Notes From Nowhere Turns Six: The Making Of

Celebrating six years of painstaking research and fearless reporting on NFN, this is how we got the image of the spider’s habitat at Princeton. (On why philosopher Thomas Nagel’s spider matters to NFN, see here.) The following exchange started to unfold about one week in advance of the actual picture-taking:

dear gl,

i wanted to ask for your advice. the princeton philosophy department’s men’s room in marx hall — has it been renovated/visually changed since nagel met the spider there? and is it accessible during weekends for people who are not members of the department? the reason i’m asking is that i may want to take a photo there next saturday, as part of an ongoing photographic project.
all best,
j.

i believe it has been minimally renovated, but not in a way to change its _gestalt_ or _grundstimmung_. the relevant (= spider in the urinal) men’s room is obviously in the basement of the older part of the building, i.e. 1879 hall, rather than in marx hall, strictly speaking. in general, the building is locked on the weekends. but if they are using the tower room for one of the coffee breaks, it’s possible to make one’s way down from there. (they also often have the ‘breakfast’ on sunday morning in the tower room.)
gl

i’m glad i asked [...] indeed, the coffee break will be in 1879 hall/tower room this year. so i’ll walk down the stairs all the way to the basement and look for the men’s room…
j.

Prepared this well, one would assume everything will go swimmingly. But some last minute drama unfolds. What did people do ‘Before Smartphones’?

dear gl,

i’m writing from the men’s room at princeton. just to make sure, the one i’m looking [at] is in the basement and windowless, and looks somewhat different from tn’s description? ‘dichterische freiheit’ be damned!
j.

it’s definitely in the basement; i don’t recall it being, strictly speaking, windowless, but such windows as there are, are small and close to the ceiling, and don’t let in much light.
gl

the room i found has only one standard vertical urinal, not what tn describes, which if i remember correctly was the sort of lengthy thing that is placed on the floor / along the wall, and horizontal.
j.

there has been only a ‘standard vertical urinal’ since at least 1974.
gl

excellent, thank you! my work is done then…
j.