worked at other primary health care clinics in the past, and attests to the value of regular weight monitoring and education over the long term. He says that at clinics, he explains the issue of obesity and the complications of hypertension and diabetes to patients some thirty times a day. They are very receptive to this education, he says. “A patient will walk out saying, ‘Wow, I finally get this. Thank you, no one has ever explained that to me before.’ And even if that level of understanding is very low, it’s better than where they were before.” Brenner reports that at the other Cornell Scott Hill-Health Center clinics, the numbers suggest that weight monitoring and education are effective. “If this population is similar to other populations Cornell Scott Hill-Health Center has been treating, then this center should help people with weight—even if in just a small way,” he told me matter-of-factly. His claims will be tested in the next few years— if CMHC can build up enough patient volume to keep the Wellness Center alive after the federal grant money runs out. The hospital hopes that if it can attract enough patients, and enroll more of them in Medicaid and Medicare, the Wellness Center will be sustainable. But first they’ll need to get enough patient volume to fill up all the appointment slots.
What really separates SIMPLE from other programs is its idea that people don’t need to be thin, or even a normal weight, to be healthy.
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Photo by Elif Erez
he dirty parking lot of CMHC hardly seems like the ideal location for a Friday farmers’ market. But for the past three years, from July through September, the CMHC parking lot has been filled with white tents selling farmers’ fresh-off-the-vine bulging eggplant, an explosion of kale and lettuce, and the still-wafting smell of this morning’s fresh-baked bread. As it turns out, the parking lot is actually the ideal place for a farmers’ market, for a number of reasons. The market makes financial sense for the hospital administrators. The cost is minimal—City Seed, a New Haven nonprofit, sets up the farmer’s market in the CMHC parking lot without hospital funds. Additionally, for the Connecticut Mental Health Center Foundation— the nonprofit that provides supplemental, donated funding to CMHC—the farmers’ market is actually a moneymaking venture. Donors love everything about the farmers’ market—it’s environmentally friendly, it’s beautiful, and, as of late, it’s trendy. Since setting up the farmer’s market three years ago, the foundation has actually seen an increase in donations. They attribute this to their strategy of donor outreach, which highlights efforts to promote a “wellness” culture in the hospital—a holistic approach to health that doesn’t focus on weight loss but rather on the individual as a part of a community. It all sounds very nice, especially when you throw in
the live musicians every week and guest-star appearances from a bike repairman, patients selling crafts, and—most memorably—an equine therapist. The farmers’ market’s possible impact on the community is a large selling point to donors also. The idea is not just to change the food culture at CMHC, but in the Hill as a whole. Normally, it would be hard for patients and the surrounding community to afford to shop at a farmers’ market. But City Seed has introduced a program to accept food stamps for double their stated value at the market, and the CMHC foundation funds the distribution of coupons to CMHC patients, which gets them additional produce for free. According to patients, this financial inclusivity created a unique social environment. “You get to interact with the higher-ups, the doctors, the administrators,” Spruill said. “You don’t normally get to do that.” These social interactions are not just selling points for donors, however. They have real clinical benefits. “Keeping people coming to their appointments is a tremendous problem for us,” says Dr. Michael Sernyak, CMHC’s director. With the arrival of the farmer’s market, patients started keeping their appointments in order to get coupons. Clinicians even began to see better appointment attendance on Friday mornings, compared to the rest of the week. Doctors and nurses at CMHC all agree that the farmers’ market is the beginning of something good.
“If weight loss is your outcome of interest, a lot of people are going to be very disappointed. Most people won’t succeed,” Sernayk said. “We want to avoid that disappointment. We want to start engineering success to begin with. If we focus instead on walking a little more or eating better, people might start to lose weight.” But that’s a big “might.” At this point, there have been no success stories among CMHC patients. In fact, the only person to lose significant weight at CMHC has been its director—and Sernyak didn’t lose weight by just walking around the block. When he came to the hospital three years ago,
At this point, there have been no success stories among CMHC patients. Sernyak was on the brink of obesity. “I weighed in at 226 pounds. I’m a physician, so I know how this story ends. I don’t want to be in the best shape of my life after I’ve had my first heart attack.” He started counting calories on his iPhone, buying more fruits and vegetables, eating breakfast, and exercising—a lot. He often spent an hour and a half on the Stairmaster every day. In eight months, he lost over sixty pounds. To keep up his new body, Sernyak bikes a few hundred miles a week. He also keeps a treadmill in his office, so he can walk while working. Sernyak does realize that his method wouldn’t work for many of his patients. “If I’m a single parent with a kid, I can’t disappear for five hours on a bicycle ride. And because I have enough money, I can eat really good food that’s good for me.” Losing weight is just plain hard, even with all his advantages, he says. Despite these caveats, Sernak remains confident that eventually, a patient will overcome the challenges of losing weight. “There will be one or two people who succeed, and you never know who that’s going to be. The changes for most people may not be dramatic, but small weight changes can make a big difference in peoples’ lives.”
“It’s like the ripple effect.” Between Spruill’s strong sense of motivation and the aid of CMHC, she is set up for success, but something is standing between her and what she wants. “I grew up very poor,” Spruill explains. “We would usually eat one or two meals a day. I didn’t even know what lunch was.” She and her twelve siblings ate healthy things—beans and rice and oatmeal, and even vegetables from the garden before Spruill’s family moved from North Carolina to the Northeast. But they ate lots of it. Enough to be very full, especially since sometimes they would have to go two or three days without food. “That’s why I can’t stand to be hungry,” she said. “I can’t stand that gnawing feeling still, and that goes way back to when I was a kid, dealing with hunger as a child.” People’s relationships with their bodies run deeper than what numbers can convey. Even though Spruill has a lot of support and aid—regular visits to a nutritionist, money to buy healthy food, and a moderate exercise regimen—her past remains with her. For now, the hospital’s obesity problem remains more or less the same as it has been since clozapine came on the market in 1990. “Things are changing, it’s coming,” Spruill said. But whether or not her optimism will ultimately lead to the numbers going down at CMHC—on the scale in the wellness center, or in the nearby emergency room— remains to be seen. TNJ ASHLEY DALTON is a sophomore in Ezra Stiles College. She is a staff writer at TNJ.
or Spruill, healthy eating and exercise are spiritual practices. She wants to be healthy and alive for as long as possible, so that she can fulfill what she sees as her mission to help those around her. “It’s part of my spiritual involvement to go into somebody’s life, affect them in a positive way, and then move on,” she says, fiddling with the cross on her neck.
