Every spring, we ask you, the students of Penn, to take place in the illustrious and democratic Street tradition known as “Best of Penn.” Each week, you hear what we have to say about everything from food to film to everyday happenings on campus. But this week, we asked you to flex your democratic muscles and voice your own opinions. It is in keeping with this tradition each year that you get to tell us what you think is the absolute best (and worst) that Penn has to offer. In the past, this has allowed us to figure out where to excrete while being discreet (it was Van Pelt) or where to shop if you’re ok with potentially getting caught in a DEA drug bust (Last Word Bookshop). This year is no exception. Without further ado, here are this year’s campus superlatives, from the absolute worst course requirement (we’ll give you three guesses who won that category) to the most depressing place on campus (this one is harder to guess). Thank you all for your votes and we hope you make the best of your summer!
It’s 5 o’clock. Felipe Calderon called — he wants to know why you’re not at Copa, and so do we. Don’t go to Tap House. The food sucks and no one will see you when you’re stuck up on a roof. 40th and Spruce is like Penn’s Times Square and late afternoon is rush hour. Get there early and get an outdoor table, even if you have to fight off someone way frattier than you are. Drink specials run from 5–7 Monday–Thursday and 4–7 on Friday. Cocktails are $3, domestic pints are $2.50 and $2 for Yeungling Lite and Tecate. But Happy Hour’s not only about deals, it’s about getting silly while the sun’s still shining. To do it right, go for a marg, and it better be Classic. Spring for a double and you’ll be back in PV.
Professor Most Deserving of @shitmyprofessorsays twitter account: Fevzi Daldal
We all have them; those required classes that make you wish, just once, that all of college has been a dream and you’re actually still in kindergarten, learning colors and shapes. But every so often, like finding that extra French fry at the bottom of a McDonald’s bag, there’s something that makes those classes just a little bit better. A funny professor can make a class go from boring to bitchin’ in no time. Enter Fevzi Daldal, Biology 101 professor. Mustachioed and endearing, Daldal quickly wins over the hearts of his students with his quick wit and “size matters” jokes (which are never–ending). Twitter would make the perfect medium for his random, unrelated comments that pop up about once every 10 minutes. “How many of you are applying to med school? Only half of half of half of you will actually go.” His heavily accented snippets about campus life make even the parts of the cell interesting: “The smooth ER is involved in the degradation of alcohol. I’m sure you were all working your smooth ERs very hard this weekend.” And his insights into the animal kingdom are fascinating: “Monkeys. I do not like monkeys. Or giraffes.” Oh, Fevzi, we wish we knew how to quit you. Keep the pearls of wisdom coming, in 140 characters or less.
Penn squirrels have got it pretty good any way you slice it. Lots of abandoned food, trees to climb and plenty of fellow squirrels to chase — plus there’s that guy on College Green who gets them to jump off his leg in exchange for breadcrumbs. Still, in the hierarchy of squirreldom, the Quad squirrels are on a whole ’nother level. They’re brave, they’re rotund and they make scarily good eye–contact. Whether they’re lying in wait in trash cans, making off with McClelland leftovers, staring you down showdown–style across the baby quad or taking advantage of windows conveniently left open over Fall Break, Quad squirrels clearly know how to live it up. Whereas your average garbage–munching squirrel may be easily deterred by a window screen, the Quad squirrels’ boldness knows no bounds. A window screen is no match for a hungry squirrel once he catches a whiff of your stash of Froot Loops — just ask any Quad resident fortunate enough to have had their room ransacked by a pack of squirrels. And once they develop a taste for freshman cuisine, expect regular visits from your favorite furry floormates.
Best Use of a 30-Minute Break Between Classes: Complaining About Your 30-Minute Break
It happens every semester: you finalize your dream schedule and take it to Campus Copy for lamination, only to realize that awkward half–hour gap in the middle of your two afternoon classes. “It’s okay,” you tell yourself, “I’ll get lunch or do something productive.” This is a lie.
