FeatureApril 2, 2009 at 1:34 am

The Best of Penn 2009

Street knows what’s up. You know what’s up. And over 1,000 of you told us what’s up when you voted for Best of Penn 2009. Are the results scientific? We don’t know. We didn’t take STAT111. What we do know is that you have some strong opinions on the arbitrary categories we presented you with. Best drug front? Done. Best place for post-coital grubbin’? You got it. The results are in, so here we go.

Place to Feel Inadequate:
With Other Penn Students
Let’s face it: we were all overachievers once. In high school we were at the top of our classes, dubbed “most likely to succeed” in our yearbooks and, in a turn of events that was not at all surprising at the time, admitted to an Ivy League school. We were, in essence, the shit. But once we got to Penn, a school full of nauseatingly ambitious students, our delusions were violently shattered. Turns out, we’re a lot less awesome than we thought we were. While our classmates are getting fellowships and awards, we’re bragging about our record score in beer pong. They’ve published papers; the most prestigious thing to happen to us is the letter we got printed in People last year. That annoying kid who sat behind us in Chem I got into Harvard Med, but we still have no idea what we want to do with our lives. The upside? We’re a lot more fun to be around than those kids. So suck it.

Dorm for Hermits and Shut-ins:
Sansom Place West
Scratched into a bulletin board of a Sansom Place West elevator are the words “WHY GOD?” This is what happens to the sane people who live there. They share bathrooms with strangers. They deal with almost weekly fire alarms. They get fed up. However, for those among us who avoid human interaction at all costs — those who have grown tired of the sounds, the smells, the company of other people — Sansom Place West is a wonderful dorm. Most importantly, there’s an abundance of cramped single rooms ideal for decorating with unicorn posters and trapping in all your favorite odors, like Easy Mac and musk. And the location is prime — right next to the bookstore and a Wawa and far away from everything else. On a campus bubbling with activities and countless social opportunities, Sansom Place West stands alone as a perfect little misanthropic island of alienation and depression.

Form of Instant Communication:
Short conversations over coffee, long conversations over dinner, incoherent conversations over beer: this is the stuff college is made of. With the advent of texting, BBMing, IMing, Gchatting, blogging, Twittering and mind-reading (just kidding, but are we really that far off?) a lot of us seem to have forgotten the value of capital “T” Talking. Not that we don’t love some virtual communication every now and again, but we don’t want to be broken up with via text or reamed out via Gchat. Talking gets rid of all that awkward, “now what kind of intonation was he using in that e-mail?” nonsense and gets right down to business. Facial expression, inflection — these things are important, people! The difference between virtual conversation and the real deal is like having a blow-up doll instead of an actual girlfriend. It’s hugely unsatisfying, a tiny bit creepy and more than a little anti-social. So indulge yourself in some face-to-face verbalization: there’s no better way to get laid.

Off-Campus Residential Block:
Beige Block
Fair weather Beige Block-ers were quick to eulogize Beige back when the Radian was naught more than a gaping hole on Walnut Street and a dream. Two years and 14 stories of “upscale” concrete later, we’re pleased to report that when it comes to off-campus housing, Lady Beige continues to reign supreme. One of the best perks of being an upperclassman is the ability to share a row house with seven to 10 of your nearest and dearest. There are countless addresses that can get you there, but you’d be kidding yourself if your first choice was anything other than the 200 block of 41st Street. The only block cool enough to score a nickname, Her Beige-esty boasts a location central to all the amenities a Penn student needs to survive — Wine & Spirits on Market, Greek Lady on 40th, a massive and well-stocked CVS on 43nd and Locust — all the while remaining close enough to campus that you can sneak into the high rises and do your laundry for free. A prime spot to party and a choice setting for glimpsing walks of shame, Beige is, quite simply, where it’s at.

Drug Cartel Masquerading as a Legitimate Organization:
Last Word Bookshop
If you’ve ever sauntered home from Smoke’s on a Thursday night, you’ve noticed how sleepy 40th Street between Locust and Walnut becomes. While gaggles of drunken co-eds punctuate the pavement, all of the stores that line the block are dark and deserted. All of the stores, that is, but one notable exception: the Last Word Bookshop. If you’re like us, you have, on more than one occasion, glanced through its window in the wee hours of the morning to see the owner seated at the desk, typing on his computer as though it were mid-afternoon. Sources inform us of failed attempts to enter the bookstore past midnight — the owner replies to hopeful knocks with a quick, shoo-ing wave of his hand. This could leave only one viable explanation: it’s a drug front, of course. Behind the walls of wooden bookshelves lies the deep, dark, not-so-secret stash of narcotics, we speculate. Though there’s no proof, we’ve got our eye on you, Last Word. After all, who’s looking to buy a used copy of Mahatma Gandhi’s biography at 3 a.m.? Drug users. That’s who.