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Of All the Gin Joints in this Town
Introduced by Kathryn Osborn Photos by David Ottenstein
hen David Ottenstein first photographed Richter’s Café in 1982, it was called the Taft Tap Room and its interior had spent the past decade boarded up, not to mention the past year filled with trash and construction debris from The Taft Hotel’s 1981 conversion into apartments. Still, its future felt more optimistic to Ottenstein, who photographs disintegrating, empty structures. An abandoned Connecticut factory where pipes and broken glass are doubled in rain puddles, an Iowa farmhouse whose single armchair rots amid ankle-high rubble and paint chips. These are spaces, as Ottenstein puts it, “wonderful in [their] state of decay.” They elicit fictions of what might have once filled their walls. History sprouted from the floor-to-ceiling oak paneled walls of Richter’s in the form of hand-carved flowers, and names were scratched into the mahogany bar—New Haven’s oldest, built in 1858. Richter Elser ’81 had returned to New Haven on a whim to help coach the freshman lightweight crew team and just signed a 25-year lease on the space. In January1983, Ottenstein would photograph the opening of Richter’s Café, and through his lens the interior’s decades of history would fade dark and give way to big hair, aviator eyeglasses, and a community. Despite Richter’s closing in 2011, traces of its heyday remain—a portrait of Elser’s grandfather; a taxidermy moose head, shot by Elser’s grandfather in 1908, mounted above the dining room mantle. With Caseus Owner Jason Sobocinski and Mike Farber of Hamden’s MIKro Beer Bar reopening the Tap Room this month with the name Ordinary—a nod to the town ordinary, or tavern, that occupied the corner of College and Chapel back in 1659—these artifacts will join the decades of New Haven history the Tap Room proudly wears. But these relics beg more than a question of the past and the fictions we might stir from it. They beg a question of the future, in which we might too represent little more than a historical moment. How will New Haven fill these walls next? TNJ KATHRYN OSBORN is a sophomore in Branford College.
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An urban squash program uses the sport of princes to break down walls. By Benjamin Mueller
Gathered in their own four-walled court were four black and three Hispanic boys from Squash Haven, a program that teaches select low-income students from New Haven public schools how to play squash. Their suman Imoro’s opponent was examining the sweatshirts didn’t have brand names. Instead of drills, blood streaking down his left elbow when they practiced trick shots. Later, with the team on its Osuman stepped into the right-hand server’s way to a third place finish, one Squash Haven student box of the squash court and struck a loping serve. In studied the tournament’s “ladder,” or rankings list, with the third game of this best-of-three match, Osuman, a green afro pick. From a distance, he seemed to be 14, was spent, his skinny chest pulsing with heavy rearranging the tournament’s hierarchy. breaths he would prefer you didn’t notice. Restless and As Mason and Osuman began their match, one self-effacing by nature, Osuman asserted himself on of Mason’s Kingswood-Oxford teammates seemed to the court, searching his opponent’s wearied steps for echo the thoughts of many in the room when he asked a lapse and responding with returns as graceful as they about Osuman, “Do you know who that kid is?” In were unforgiving. Osuman’s earlier shot, a low, lining a sport confined in America largely to white, wealthy dagger driven inches off the floor, had drawn blood; his Northeasterners, Squash Haven’s poor black and competitor, Mason Corbett, skinned his elbow diving Hispanic players are outsiders. Like a growing number onto the wooden floor after it. Now Osuman rushed of urban squash programs to line up the next point before nationwide, Squash Haven counts Mason could recover. Mason on the sport’s association with reached backwards for the return, money and prestige to connect Does the collision between and they rallied for a bit until its students to elite colleges and Osuman suddenly caught a lazy squash clubs and public high-paying jobs. But old barriers ball on his racquet. He thrashed are slow to come down. Does the housing – between Mason, it off the court’s side wall at such collision between squash clubs an angle that it ricocheted into who took daily summer and public housing—between the front wall, and then towards Mason, who took daily summer lessons at the Hartford Golf the back left corner of the court. at the Hartford Golf Club, Mason, whose riskless shots were Club, and Osuman, whose lessons and Osuman, whose Ghanaian a lawyer’s answer to Osuman’s parents have never seen him Ghanaian parents have never frenetic flow, pursued it with play—really make opportunities labored steps, but the ball beat seen him play – really make multiply? him and now he was heading As we watched Osuman, opportunities multiply? towards the wall too quickly to Derek Lawrence, a fifteen-yearpull up. Mason crumpled into the old Squash Haven player, told corner, on the floor for the second time, while Osuman me that members of the squash community expect him leapt in anticipation of a return into the court’s center, a to be on a basketball court. “It feels good to puzzle place that equals power in a sport that prizes positioning. them a little bit.” In the match’s pivotal third game, For much of that December morning, Osuman Osuman was puzzling them. Squash, a sport in which and his team, Squash Haven, looked out of place in two bodies jostle for position in a tight, four-walled the Kneisel Squash Center at Hopkins School, an elite space, rewards players who capture the court’s center, New Haven preparatory school. Squash teams from and penalizes those who unfairly manipulate the court private high schools warmed up on five of the center’s space. If one player interferes with the other’s path to six glass-walled courts, their players sporting wavy the ball, it’s called a let, and the point is replayed. If one hair and bright bandanas. A team from a school called player interferes with the other’s direct swing on the Kingswood-Oxford, wearing dragon-themed uniforms, ball, it’s called a stroke, and the person whose shot was completed drills on a court named for David Swensen, a blocked wins a point. Osuman lorded over the court’s Hopkins graduate and Yale’s Chief Investment Officer. center, striking winners that hit three walls before they An elegantly outfitted mother toting coffee in one hand landed at Mason’s tired feet. Mason searched for a and a copy of the New York Times in the other arrived reassuring nod from his parents and coaches. Osuman, to hand her son two new squash racquets wrapped in who doesn’t let his parents attend matches because they plastic. make him nervous, kept his eyes locked on the game’s Osuman Imoro, 14, looks on as Joby Davis, 15, slices a backhand at Yale’s Brady Squash Center.
