May 9, 2017

KANKANHALLI | Who Wore it Better: Human or Statler?

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There is a double agent hiding in plain sight on our very own campus, and his name is Statler.

Okay…I don’t mean for my statement to sound as pointed as it did. In fact, I think I see a little bit of myself in Statler Hall/Hotel — call him what you will. The duality of this pristine, tasteful building resonates with me especially as I near the junior year milestone of my undergraduate career. Lately, in every realm of my life, I feel a certain ambiguity. All the places I’ve been to have crumbled to dormant memory, and the places I’ve yet to go are uncharted territories with unfamiliar faces. It seems as if I have been cast in a one-woman duet, and I imagine that Statler, wise and binary fellow that he is, understands.

In March of 1989, Statler Hotel took his first breath of crisp Ithacan air. That’s exactly eight years and three months prior to my own inaugural respiration. Given our relative closeness in age, it’s only natural that Statler and I would maintain an unspoken connection (partially because Statler can’t speak, but trust me, the connection is mutual). As Millennials, Statler and I witness the products of enterprise culture regularly — a fondness of risk and a magnetic attraction towards the thrill of the chase — but we prefer to insist on the quaint charm of inertia. There is a sizable chunk of sanity to be gained by yielding to the universe — spending a few hours catching up on TV episodes at Terrace or enjoying the sunlight on the patios of the Hotel. Unfortunately, Statler and I, situated so firmly amid a bustling campus of scholars pouring themselves into inquires that are of little import to the common man, are alone in this view.

I also sense that Statler is attuned to the volatility of my moods. It’s quite refreshing to encounter a physical manifestation of this facet of my personality. The dichotomy between the fancy, luxurious Hotel, and the minimalistic, student-occupied Hall is analogous to my frequent oscillations between intense ambition and intense resignation. This is the cruel instability of our youth.

Alas, I’m afraid that the doors between Statler Hall and Statler Hotel open both ways. It is just as plausible for me to re-enter a dreary past as it is for me to transition into a dazzling future. There’s no way to know, and there’s no guarantee of better days, but to avoid cashing in on my mid-life crisis too early, I’ll bide my time and hope they come.

Cornell is a labyrinth of architecture, and it’s usually applauded for this complexity. Composed of some main components — a lounge, a library, a few eateries on premises — Statler takes a simpler approach to the fundamental art of living. Upon reflection, I wonder if my myriad duties, some of which solidify and some of which lead my astray from my sense of purpose, are pointlessly labyrinthine. I’m curious if the relationships I fuel and the ones I dampen are supposed to be reversed. I’m uncertain about whether my battles ought to be fought in solitude or with company. Sometimes, Statler has the answers, in his layout and his atmosphere and his inhabitants. Other times, Statler is a tease, with his absolute numbness to stimuli. Still other times, he is a welcome intermission from the rapid onset of existential crises.
I’m not saying that I am Statler or that I want to be Statler. Statler’s a building, so such a claim would be absurd. I’m just saying that maybe, in another life, if my blood were made of concrete and my heart were made of cement, I might reside at the peaceful cul-de-sac that idles on the intersection of East Avenue and Campus Road.


Priya Kankanhalli is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]Matters of Fact appears every other Tuesday this semester.