Here at Penn, we are all trying to be the best at something. Everyone you meet on Locust has lined up the next crowning achievement he or she’s going to strive for: the top grade in Accounting 101, the chair of a performing arts institution, the captainship of a sports team or an appointment to a prestigious senior society. But with so many strung–out over–achievers vying for a handful of accolades, only a few of the best and the brightest can make it to the top of the crop. Similarly, as far as enthroning the reigning champions of uniquely–Penn institutions goes, there isn’t always a clear winner towering above the rest. However, with the help of you, dear readers, we’ve statistically determined the leaders in the rat race for Best of Penn status.
BEST FREE ACTIVITY TO DO UNDER THE INFLUENCE: Ride the Huntsman Escalators
What’s the best thing to do when you’re high? If you answered “go swimming,” you’re right, as anyone who has ever tried it and not drowned in the process can tell you. In search of the allusive feeling of floating on air and flying, countless freshman have wandered the halls of Huntsman, searching for the mythical swimming pool — that is, until they step on the escalators, and feel their bodies and spirits lifted into the cosmos in a smooth ascent.
Forget flying — you’re rising to Nirvana. Feel the breeze in your hair as you stretch out your arms and close your eyes, letting this marvelous invention of man carry you upwards, toward an orgasmic realization of your true potential in life, and the second floor. You look behind you and see your friends enraptured in a similar feeling, their downy wings flapping as they try to keep up with you, their trail–blazing leader. You think of life and how if you were on the escalator going down, it might seem more like birth, because when babies are born they don’t go up their mothers’ birth canal, but down. So you think of death, and how this is how it must feel after you’ve been attacked by a tiger whose cage you climbed into at the zoo, and after the doctors have spent hours operating, and they sadly deem you a lost cause, and your soul bids farewell to your body and lifts off into the air. You take a deep breath as you see the floor looming toward you, lurching forward to collect you from your ecstatic flight through space. And then you gently land back on earth, breathing a sigh of pleasure. “Let’s do that again!” one of your feathery friends chirps. And you oblige, because the escalators in Huntsman are the greatest drug of all.
BEST SCULPTURE OTHER THAN THE BUTTON TO INTEGRATE INTO YOUR SEX LIFE: The Hands on Charles Addams Hall
Anyone with even a slightest interest in Penn folklore understands the real reason the Button was installed in 1981: freshmen who had fallen victim to the cursed compass and were doomed to fail their midterms needed some way to salvage their academic prospects. The most obvious solution was the “have sex under the Button” antidote. Well that’s all fine and good, but for the more seasoned upperclassmen who have exhausted every vertex, hole and corner on the Button, there is a major void of sculptural aids to help spice up on–campus trysts. Enter the hands on the gate to Charles Addams Hall. The 50 or so hands that adorn the gate are the perfect way to add some adventure to any erotic encounter when you’re feeling, well, handsy. Originally intended to capture the spirit of Addams himself, the hands give you the feeling of an orgy without the mess of so many people. There are literally hands everywhere, and each dismembered hand is doing something artistic. Not only does this give the option of justifying racy pictures as “tasteful,” but it also provides quite a bevy of props. Without delving into too much detail, aside from actually holding the hands themselves, there are paintbrushes, T–squares and power tools, among other things, cast in bronze for your lascivious imagination to explore. So, let this stand as a call to arms for Penn’s salacious trailblazers: Charles Addams and all of his hands are waiting for you.
BEST FRAT STAR APPAREL: High School Lax Pinnies
Nothing says you’re still cool like showing people how cool you were in high school. Donning a lax pinny from glory days past instantly transforms you into the bro–est of bros. Suddenly, every handshake is a fist bump, every adjective “chill” and “ski” is not a sport but a suffix. While amateurs believe the pinny is a sign of spring, true bros know the best time to wear a pinny is all the time. Serve paired with a backwards hat and some ’tude. While it’s best to sport one from a highly–ranked prep school, anything that strikes up a conversation is acceptable; provided, of course, that the conversation is about how girls hook up with you not just because you play lax, but also because you’re very affluent. Not a dude? Throw a pinny on anyways. Either you’re a real athlete (which is awesome) or you clearly hang out with people in fraternities. High school lax pinnies. TFM.
