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Tales of the Quad God

By Patrick S. Chung

This is the construction of a Harvard myth.

The blizzard of 1996 was at its peak on January 13. There were 36 inches of wet packing snow on the ground, four-foot-long icicles dangling from the eaves and a brigh? orange glow at night from the reflection of street lamps on the snow. Two Cabot House seniors with vision trudged into the middle of the Quad with buckets and pails, a few sketches and a penchant for frostbite.

They had studied photographs of the mysterious statues of Easter Island in the House library and had decided to raise an eight-foot tall version in the middle of the Quad. At around three o'clock in the afternoon--in the early hours of the project--a Gargantuan snow stump formed in front of Cabot dining hall. It became so tall that one of the seniors mounted the stump and some others, who had come out to lend a hand, hoisted buckets of snow up to him while he continued to build on top. The senior had to sit on the stump for over four hours, and was frostbitten later that evening. He gently thawed himself out and had dinner, and then he returned to work.

At six o'clock that evening people said that there was an eight-foot tall bust of Abraham Lincoln's head in the middle of the Quad.

A few hours later, after well-wishers staring dreamily out their windows had brought the seniors hot chocolate and cookies, the statue got a windswept coiffe and Elvis Presley, it was said, was still alive and in the Quad.

It was three thirty in the morning before the commanding presence of an ancient pagan god stood sohdly on the ground, its nose perfectly chiselled and its heavy-set brow looming over the small men at its feet. The Faster Island god, weighing in at around the mass of a small car, was encased in ice and anchored to the ground. Cries of victory and epiphany flooded the night air and the creators, about half a dozen of them, sat on the ground and looked up in exhausted awe. The thing they created was greater than any of them.

They joined the Quad in slumber at four.

The first ones awake on Sunday morning were local parents with their down bundled children and their sweatered terriers. These early risers walked into the Quad and stopped, tilting their heads like confused pigeons. They approached the Easter Island god in deference and squinted, beholding the gleaming object. Children reached out to touch the indifferent god; the inspiration of a millenium-old design spoke to them here, brought from halfway across the world.

In Cabot dining hall, people pointed and talked wildly about the stern, eight-foot-tall face staring them down. Parents told their friends; dog owners reported it to their kennel clubs; Quadlings brought their River friends to worship.

Shortly before midnight on Monday, the Quad Howl brought the creators of the Easter Island god to stand-guard around the statue with seven-foot gas torches, like ancient witch doctors around their idol. Streakers danced around the god and chanted strange beebop tunes.

A Japanese walking tour stopped at Radcliffe Quadrangle on Tuesday and 86 visitors had their pictures taken with the Easter Island god. The Smithsonian flew in a curator, who videotaped and photographed the work for archival purposes. The BBC started work on a documentary. There was talk of a declaration of the "Eighth Wonder of the World."

I woke up on Wednesday or Thursday--I can't remember which, it seems all a blur to me now--and it was 55 degrees outside. The sun blazed down upon the Quad for two beautifully warm days. The god's nose dripped and its coiffe sagged. It became Elvis again, then Lincoln in old age. On Friday it was an eight foot tall, five foot wide stump. By the weekend the putrid, freezer-burned grass emerged and all that was left of that magnificient thing was a perfectly circular patch of snow.

A fleeting Easter Island deity here today, gone tomorrow. These are the reasons that life in the Quad is good.

Patrick S. Chung's column will continue to provide an alternative to standard American opinion in the spring term.

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