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Just for the Fun of It

LOOKING BACK:

By John Rosenthal

IT SEEMS as if only a few short months ago I was writing a piece like this recounting my wild and woolly days as a freshman. Maybe that's because it was only a few months ago. Nonetheless, time flies when you're having fun. And in my Harvard career, time has taken a space shuttle.

So let me tell you about the Harvard experience, volume 351. I should start by saying that I did not want to come to Harvard; I wanted to go to Stanford. I had been to Boston a few times when I was in high school and had familiarized myself with the Square long ago. I had been to a rugby game, an intramural swim meet, an annual banquet of The Crimson, an away football game, and a great Saturday night party.

Yet four years after I made the decision to come to Harvard, I don't want to leave, even though I have never been to another rugby game, an intramural swim meet, an away football game or a great Saturday night party.

My freshman year started out easily enough. My roommates and I went over to Tercentenary Theater to hear opening exercises. Radcliffe President Matina Horner compared our class to mayonnaise: "keep cool, but don't freeze," she said, quoting from atop a Hellman's jar.

Freshman week was also when I discovered the standard Harvard conversation. It usually went something like this:

"Hi, what's your name?"

"John."

"Where do you live?"

"I live in Holworthy."

"Where are you from?"

"I'm from New York."

"Are you really? Do you know a guy named Dave? I don't know his last name, but he lives in New York. He's got brown hair, and he's about average height?"

It was during these conversations that I kept thinking about the words of wisdom I had received from admissions officers and my parents: you don't get your Harvard education from your professors, you get it from your classmates.

STILL, I FIGURED Harvard was an O.K. place. The rivalry between Holworthy and Thayer played a huge role in my happiness here freshman year. It started off with plain insults, then insults over loudspeakers, then snowball fights. The best thing we ever did to Thayer, though, was to go over there one Saturday night and steal all its toilet paper. It may sound silly now, but it was hysterical then. Besides, we needed the toilet paper.

All this madcap adventure came to a brutal halt right before spring break--the day we received our housing assignments. I read the notice on my doorstep. It said I had been assigned to Cabot House for the next three years or 30,000 miles of shuttle bus rides, whichever came first.

I rushed over to Widener to find out more about this distant land called Cabot House. I looked it up in the Harvard handbook. It said "see South House." So I looked up South House. It said "now known as Cabot House." Then I looked up gullible. Next to the definition was a picture of me. Then I looked up Boston suburbs. I glanced past Waltham, Peabody, Danvers, and Swampscott until I came across Cabot House. I learned that shuttles leave for Cabot House every time there is an eclipse of the sun. So I ran over to Crimson Travel and booked two tickets on the next flight to the Quad.

I did not want to go to Cabot House. Neither did anybody else. Even the free beer they gave me and the t-shirt that said something like "better luck next time" did not raise my spirits. But three years later, I do not want to leave Cabot House; that is, except to run over to Thayer every now and then to get some more toilet paper.

By junior year, I had accumulated enough miles on the Quad shuttle to qualify for a free trip to Mexico. Junior year was also the first time I had been to a Harvard Hockey game, and the first time I had been called a fascist. I have never been to another Harvard hockey game since then either, but I have been called a fascist lots of times. I'm not sure how I got the reputation for being a fascist, but I think it has something to do with a Crimson editorial I once wrote calling for the reinstitution of the feudal system.

In many ways, senior year has been the best time of my four-year Harvard experience. I have been through almost everything Harvard has to offer, except broccoli-cheese pasta. I have friends of all ages, and I have taken courses in almost every field. I have learned how to get to Wellesley on the Mass. Pike without paying the 65 cents in tolls. I have learned that the Quad is not in New Hampshire, nor is it that far from the Square. And I have learned that you should never eat at the Hong Kong, no matter how hungry you are.

I am glad I did not go to Stanford. After all, who would want to sit in the sun with a beer in one hand and the sports pages in the other while beautiful tanned California girls are walking by in bikinis when he could be in Cambridge, waiting in nine inches of snow and slush for a shuttle bus ride? Who wants to see Division I football in his own backyard when he could be at Harvard watching the national championship chess team quash lesser rivals? Who wants to go to a school whose most famous alumnus is Herbert Hoover?

Harvard has indeed been a fun experience, and a learning experience. It is one that I will always thank myself for accepting, and one that I will never forget. Most of all, it is one that I am reluctant to have finished.

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