BEST WORK OF FOOD TRUCK ART: Koja
Last winter gave a much–needed spruce–up to a few of our favorite food trucks, but one stands out as the best at Penn. Koja, located on 38th and Walnut (but temporarily relocated beneath the bridge over 38th Street), sells a delicious blend of Korean and Japanese food — a mixture that highlights the identity of its proudly Korean owners. Koja has something besides a convenient location to make it stand out in a sea of Asian–inspired food stops. Thanks to Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, it has a brand–new look that’s turning heads. The truck is wrapped in blue and red waves calling attention to the two Asian identities it aims to represent. Artist Shira Wallinsky hopes that the design highlights the hibiscus, the flower of Korea and the traditional Korean table, two important symbols to Koja’s owner Soo Jung Kim. According to Wallinsky, the new paint job was part of a Mural Arts Program project celebrating small businesses, immigration and food. The result is a win–win situation for all involved. Penn gets a pretty awesome–looking food cart to decorate the otherwise monotonous Walnut Street, and Wallinsky gets free bulgoki anytime she stops by. Can’t say we’re not jealous!
BEST BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF CAMPUS: Rodin Rooftop Lounge
Getting to the Rodin rooftop lounge is a hassle. From consistently broken elevators to princesses who think they deserve a ride up to the second floor, a certain dedication is required. But rest assured, this bird’s eye view of Philadelphian sprawl is breathtaking. Three sides of the large study space boast floor–to–ceiling windows that must be at least 15 feet tall. To the east lies Center City and our dear campus, and a certain pleasure is derived from being on top. From the miniature Tampons to the mushroom treetops to the bare rooftops of Hillel and Commons, this look at campus is arresting. It also makes very clear some aesthetic inconsistencies (yes you, Huntsman!) The view southward centers upon a disconcerting site — Woodlands Cemetary. But a quick glance leftward reveals the hopelessly exposed windows of Harrison. And in case you need further comforting, you can also spot Wawa’s life–saving sign, the light at the end of a tunnel. But the true pleasure comes from glancing westward at the parts of the city most Penn students have little interest in. The expanse is humbling, undermining the notion that Penn is somehow at the center of urban life. So whether you come to do work or watch the gorgeous sunset with your date, enjoy this new perspective. But while the view itself is relaxing, especially at night, I think we can all agree that it’s time for another round of Rodin puppy stress relief.
BEST LECTURE HALL: College Hall 200
Admit it: there’s something about bounding up the steps and flinging open the door to College Hall 200 that feels incredibly collegiate. The polished wood paneling and faux–antique light fixtures mirror the neo–Gothic ornamentation of the building’s exterior. It doesn’t hurt that at 138 years old, the lecture hall is easily Penn’s oldest. While we’re sure Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan didn’t have a projector screen for his professor’s Powerpoint presentation, the room’s high ceiling and tall columns evoke Penn’s grandiose history, lending credence to the idea that some powerful mover and shaker once sat in the exact same seat as you. Beyond that, the building’s central location makes the most mind–numbing economics lecture bearable. A turn of the head is all it takes before you’re people–watching on the Walk. If that’s not subtle enough for you, just imagine Gutmann pacing in her office one floor below as she tries to decide what to eat for lunch (ha, as if!). The result is that it’s all too easy for one’s mind to wander off and contemplate the legacy you’ve inherited by plopping down your $50,000 check.
[Eager listeners can stream the Wawa soundtrack on our playlist here]
Chipotle and Hummus can take their indie pop/rock branding and shove it. Wawa’s collection of classics is far superior to all other eateries’ measly soundtracks. Wawa’s music has two major things going for it. First of all, it doesn’t take any risks. You’re way more likely to hear a tried–and–true cut from Creedence Clearwater Revival than you are to hear some one–and–done current iTunes Top 10 single (we’re looking at you, Taio Cruz). It’s fitting that such a dependable convenience store would rely on music with a certain timelessness. The other strength of Wawa’s soundtrack actually has little to do with the music itself: it gets the drunken handicap boost. Put simply, people are much more likely to enjoy a soundtrack when they’re trashed, and people at Wawa are much more likely to be belligerently drunk than people at, say, Chipotle. In other words, while you’re dazedly staring at the ordering screen, wondering if you should splurge and add the 99–cent macaroni (you really shouldn’t — it comes in a bag), you’re much more likely to appreciate music than when you’re waiting in line at a place like Hummus during daylight hours alongside other sober people. Ultimately though, the real debate boils down to whether students want restaurants to play “hip” and current music, or if they want a more back–to–basics approach. It seems like all those music advisors in charge of branding Chipotle for the college demographic are for naught; Wawa is quite simply where it’s at.