Opposite page: photo by Caroline Lester
action. His slim, lithe body darted around the court with less grace but more exuberance than his opponent’s. On match point, Osuman flicked an unexpected shot into the court’s left corner. Mason retrieved it, but stumbled back to the center of the court late, and found himself in the path of the approaching ball. Osuman wound up to swing, then suddenly had to pull back to avoid hitting Mason. It was a stroke. Match point to Osuman. In a building built with the money of Greg Kneisel, a Goldman Sachs executive, on a court whose glass walls wished its occupants happiness and good fortune in Latin (“QUOD FELIX FAUSTUMQUE SIT”), the boy out of a Hartford golf club was disqualified for getting in the way of an inner-city boy from Ghana. he program that brought Osuman to Hopkins on that December afternoon, Squash Haven, offers after-school tutoring and squash instruction to seventynine fourth to eleventh graders from New Haven. The students, mostly black and Hispanic and evenly split between boys and girls, gather every afternoon with a group of coaches and tutors to train in squash, get help on their homework, and try more advanced reading and writing exercises. In the short term, the program promises athletic and academic enrichment. In the long term, it reaches for more ambitious targets: admission for its students to boarding schools and elite universities, and access to rungs of the socioeconomic ladder that might otherwise seem out of reach. This unusual education takes place at Payne Whitney Gymnasium, Yale’s nine-story Gothic cathedral to athletic extravagance. The gym features 21,000 square feet of workout space, two large swimming pools, and Squash Haven’s office—a converted closet space, now painted in shining green. Squash Haven students practice in the seven million dollar Brady Squash Center, one of the world’s preeminent squash facilities, whose fifteen courts include the only exhibition court in the U.S. with four glass walls. The Squash Haven team meets in a room tucked at the end of a long hallway in the Brady Center that doubles as the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame. Students work on poetry assignments in a carpeted trophy room displaying worn footballs from 1902 and a statue of a discus thrower. One afternoon, I found fourth-graders sitting on the edge of the room’s stately leather chairs as they snacked on clementines and prepared for a vocabulary bee. Julie Greenwood, Squash Haven’s executive director, explained that the program’s goal is to give students access to elite schools and squash tournaments from which they’ve traditionally been excluded, and to help them develop tools to succeed there. If students raise
their grades and get good at squash, the thinking goes, they might join a squash team at a prestigious university. At the very least, they’ll build the skills to expand their worlds beyond struggling public schools and desperate city streets. Yet squash seemed to be a sport that protected a thin slice of wealthy, white, privilege from lower classes. Codes of clothing and manners insulated private school families from plucky outsiders. Non-marking squash shoes, two racquets, and a pair of goggles total $390. Access to a squash court alone costs around $3,060, the yearly price of membership at the New Haven Lawn Club. The most ambitious training programs offer lessons from top pros, summer training camps in Europe and Asia, and help navigating college squash recruitment at yearly costs of between $25,000 and $40,000. Is this really the right backdrop against which to be teaching kids from New Haven how to raise their grades, transcend broken homes, and trust people? Paul Assaiante, head coach of the perpetually topranked Trinity College squash team, had similar concerns when urban squash programs like Squash Haven were first developing. Assaiante grew up in a poor community in the Bronx, and knew from experience how strange and inaccessible squash seemed from the outside. “Why would you choose squash?” he asked of these programs. “When the students’ time is done—let’s say they don’t get into college—they would never join a private club or see squash again. Squash seemed like an unlikely partner. Why not basketball or soccer?” Assaiante’s concern, it seemed, was twofold. Building a bridge from New Haven public schools to Payne Whitney was a project with extraordinary possibility. But it also threatened to leave students whose futures didn’t include squash or college feeling like a rug had been pulled out from under them. Assaiante also worried that urban squash programs had doomed their messages of learning and self-improvement by connecting them to a sport to which its students would likely lose access after high school. Tutoring and support programs everywhere struggle with the need to make their lessons applicable across environments. Why risk further marginalizing those lessons by attaching them to a context as foreign as squash? Osuman may have been an equal of his private school opponents on the court, but he was still treated differently on the sidelines. After his win, his opponent Mason walked over to the area where Squash Haven players had gathered, waiting to congratulate Osuman. Weary-eyed and embarrassed, he leaned towards someone in the group and muttered, “Nice game, man.” But Osuman was not in the group. The black kid Mason
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clients. Scouts from Brown and Princeton strolled the hallways; Yale’s coach made a girl’s nervous face glow when he told her he’d liked watching her play. This wasn’t a tournament for the merely proficient. This was where the upper crust came to get crowned. And Osuman Imoro was not only participating—he was also f the squash community’s obvious privilege can being honored as the under-15 most improved player for sometimes clash with New Haven students’ more his explosive rise from no. 231 to no. 23 in the national immediate needs, the unfamiliarity of its surroundings rankings. “It feels like I’m proving myself,” he told me. also seems to help students imagine themselves anew. Osuman lost quickly in the tournament’s first Moubarak’s sister, Rafi Ouro-Aguy, 16, arrived in round, but continued to the consolation bracket the America from Togo five years ago with her dad, sister, next day, where he faced Ryan Murray, the sixth-ranked and two brothers. Last year her dad lost his job at a fourteen-year-old. The thought of Ryan’s older brother, gas station after back surgery, and the family makes do a dominant Harvard squash recruit, worried John without a car or phone. When I asked Rafi what made DeWitt, Squash Haven’s coach. “Osuman’s never played her want to play squash, she remembered the first time a kid like this,” he said before the match. Sure enough, she saw Moubarak at Squash Haven. “I saw him on the Osuman couldn’t get a shot past court and I was like, ‘Who is this? his fitter opponent, faltering at I don’t even recognize him,’” she the end of long rallies. Osuman said. “That’s what I like about squash. When you’re playing I saw him on the court and I lost the first game, 11-4. Down 6-8 in the second squash, you’re a different person.” Where I saw an imposing class was like, “Who is this? I don’t game of the best-of-five match, divide, Rafi recognized a blank even recognize him.” That’s Osuman slipped pursuing a drop shot, then unexpectedly rose and slate. Squash offered her hope what I like about squash. hit a cruel cross-court winner on in part because it existed so far outside the typical boundaries of When you’re playing squash, his next shot. Suddenly Osuman became the aggressor. He rushed her experience. “You don’t get the you’re a different person. to line up serves and hit winners feeling of the player transforming even as he stumbled. He fought into another person with other to a 16-14 win, and won the sports,” she told me. next game 11-7. Ryan looked Moubarak looked different perturbed. Osuman, perpetually mismatched in yellow to Rafi in part because of the squash court’s bright lights Asics shoes, blue shorts, and a black shirt, wore an and glossy walls. But the sport’s emotional landscape, expression of quiet resolve; when I asked him later what just as foreign as its physical, contributed to Moubarak’s had been going through his mind, he said only that he transformation. As Rafi tells it, “My brother was a “was trying not to think too much.” In the last game, pretty quiet person. But here, everyone