May 26, 2019. Providence, Rhode Island.
The narrow escape from Dystopia Beach left a bad taste in my mouth, and my only recourse was to cleanse it with some of Providence’s world-famous Greek food.
I ordered moussaka and they gave me a hot pocket with chili powder in it for some reason. Whatever. We got beef, we got eggplant, there aren’t any dandelion sprouts on it, I’ll be okay.
My olive oil levels once again stabilized, we ranged out to Brown University campus to see what Atlas Obscura vaguely described as a “colossal, untitled bear”.
We just so happened to show up on graduation weekend, because of course we did. The campus was overflowing with humans and absolutely filthy with pigs, setting up their little flashy-light campus cruisers on every corner, blocking intersections, leering at college girls from beneath their sad faux-military haircuts like the hundred palette-swapped bastards of Hoggish Greedly.
The Girl was slower to shake Dystopia Beach’s malaise. The whole drive and for most of the walk she was grumbling and gnashing her teeth with a formless misanthropy about to Brown being ritzy ivy-league digs. It was surreal. Like looking in a pretty, red-haireded mirror.
“There’s just an arrogance to it,” she told me as we passed the sixth or seventh lax bro in salmon chino shorts and sandals. “Like it carries all this weight just because it’s an ivy league school. There’s this grand implication to it, like they pity anyone who didn’t have the few hundred grand lying around to avoid a state school. It’s pretentious.”
“I didn’t know Brown was ivy league.”
“Yeah!” she said. “Brown is like, a big deal art school.”
I shrugged. “Can’t be too big a deal. I never heard of it before I found out about the bear.”
Let’s talk about the bear.
According to Atlas Obscura,
“This strange bear slumps in the corner of a university quad. There’s nothing cuddly about the oversized creature, or the abnormally large lamp slicing into its head.
Untitled (Lamp/Bear) by Swiss artist Urs Fischer is a unique addition to Brown University’s campus. It certainly keeps with the school’s reputation as the most free-spirited member of the Ivy League.”
Oof. Okay, I could see how the ivy league thing could get grating.
It’s supposed to be made of bronze, but the pictures on the site made it look like a perspective trick done with a beanie baby. Although, this beanie baby has a lamp jammed in its head, with sort of a Sid’s room Toy Story aesthetic. How could I resist?
We left the car by a park and climbed up a ridiculous hill toward the campus proper for what had to be the better part of a mile.
Yeah, that’s an understatement.
Halfway up, Google Maps told me we were approaching “Lovecraft Square”. We swung a block wide to check out what was undoubtedly a grand monument to Providence’s weirdest son.
Not so much with the “grand”. I figured, they’re so free and easy with bronze in this town, the least they could do is throw together a bust of his grimacing elongated mug. No such luck. This plaque was the entire memorial.
“They did my mans dirty,” I said with a mournful shake of my head.
When we finally crested Mount Brown, we walked into what appeared to be an active graduation ceremony. Real frying pan-fire scenario. We had to push against the flow of bodies, functionally swimming upstream to get onto one of the several quads and begin the hunt.
For a gargantuan sky-blue bear sculpture, it proved surprisingly difficult to find. We did two laps of the block before turning the correct corner and facing the monster down.
It was truly huge, and deceptively made of metal. I knocked on its huge foot and it did, in fact, make a ting sound. A local approached me, sensing my awe of the size of this lad, and asked if I’d take her picture with it.
“Sure. You here for the festivities too?”
“Oh, I just graduated,” she said with commendable nonchalance, leaning on the bear. “I just didn’t want to walk. The ceremony is a waste of time, and it’s not like I’m done.”
“Yeah? Congratulations! What was your major?”
“Evolutionary biology,” she said. “But it’s just a Master’s. I’m going for the doctorate, this is barely even a thing.”
“You did the work!” I said, taking the picture. “You can be proud of the work. A lot of people never make it to Master’s, even if it is just a pit stop for you. Congratulations, really.”
She looked down and smiled and said thanks. It was a humble, charming gesture, but obviously too close to a compliment. I broke even by telling her I didn’t walk either.
“The ceremony itself is absolutely bullshit.”
Staring up into Untitled Bear/Lamp’s cold, vacant eyes, I finally knew fear.
The Girl and I swam back downstream and tumbled down Mount Brown, then got into the car and made our getaway. We had already settled affairs at the hotel. There was only one stop left to make.
Howie P had an understated plot in the center of a sprawling cemetery complex, differentiated from its fellows only by the worn grass, the stacks of pennies, and the small Cthulhu statue.
“Rise, H.P.,” I said with an appropriately necromantic gesticulation. “Wise fwom youw gwave! Get your bony ass up, we got things to do!”
He remained reluctant.
“Up and at ’em!” I said. “Come on. You gotta see the state of the place. Cthulhu’s a household name! Heads up, don’t say the N-word, though. That’s… pretty important.”
The lazy bastard stayed down. I frowned over at the Girl.
“Maybe it has to be dark,” I said.
“This is ghoulish,” she said.
“It’s what he would have wanted.”
I left an incantation hanging, hoping it would take once night fell. We didn’t stick around to find out. If you see a lanky skeleton with social anxiety jangling around Rhode Island, that’s my bad.
And so ends the Providence chronicle. We headed back to Philly to prepare for the next week’s jaunt to a beach, distinct from the Rhode Island beach trip in that it was planned and consensual.