Every week (or twice a week, if you’re really bad at registration), your 30–minute break will roll around and without fail, you will be overcome with a feeling of complete uselessness. It’s 4:00, so no, you don’t want to eat lunch. And let’s be real, you can’t get anything done in half an hour. So, what do you do? You take out your phone, and right as you hit send on that “ugh what do I do with this half hour? So annoying…” text to your roommate, one of your besties walks up. Before she can even finish asking you what you’re up to, you’re already whining about how hard it is to kill half an hour. After she rolls her eyes and ditches you for her well–timed class, you decide to call a truce and ask your mom what to do with this torturous time block. She asks why you don’t just go to the library, which is clearly unacceptable. Just as you hang up with your second cousin, after insisting that this awkward break is so much worse than her flu, you look at the time and realize it’s finally time for class. Also, you’ve spent the past 30 minutes complaining to literally everyone you know. Great job, now everyone thinks you’re annoying. Same time next week?
Ah, Sunday morning. You wake up at 11, hungover, slip into sweatpants and slouch over to the truck on 38th and Spruce. You see that smiling, familiar face — Mr. Bui — and manage to stammer out, “Hangover Special, please.” You chug your blue Gatorade like it’s ambrosia infused with Advil. Mr. Bui doesn’t judge. You grab your sandwich, bring it back to your lair and relish that first bite, the glorious mix of fried egg, bacon, sausage, cheese and sauce. Oh, the sauce. No one knows exactly what’s in it. Sure, we have an idea: its pinkish hue, richness and spiciness suggest some mix of Sriracha sauce and mayonnaise. But there’s something else there. Some say vinegar, some say ketchup, some say something else — a secret ingredient, perhaps. We’ll never quite know for sure. What we do know, though, is that this sublime sauce is far and away tops on campus. Of course, Hemo’s has Hemo sauce and, make no mistake — it’s good. But it doesn’t have the sheer power of Bui’s humble creation, which raises a regular food truck breakfast sandwich from pedestrian to awe–inspiring. So this Sunday morning, give Mr. Bui a big smile back, and ask for an extra cup of sauce on the side for a quarter more. You didn’t hear it from us.
Ask any professional people–watcher and they will tell you that there are three key things to the art of observation: location, location and gelato. Capogiro, it just so happens, offers all these benefits. Nestled in the 39th block of Walnut, the store is beside Jimmy John’s, the Radian, CVS, and below Tap House — think about how many people visit any or all of those places in one day. At least, like, 10 or something. And you can watch them all, through the floor–to–ceiling windows that span the length of the gelateria. Just pop a squat at any of Capo’s tables and revel in the panoramic view. It’s like the Grand Canyon, but slightly creepier. But don’t worry — the great thing about Capo is that no one will ever suspect that you’re ogling every passerby. You’re just a Penn student looking for a place to study. You got tests! You got books to read! Even when you’re not studying, put some gelato or coffee in front of you and no one will know. Whether you want to watch sandwich runs, preemptive walks of shame or just general commuting, Capo is the place for you (you creepy creepster creep, you).
Worst Course Requirement: Writing Seminar
Oh, writing seminar: the crowning jewel of the Penn curriculum. When we arrived at Penn we were given conflicting advice, from “take the writing seminar immediately” to “put it off until senior year,” and “All writing seminars are the same” to “take ‘The Burbs’ or you’re fucked.” Regardless of what route you took, within the first second of the first class one thing was abundantly clear: WRITING SEMINAR FUCKING SUCKS. Your professor just spelled “necessary” wrong and types up all his notes in the textbox of a blank PowerPoint. Everyone in your class is a pre–med Physics major getting their MBA in financial computer science. When you say you’re an English major, you will be greeted by 15 confused stares. You can protest all you want: doesn’t matter if you were editor of your school newspaper, doesn’t matter if you are a published author. If F. Scott Fitzgerald were a Penn student, he would have to take a writing seminar, and you know what? He would almost definitely get a B. Why? Oh, because writing is not about creativity, flowery language or innovation. Successful writing is about a preset number of sentences, each no longer than one line, in a very specific structure that you will never use in another context for the rest of your life. The content of your essays are irrelevant. In conclusion, writing seminar literally blows monkey chunks. How’s that for the Practice of Writing, Valerie Ross?