was cheering for Osuman shouted proudly as he surged to a 7-4 lead. He him and I was like, ‘Oh my god. That’s so much love he’s didn’t allow his opponent another point, winning 11-4. getting. I want some of that.’” Rafi said nowhere else After the match, Ryan left the court, leaned his at school or in her community could she count on that hand against a wall, and started to cry. His coach patted kind of support. him on the cheek, and soon his mom and sister joined. Rafi recognized that squash was a game mostly Osuman’s supporters were almost as shocked. “I can’t populated by white people, but said it wasn’t a new believe he beat that kid,” DeWitt said to no one in experience to feel excluded. What mattered was whether particular. Forgetting his usual reticence, he continued or not she was given a chance to correct the imbalance. emphatically: “That was real. That was real.” “Squash is squash,” she explained. “It’s not a different game for different colors.” suman’s wasn’t just a feel-good win. It was a signal Despite its barriers, it’s a game that can give the that he could compete with anybody. Christi strong-willed a shot at unseating squash nobility. On Elligers, a firm, freckled woman who serves as Squash March 15, the Brady Squash Center hosted the U.S. Haven’s academic director, told me those wins teach Junior National Championships for the top thirty-two students not to assent to a power structure that ranks players in each age group. Malaysian, South African, and people by inherited wealth and privilege. “I’m bringing Egyptian pros counseled their pupils and recruited new congratulated, Moubarak Ouro-Aguy, was not the black kid with whom Mason had spent thirty minutes on the court. “I think he can’t see after this game or something,” Moubarak joked later—but not lightly.
something to the table and I’m going to be able to beat your ass,” she imagined her students thinking. Elligers was raised in a working-class home by a single mother and had never heard of squash before she joined Squash Haven. “A kid like Osuman walks in with his head high because he can. They might have a monetary advantage on him, but they got nothing when they step on the court.” Squash Haven students are also making strides off the court. Eighty-three percent of the program’s high school students have reached the New Haven Promise scholarship’s benchmarks—a B average, forty hours of community service, and ninety percent attendance— guaranteeing them at least partial funding for college; only ten percent of students city-wide meet those marks. Six team members were admitted to private day and boarding schools on scholarships and with Squash Haven financial support; four are on the honor roll. One of those students, Ashley Sanchez, 15, started her freshman year at Westover, an all-girls boarding school in Middlebury, feeling homesick and unprepared. “It was like a new world.” She worried what her squash teammates thought of her; they’d all gone to private schools before and didn’t struggle in classes like she did. But during the transition, Ashley said Squash Haven was “like a second home.” Greenwood and Elligers took her out for dinner on an unannounced visit and told her she needed to get her act together. Ashley has raised her grades and was recently elected a “Spirithead,” or leader of the school’s spirit week. Elligers said simply welcoming students to Yale can lend affirmation to their more quotidian achievements. Just like beating an elite squash player encodes bigger, hidden victories than the squash win alone, hanging ‘A’ exams on the wall of a classroom in Payne Whitney carries more significance than an exam posted at another after-school program. It’s a stamp of recognition from an institution that might otherwise be seen as off-limits. Elligers said, “We’re building kids who aren’t afraid of the world.”
ale’s temple to athletic excess is hardly the most unfamiliar place Squash Haven students spend time. They frequently stay overnight at the homes of Squash Haven supporters during out-of-town tournaments. Maryellen Feeley, a Squash Haven board member from Greenwich, took players on their first boat rides on the Long Island Sound when they visited her home. “They end up in towns that they didn’t know existed, seeing houses of a size they didn’t know existed,” Elligers told me. “They say Green-wich.” Bringing New Haven students to visit elegant
mansions can seem an unlikely learning experience. Elligers said Squash Haven staff is aware that the trips might look to students like implicit arguments for fancy cars and two-parent homes. “The danger of the model is that there’s a huge disparity between the served and the servers.” Students might idolize the lifestyles they observe, forgetting that traditional family structures and upper-class consumption habits don’t need to be part of their future plans. Greenwood recognized the hazards of combining Squash Haven’s lessons with exposure to upper-class settings. “I hope the message that our kids get is not that this needs to be my world, but more that I am getting the skills to choose where I want to build my life.” Carlos Briones, 11, realized his homestay family living near Wesleyan was rich when he went into the home’s garage. “They had mad Nerf guns. Buckets of ammo.” When I asked him if his visit taught him anything, he parroted the simplified version of Squash Haven’s mission—“If I work hard and study, I can one day be like them”—but offered a sweeter vision of what “like them” might mean: “I could buy the people around me nice stuff.” Kingsley Amoako, 17, was part of the Bronx urban squash program City Squash before entering Canterbury School, a private boarding school in Connecticut where he is the top-ranked singles player. He stayed overnight with City Squash supporters during a recent tournament at Wesleyan and was stunned by his luck: the father was an alumnus of St. Lawrence, the school to which Kingsley was in the process of applying, and also worked at Goldman Sachs. He told Kingsley, who hopes to work on Wall Street, that he would help him get an internship at the firm if he got into St. Lawrence. Greenwood is a toned, sprightly woman who traded her job as head squash coach at Williams College to lead Squash Haven. She explained: “The opportunities that I know about as someone who went to a good liberal arts college and grew up in a nice suburb are far different than the opportunities that our kids and families are able to access.” But connections alone don’t bridge the gap. Some Squash Haven students’ families can’t speak English and don’t have Internet access or a car. “Access is not simply about telling someone, ‘Here’s an opportunity. Okay, go for it,’” Greenwood said. She works to anticipate the points at which families might lose out on opportunities because of circumstantial barriers. Then Greenwood and her staff guide families through them, helping students access applications and taking them on school visits for interviews. The least visible barriers can be the most disruptive. Greenwood cited “the cultural capital in knowing what
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Photo by Caroline Lester
kind of questions to ask on a school tour, the cultural differences in how kids are socialized to advocate for themselves and ask questions of authority,” as factors that silently undermine underprivileged families. Squash Haven teachers aren’t shy about pressing upon their students manners that serve as indicators of social and educational status to the outside world. Students were eager to look me in the eye and introduce themselves formally when we spoke. That’s because the program asks them to shake the hand of and make eye contact with every Yale student volunteer they encounter. Squash’s seemingly stale rules seem to cultivate a kind of respectful comportment. Players are expected to incriminate themselves if they commit a violation on court, like hitting a ball on a double bounce. They also stay at their court after they compete to serve as referees for the next match, calling violations like lets and strokes for their peers. Jon Zonis, a lawyer and squash player whose family organizes yearly Squash Haven fundraisers, said the sport’s demands on poise and fitness teach players to find resolve in moments of vulnerability. “It’s so much about staying level and staying calm. Being confined in that little box with people behind the glass looking at you and being the master of your own destiny—it teaches you about being on your own.”