Place to Brown Bag It:
College Green
It’s too late for St. Patrick’s Day, too early to Fling and La Fontana won’t seat your party at noon. But when it’s finally sunny in Philadelphia, sobriety feels absolutely wasteful! Grab a forty from Allegro, brown bag it like a PB&J sandwich from Mom and let your Van Pelt-programmed feet take you straight to the best (non-Beijing) BYO on campus: College Green.

Despite the prevalence of Seussical up-dos and outfits matching the locale’s name, the dress code here is relaxed. Also relaxed are the passing Allied security guards, whose total disregard for suspicious activity is comforting and disconcerting at the very same time! There are limitless people-watching possibilities afforded by College Green’s central location and vicinity to the Button (or at least its underside). Local spectacles — DIY tight-rope walkers, our very own Best of Penn Campus Crazy and kite-flying pledges — increase in hilarity with BAC. Pitch your own tent next to the Jesus one, bum a cigarette off of a Rosengarten refugee and find out if you’re going to Heaven, all for free!

Self-Obsessed Student Group:
Mask and Wig
The boys of the Mask and Wig Club won’t ever let you forget that “there’s only room for one,” which makes sense considering how awkward it would be if another all-male musical sketch comedy troupe took to the stage in full cross-dressing glory. So in lieu of that, we bestow this award on them, with the hopes that one day we too might look as titillating in crushed velvet dresses and pantyhose. We also wish we had our own clubhouse and hall in the Quad. (We have our own windowless office with inadequate heating and cooling… does that count?) Perhaps this award, coupled with the attention they receive from their Wigwags (or lady friends, to the M&W novice), will remind them that we love them… almost as much they love themselves. Hey, it gets lonely at the top when there’s only room for one.

Campus Crazy:
Guy Who Paints the Picture on College Green
There are some things that just don’t mix well: oil and water, for example, or maybe thumbtacks and balloons, or — for a change of pace — evangelical proselytizing and painting at a second-grade level. While we get used to the first two after some failed experimentation as kids, the third one can still come as shock when walking across the Green on the right day. It’s not that the paintings don’t serve their purpose — they’re a poor-man’s Powerpoint for the most entertaining of the slightly off-kilter missionaries at Penn. The man’s color-by-number sermons merit the most double takes from students shuffling along Locust. But nobody really sees the man or hears much of his hoarsely yelled exhortations; most just linger on his garishly bright pictures for a few seconds. Still, that’s perhaps a few seconds more than he might get without the Lord’s canvas looming behind him. Hallelujah.

Place to Dance Your Ass Off:
You’ve braved the lines before. You know it’s worth it. Transit is, without a doubt, Penn students’ favorite spot for wild, crazy, sweaty dance parties. We love the huge, warehouse-like space and expansive dance floor ­— it’s reminiscent of the ‘90s raves we were too young to attend. Also, notably absent are the tables and bottle service of some of our other Thursday night haunts, making the Transit experience totally devoid of pretension. If you’re looking to show off and guzzle Grey Goose, stick to Zee Bar or Denim; Transit-goers just want to dance. And dance they do. Some of our fondest Penn memories are from nights spent getting down at this Spring Garden gem — we loved the Devil’s appearance last year, along with all of Theos’ other blowouts. With the Milkman set to rock out at Transit on the Thursday before Fling this year, we have a feeling that there are many more memories — or maybe lack thereof — to come.

Way to Look More Alternative Than You Are:
Never Take Your Scarf Off
We know you put a lot of thought into what you wear. In fact, we know that when you say you’re just wearing a Hanes v-neck and “some old jeans and sneakers,” you’re actually proudly rocking skinnier-than-skin-tight denim and psuedo-ironic, ‘80s-inspired Converses. The problem is that the rest of campus has caught on to your remarkably individual yet unofficial uniform. How can you silently transmit to the world that you’re edgy and different when everyone else is shopping at the exact same edgy, different stores? The answer is surprisingly simple: never take your scarf off. You might think that a plaid, lumberjack-style jacket will signal your uniqueness to others, or that if your headphones are bigger than baseballs everyone will just assume you’re listening to the latest Fleet Foxes album. You would be incorrect. Even if you tell your friends you’re studying abroad in a developing nation, your score on the alternative charts will simply skyrocket if you say the same thing with a scarf around your neck. Nothing says “I’m casually, constantly cool” like looking perpetually chilly.