What is it about bathrooms that make everyone at this school think that they are invisible to the human eye and ear? In Van Pelt, the unpleasant sounds of bodily functions reverberate under the doors and echo in the reading rooms. In the Quad, sororstitutes coordinate their shower times so that they might “catch up,” which is girl for “let’s try to one–up each other’s drunken idiocy and then gossip.” But by far the greatest offenders in this category are the Huntsman bathrooms. Maybe it’s that the atmosphere in Huntsman is so high–stakes and stressful, but for some reason, every Tom, Dick and Harry up in this bitch is always having a crisis. First things first: bathroom stalls are not soundproof. We all hear everything you’re saying, and frankly, it’s positively riveting. Second of all, WHY would you want to have this conversation in public? I personally would not want everyone within earshot to know that the condom broke, or that, no, that funny smell hasn’t gone away, or that she vomited all over you and you had sex with her anyway because you were that desperate. It’s like every time you walk into one of these bathrooms, someone is having a phone interview for the Maury Show. Didn’t your parents teach you that there are some things that should remain behind closed, private doors? Seriously, go home before you call your therapist to analyze your dream from last night, or at least book yourself a GSR.
Let’s face it; nobody is good at winter. It seems like every day from December through February you leave the house only to realize you forgot your gloves and your jacket’s zipper broke and your sweater is too thin and, oh yeah, it’s sleeting. It should be no secret to anyone at this point that Philly winter is beyond miserable. It’s frigid and windy and you feel like you would almost sleep with the guy driving your cab from 41st to DRL just to feel a warm body next to you. So what’s the next best thing? That mysterious smoking vent under the 38th street bridge, OF COURSE. Hear us out. We know that it may seem sort of gross to walk through that mysterious cloud of unidentified vapor. But honestly, when that warm steam envelops you and restores the feeling in your fingertips, do you really care? Sure, when you’re walking with your friends, you avoid the vent just like everyone else for fear that they might judge you. But, in the loneliness and solitude of a solo winter commute, there is no shame in rerouting your walk just to linger for an extra second on that warm, inviting vent. But seriously, what the fuck is coming out of that vent?
Picture this: it’s the fall semester of your freshman year, the day that you received the first A– of your life. As you clench your Econ midterm in your fist, you quietly rue the day that you accidentally walked over the Compass. Is an A– failing? Your eyes dart across the lecture hall, looking for the nearest exit. You bolt, feeling wounded and tearful. Where do you go? Huntsman? Too depressing. Van Pelt? Too crowded. Insomnia? PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER, MAN. There is only one place. You head to the Button. Beneath the shelter of this giant metal thing, you can wail and go largely undetected by your peers. Seriously, does anyone ever look down there? No. The only way anyone would see you is if they were sitting on the benches directly across from the Button. This may seem like a glaring flaw in the Button’s grand design, but think about it: those people will feel SO violated and uncomfortable by your crying that they will have no choice but to leave. So go ahead, curl up under the Button and bawl your eyes out. You’ll be so busy sobbing that you won’t even notice the smell of urine and ejaculate.
It may mean little when A–Gutt refers to it as “Penn’s urban oasis,” but Penn Park may really be a diamond in the rough. When the University underwent a multi–million dollar renovation, we knew the finished product would revolutionize our campus. Right? Or would it be a haven for athletes and a one–time hangout spot for freshmen wanting giveaways on Opening Day? Sounds a bit truer. Either way, there’s no denying that Penn Park has brought a lot more green to Penn as it ranges from Franklin Field to the Schuylkill River. So if you’re stuck here solo during Fall Break, Thanksgiving or (gasp!) Spring Break, explore the little–known acres on campus’s eastern side. Tan like you’re on as glamorous a trip as your friends, who darted off to Cancun, or maybe even dabble in athletics. Same goes for those who stay in Philly over the summer. Have a picnic that is not just a theoretical idea inspired by a romantic comedy! When Penn is quieter than usual, chilling in your normal spots can be anything from eerie to depressing. Choose Penn Park instead, because there’s got to be a reason Amy G. name–drops it as her pride and joy in every speech.
