Monday, June 9, 2014

Where The Bodies Are Buried

Last weekend, I went back to the place where many of the bodies are buried, to attend my 10th college reunion.  I missed my 5th because I was racing Eagleman 70.3, and ultimately qualifying for the 70.3 world championships, so in retrospect my decision was a good one.  But the day I had to choose, I promised myself I would attend my 10th come hell or high-water.

Do NOT touch his foot

I think my experience was made even more positive by skipping five because I had really been deprived of, and wondering about, everyone and thus I wholly invested myself.  Hook, line, and hangover.

To start I flew in a day early and spent a night with my college roommate, Mel, whom I hadn't seen since April 2007, I thought.  She corrected me - November 2008 - and thus one theme was set: Cambridge is where the bodies are buried, and Mel remembers them all, even the ones I have long since forgotten putting in the ground.  Remind me never to piss her off.

We stayed up until 2 am doing all the things long-time friends do when they haven't seen each other in a long time and I was up at 7 am and thus another theme was set: barely adequate sleep. 

Thursday was Commencement and the official beginning of reunion weekend.  While everyone was occupied in the Yard, I took the opportunity to wander the halls of buildings I used to haunt.  A theater where I practically lived on occasion, physics labs, restaurants, freshman dorms, and many of the cobble-stoned sidewalks of the Square.

How many late nights did I spend in Jefferson finishing problem sets?

I also met some fiesty characters that I can only hope to be like some day.  These guys are Class of 1954, and first met in elementary school in 1944, so they have been friends for 70 years.  Their '54 graduating class had 1500 students, 300 of whom have died, and 400 of whom attended reunion.  The pull is so strong 400 81-year-olds make the trip.

Don, Peter, Arnie, and I

That night I moved into the dorms, where many reunion attendees stay over the weekend.  Yes, we go back and pay money to willingly sleep where we slept as teenagers.  The brainwashing was thorough and complete.

Friday I visited the physics lab where I worked the summer after freshman year, and then I commenced breaking and entering into places along Memory Lane.  My favorite sandwich shop, another theater where I practically lived on occasion, my upperclassman house and all my dorm rooms, and the headquarters of the best job I've ever had: research-writing for Let's Go.

Getting Quaded is NOT the worst thing in the world

Top, Center: Southern Africa, India/Nepal, Southeast Asia

Unfortunately, Let's Go is but a shadow of its former self, currently employing fewer total RWs than I had on my India/Nepal book alone in 2003.  The new direction and format have allowed them to do many things I wish we could have done, but it's sad to know that I provided the last update of every single country I covered, and then those books were retired when the coverage became too out-dated.  Not enough Americans travel to Burma on vacation, apparently.

Friday night is when everyone really started rolling in and our event was just one joyous one-on-one reunion after another.  The official event led to pizza at the pizza place which led to scorpion bowl races ("they sting you in the end") at the gross Chinese food place, which led to classy drinks at the classy "we're-seniors-and-have-real-IDs" place and last call didn't stop us.  I went to bed after I would have been up to swim in Austin.

I hadn't seen this character in 10 years and 2 weeks

Some of the Cabot Crew

"I'm at the Kong with rowers and scorpion bowls, send help"

Construction on a dorm next door to where I was staying woke me at 9:04.  It was fine though, I was only hungover when I stood up.  I was revived by grease and Thomas.

Some idyllic strolling by the river drove home an interesting dichotomy.  Most of my classmates were thinking "great, I'm on vacation and have a leisurely Saturday morning for the first time in ten years so I'll go for a run."  I was thinking "great, I'm on vacation and don't have to get up to go run or swim or ride for the first time in ten years."

After two more food based events (I feel like we were herded from food source to food source the whole weekend, around the tables of which we were supposed to reunite; we had many ideas how future reunions could be better) I found myself at the Hasty Pudding Theatricals event.  Sadly, the event was a letdown because the Pudding Theatricals was truly a cross-class endeavor and not enough of us from any one show were in any one class year.  Plus there are literally no pictures or stories of the Pudding that I can post without increasing the rating of this website and the old Pudding theater has been renovated and turned into a boring University theater and building.  Those ancient and disgusting and hallowed and unsafe halls, I will only ever be able to walk again in my memories.  The Institute's new club house is pretty cool, except for the fact that the Club produces nothing of its own and just decorates with all of the Theatricals memorabilia but only vaguely involves itself with the Theatrical's arm of the Institute.  The Kroks didn't even show up.

Hasty Pudding Institute's new club house

That night was the capstone event, the Soiree.  The fact that many people expressed their surprise that the dress code wasn't black tie is telling about undergraduate life.  My record was 15 black tie events in one semester, half of which were theater openings.  However, most of the women were later wishing it was black tie because long dresses and full skirts would have helped significantly in the shocking low temps.

Soccer mini-reunion in the bathroom line

I'm wearing high high-heels in this picture...rowers, gah

The class split between pizza, scorpion bowls, and classy drinks, instead of doing the rotation like the night before, so I was in bed by 3.  And slept a full 6 hours!…before the construction started…

A totally typical Sunday brunch in an undergraduate dining hall - literally the exact spread we ate with gusto every week - and people scattered.  We rarely had that much concentrated face-to-face time when we were actually in school and 3 full days of it 10 years later was a bit much.

I still had 18 hours in town and ended up dining and desserting in the North End.  The Big Dig routinely altered much of downtown Boston during my time in college, but now it's finished and the result is gorgeous.  Austin needs to bite the bullet and bury I-35.

I am incredibly glad I took the time (and more) to go back and see everyone, visit the bodies, and bury a few more.  Since I'm not on The Book Face, I am even more out of touch with people not immediately in my friend circle, than most people.  Plus I hadn't been back on campus since 2005, and even now, the difference in feel (just buildings etc, separate from people) between Harvard and other campuses I have been on, is affecting.  I inadequately summed it up in a text: "Man, this place."

And these people (even the bodies).  ♥

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