ike youth squash, American collegiate squash was once exclusively the domain of white, wealthy families. But it has a different face today. Many of the top teams’ rosters are made up of athletes from Asia and the Middle East, where squash is played at a higher level in part because it’s popular among the middle and lower
Nikki Hilgert, a Squash Haven teacher, looks on as students read their poetry in Payne Whitney’s Kiphuth Trophy Room.
classes. Paul Assaiante, whose dominant Trinity College roster often doesn’t feature a single American, said the rise in overseas recruiting upset Greenwich families that invested a lot in squash. “It created a bit of a kerfuffle,” he said. “‘Why is Johnny being denied the number one spot because you’re opening the door to a kid from Malaysia?’” Urban squash programs are responsible for a similar demographic revolution in youth squash. Assaiante calls the advent of urban squash “by far the greatest change in the world of U.S. squash in the last ten years.” He said that just as American tennis has improved as the sport spread to black athletes, urban squash promises to make the U.S. more competitive internationally. “Some of these urban squash kids are brilliant athletes.” After the Junior Championships, Osuman became the country’s no. 21-ranked under-fifteen player. Many urban squash players who go to boarding schools, like Kingsley, are quickly recognized as the best players on their teams. But just as Assaiante’s stars endured taunts for taking spots on teams from Americans, Squash Haven players sometimes absorb insults at junior tournaments. Greenwood told me about a time last year when some of her students had “a hugely nasty experience” at a tournament at Wesleyan. As usual, players were refereeing their peers’ matches. In this match, a Squash Haven player had seemed to interfere with his opponent, but the Squash Haven student who was refereeing chose
not to call the play a let. Parents from an opposing team students aren’t always sure. Elligers said, “We’re all up exploded. Greenwood said they didn’t seem angry about in there. We’re in there with their family stuff and we’re a simple missed call. The parents seemed angry that an in there with school stuff, grade stuff, money stuff, sex outsider to their sport had gotten in their kid’s way. One stuff.” Staff members give kids rides home and estimate parent followed a Squash Haven player out of the center that they answer thirty texts a day from students. They and verbally assaulted at him in a hallway. Another wrote know whose younger brother has a fever and whose to the tournament director that she would never again mom works the night shift. They hear when family let her children play in a tournament with Squash Haven relationships turn sour and are helping one student’s dad kids. find a job. When a ninth grader quit Squash Haven and Elligers said her students are familiar with barriers later got pregnant, Elligers, Greenwood, and DeWitt to opportunity in a city with obvious class divides. visited her at the hospital every day. Elligers later went to “They’re hit with failing public schools and Yale in the her home a few times a week to help her change diapers same place. They see it. They know it.” She said Squash and do enrichment homework assignments. Haven staff members, all of The staff ’s immersion is whom are white, don’t hesitate not only necessary to smooth to discuss issues of unequal over everyday challenges for Squash Haven challenges opportunity on which students kids of limited means. It’s also students’ low expectations, an essential part of the social might otherwise be silent. The program’s six high school juniors, contract for a program promising expectations that serve as the first Squash Haven class to to build a bridge from the projects defenses against past and be preparing college applications, to Payne Whitney. Squash recently handed Elligers report Haven challenges students’ low future failed promises. cards showing grades as low as expectations, expectations that Cs and an F. Alarmed and upset, serve as defenses against past and she put aside Shakespeare’s Much future failed promises. In their Ado About Nothing, the topic of that day’s lesson, and place, Squash Haven plants the idea that with its help, opened up a Fiske Guide to Colleges. She showed them students can go as far as they’d like to: up the squash that their grades weren’t yet within range for their dream rankings and into Yale’s glossy halls. If Squash Haven’s schools. Then she asked her students to picture their promise to tear down barriers turns out to be an illusion, high school civics class. Six out of the class’s twenty the disappointment can be lasting. Kids go back home students wouldn’t graduate, based on statistics for New having tasted life on the other side, more convinced than Haven public high schools. Of those who graduated ever that they’ll never be allowed in. Squash Haven is “all and enrolled in college, one in five would finish within up in there” because fighting systematized prejudices six years. The rates were lower for blacks and Hispanic requires nothing less. students. That left three future college graduates in the twenty-person civics class. “I don’t know about you all, hen I first asked Osuman if I could visit him at but it’s gonna be me,” one student quipped, but the his home, he said no, explaining with a shrug that harsh message had sunk in. Students couldn’t afford his dad worked late. Osuman seemed to want to keep to get complacent. They had two semesters left to beat his home life, which he said could get noisy with seven long odds that even eight years of enrichment classes siblings, separate from his life on the squash courts. He couldn’t fully wipe clean. later complained about a New Haven Register reporter who had called him for a recent article and expected him eneca Cox-Uhlan, a short, thick-bodied elevento open up right away. “I wasn’t ready for that,” he said. year-old who is Squash Haven’s only white student, “People I don’t see too much of I don’t feel comfortable told me one day after his academic session that there with. I was about to play squash and they just called me.” was something I needed to put in my magazine. It After two or three tries, Osuman finally relented was something he had never before told anyone about and told me I could visit. On a chilly December evening, Squash Haven. “Teachers at school are paid to be nice to I walked to his home on Goffe Street, just three blocks students,” he confided. “Here, they’re not paid. They’re from Payne Whitney Gym. It stunned me that I’d just plain nice.” considered calling a cab. Only three blocks separated Squash Haven’s teachers, of course, are paid, but the U.S. Squash Hall of Fame from a dark road with it’s revealing of their unconventional methods that their boarded storefronts.
