New York State of Mind
RECENTLY Harvard put a helpwanted ad in the New York Times as part of its presidential search. This is a good thing. Harvard could use a president from New York. Someone with street smarts. Someone with an attitude. Someone with enough character to someday get a deli sandwhich named after him or her.
Yes, the New York Times ad is a good thing, if not a great thing. A great thing would have been a personal ad in the Village Voice. Something along the lines of "354 year-old single mostly-white co-educational university seeks intelligent individual with an interest in S&M, pointillist body painting, and yam-filled leather body stockings. Must be good at fundraising."
Of course, if the search committee isn't looking for someone just like Derek Bok then the ad would have to read somewhat differently, but the point remains. (Note to the reader: I have just made a joke linking the president of Harvard University to various kinky sexual habits and gotten away with it. This demonstrates the concept of a "lame duck" officeholder.)
In any case, the New York Times advertisement was a good idea. The only problem is that they printed the wrong address--over the last few weeks I have been inundated by letters from New Yorkers interested in getting the job of Harvard president. Here are some of the more interesting ones:
Dear Sirs and Madam:
As former mayor of New York City I feel uniquely qualified to manage your university. As I see it, you've got your Harvard Yard, which is like Brooklyn, Eliot House is uptown Manhattan and Winthrop is downtown, and Adams is Queens. How am I doing? You've got Kirkland-the Bronx, Mather-Staten Island, and the Quad, which is, I don't know, out somewhere in New Jersey.
New York has been called "the city that never sleeps," while Harvard has a Store 24, open all night. New York is also called "the Big Apple," and Harvard has a Lil' Peach. And I'm sure if I had to, I could think of something in New York that's analogous to Christy's.
As you can see, my prior job experience as New York's mayor makes me the perfect candidate for the Harvard presidency. If you choose someone else, though, that's okay too--you wouldn't believe how much money I'm making now. Sincerely, Ed Koch former Hizzoner, NYC
Dear Sirs and Madam:
It has come to my attention that your organization is having some leadership difficulties. I am suggesting now that I take over your operation, capish? Look, my friends, as I see it what the Harvard community--the Harvard family--needs right now is someone with muscle.
You've got some divestment-activist punks making waves? You send a few guys out to bust some heads and those pansies will get the message. Believe me, they'll learn some respect quick once a few of them end up in wheelchairs.
You've got big-shot politicians in Washington giving you a hard time about enforcing the drinking age? Hey, all these guys want is a piece of the actions. And if that don't work, you lean on them. Hard. Believe me, when I'm Harvard president kegs will flow in the Yard, laws or no laws.
Another thing--I hear Harvard's got a union now. I'm real good at working with unions. Real good. I've got no problems in the labor union department, none whatsoever.
All I'm asking, gentlemen and lady, is that you make me president of Harvard. It'll be good for you, it'll be good for me, and it'll be good for Harvard: when people from all over the world come to me with their problems, it will be a Harvard ring that they'll kiss.
Please don't make me ask you this favor again. Sincerely John Giotti Gambino Crime Family, NYC
Dear Sirs and Madam:
I have heard the rumor that Donald Harvard is interested in selling his university. I am always looking for a good, high-quality investment and would like to engage in a friendly buyout of this property.
I imagine, however, that Mr. Harvard has a certain sentimental attachment to the place and, therefore, I would like to assure you all that any changes I would make to Harvard University would only make it even classier. In fact, under my leadership, I am confident that Trump University would enter the 21st Century as the center of classy learning in the world.
For example, I would completely renovate Memorial Hall. On the exterior, I envision neon signs everywhere. Nothing jazzes up a place like neon. On the interior, I see plush red carpeting, subdued overhead lighting, and lots and lots of mirrors. None of that cheap velour stuff like you might see elsewhere.
Of course, you may ask how I would pay for all this. That's where the gaming tables come in. Don't worry--there'd only be a few of them. We'd need most of the floor space for the slot machines, so as to attract the senior citizens.
As for Sanders Theatre, I plan to convert that into one of the premier entertainment spots in the world. All the top quality acts, all your Wayne Newtons and Rip Taylors, would play there.
Of course, this is only one of my ideas, but it is enough to show you that I have the energy and know-how to make Harvard University, as Trump University, an even classier place to get a liberal arts education. My people will be in touch with your people. Sincerely, The Donald Trump Tower, NYC
Dear Sirs and Madam:
I would like to express my interest in the position of Harvard President which you advertised in the Times. I believe Harvard would be an ideal place for me to consider some of the deeper questions. For instance, is there a higher being in the universe? And, if so, is he the type who knows about cheeses and buys sports coats off the rack?
And what about love? I have a friend who believes people can only find happiness through romantic, passionate love, but then he's never taken a hot shower in a bathroom with really good water pressure.
I don't know, maybe Freud was rightmaybe we are all doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents. Perhaps that explains why I campaigned door-to-door for Herbert Hoover last year. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd like to be Harvard President, although, come to think of it, the one person I know who went to Harvard was my cousin Irving, who later had a nervous breakdown in which he put on a squirrel costume and tried to climb the Empire State Building, so maybe its not such a hot idea after all. Sincerely, Allen Konigsburg (Woody "Allen")