BEST DISPLAY OF DIGITIZED EMBARRASSMENT: Penn’s Stepping Up
It’s hard to pinpoint where “Penn’s Stepping Up” went wrong, exactly. It’s not because it was a good idea that was poorly executed. Rather, it was a poor idea that was horrifically executed. The clip begins with some seriously pitchy vocals that set the appropriate background for the subsequent three minutes of pain. From alums to football fans to lots and lots of cheerleaders, no one escapes the “fun” task of chanting the song’s title, usually less than enthusiastically. It’s difficult to ascertain exactly what kind of image the video is trying to paint of Penn, but it obviously involves people awkwardly standing in front of Penn Transit buses and the LOVE statue and some sort of trapeze artist on College Green. The worst part about the entire thing is that Penn sanctioned and promoted it as a fundraising tool. It’s hard to imagine that Penn alums would be swayed to donate to their alma mater when it’s being portrayed as a fifth–rate version of Glee. The entire video is an ill–conceived attempt at relevance that falls flat on its face. And unlike other Ivy League video ploys (see: Yale admissions), this one hasn’t even become a cringeworthy YouTube sensation. If this is what stepping up entails, we’re probably better staying put.
BEST PLACE TO BE FOURSQUARE MAYOR: Smokey Joe’s
It’s 11:59 on a Saturday night, and Smoke’s isn’t that crowded just yet. But have no fear because you, valued Foursquare user, already checked in. You‘re so tech savvy that you even know the Foursquare loopholes; when 1:30 a.m. rolls around and you’re still posted up playing quarters in a booth, you can check in again and make one night count for two days (Saturday to Sunday, duhhhhh). Oh, you sneaky Foursquare champion! You must be “Sarah,” the longtime Foursquare mayor of Smokey Joe’s. Being the mayor of Smoke’s doesn’t give you free swag (free growlers to the mayor of City Tap House) or discounts (three scoops for $3 to the mayor of Ben & Jerry’s). But for the Foursquare obsessed, the mayorship of Smoke’s comes with pats on the back and shit–eating grins. It shows that you, Sarah, spend (or end) most of your nights at the so–totally–college bar. It even allows your little Foursquare user picture to show up on the TV screens above the booths. And well, that’s pretty cool and all, but it won’t get you a shared mic with Kweder.
BEST LATE LATE NIGHT: Allegro Pizza
Scenier than Smoke’s on a Tuesday night, Allegro (not, as it’s commonly mispronounced, Allegro’s) is where anyone who’s anyone goes for a late night fix. Who needs the Hooters of Pine to keep the party going when you can get everything you need for a late night right here? Pizza, beer, fluorescent lights, a jazzy soundtrack and voila… you’re ready to rage. Okay, so maybe “raging” is pushing it, but for those who just can’t bear to go home before 2 a.m., here’s your last hoorah. Enjoy one more drink, get one more girl’s number and who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to seal the deal over a slice — no promises though. No matter where your alcohol–fueled, sweat–filled night takes you, Allegro always provides a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. Whether seeking a slice of the classic BBQ chicken, a bathroom with toilet paper (if you’re lucky) or just a place to mingle, this Penn staple has you covered. So party on my friends, party on. And don’t worry… we won’t tell Wawa.
BEST A CAPPELLA GROUP THAT REMINDS US OF GLEE: Off the Beat
It’s true. America digs Katy Perry. But, as it turns out, we’re even more obsessed with Katy Perry sung by a racially–diverse batch of 20–somethings who also happen to be best friends. Anyone who was in the sea of fans crammed to full capacity in Harrison Auditorium last weekend knows that Off the Beat can jin–jin–jo–no their hearts out while simultaneously getting passionate, sexy, smoky and a little corny too. Like a true Glee-clubber at William McKinley High School, a member of Penn’s premiere a cappella group even incorporated a fedora into his repertoire — fedorable! Replace the Cheerios with SDT sisters and a wheelchair with some undomesticated dreadlocks and you’ve got near–identical cliques of campus stars. Though sometimes Off the Beat’s unnaturally large smiles, distracting hand movements and jealousy–inducing high notes make us want to slushy them on Locust (because, really, who is that bubbly and rhythmic?), we just can’t. For the same reason, Glee’s predictable love triangles, cliche bonding moments and unrealistic high school stereotypes landed them the tremendously coveted spot after the Superbowl instead of knocking them off the air. We cheer these guys on because they make us happy. And amid the exams at Penn and the heart–wrenching melodramas on cable television, they’re a hint of sweet sound carved into the cacophony of everyday nonsense. As for Sue Sylvester? Amy Gutmann. If you don’t see it, you’re lying to yourself.
