the harvard advocate
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HA R V A R D ADVOCATE
winter 2012 $12
THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
ART Camille Coppola, Molly Dektar, Julian Gewirtz, Kristie La, Avery Leonard, Rebecca Levitan, Mary Potter, Scott Roben, Nicholas Schwalbe, Madeleine Schwartz, Zoe Weinberg. BUSINESS Ben Berman, Sofie Brooks, Ross Ford, Edward de Fouchier, Skyler Hicks, Beñat Idoyaga, Andrew Karn, Temi Lawoyin, Dae Lim, David Manella, Jaron Mercer, Anna Raginskaya, Natalie Wong, Caroline Vernick, Emily Xie, Ge Zhang. DESIGN Charlotte Alter, Lucy Andersen, Wendy Chang, Hanna Choi, Alejandra Dean, Kayla Escobedo, Yuanjian Oliver Luo, Sally Scopa, Michael Segel, Lora Stoianova, Lila Strominger, Ned Whitman.
The Harvard Advocate www.theharvardadvocate.com
EDITORIAL BOARD President Publisher Art Editor Business Manager Design Editors
EMILY CHERTOFF JULIAN GEWIRTZ SCOTT ROBEN SOFIE BROOKS WENDY CHANG HANNA CHOI Features Editor MARK CHIUSANO Fiction Editor SOFIA GROOPMAN Poetry Editor MATT AUCOIN Technology Editor JEREMY FENG Pegasi MOLLY DEKTAR CHARLOTTE LIEBERMAN MADELEINE SCHWARTZ Dionysi RICHARD FEGELMAN STEPHANIE NEWMAN Circulation & DAN COLE Publicity Managers MICHAEL SEGEL Librarian ERIK FREDERICKSEN Alumni Relations Manager JOSHUA WILSON Community Outreach SALLY SCOPA Director
FEATURES Victoria Baena, Eric R. Brewster, Emily Chertoff, Mark Chiusano, Katherine Damm, Eva DeLappe, Georgina Parfitt, Madeleine Schwartz, Indiana Seresin, Georgia Stasinopoulos, My Ngoc To, Alexander J. B. Wells. FICTION Brad Bolman, Emily Chertoff, Molly Dektar, Ricky Fegelman, Erik Fredericksen, Sofia Groopman, Patrick Lauppe, Charlotte Lieberman, Julian Lucas, Joe Masterman, Georgia Stasinopoulos. POETRY Matthew Aucoin, Hana Bajramovic, Samantha Berstler, Wendy Chen, Anne Marie Creighton, Ricky Fegelman, Erik Frederiksen, Julian Gewirtz, Kevin Hong, Sarah Hopkinson, Andrew Klein, Stephanie Newman, Tyler Richard, Joshua Wilson, Justin Wymer, Lara Zysman. TECHNOLOGY Eric Arzoian, Ben Berman, Dan Cole, Jeremy Feng, Mark VanMiddlesworth, Lakshmi Parthasarathy, Michael Segel.
BOARD OF TRUSTEES Chairman Chairman Emeritus Vice-Chairman President Vice-President and Treasurer Secretary
JAMES ATLAS LOUIS BEGLEY DOUGLAS MCINTYRE SUSAN MORRISON AUSTIN WILKIE CHARLES ATKINSON PETER BROOKS JOHN DESTEFANO LESLIE DUNTON-DOWNER JONATHAN GALASSI LEV GROSSMAN ANGELA MARIANI DANIEL MAX CELIA MCGEE THOMAS A. STEWART JEAN STROUSE
The Harvard Advocate will anonymously consider all submissions of art, features, fiction, and poetry. Submissions may be emailed to art@ theharvardadvocate.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, fiction@ theharvardadvocate.com, or email@example.com. Submissions may also be mailed to 21 South St., Cambridge MA 02138. All submissions should be original work that has not been previously published. If you wish to have your submission returned to you, please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Questions about submissions may be directed to the individual emails above or to contact@ theharvardadvocate.com.
