True Paths

by Jay Nordlinger

In Impromptus today, I continue my tour de Williamson, my notes on Kevin’s new book, The End Is Near and It’s Going to Be Awesome. I begin my installment with a sad story — well, sad to me, at least. Or put it this way: I’m sadder but wiser.

There’s a story I’ve always liked, and employed. What I mean is, I’ve used it to make a point. Eisenhower, when he was president of Columbia University, presided over the creation of new sidewalks. People said, “Where should we put the sidewalks? What’s the best design?” He said, “Do nothing for a year. See where the students walk, naturally. And where they have beaten a path, put a sidewalk.”

This is a wonderful lesson about central planning (the unwisdom of). But Kevin, in his book, tells us it isn’t true. The lesson is true — but the story about Eisenhower is simply a “lovely apocryphal” one.

Too bad. Burst my bubble.

A reader writes,

Dear Jay,

. . . My father was Supervisor of Grounds and Landscape Architect for the University of Kansas while I was growing up, and he told me this really was the method that had been used to place the sidewalks to the library. (This happened before his time, but we had reliable evidence for it.) The sidewalks are perfect, and you almost never see anyone cut across the library lawn for the simple reason that the most efficient paths to anywhere are paved.

So it has been done, even if Ike never did it!

Good to know. This is good to know, also: In yesterday’s installment, I had cause to quote Fats Waller — and a reader tells me that the jazz master’s great-grandson is a wide receiver for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. He is Darren Waller, a 6’5”, 225-pound junior. Well, blow me down. Fantastic.

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