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Tenting Tonight


By Peter R. Reynolds

WE HUDDLED around the campfire that someone had made in John Harvard's lap. It wasn't actually a campfire, it was Ogden's new Hibachi that he'd charged at the Coop the other morning. Ogden was certainly not chosen as our Regiment leader because of his experience in the ranks. He probably had no more than a few small marches under his belt, maybe a takeover or two, but clearly nothing that had made a headline. He was only chosen because he had the best equipment. Camping out had been his idea and to no one's surprise, he had turned out with every attachment, extension, and blade accessory money could buy.

The problem was, he had forgotten both the charcoal and the lighter fluid. Vincenzo had come up with the idea of using rolled up pamphlets, and maybe even one of the banners. We voted. It was ratified, accepted into law in a matter of minutes, and soon the benevolent Bronze was warming all our fannies.

Soon, though, we had burned as many of the pamphlets as we thought we could spare. "You never know how many peoples be there tomorrow!" noticed Vicenzo. His voice was hoarse from chant rehearsal that afternoon. Lori, who was the rowdiest and was just sincere enough to make the rest of us a little uneasy, suggested we burn our I.D.s instead. She looked like a ladybug, the puckish girl sitting on Pater Noster's polished knee, spotted with buttons and stickers from past years. "Some of you younger kids don't know what effect that kind of statement can have. Very heavy." Too heavy, we all agreed.

"They don't burn well," said Ramon, "Besides, I gotta eat inter-house all next week." By the time we'd put this through parlimentary procedure, some members of our group had collected some twigs, and a few kids from another organization had lowered their Prexy down the bookdrop at Pusey Library by the ankles, so we put some Matthew Arnold on the griddle.

It was almost eight o'clock and the last of the frisbee throwers and tired secretaries had left the Yard. Anchored by one hand under John Harvard's nose and both ankles tucked behind his cold shoulders, I looked out across the lawn. From the far end of the small colony of new tents, down sleeping bags and gas stoves, a lone voice lilted to one tired guitar, singing, "Tenting Tonight." Eastern Mountain Sports must be celebrating tonight, I thought. I read somewhere that wherever, and whenever, a strong wave of student activism surges forth, camping stores crop up like picnic ants at a State Fair.

Too Ling took a hit and passed it up to me. I declined, knowing I didn't need it tonight. It had been a long circuitous road to this perch atop the lofty pate, on the even of the biggest rally since the good old days. One or two of the old timers were still in our midst, keeping the Hibachi going, on into the third night. Some were here just because they were glad to get out of the dorm, or to miss Expos at 9 a.m. But the real heavies, who had remained since the '60s, who'd taken years off and done their time in Frisco, Miami, and Holyoke Plaza, were of a different ilk.

Even before the first snowfall of my freshman year had fallen, I was upset over the way things at Harvard were going for me. The food tasted like a science project, my dorm was full of men whose only idea of activism was a sallow girl named Joanne, and none of my courses seemed relevant. I asked for a minority roommate, at least one, but instead was allotted a strapping Oklahoman with a "69" football shirt and soft contact lenses. He was the wayward son of a Senator. Some diversity, I thought. I am here to grow, I told myself one day in the Union when no one was listening. And the only way to get my father's money's worth was to take part in University life. I would go for it, I decided.

MY FIRST STEP was a small one. Over a period of a few weeks, I visited everyone in the dorm and was soon elected "dorm rep" for the Freshperson Entertainment Committee. This proved to be a good launching pad toward a career in organized activity. By sophomore year I was splitting time between the Diet Committee and SO. (Students of Oppression). Politics had never been my beat though, until recently. I was looking up the word 'aperture' in the dictionary to explain a joke I had just told when I came upon the word 'apartheid.' I began thinking of all the possibilities for new activism around campus. Everyone was remarking how there was something in the air these days, as if the dictates of some cycle were swinging the winds of change back into our laps. Ogden was taking an economics course on African Investments by Noteworthy Private Colleges, and came up with the idea of a unifying rally in the spring. "We can have tents, dancing, perhaps a humble orchestra..." I told him we could keep the tents.

Too Ling clambered down from his seat on the right arm of the Father, and disappeared into his tent. "He's getting his wok," Lori said in her gravelly voice. "We're going to have the traditional revolutionary meal of his ancestors." She paused. "They ate it before the Big One in '48." Too emerged with the huge dome upside down over his head, looking like a toadstool.

Within a few minutes the wok was hot, the meal of refried rice and Mao-Mao beans was simmering gently, and the photographers had arrived. If we kept off the grass, tomorrow might be a success after all.

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