Most Underrated Late-Night Snack: Wawa Mashed Potatoes
There’s no denying that Penn has gottahava Wawa. While non–Pennsylvanians can’t quite grasp why we frequent such a seemingly classless establishment, students — overwhelmingly Quad–dwellers — swear by its food. (Its upbeat soundtrack, which employees and customers often jam along too, won a “Best of Penn” last year.) Waiting in a long line with large numbers of peers gives way to a drunken love affair with your hoagie, which eventually translates into sober journeys late on weekday nights. It’s a widespread phenomenon. It makes sense — Wawa often receives such glowing reviews as “it’s fine and it’s open.” Students all have their preferences, from quesadillas to milkshakes, but did you know the jolly servers with hairnets on their beards can serve you mashed potatoes that rival grandma’s? That’s right: forget Thanksgiving or even Boston Market. Wawa’s underappreciated delicacy satisfies indulgent students in a way that only comfort food can. The potatoes can even come in fun, KFC–esque bowls with corn and chicken fingers! Wawa’s mashed potatoes may not be the most popular choice as of now, but their starchy deliciousness is sure to satisfy the mouths of the stressed and the munchied alike. So next time you’re tapping those tacky–but–useful touch–screens, regardless of your B.A.C., skip the hoagie and go mashed.
In the realm of urban getaways, Philadelphia can leave something to be desired. While New Yorkers have 800–odd acres of pristine green parkland at their fingertips, Philadelphians in the mood for a romantic stroll have to get a little more creative. Fortunately, we took care of the creative thinking for you. Two words: Schuylkill Trail. Sure, it may not have the cachet of a Golden Gate Park or a Boston Common, but it does have some grass. And some water. And some highly questionable aromas, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. Plus those interesting odors emanating from river dearest could provide a great conversation starter next time you suggest a romantic amble to your gentleman or lady–friend of choice. Sights along the way include the Philadelphia Art Museum, Boathouse Row and the healthy population of pigeons that dwells along the shores of the mighty Schuylk. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can pack a picnic and eat it in front of all the people exercising. Perhaps the greatest perk of the Schuylkill Trail is the prime people–watching opportunities. No activity brings people together more than making fun of roller bladers. Trust us.
On the bottom floor of Penn Tower, that mysterious building next to the Penn Museum, sits an underappreciated purveyor of toasted sandwich bliss, Potbelly. If you’ve never been before (and judging by the crowd of lab coat–clad doctors and middle–aged folk, that would be most of you), then here’s some advice: be alert. You’ll probably have to wait about five minutes in line, during which time you can consider the (in)significance of the assorted knickknacks on the walls and decide whether or not you really want potato salad. When you get to the front of the line, though, you better have your game face on. The sandwich maker will look at you silently and expectantly, at which point you better have your order ready. “Italian or wheat?” “Cheese?” “Regular or Big?” Once you’ve tackled these questions, you have a minute to recover as your meat and cheese toast, but the real challenge, the topping selection, lies ahead. Word to the wise: never skip the hot peppers. Other than that, your choice. Seconds after you say “mayo,” your sandwich will be wrapped and in hand, and after paying (typically less than $5), all you have left to do is devour your creation. Oh wait, did we mention the extensive dessert and milkshake menu? This is what you’re missing out on, and consider this your final tip.
Picture it: you’ve been in Van Pelt for three days straight. You’re starving, but you don’t have the time to invest in walking, and inevitably socializing, to anywhere outside of a one–block radius. Plus, the odor your sweatpants are emitting has sort of destroyed your faith in humanity. As you emerge into the fresh air, you wander confusedly in the twilight towards Walnut. You black out for a second and next thing you know, you’re sitting at a table alone with a tray of food. There’s a Quizno’s sub, three Taco Bell tacos, an A&W root beer and a froyo from Mediterranean Cafe. It takes you about a minute to run through all five stages of grief, finally arriving at acceptance as you dig in. As you somberly look around the room, it becomes abundantly clear that everyone else is also at a table for one, sampling similar fare. The overweight man at the next table to you is crying quietly into his slice of pizza. The vaguely familiar goth chick across the room is staring at her cell phone, waiting for a call that will never come. All of a sudden, you realize something startling: this is where happiness goes to die. Literally, what the fuck are you doing with your life?