BEST PROFESSOR YOU WOULD WANT TO SEE ON A REALITY SHOW: Abraham Wyner
Our curiosity about the lives of professors outside of their hour–long droning three times a week initially led us to pose this question, but it’s perhaps Abraham Wyner’s versatility that has won him the king of the category. Rumor has it that this statistics professor can sing (hello, American Idol!). But if that doesn’t work out, there is no doubt that he can GTL with the best of them, and surely his love of Penn–subsidized lunches would win him a spot on something in the realm of Man vs. Food. Not to mention that with the amount of times he’s brought up his daughters in class, one of those show–mom gems like Toddlers in Tiaras wouldn’t be a stretch. Or maybe it’s True Life that’s his real calling; prom queen geek–to–chic may not be quite age–appropriate, but plus–size model isn’t out of the question; a few tweezes and Abe could make Tyra proud. But what does our choice say about us? Is it that we secretly want to see Professor Wyner up on a bar with Snooki? Or is it that we were simply motivated by a concern for lack of statistical knowledge among today’s reality–show stars? We can’t answer this with any mathematical certainty; all we know is that Wyner has enough personality to host his own show — and then some. Watch out Abdi Farah, there’s a new reality–show star in town.
BEST LISTSERV TO AVOID: College–FYI
Picture Locust Walk on a particularly warm and sunny day, chock–full of people waving fliers in your face and promoting things you don’t care about. Now imagine if that annoyance and discomfort was digitally forwarded to your email every day. Welcome to the College–FYI listserv: every SAS student’s personal hell. No one is really sure why this useless announcement system seemed like a good idea — thanks a lot, UA. As soon as those emails start flowing in, your @sas inbox it seems like a ticket to guaranteed misery. On any given day, the College–FYI listserv sends out a single compendium of countless notifications, informing students of everything from the Penn Bioethics Society’s latest speaker series to the Ultimate Collegiate Cupcake Decorating Competition (wait… actually, that does sound kind of awesome). In a way, College–FYI acts like a Penn student’s Craigslist, serving as a forum for the needs of every single undervalued and overly ambitious campus organization. Yes, we get it: Alternate Spring Breakers still need drivers and Penn Political Review wants you! But enough is enough. If you’re a neat–freak who flips out every time your unread mail count enters the double–digits, there is a way to escape the pandemonium. Repeat after me: just say no. The next time you get an email about the Pre–Law Students Association’s bake sale or Chinese Music Society’s next spring performance, scroll down to the bottom of that bad boy and hit the link to unsubscribe.
BEST PLACE TO PASS OUT DURING FLING: In Bed With a Freshman
When it comes to the very special occasions during which Penn practically endorses alcoholism, NSO is a marathon while Fling is a sprint. During NSO you have a whole week to drink heavily and sleep around, but during Fling you get, at the most, four glorious days — depending on when you start the celebration — and only two of those are the truly satisfying drink–all–day–and–all–night kind. You have very little time to pack in a whole lot of boozing, and chances are you’re going to be exhausted and/or black out by 3 p.m. For those of us who aren’t native Quad–dwellers, this necessitates finding a place to crash that’s comfortable and conveniently nearby so that we don’t have to stumble all the way to our beds. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so it’s time to shack up. Put your beer/jello shot/vodka–lemonade goggles to use and wander off with the hottest piece of 2014 ass you can find. If you’re not drunk enough to hook up with one of the frosh, but you’re drunk enough to do some breaking & entering, pull a Goldilocks and sleep in Baby Bear beds without their knowledge. You’ll be glad you did when all of your friends are too tired to transition from day–drinking to night–drinking and you’re refreshed and ready for part two.
BEST FREE DEAL ON CAMPUS YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED: Auntie Anne’s Pretzels
Walking up Walnut with full sinuses, your day is dreary. The world is scent–less and gray. Then you pass Auntie Anne’s Pretzels, and the smell hits you like a wall. Through that open door is a sauna of atomized sugar. You wonder if maybe they sell a perfume. You are hungry. The signs are sassy and seem to be addressing specifically you. “DON’T BE SHY” your dear aunt says, with a matronly come–hither wink. She wants you to take from her bounty, to snatch a sample that will alleviate mid–day ennui and leave your fingers oily. But this isn’t my actual aunt, you may be thinking. My aunt drinks before noon and puts out a bag of brittle pretzel sticks, the ones you puff like a cigarette, trying to look like her, before you snap them in half. Those pretzels make your mouth dry. This aunt is better. Auntie Anne provides food lousy with sugar and laden with love. Corporate kinship is unconditional, especially during business hours. You would be an Auntie Anne’s regular if you weren’t afraid of looking like an eager fatass, waddling in for your junk food fix, free of charge. But all you want is that lady in her Auntie Anne’s uniform to smile at you as she hands you your samples, smiling like you’re doing her a favor by consuming her sugary niblets. Besides, every other free thing at Penn is either less great or comes with a catch, like a speech by someone too closely affiliated with a college house. Auntie, you’re so above that.