The Man Who Came to Dinner
For the past 13 years the Dudley House cooperatives have played host to an old man of scruffy appearance, and each year new groups of students have continued the tradition of what is probaby the longest stay for a student guest in the history of Harvard.
His name is Daimon Paine, and the students at the Dudley Co-ops profess a universal affection for their visitor. "He's witty, knows a lot about what's going on, and has an interesting perspective on the world, from someone you wouldn't expect [to have] that kind of insight," says Susan M. Minter '84, president of the Dudley co-ops.
"He's definitely not a bum," adds Atau Tanaka '85. "Although he seems that way to people at first. Tanaka explains, "he's financially quite responsible, he's not freeloading off anyone, he's not begging."
Co-op residents know little about how Daimon began his stay at Dudley. The generally accepted story is that he was invited to the co-op by some friends for Thanksgiving dinner, and he just stayed.
And stayed A big gap occurs here in co-op memory, which only goes back five years or so Paine himself is the only institutional memory residents can rely upon.
"Once everyone gets to know him, then he seems like a member of the co-op," said Tanaka, "and a pretty upstanding one at that."
Paine lets co-op members use his van to pick up food orders and helps with the co-op chores. One night this October someone asked Paine to fill in as cook and according to Tanaka, he cooked "the best dinner at the co-op"--"a roaring success of a chicken dinner.
Members say Paine rarely eats at the co-op and then only if meat is served and he is specifically invited.
Though eager to talk, Paine is reluctant to answer any questions about himself. Paine will only say that he grew up in Boston and worked in shipyards as a young man. At some time, Paine worked as a cook and he has travelled enough in the United States to offer detailed evaluations of all parts of the country. His favorite topics are, however, Cambridge and Harvard.
Paine will, for example, give a long monologue on local restaurants and their breakfast offerings, rambling on to the minutest details of menus and prices.
His manner of speech can make him seem self-absorbed, but co-op residents say that is a false impression. "He really does care a lot about people in the house although he seems to distance himself," explains Minter.
Paine is said to be very knowledgable about political situations, which he commonly ridicules. Although he denies it, co-op residents add that Paine sometimes writes poetry.
Co-op residents are quick to assert that Paine's relationship with the Dudley buildings does not represent a precedent for guests at other Harvard Houses.
"Naturally [other] people have tried [the same] routine." Tanaka explains, "but they weren't accepted which points to Daimon's uniqueness."
Daimon is a friend of the co-op and therefore of this segment of the school." Tanaka continues "He's a one-shot deal."