To the Class of 2012
A hand is about to reach into his backpack. I call his name to pull him away from the pickpocket. The pickpocket gives me a dirty look and walks away. “Are you sure this is the way?” he asks for the third time. “Yes,” I say. I want to say, “Please try to look like you know what you are doing.” We wait outside our new apartment building for an hour, not knowing how to ask to be let in. There are gulls in the sky. When the doorman realizes who we are, he yells at us for being stupid. Then we go to the movies and discover we can read the Portuguese subtitles of the foreign films. We drink cheap caipirinhas at the horse races. On Sundays, we stroll the beach-side avenue in our bathing suits. Every night we go out to Arpoador Point, where there is a break the surfers like, to watch the sun set over Ipanema and Leblon, sometimes with beer. We lie out on the rich beach, the poor beach, and the gay beach. We get tans. We are not afraid anymore. We are so unafraid we take a stupid risk. It is 10 p.m., a little late to walk, but we decide not to take a cab. It is our second-to-last night in Rio. One of them, nondescript, is standing near the curb by the trash. The other two, covered in tattoos and wearing gang colors, are hiding behind the facade of a clothing store so we do not see them until we are four feet away from them and it is too late. This is what we have been waiting for, this whole month, knowing it and then forgetting it, but still waiting even when we have forgotten. We do not talk. We squeeze each other’s hands tight and each do the same thing which is to quicken our step and look straight ahead. I am waiting for them to move in and snatch us like a threetaloned claw. They are making noises—funny whistles and clicks, like the clicks of a tree-frog—and only later do I realize they were trying to get us to look at them, to give them our attention. Our apartment is one block away from a favela. If you walk a block in the wrong direction, it starts to smell. If you walk a block in the wrong direction, you start to see a certain kind of person. We have had a lot of practice over the past month at not giving people our attention. In this moment, it is a lucky thing, maybe. After all, if we had paused—looked at them—given them our attention—the claw would have gotten us. We make it home to our tiny studio apartment. We sit on the bed. We both look like we have just heard a bomb go off and now our ears are ringing, loudly. I can see it in our reflection in the sliding glass door. The next night, our last night, we stay home and drink whiskey on our balcony. We agree we are sad to leave Rio. It is a beautiful city, and there is a certain kind of fear of the present that lets you forget your fear of the future. —Emily Chertoff President
Founded in 1866, The Harvard Advocate is the nation’s oldest continuously published college literary magazine. It publishes quarterly from 21 South St, Cambridge MA 02138. Published pieces and advertisements represent the opinions of the authors and advertisers, not The Harvard Advocate. Domestic subscription rates are $35 for one year (4 issues), $60 for two years (8 issues), $90 for three years (12 issues). For institutions and international addresses, the rates are $45 for one year (4 issues), $75 for two years (8 issues), $110 for three years (12 issues). Payable by cash or check made out to The Harvard Advocate and mailed to the above address, Attn: Circulation Manager. Back issues are available for purchase at www.theharvardadvocate.com. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the permission of The Harvard Advocate. Copyright 2010 by the Editors and Trustees of The Harvard Advocate.
THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
Off Day at the Track Fine China for Special Occasions Occupy Boston: Pre-Eviction The Persian Pageant
Eric Roff Brewster Katherine Damm Madeleine Schwartz Spencer Burke
6 28 58 72
8 14 17 30 34 46 49 61
fête galante dead pope paradeability a compression poland the second seating the channel was set air conditioning
10 11 26 38 41 60 69
Anyone Who Had a Heart Hades Knew Every Orpheus To Autumn Self-Portrait as First Sex Nursery Furniture Thing About Secrets Star Catcher
carl phillips daniel bosch Justin wymer julian gewirtz robyn schiff D.A. Powell dan Chiasson
John Ashbery Chiara Barzini Bret Anthony Johnston Erik Fredericksen Emily Chertoff Amy Hempel David Lynch Mark Chiusano
Cover design by Hanna Choi r Table of Contents illustrations by Kayla Escobedo r Feature figures by Kayla Escobedo (pp. 58, 59), Sally Scopa (pp. 6, 7, 72, 73, 75), and Lora Stoianova (pp. 28, 29) r Feature borders by Kayla Escobedo r Feature illuminated letters by Lila Strominger r Contributors’ Notes illustrations by Hanna Choi (p.78) and Alejandra Dean (p.79).