Nightlife West of 40th:
Millcreek Tavern
There are two types of (cool) people at Penn. There are those who go to Millcreek Mondays for the all-you-can-eat wings and all-you-can-drink brewskies, and then, of course, there are those who see past the Tavern’s red plastic beer cups and piping hot wing baskets and are just thankful for the chance to suck on their Camel Lights indoors, any night of the week, in peace.

Located at 4200 Chester St., Millcreek is best described as a regular, run-of-the-mill, ask-me-no-questions kind of bar. The floors get sticky, the tables get greasy and the TV’s always tuned to the latest spectacle of interest. And then there’s the extra perk of its relatively obscure setting, located conveniently off the radar of the Greek-heavy Smoke’s-and-Blarney crowd. The patrons are local, with Penn students showing up almost exclusively for the famous $12 Monday special, making it the perfect spot for those who’d rather avoid the tangled masses of Penn bodies and actually enjoy being at the bar. Just try not to get lost on your way home.

Way to Sneak Alcohol into the Quad During Fling:
In a Package Shipped to Yourself
There’s nothing that brings out desperation quite like that all-too-familiar ritual of sneaking alcohol into the Quad during the lead-up to Fling. Helpful reminders are posted well in advance to remind the Quad-dwellers that bag inspection time is imminent, yet it seems inevitable that most forget until the very last minute. Which is when the thinking caps come on, and people get creative. Or at least try to.

We’ve all been there: stuffing a bottle of Bankers at the bottom of a laundry bag, shoving a bag of Franzia up your top feigning pregnancy or just hiding a bottle of something somewhere. But these methods all seem to end in tears as the sneaky security guards call you out and give you a slap on the wrist. In Street’s vast esteem, there is really only one method to ensure the safe arrival of your alcoholic beverages into the Quadrangular fortress: send a package to yourself containing your alkypops, signed Mother and Father. But make sure you pad the bottles well so that the package doesn’t sound too liquidy when shaken… wouldn’t want your present to be thrown out, would you?

Place to Smell Like Your Food:
New Delhi
Penn’s campus boasts its fair share of Indian restaurants, but New Delhi — located at the corner of 40th and Chestnut — outshines them all when it comes to one rating criterion: olfactory potency. Yes, New Delhi is the best place to dine on campus when you want your friends to know exactly what you ate for dinner. Pod may be a close runner up, but the fragrant steam emanating from New Delhi’s lunch buffet is enough to declare this restaurant victorious. For only $8.95 plus tax you can sample a variety of Indian delicacies and come out smelling like them too!

Next time you’re craving that straight-from-the-tandoor scent, order the special mix grill, a combination of chicken tandoori, lamb seekh kebab and the Americanized favorite, chicken tikka masala. Feelin’ lethargic? Have it delivered. As soon as you burst open that brown paper bag, the wafting scent of biryanis, paneers and vindaloos will transport your West Philly home to the streets of New Delhi.

Place to Feel Ivy-League:
Fisher Fine Arts
The next time a relative, family friend or Amtrak seatmate mistakes you for a Nittany Lions-supporting State College resident, grab your Nietzsche and Derrida readings and head to the Fisher Fine Arts Library for an instant self-esteem boost. Surrounded by bearded graduate students, reclining in a luxurious Victorian-style armchair, only feet away from a gallery exhibit as esoteric as “Kings, Chiefs and Women of Power: Images from Nigeria,” you’ll feel your future is no less secure than that of your high school valedictorian who ended up at Harvard. Opened in 1891, this red-brick ivory tower is on the National Register of Historic Places, further proof that as far as elite academic institutions are concerned, older means better — or at least more pretentious.

Professorial Eye Candy:
Keith Niedermeier
Huntsman Hall is a scary, scary place. Just one look at the overstressed Whartonites is enough to make us want to crawl back to Annenberg and bask in the company of the far less intense. It’s rare to come across a Huntsman inhabitant who can provide a friendly, attractive smile in that sea of anxiety. That is, until the Wharton gods smiled down on us and gave us a reason to take interest in business. That reason? One man, five syllables: Keith Niedermeier.

