WHEN I ARRIVED at Harvard in the fall of 1975, I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I was definitely wary. I had been warned, you see: my brother, whose judgement I trusted, had just finished his freshman year here, or rather, his freshman year had almost finished him. I couldn't believe how much he hated Harvard after that year, and how much he changed. His self-confidence seemed to be gone, but more shocking, his academic curiosity had completely vanished. He had been the more studious of the two of us, and now he wanted to drop out of college. From what I had seen, I had a feeling that I was in for trouble.
What's amazing to me now, although I no longer regret being at Harvard, is how little I actually thought about the place, or any school for that matter, when I was applying to colleges. I came from a notoriously reputable suburban high school, and it was simply assumed by everyone, myself included, that I would end up here. Sibling rivalry probably had a role, too; when I was accepted I didn't feel happy, just relieved. But I never really considered what i wanted out of college, or where I wanted to be. If you do well at Scarsdale High School, you apply to Ivy League schools first, and you think about it later. Drawn by the name and the money, I only knew that there would be a lot of high-powered people awaiting me. And I had a lingering feeling, one that I tried to shake all that summer, that I would hate it. In some ways that may have been a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I was right.
I had had my doubts, but I knew I was in deep trouble when my dorm assignment came in August. The name did not exactly ring a bell, and when my brother told me that he had never even heard of the place, I began to wonder. 8 Prescott St? I mean, it didn't even have a name. And when I finally arrived, after an interminable summer during which relatives and friends told me over and over how lucky I was and how much I'd love it, I knew why. 8 Prescott Street didn't deserve a name. It stands on the street behind the Freshman Union, a unique sort of thoroughfare because 19