12 13 16 33 36 39 40 47 48 66 70
Sediment (Part Two): Epaulet,‚ Hand,‚ Arm,‚ Baton and Elephant Leg Sediment (Part Two): Bowtie,‚ Shirt,‚ Person (With Shadow) and Money Queen Latikah (Ethan) Alastor Hollow Places Fat and Hollow Places Thin Drug Violence Slow frames: Swing Yay! Cursors! Untitled Polishing Drawings,‚ I Where Tradition Persists
John Baldessari john baldessari Molly Dektar Charline von Heyl Jessica Stockholder Ingrid Pierre Dana Lok INGRID PIERRE Kayla Escobedo Sara J. Stern Christodoulos Panayiotou
Notes from 21 South Street
Off Day at the Track Eric Roff Brewster
n the ground rests a slip of paper worth $96. A janitor, mop and cigarette in one hand, kneels down and studies the fine print. CALDER LEG 1: 4, 6, 7; LEG 2: 3. He stops there. He mops on, smokes on, looks on. Later he returns with a dustpan and wipes up the trash under Seabiscuit’s 1937 MassCap banner. Outside, the oval is kept well enough, dragged through and through with a 6 a.m. tractor and a 6 a.m. man. The enclosing fence defines pristine as white. In the infield lurks a fountain in its off-season. At the nearest betting window, a sign hangs reading “CLOSED.” In the window next to it, a sign reading “CLOSED.” A third window missing its sign is closed. On the wall hangs a painting of a horse standing on a patch of grass. There is no one on the horse, but the length of the grass patch in front of the horse is equal to the length of the grass patch behind the horse. Behind the painting of the horse is a mural of another horse. There is a man on the horse in the mural, but the painting is on that man. A square machine in a hole in the wall prints a slip of paper worth $24. It falls into the hand of a man with a custom-made coat made for someone else in someone else’s era. It will learn if it deserves the ground.
The man limps out to the track and squints at the finish line. No one has crossed it in three months. Not a single loser. He limps back inside. Twelve TVs in two rows of six flash odds, pools and payouts. POST TIME blinks on the set simulcasting live from Aqueduct. The horses approach the starting gate resolute and in lowdefinition. A cluster forms. All heads turn up, all eyes take in the screen a few feet under heaven. “I know a guy,” the man says. No one mutters an answer. “I know a guy who had a dream about the number five. So he woke up at five and took the fifth train out of the station. There were five people in his car. He shows up at the track, and in the fifth race puts five grand on the five.” The race goes off. “Horse finishes fifth.” 2:03:20 later, the race ends. The $24 slip of paper lazily finds the ground, worth nothing. The man heads for the machine in the hole in the wall. It does not smell like horses.
