Last weekend, I sat down with Noah Wentzel ’13 at Tunnel City Coffee.
He was in between an Easter Sunday music gig in Pittsfield and an intramural soccer game later that afternoon. Despite the slight chill, he boldly chose a seat outside. I flipped open my laptop in a rush – there was a particular WOOLF training trip adventure I was eager to discuss – but he dealt the first question.
So how does this work?
You mean “1 in 2000?” Basically, I ask you questions about yourself and your life, and we just talk. So, tell me about your hometown. I think that’s a good place to start.
I’m from Seattle. And I’m not just a poser. I’m actually from there.
Posers are people who say they’re from a certain big city when they’re really not. Like someone who says he’s from New York when he’s actually from Westchester or somewhere else nearby.
Like New Jersey.
Yes, like New Jersey.
Well, I guess I’m a poser. Sometimes I say I’m from outside Philadelphia, when really I’m from Lancaster.
Is that where the Quakers are?
The Amish, but close. Anyway, how does Seattle compare to Williamstown?
It’s very different, definitely. I live in the middle of the city, as opposed to here in the country. Seattle is very centered around neighborhoods. It’s not an ‘urban’ city at all. The neighborhood I’m from, Queen Anne, is right in the center of the city, so it’s kind of isolated. There’s a lot of water that surrounds it.
Did you do any water sports?
I used to sail. I really enjoyed sailing, I just never stuck with it. And kayaking.
Have you always been this outdoorsy, or just since you came to Williams?
I’ve been camping and skiing and things like that all my life. It just has always been something that I do, so when I got here I don’t know that I immediately associated myself with [the Williams Outing Club (WOC)], but in retrospect that makes sense.
I heard that you had some adventures on a WOOLF leader training trip last spring.
What sort of adventures were we talking [about]?
Was there more than one adventure?
No, at least not exciting adventures. But we did have a thunderstorm come through our camp the last night we were there, and we were pretty much without shelter that night. We didn’t have a lean-to, just a bunch of tarps strung up. The one that I was under basically blew over and away. But the good thing about future WOOLF leaders is that they all immediately want to fix every problem. I don’t think I even had to get out of my sleeping bag.
I’m assuming you have a hidden talent, too.
Anyone who goes on WOC trips with me knows about this one. It is a longstanding tradition in my family to take group self-shot pictures rather than using a timer or convincing a kind-hearted bystander to simply take the picture for us. Of course, with the advent of handheld digital cameras and camera phones this pastime was expropriated from my family into the hands of drunk party-goers, but despite the stigma I still enjoy a good group “selfie” – the larger the group the better. My current record is a group of 13 people, including myself, that I fit into one shot on top of Stony Ledge when I led a WOOLF leader training trip.
Incredible. And what keeps you busy when you’re not battling the elements?
Honestly, I would have to say music. Today I played in the Easter service at First United Methodist Church in Pittsfield. I came from a very strong music program in high school. The time commitment was like a varsity sport but year-round, basically. I’ve been pretty mellow about it here, but now I’m a lot more involved. Every week there’s something.
I play the trumpet in the jazz band and the Brass Ensemble. I think I’m going to be playing with the Student Symphony, and I’m doing some solo stuff.
And you still have time to major in … ?
Political science. It was the subject I took the most classes in, the thing I most enjoy. I never had to be convinced to do my polisci reading … usually.
Gotcha. Oh, I almost forgot to ask: Do you have any siblings?
I have an older sister. She’s 26. We have a lot of things in common. I’d say I’m the least stubborn, headstrong person in my family. That isn’t to say that I’m not stubborn or headstrong, though.
Are you stubborn enough to write a thesis?
I really thought no, but I’m investigating it … I would like to come out of here with something big that I’ve accomplished.
It’s crazy that we’re going to be seniors next year. Please tell me you have a senior year bucket list.
No, not yet, I would have to get back to you on that one. But one thing I haven’t done is the polar bear plunge, actually.
Really? I thought everyone who was involved in WOC did the plunge every week! Even I’ve done it once.
[Laughs] No, not exactly. I also haven’t done the weekly sunrise hike with Scott [Lewis, WOC director], but I did do the sunrise hike up Mount Greylock at the end of last spring semester. It was my second consecutive all-nighter. You know, you start melting at that point. I thought I hallucinated a porcupine, but it was actually real.
What merited the double all-nighter?
I had too much work to do over the course of a week, but for once in my life felt too proud to ask for an extension.
Wow, that must have been a lot of coffee. Speaking of which, please tell me you don’t drink it black. I don’t understand how anyone can forgo the joy of cream and sugar.
I drink my coffee black, always. If it’s good coffee, then I’ll enjoy it most if it is unadulterated. If it is bad coffee, then I am drinking it simply because it is a hot caffeinated beverage and diluting it will only serve to extend the process of consuming it. Also, as a lifelong coffee purist – I’m from Seattle after all, I might as well own it – I feel it is generally insulting to debase such a fine drink with sugar or dairy.
Okay, fair enough. But I still can’t imagine a double all-nighter. Sleep is precious!
Yes, and that’s where I am now, too. I finally figured out this year that I can just not take classes in the morning and still have a good schedule.