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Osuman’s dad, Yousef Imoro, greeted me at the door as five tiny children between the ages of eight months and six years gathered at his feet. Osuman was staying late at squash practice, like usual, but Imoro welcomed me. His small row house was barren of stuff and filled with people. Osuman’s siblings climbed over the couch and onto Imoro’s arms as we spoke. Imoro emigrated from Ghana twenty-one years ago. Five years ago, his wife and Osuman joined him in New Haven. Imoro now works sixteen-hour days at a Toyota body shop, and his hands were thick and worn. He seemed animated by the same barely-contained ebullience as his son. Imoro recounted an evening a week earlier when he heard Osuman rip open a letter and start screaming in the kitchen. “Na Gode Allah!” Osuman had yelled, ‘thank you God’ in Hausa, the family’s native Ghanaian language. “Na Gode Allah!” When Imoro came downstairs, Osuman told him that he’d earned a spot at an upcoming tournament in Boston. “I hope he will do well,” Imoro said. “That’s my prayer. I know he will do well.” Imoro told me he brought his family to America because their opportunities in Ghana were limited. “I want my children to go ahead more than me,” he explained. “Because I didn’t get the chance.” He said he hoped one day Osuman “might become one of the best stars, a Yale star. That’s something we wish. And maybe
we all achieve the dream.” I asked Imoro what sort of dream Squash Haven represents to him. His two-year-old daughter Adiza was sneezing into his arms. “It’s like right now I was sitting some place and somebody just came and said, ‘Well this is two million dollars. Take it and use it for something.’ That’s what Squash Haven represents.” He continued: “I thank God for that. I thank the coaches and thank all of you for your hard work.” “I didn’t do anything,” I laughed in protest, figuring that he had mistaken me for one of the Yale volunteers who helped out. “Yeah, but at least you walk and come to my house, he said excitedly, his voice rising, now practically booming through his hollow house. He insisted: “It’s something. It means a big thing.” Imoro’s son, five years off the plane from Ghana, was twenty boys away from being the best squash player in America at his age. He harbored dreams of going pro in the country clubs’ sport; if not, Elligers was already plotting his college admissions strategy. In the unlikely collision between white, wealthy Americans and poor Ghanaians, where the support of the squash elite met the resilience and ingenuity of the underprivileged, Imoro saw the heavens spark and two million bills fall into his worn hands. TNJ BENJAMIN MUELLER is a senior in Berkeley College. He is executive editor of TNJ.
Photo by Caroline Lester
Lauren Mednick, Director of Placement for Squash Haven, works with seventh-grader Antonio Yerena.
The Way the Wind Blows A small press goes green to keep from going under with the state’s first commercial-size wind turbine.
en minutes after I was due at Phoenix Press, Inc., the spokes of my bike were still spinning. I searched out every corner’s street sign, hoping that the next would say James Street. Knowing that the friendly businessman I had spoken to was probably checking his watch, I had the sinking feeling that comes with being lost—until I saw the waving white arms of the wind turbine. They twirled gracefully in the breeze against the blue background of the sky. The turbine’s long, slender base reached far above the boats gliding under the bridge nearby and the children playing in the park below. Connecticut’s only commercial-size wind turbine is perched at the meeting of the Quinnipiac and Mill Rivers in an industrial area of New Haven. It belongs to Phoenix Press, a family-run business that prints everything from instruction manuals to calendars, and which erected the 150-foot-tall machine in 2010 to help power its production center. Brian Driscoll, one of the owners of the press and the man behind the turbine idea, has a maverick streak; he has fought to make his printing business succeed in an industry where companies are rapidly closing doors, but has done so by jumping into another that is struggling to get off the ground. Though Driscoll’s project was mostly met with support, many other wind energy initiatives in Connecticut have failed. Several years after the inauguration of Phoenix Press’s turbine, questions remain about whether turning to wind was—and is—worth the cost, for both Driscoll
and the rest of the state. Driscoll, a large, white-haired man with rimless glasses, met me in a waiting room featuring an antique printing press purchased at an auction. After ushering me into his office, he showed me a computer screen with an image of a turbine and three virtual dials tracking the turbine’s velocity (nearly one revolution per second, when I arrived), total energy production, and wind speed. The day was a windy one, and as I watched as the virtual needle indicating wind direction flick downwards, toward the south, I knew the real turbine was turning with it.