Fête Galante John Ashbery
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Anyone Who Had a Heart Carl Phillips
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Hades Knew Every Orpheus Daniel Bosch
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John Baldessari Sediment (Part Two): Epaulet, Hand, Arm, Baton and Elephant Leg, 2010 70” x 54“ Sediment (Part Two): Bowtie, Shirt, Person (With Shadow) and Money, 2010 54” x 70” Varnished archival print on canvas with oil and acrylic paint Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York / Paris 10
Dead Pope Chiara Barzini
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Molly Dektar Queen Latikah (Ethan), 2011 Film photographic print 12
Bret Anthony Johnston
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To Autumn Justin Wymer
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Fine China for Special Occasions Katherine Damm
rowing up, my family had a set of dishes for daily use and a set for the holidays. It’s a fairly common phenomenon. Couples ask for fine china pieces as wedding gifts, and registry requests for gravy boats in expensive patterns can be listed online with bedding and Home Depot gift certificates—as if porcelain were a key material in the foundation of a home. Or as if optimism were this: the belief that there will always be the possibility of a beautiful and fancy life. Growing up, I liked my family’s weighty everyday plates, which had black borders and pictures of vegetables with their names in French script below. There is something whimsical about eating food to reveal a painted image of more food, especially when you are a child. I liked our nice plates, too, which were light and delicate and stacked behind glass, with doilies between them to keep the pattern from chipping. Of course we almost never used them. Years might pass if we happened to neglect them at a Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I don’t think a single one ever broke. I grew up in Philadelphia, which sometimes bills itself as a City of Firsts: the first capital of the nation, the first city with parks, the first big cracked bell. Not to mention the signings of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, downtown in Independence Hall, which went by the less assertive name of the Pennsylvania State House. If you go down to Society Hill, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride around streets built for just that type of vehicle and see it all for yourself. The Philadelphia Dancing Assemblies were created around that time with a winter season of regulated weekly dances for the elite and their guests. The Philadelphia Assemblies were the oldest of their kind in America, and in the 1780s and 90s the weekly dances were at the center of cultivated society. They are the only assembly from that era to remain, although they are held only yearly now. I was invited last year by a friend and his family who are long-time attendees. In the
evening we drove into the city with dresses and tuxedos packed in the trunk and, after several wrong turns down Philadelphia’s many one-way streets, arrived frazzled. But we quickly went about making ourselves glamorous with hair curlers and (in my case, loaned) jewels, and fur coats and makeup, and tails which had lain dormant since that time last year. Then hurried photographs in the rooms and down the long hallways of the Bellevue on the way to dinner. Although the meal was held in a neighboring hotel, the setting could be mistaken for an aristocratic home’s receiving room in this or any bygone era. It was decorated with portraits and mirrors with heavy gold frames, heavy rugs, heavy curtains, side tables with knickknacks, a Christmas tree–and on one wall, a glass-doored cabinet of dinnerware. Only the compulsory exit signs above the molded doorways interrupted the effect of inherited charm. After eating for what felt like just a few minutes, it was over to the dance itself. At the entrance to the ball, the organizers addressed me with “Hello, Katherine Damm,” and whispered “This is Katherine Damm,” down the receiving line while I stood there, awkward as a doll. The only thing of my own I wore were my shoes, and only because you couldn’t see them past the foot-long feathers on the train of the borrowed velvet dress that my friend’s mother stitched to fit me that morning—a morning which anachronistically combined waltz lessons with meatball hoagies and television and naps. The ball itself was a mixture of seasoned dancers, and their children and guests. Some older couples whirled in promenade position as though in a painting, while younger couples stepped on each others’ feet and grinned at each others’ outfits. By then it was as if the adrenaline had worn off; the most charming parts, really, were before the ball took place at all. As a non-member you can only attend one time, and there are no photographs allowed once inside; it is an experience which is difficult to keep hold of. At the turn of the twentieth century, Philadelphia dominated textiles; once that became outsourced the city began to lose its industrial luster. The line of cars on the outbound side of the Schuylkill Expressway at 7 a.m. describes the situation more eloquently than words or numbers, perhaps. My own family is split and gone, or leaving. A few years ago, everything in the old house was packed up or thrown away: the good plates packed up, the daily plates thrown away. It’s funny what we decide to hold onto.