Niedermeier’s eye-catching good looks and undeniable charm (likened to that of the adorable Michael J. Fox) landed him an overwhelming victory. Year after year, the Marketing 101 professor is able to command the attention of a lecture hall full of jaded i-banking wannabes, keeping even the consumer psych minors in regular attendance. You can bet that in this class, it’s not hard to keep your eyes open. So Niedermeier, if you’re reading this, the Street offices are located at 40th and Walnut. Come stop by anytime.

Place to Study That Only You Know About:
Biddle Law Library
Our love for Penn’s typical undergraduate libraries is conditional. We love you, VP, but your acceptance of non-PennCard holders makes us uncomfortable. We also love you, FFA, but your mouse problems keep us a little on edge. Sometimes we prefer to take the road less traveled. While the Biddle Law Library (on 34th and Sansom) might make the average undergrad feel a little out of place (apparently all law students wear matching Penn Law track jackets…), it’s the hidden gem of Penn libraries. A stone’s-throw from Van Pelt, the Law Library is replete with open study spaces and comfy chairs, perfect for lounging and reading. With ample natural light and high ceilings, even the most pessimistic studier can find some solace at Biddle. Offering a mix of individual study carrels and larger tables, the library meets the needs of just about any “study-type.” But be forewarned: leave your small-talk at Rosengarten as the Law Library is hear-your-phone-vibrate quiet.

Place to Bum a Cigarette:
In Front of Van Pelt
After sacrificing another Saturday afternoon to the stuffy stacks of Van Pelt, you can’t wait to exchange the recycled library air for some well-deserved fresh oxygen. As you exit triumphantly, you take a deep breath of the great Philadelphia outdoors. While cheerily skipping down the steps your hand glides into your back pocket — only to find a Mark’s Café receipt. You’re thoroughly disappointed: “Shit, I forgot my cigs.” Never fear! Just follow the trail of smoke to the ever-friendly, ever-present smokers’ circle located directly outside of Van Pelt 24/7. Any long day cooped up in the library deserves its cigarette break. So don’t let a little forgetfulness keep you from your sweet reward. Join the circle, make some new friends and bum a well-earned cancer stick.

Casualty of 2008:
Juicy Campus
If there’s one thing we can thank the recession for, it’s the financial downturn and eventual shutdown of JuicyCampus.com. Though we’ll be forever pining to figure out what in fact “the best frat on campus” is, or who is really “the hottest junior girl,” we’ll have to decide without the aid of ol’ JC. Today the now-defunct URL redirects to collegeacb.com, the weak younger sibling of Juicy Campus run by some undergrad at Wesleyan. In addition, you need a .edu e-mail address to log in to this new site, which totally negates the whole point of being anonymous. Our advice: if you’re going to do something scandalous, do it now… before some new gossip outlet takes over.

Post-Coital Grub:
Those wandering around campus late at night need no introduction. After a night of heavy drinking, an awkward hook-up or failed sex messaging, Allegro will be there in your time of need. And don’t worry — Allegro has no shame. Nor will Allegro kiss and tell. Boasting one of the best tomato pie slices in the area, a vast (if pricey) drink selection and mind-numbingly loud Eurotrash techno that does more to induce blackouts than sooth an oncoming one, Allegro gives a new meaning to comfort food. And we all need comfort food, especially after a sweaty, sloppy encounter in a miscellaneous room in a miscellaneous frat house with a miscellaneous individual who, let’s face it, looked a lot better on the dance floor. Just hope your late night lover hasn’t discovered your post-coital destination. It’s a tiny restaurant. Shit gets awkward.

Most Overrated Class:
Microeconomics with Rebecca Stein
We were excited to take this class and finally understand why textbooks cost so much (something to do with supply and demand). Unfortunately, as Rebecca Stein quickly made clear, ECON001 is not meant for the average student trying to get an overview of how the world works. Instead, it’s meant to weed out those who don’t want to be Econ majors and give a boost to those who do. If, like us, you’re looking to understand why companies act the way they do in real life, you’re out of luck. Stubbornly clinging to a theoretical approach, ECON001 TA’s have no time to explain the complexities of what actually happens in real life. Microeconomics might be a go-to for freshmen unsure of what they want to study, but take our advice and lie tangent to someone else’s curves ­­— this class will only diminish your returns.

2 People have left comments on this post

By slacker on April 2, 2009 at 1:34 am

Awesome post , I am going to spend more time researching this topic

By blah on April 2, 2009 at 1:34 am

Stein is a horrible professor. ugh.

Post a Comment