High Street: Random People on Your Porch
Suppose you take the high road, and I take the low -- if we're in Grinnell, you'll know the high road better as "High Street." If you have the pleasure of walking down High Street, you'll find students, long-time town residents, and the occasional completely random act.
Renowned for the annual end-of-year "Block Party," the block just south of campus offers much more than a party destination. This pseudo-extension of campus plays multiple roles in students' lives.
Perhaps the most fundamental of these roles is to shift residents toward a life beyond Grinnell, when Facilities Management doesn't clean up after you and Grinnell Dining can no longer be counted upon for a quick meal. For some, this independence is an enlightening experience. "We grill a lot," explains Matt Hochstein '09, describing his house's strategy for eating on reduced dining plans. Others describe the responsibilities of purchasing toilet paper, paying bills, or taking out the trash.
Some express excitement about the challenge. "We see it as a transition to real life," says Paige Greenley '09, who is excited to get familiar with her new kitchen at 1026, a house she shares with three close friends. Caroline Bowker '09 and Rebecca Johnston '09 are sharing the downstairs apartment on the southwest corner of Fifth and High; they're happy they can finally decorate freely. They point to the large ceramic cat near the Chinese water lizard's terrarium in the living room.
The community Grinnell students are famous for fostering on campus doesn't end as you cross Sixth Avenue. Elena Bernal '94, special assistant to the president, lived at 821 High as a senior. Bernal says, "You form a bond when you live on High." She reminisces about residents' open-door policy for passersby, a practice shared by residents today. Greenley's housemate Alex Conlon '09 agrees. "Lots of random people end up on your front porch, and it's great!"
Kate Randall '08 and Winnie Marcel '08 live together again this year after graduating in May. They're excited about the prospect of forming new relationships. "I still plan on going to Harris every once in a while," Randall says, reinforcing the connectedness between High Street and campus.
Students also face questions of College-town identity. Bowker lived in Grinnell over the summer and says she feels much closer to the town while living on High. Her roommate, Johnston, who spent the summer elsewhere, disagrees. "I don't feel like a part of the town at all." That's an opinion shared by many students who have yet to breach the infamous Grinnell College bubble.
Randall and Johnston, now veterans of High, agree with Bernal when she suggests High Street is a suburb of campus. "The College is like the city you can get to when you need to, but you always return home at night," explains Winnie Marcel. Ultimately, it may simply take time for students to adjust to the dual citizenship they enjoy while living on High.
Bernal may sum up High Street best when she says, "High Street is where you go if you want to get off campus but still want to be a Grinnellian."