ince Driscoll and his two brothers, Tony and Kevin, founded their company in 1982, many relatives have found jobs there. Kevin is still a co-owner; their mother worked as a receptionist and their sister as a bookkeeper, Driscoll told me after we walked past his daughter at the front desk. Only seven of the thirty-two employees are related to him, but he extends the same familial good feeling to all his employees. The staff has shrunk over the years, and is far from the seventy-five people it used to be. When the economy started to tank in 2007, he looked for ways to cut back on purchases, labor costs—anything that would help Phoenix Press. Business looked bleak, and Driscoll was not alone in his concerns. According to the National Association for Printing Leadership (NAPL) and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over a quarter
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Opposite page: photo from Phoenix Press
By Maya Averbuch
of commercial printers have shut down since 2000. become the Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Industry employment has fallen by over forty percent Investment Authority (CEFIA). Despite all the troubles because of newer, more efficient machines that require technology had brought, it also had the potential to save less manpower. Additionally, many clients have begun Phoenix Press. designing their own products rather than working with Though the total cost of the turbine, $500,000, was external pre-press departments, and have also turned to high, they decided to install it largely for its financial the Internet to distribute information that would have benefit, as it would both cut electricity costs and make the been printed. press more attractive to customers This economic desperation invested in sustainability. sparked the idea for the wind “We were doing things in the turbine. Perhaps for my benefit, A small business like Phoenix right direction, but this was going Driscoll told the moment of separate us a huge amount Press hitting headlines with to revelation with cinematic detail. from our competition,” Driscoll It happened on a break its biggest project in several said. Still, he maintained that one afternoon: “When I walked company’s green practices, decades was meant to be a the around the corner of the which include recycling all building, the wind was blowing, game-changer. Poster-size paper, cardboard, wood skids, and it started to blow my hair. aluminum plates; printing prints of construction day and My shirt was fluttering and my on paper certified by the Forest pants were fluttering,” Driscoll photos still lie in a stack in Stewardship Council; and using said. After a stroll later the same linseed- and soybean-based the office. afternoon toward a nearby air inks, are not solely financially quality monitoring station that motivated. Blaine Collison, also kept track of wind speed, Director of the Environmental he started to ask more questions Protection Agency’s Green Power about solar, wind, and tidal energy. In the following Partnership, in which Phoenix Press participates, pointed months, he petitioned for permission to build a turbine out that the three hundred or so new partners each year from the local planning and zoning commission, and come in with a desire to be green, but they would not— secured a $200,000 grant from the Connecticut Clean or perhaps could not—join if they did not profit from Energy Fund, the quasi-state agency that has since investing in sustainability projects.
A small business like Phoenix Press hitting neighborhood’s electricity grid. But as Driscoll hesitantly headlines with its biggest project in several decades admits, the company’s profit margin has been less was meant to be a game-changer. Poster-sized prints of generous than expected because the turbine just isn’t construction day photos still lie in a stack in the office. spinning as quickly as expected. The press estimated Though Driscoll was not one of the “rugged guys” that energy production using standard maps that show installed the turbine, as he calls them, he was involved wind speeds one hundred meters in the air, where wind in the construction process every step of the way. He speeds are much higher than at the turbine’s actual level. showed me a photo of himself in a white hardhat, According to Dave Ljungquist, the Director of Energy harness, and sunglasses, noting that a crane lifted him Efficiency Deployment at CEFIA and a member of nearly above the turbine itself so that he could get a the committee that approved Phoenix Press’s grant, as better look. “Can you imagine? That’s how high I was,” a result, the company’s actual energy output is tens of he said. “But at that point I would have jumped up there. thousands of kilowatt-hours below the estimates each I was so excited.” year. Back in the Phoenix Press offices, Driscoll drew a Since then, dozens of articles have been written sketch on a piece of paper to show me how Long Island about the turbine, and over a thousand people have blocks some of the wind coming into Long Island visited. Hundreds of schoolchildren entered into Sound, creating disruptive turbulence. Ljungquist thinks a contest to name the turbine, which was adorably that the more likely cause of this turbulence is nearby christened Gus(t). But Driscoll’s enthusiasm is decidedly structures, such as Q-Bridge and the smokestacks of subdued now; the turbine has been less of a boon United Illuminating’s English Station. than he and his brother had Though new technology has hoped it would. Though all helped CEFIA more accurately of the press’s clients can see track lower-level winds, the outlook the “Wind to Print” logo on is bleak. “Given the technology Phoenix Press’s small their products, their biggest that we have in wind, a good wind concern, ultimately, is printing turbine really doesn’t start to look 100-kilowatt turbine is the costs: “Regardless of how unless you see an average only commercial-size turbine economical good you are and how well wind speed of twelve miles per equipped you are and how currently functioning in the hour,” Ljungquist said. “There are many turbines you have and very, very few places in Connecticut state. how many green initiatives that have an average wind speed of you have, you’ve got to have at twelve miles per hour.” However, least close to the lowest price,” he described all the other turbines Driscoll said. Andrew D. you would find if you took a drive Paparozzi, NAPL’s chief economist, pointed out that this north on Route I-95, which made Massachusetts and hypercompetitiveness makes other companies shy away Rhode Island look like they have slightly more optimistic from green initiatives; when asked about their capital prospects. investment priorities for the next three years, only eleven Glenn Weston-Murphy, the founder of the percent of commercial printers cited sustainability. Gary Connecticut Wind Working Group, said that while Jones, an assistant vice president at Printing Industries Connecticut will never have wind farms on the scale of of America, noted that the vast majority of the industry those in Texas and Oklahoma, smaller-scale development is taking some environmentally-friendly measures: “The is likely. When I met him in one of the restricted-access real question is what’s the level.” Recycled papers and rooms of Yale’s Mason Laboratory, Weston-Murphy, vegetable-based inks are fairly common, he said, but who works as an engineering design adviser there, said, many companies are hesitant to take steps as bold as “Phoenix Press is a nice example of where it can and Phoenix Press has. With space limitations on smaller does work reasonably.” His big complaint was that companies and sky-high technology costs, generating CEFIA and Connecticut’s legislators are not doing their own energy is simply not feasible. Even if they enough. With a touch of cynicism, he said that the were to go ahead with new eco-friendly projects, returns fact that Phoenix Press’s small 100-kilowatt turbine is are never guaranteed. the only commercial-size turbine currently functioning Driscoll’s turbine generates about a third of in the state is “representative of the sort of lukewarm Phoenix Press’s electricity, and the company is credited reception that Connecticut has for wind energy.” by the local utility when it feeds unused energy to the From Weston-Murphy’s perspective, CEFIA is too 36
The New Journal
tight-fisted with its money to help the state’s nascent wind industry get off the ground. He sounded slightly peeved as he described how, as an early recipient of funds specifically for on-site generation, Phoenix Press hit it big, but several other more recent wind projects have been turned down. Though CEFIA still provides grants and rebates, which are largely paid for by a renewable energy fee on customers’ utility bills, it has aimed to reduce reliance on such direct funding. Instead, Ljungquist said, they want to serve as a “green bank” that attracts private capital to the energy efficiency market. For Ljungquist, this puts his organization at the forefront of renewable energy development. For Weston-Murphy, it is a problem: “They are more finance people now than they are technology people, so they’re just looking at hard numbers as opposed to what are we trying to do here,” he said. In any case, Connecticut’s state-mandated renewable energy portfolio standards require that utilities get twenty percent of their energy from renewable energy sources by 2020, so development of renewable technology, wind or otherwise, has to continue. While Driscoll described his turbine as unobtrusive, lovely even—a moving piece of sculpture that was quieter than the motorcycles driving by outside, other residents do not seem to share his view on the energy machines. “People don’t want tall towers in their backyard, or their neighborhood, or even their town,” Ljungquist said. A wind testing machine at Yale’s West Campus was shut down three years after its construction due to complaints about its beeping noise. A wind farm proposal in Prospect, Connecticut was shut down due to locals’ bitter protests. The proposed Cape Wind development in Nantucket Sound, which is set to be the first offshore wind farm in the country, has won approval, but is still highly controversial. After emerging from rooms filled with hulking printing presses with ink-smeared rollers into the backyard of Phoenix Press, it was hard to not to look up at the turbine’s slender white stalk and find it beautiful. The motor whined faintly, and Driscoll and I listened to the whoosh of blades slicing through the air. As the wind bit into our cheeks, we shrank into our coats and stuffed our hands further into our pockets. The area was overgrown with weeds, and a pile of rubbish sat in front of a the remnants of a building next door, making the turbine seem all the more majestic as it spun above us.
Driscoll sounded disappointed as he spoke of the lack of profit from the turbine, he has maintained some of that go-getter spirit, partly for himself and partly for people like me who come to learn about the future of renewable energy in Connecticut: “It’s so cool to look at it, to watch it spin, and to know that it’s helping run and keep the lights on for this whole big plant,” he said, brimming with pride. As I bid Driscoll farewell at the door to the offices that have emptied out and gone dark for the day, I could not help but get caught up in his bright vision of the turbine. But as I headed back down Chapel with a broken bike light, oddly querulous winds pushing up against me at each turn, the turbine receded in the distance until it was just a pinwheel on the horizon. TNJ MAYA AVERBUCH is a freshman in Berkeley College. She is an associate editor of TNJ.
eston-Murphy said that tens of thousands of people who commute across Q-Bridge each day see the turbine, and, despite its limitations, it is “a testament to the Yankee ingenuity spirit.” Though April 2013
Illustration by Tobias Kirchwey
An Interview with Daniel Yergin
Daniel Yergin founded the New Journal in 1967, the summer before his senior year at Yale. He then went on to study international relations at Cambridge as a Marshall scholar, start an energy consulting company called Cambridge Energy Research Associates, and win the Pulitzer Prize for his 1992 book, The Prize. Yergin is one of the most quoted authors on energy issues. A revised paperback edition of his sixth book, The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World—which The Economist called a “masterly piece of work”—is out now. This is a condensed version of the conversation Yergin had with members of the New Journal’s editorial board when he was back on campus last month. TNJ: Tell us about the founding of the New Journal. DY: I’d run for chairman of the YDN and lost. Usually when you lose you became managing editor, but I had this mission, the New Journal, to find this voice for New Journalism. I was able to raise a few thousand dollars, because that’s all we needed then, and start the magazine. We were able to get an office in the basement of Silliman and it worked like a magnet. Once it was there, people found their way there, people who might 38
not have an outlet, and just came in. We drew people from the graduate school: one of the key writers was the wife of a guy who had been my TA; there was a wife of a law school student. A freshman showed up who wrote this great article about when the Doors came to New Haven. The magazine gathered momentum very quickly; the talent appeared. Fiction narrative applied to nonfiction was the heart of what we were trying to do.
The New Journal
TNJ: How much did the idea of New Journalism inform and shape the magazine, and was that challenging? You had to have all these literary skills. DY: There were really strong models. Gay Talese and David Halberstam were very prominent. There was Esquire, New York—the kind of places where that writing was taking place. It was very compelling. We didn’t have a lot of questions about launching the magazine. We just had entrepreneurial self-confidence. Yale had this very strong entrepreneurial tradition in journalism that went back to Henry Luce and the founding of Time. Looking back, it seems to me that the New Journal was a bolder, riskier thing to do than it seemed at the time. TNJ: What did you like reporting on when you were starting out?
When you are looking at scaling the heights of a book, it is a more complicated process to get yourself going. An article is very finite. You know it’s going to be three thousand, four thousand words, and you know how to shape it. TNJ: Which newspapers do you read? DY: We get five newspapers at home and lots of magazines. We must be one of the last households to do that. You have to decide what it is you want. Whether it’s the Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic or the Economist—you’re making an investment in the editors, the people who will be the gatekeepers for you, making the judgments, because otherwise you’ll just be bobbing in a constant sea of undifferentiated information. TNJ
DY: I was always drawn to narrative. I did my senior thesis on satire in the Victorian novel, and I was taking a writing course with Robert Penn Warren. So I had this deep belief in the importance of storytelling, which I think I still have: to find the stories that illuminate, and find the emblematic personalities who carry the story. I certainly carried over the kind of writing and editing skills I learned at the New Journal into my life and my work. I went to England to take a Marshall Scholarship, but I continued to do magazine journalism and wrote for British press, New York, and the New York Times Magazine. During the mid-seventies, my journalistic and academic interests came together around the subject of energy, and I began writing about energy journalistically. At Cambridge you don’t take any courses for a Ph.D. They just say, “Go away, write a book and come back.” At least, that’s what they said to me. That was my first book, Shattered Peace. I think that the kind of writing I learned from doing New Journalism was extremely helpful because that was the way I’ve written ever since, to combine argument with narrative. TNJ: What leads you from that kind of narrative journalism to book-length journalism? DY: One of our colleagues, Susan Braudy, gave me a writing lesson: you don’t sit down and write a book or a chapter. You sit down and write a paragraph. Eventually you have a lot of paragraphs and it looks like a chapter or an article. I think that in the books I write, the chapters have a kind of article-like arc to them. It is different, I think, to undertake a book. Both The Quest and The Prize took me a while to get going. It is a little overwhelming. April 2013