For starters, I’ll admit that I have been suspect of this whole digital Bean Soup concept. For the purpose of self-preservation, I could only imagine how my words from a decade ago could be taken out of context in a court of law and how that would play out with my cellmate:
“What’re you in for?”
“I embellished the time that someone spent in the pagoda.”
Along these lines, I must applaud TRJR for having the foresight that this digital age would come, as I now know why he never claimed any envelope-pushing articles and instead attributed them to his own flesh and blood (sorry, Doc Reed and Daniel). Brilliant. Many of us, on the other hand, feel like we’re donning Editors’ New Clothes. Yes, our names are attached to such hyperbole and misremembering that TMZ would consider us high risk.
My second reservation stemmed from the glorious tradition of receiving Bean Soup during the Holidays. Like an egomaniac, I would search the annals for the simple mention of my name. And now, we have subscribed to societal standards and we have provided near-instant gratification. The deliberate turning of pages, if one chooses, has ceded to utilizing search terms. Remember the hubbub over the satellite TV in the Junior Lodge? Watching World Series from our diaper-wearing years? That was child’s play. This is like comparing 10’s baseball against Lanakila – (sorry, Danny) – to 15’s soccer vs. Tecumseh.
And third, the traditionalist in me feared that such a move was a gateway to some day having our dear Larry Davis replaced by this guy. Irrational? Absolutely, but that’s what Pemi does to you, and serving as an editor to Bean Soup has fed my delirium.
It should be known that the lens of a Bean Soup editor is entirely skewed, and I am torn as to whether that enhanced or devalued my summers at Pemi. You see, as long as there is no long-term physical or psychological damage, an editor is hoping for fodder. I wouldn’t go so far as to say we were schadenfroh, but we did revel in a Dreaded Heel Catch just as we rejoiced when hearing monosyllabic grunts in a Mess Hall announcement. Frustration and guilt both played into my mind as I left a Campfire that was full of great songs, memorable stories, and a fire that never went out. “Great,” I’d think, “nothing for Monday night with that one.” So much came down to what was worth reporting at the Soup or what could be distorted to the point that it could be reported.
Preparing for the Soup was a lesson in inefficiency, procrastination, unpreparedness, and everything else that I encourage my students to avoid. Without fail, Monday’s dinner was out of the question. We elbowed each other to get access to the lone printer in the Lodge as the seats filled, and we wrote “Things to Look for… “ while in front of the Pemi community. I recall the bellows of “We want the Soup!” emanating from the Lodge, and I frequently wanted to say, “No, you really don’t. This isn’t as funny as you want and deserve. Seriously, it isn’t.” A few Monday nights felt like distance swims against a front blowing in from the west. The crickets cliché does no justice to those evenings, as there was inevitably a courtesy chuckle; and crickets don’t chuckle. Inevitably, a young, unfiltered camper would let us know on Tuesday morning that we had wasted an evening of his life. However, there were other nights when the energy was as high as straight out of Fenway.
While the ladeling provided unforgettable experiences, much of the fun came in the preparation. Bean Soup can’t be one person’s show, for a collective versatility is paramount. I was part of some great teams and one troika was especially memorable:, The Mean Guy whose humor derived from here, The Nice Guy who could seamlessly go here, and Me. Essentially, I was primarily responsible for Lower One to the compassionate adult – life as a moderate was good. Yes, great fun was had considering what couldn’t be read, but putting together a Monday serving was an absolute joy.
As one who is expected to communicate in written form with regularity, it is hard not to revert to my Bean Soup roots, and even more difficult to remind myself that it’s not allowed. And as we venture further into the Digital Age, I implore that we all keep in mind just how special Pemi and all of its traditions have been to us. Sure, you are now free to access digital versions of Soups past, but enjoy sifting through old boxes to get your hands on the real deal. If you can’t, there is a market!
Were you at Pemi during the 1950’s or 1960’s? If you are interested in receiving one issue or more from 1950-1969 (’50, ’54, ’59, ’60 and ’68 unavailable at this time), please let me know. I will be happy to send you any given issue or issues in PDF form. We continue to work on digitizing the remaining issues. You may contact me at alumni. Stay tuned for future releases.
~Nikki Wilkinson Tropeano