A Compression Erik Fredericksen
My father: a runny nose, snot dripping all down his fingers. He can’t find any tissues, he’s trying to
wipe it off his nose. Meanwhile he balances the newspaper on his lap and here comes a breeze. He’s on the screened-in porch, here comes a wind, and the paper goes flying—all the sections coming apart, whipping up in the air and floating down and folding and turning so he tries to grab it all which of course means his nose starts dripping all over and his snot-hands are getting all over the paper and he’s saying, Goddamn fucking shit-fucking wind. Me, I’m watching him from the kitchen window. From inside I hear him and the wind chimes. Or, my father: sweating through his shirt in the driver’s seat, periodically leaning forward to get his back unstuck. The air conditioning is spitting out heat so we’ve got that turned off and all the windows down. The air rushing in is so loud I can’t hear him the first time he asks so he says again, Adam, open up that cooler in the back seat. I reach in over my duffle bag and his suitcase and inside are eight or ten grapefruits on a bunch of ice. When I hand him one he bites into the rind and starts to peel it, steering with his wrists. He eats it segment by segment like an orange. I dreamed of him last night, for the first time since he died. I wrap myself in a quilt, but I’m still cold. I make it down the hallway and John’s already in the kitchen, eating something. It’s an avocado. My skull wants to crack, let my brain out. John slides a little one-hitter and a lighter across the table. I inhale and he looks at me; I exhale and he scoops some avocado out with a knife. “Don’t ash on my lesson plans,” he says, so I move his bunch of papers to the side. “You’re awake,” he says. “You’re eating an avocado.” “Your kitchen’s empty.” I sit down and he throws the pit at me. As I turn it over in my hand I try to press it in, but it’s as compact as it will ever be, dense and perfected. “Having fun with that?” “God, it’s so bright in here.” “Yeah, isn’t it awful to have the sun shine into our kitchen in the morning?” “I was pretty drunk last night.” “You were talking about children.” “Excuse me?” “You were talking about having children. Some day.” “Oh, God.” “Hey. Deer.” “Where?” “Right by the trash thing. Next to the driveway.” The doe has her head near to the ground and when I move to the window she jerks it up and stares in my direction. She tenses when I tap the window and then runs off. I rest my forehead against the window. “Water?” “Yes, please,” I say into the glass. 18
*** It’s a humid Sunday and there’s nothing to do, so I suggest we go for a drive. There are old women, men in suits, sweating children pulling up to the church down the road and it’s so humid out the dew doesn’t leave the grass so I suggest John and I sit in front of our respective air conditioning vents in my black sedan and drive somewhere. I burn my hand on the seat belt buckle. We pass a cemetery, an elementary school, and a 7-11, at which point I turn left and head for one of the new developments. “Where are you taking me?” “Wouldn’t you like to know?” “Yeah, that came off creepy.” “I want to show you something. It’s crazy.” “What?” “I don’t want to ruin it, okay? It’s just, it’s kind of crazy.” “Alright.” “Trust me, it’s worth it.” “No, yeah, I hear it’s crazy.” His hair is all blown to the side by the air conditioning. I’ve never noticed how small his ears are. A commercial for laser hair removal comes to a close on the radio. We drive by a woman on a tractor and even though the window is up I can smell the cut grass and gasoline. I slow the car down. “Are we here?” “Close.” By this point I’m well aware that I’ve forgotten where the house is. I wanted to show John a house that’s half-burned down. I saw the story on the local news and on Friday, while John was working, I drove through the neighborhood. From the ground up, most of the house is intact. But two thirds of the way up, the house walls just stop. Brick and wood crumble to an end; black as the smoke they’ve given up into the sky in some parts, gray with ash in others. This is the thing I want John to see because this is the sort of thing that John will understand from me. *** On a weeknight, John and I go to eat at a ’50s diner chain. The kind that makes their waitresses wear the sad ’50s outfits. I like the place out of nostalgia for going there as a kid. John hates it but will not argue against an over-sized plate of blueberry pancakes for dinner. A broad-shouldered woman with a nametag that says “Rosa” shows us to our table. It has booths on both sides of it and we slide into our seats. “A whole booth to myself?” “Only the best for you,” I say and slide him the plastic-covered menu. He orders his pancakes and I tell the waitress I’d like a BLT with the bread toasted. Her voice is lower than mine and she has to take a big breath to get through asking if that’ll be all. When she comes back with the food, the bread for my sandwich ends up burnt. The crust crumbles between my thumb and forefinger. The waitress leaves, we start to eat, and a huge woman walks over with a friend. The same Rosa is showing them to their table and I am trying not to stare but it seems pretty obvious that she is larger than the space between table and red, vinyl booth. John catches me staring and turns his head to look real quick. He gives me a look and I can’t decide whether it means stop staring or look at her. The big woman—the obese woman—is shaped like a top, biggest at the middle. I’m thinking about the amount of fabric needed for her shirt and feeling sorry for her but then I worry that my sympathy is patronizing. I take a bite of my sandwich and she goes in, the morbidly obese woman. She gets stuck, forces it a little, and somehow plops herself into the booth, back to me, so I all I can see of her is all of her neck. I turn my attention to my own booth and sigh at John. “So.” The waitress checks to see how we’re doing, something John hates, when it starts: I feel very full. The waist of my pants is fitting very tight. I swallow a piece of bread but it won’t go down my throat. It sits there like a cough before you cough. I breathe quickly through my nose and am suddenly conscious of my inability to focus my eyesight on a single object without looking at something else or everything else. I can smell the salt from the bacon on my sandwich. I go for a sip of water. The straw is very narrow. The fat woman has turned around to look at me and my loud nose-breathing. I sway to my left and John is saying something I imagine is concerned but is probably more along the lines of Hello? I swallow again and the bread goes down. The walls are very bright. The vinyl seat is warm, but the tile floor against my cheek is cool and very cold. *** THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
We didn’t realize it until a month after we started seeing each other, but John and I had actually met when we were something like thirteen. Played on the same youth football team, neither of us very good, both of us apparently destined to stay within a ten-mile radius of where we grew up. The coach, tall with a beer gut, made us all run sprints until we wanted to die. John was the one who threw up a few times, then quit a couple of weeks into the season. When I got the news of my father’s death, John and I were in the aisle of Costco with the paper products. I was loading a huge package of toilet paper into our cart when I checked my phone. John received my blubbering face into his shoulder, tears and saliva and snot, into the warm fleece he was wearing. He stood there and looked around at the other shoppers. I told him I was really sick and not feeling good, which was a little true, when he wanted me to come with him to visit his grandmother. I stayed in the apartment and watched Saturday daytime television and I cooked an omelet. His 90-year-old grandmother, well into Alzheimer’s, recognized John that day, asked him if there were any special girls in his life. The last time I saw John was outside of the elementary school where he taught fifth grade. Oak Ridge or Oak Valley, or some other natural feature you can’t find here anymore. I was picking him up, since his car was getting fixed, and the first thing he said in the car was that he didn’t think this was an equal relationship, meaning I think that he wasn’t getting anything out of it or that I was getting too much. We sat in the parking lot and eventually he just got out and walked off to stay with a friend of his I had never met. He came and got all his stuff while I was away one weekend. I came back, his key was on the kitchen table, and his things were removed. I remember sitting on the couch, eating an orange, and turning on the television loud.
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Charline von Heyl Alastor, 2008 Acrylic on linen 82” x 78” x 1.5” Courtesy of the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York 20
When I am sitting at home in my bedroom after my 10 p.m. curfew has passed, I like to think about
my grandmother when she was my age. She grew up in a village in Poland full of cows, horses, and pink, milk-fattened children, and life went on more or less as you would expect it to until she was 17 and her father came into the family’s stable to find her screwing the stable boy on top of a trough of oats. From that time on they began locking her in the house, and she was only allowed to go to church and to the market when accompanied by her mother. It was winter, the pond in the middle of town had frozen over as usual, the other kids were allowed to skate on it, and I bet it was cold as shit in that house because her parents were too cheap to invest in a wood stove or whatever the fuck they used back then. The village children used to throw chestnut shells at the window of her bedroom and yell, “witch, witch!” and she would open the window and scream obscenities at them until they ran away crying. When she was 20 her parents decided the thing to do was to marry her off to a man with a taste for crazy women—the sort of man who gets his rocks off dominating or domesticating them. Her first husband was about 35, an ethnic Russian, with a handlebar mustache. He looked like a Cossack rapist and that was more or less the scene in their bedroom on their wedding night. Ewa threw a vase at his head and then shook a wooden chair at him like a lion tamer; he grabbed the chair by one leg, threw it aside, and dragged her to the bed by her hair. When her mother came to visit the next morning and saw she had been crying she assumed her virginity had been restored miraculously in the conjugal bed. She made the whole family go to church every day for a month, