Upon returning to campus this year, I expected to see many friends and institutions that I had associated with Queens. I expected the cafeteria would be …well, the same as usual. What I didn’t expect, however, was a large new presence.
Looming monstrously over campus, the new resident arrived quietly at Queens over the summer and has quickly struck fear and inspiration in the hearts of the students. The rocky crag that towers next to the parking deck greeted students a hearty welcome back. It goes by many names. Some have dubbed it Mount Levine (for the upcoming Levine Center for Wellness and Recreation), others Mount Royal. And some uncreative souls (me included) just call it Mount Dirt.
So where did the dirt come from? Did it all just magically appear, spewed up from the bowels of the Earth into a haphazard pile? Did some underground coven of mole-men start ditching their dirt directly on our tennis courts? Perhaps it’s some vigilante eco-terrorist who is making a statement about the multiple building projects that Queens is undertaking. Actually, the real answer is a little bit more mundane. When the construction workers excavated dirt for the future buildings, they chose the tennis courts to pile on all excess matter that they cleared away. This pile grew more and more until it became the Behemoth that we know it as today.
Where the dirt comes from really doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is there, lumped precariously in an inviting pattern, saying “climb me, climb me.” Throughout all of history people have gazed up at big things, pointed at them and have said, “I am going to climb that.” Everyone else just looks at them like they are nuts and go about their regular business. But the urge in some people is always there – the yearning need to conquer big piles of something is ever present in human nature. And this urge was present in me. When I first stepped onto campus and noted that big pile of dirt, I immediately swore that I was going to scale it.
In fact, I made it my mission. Every person who unknowingly crossed my path would be drawn into my fantasy of overtaking the mountain of dirt. I was always met with the same question, why? Why would you even think about just getting to the top of that pile? You could always just climb the parking deck and get about the same height, or even higher. Those people don’t understand the beauty of the mission. Levine! This name would go down in history along with Everest, and I would go down in Queens history as the man brave enough to scale it.
But I wasn’t alone. According to fellow staff writer Elli McGuire, there already have been some unknown souls who have tried to hop over the “DO NOT CROSS” fence and into history. Of course, these people have all been stopped by the ever present patrol of Campus Police and their all-seeing security cameras. Obviously I couldn’t set up base camp if I was going to be arrested on the spot, so I had to go to a higher authority. And if anyone could get me access to Dirt Mountain, it had to be Dean Downey.
I came to Dean Downey with hopes as high as Mount Levine itself. Surely this man had the pull to let me go for dirt victory. If anyone had the prestige and know-how to get me up that mountain, it would be him.
But sadly, this was where my grand plans all fell to a crashing halt. I asked him if I could climb the mountain, and Dean Downey gave me this weary face as if this was not the first time he had heard this question, nor would it be the last. “I actually have fears about people wanting to climb the dirt, especially mountain biking.” He explained that Mount Levine was less of a dirt mountain, and more of a dirt pile. “It looks like dirt but there are other miscellaneous things like concrete, rocks and pipes that you wouldn’t find unless you tried to climb it. I probably would have tried to climb it when I was your age, but I would have gotten injured.”
Dean Downey also explained that Mount Levine was a legislative nightmare. Because it resides in the construction zone, it falls under the legal responsibility of the construction companies. That means that if someone was to try to climb the mountain, and ended up getting hurt by the shifting dirt and debris of the pile, it would be the construction companies’ fault. They would then get mad at Queens and really it would become this big legal problem that no one wants.
So my dreams of adventuring have been put aside by the cold reality of legal issues and false geology. Maybe one day I’ll actually climb a mountain to end these urges, but until then I’ll just be looking at Mount Levine and sigh about what could have been.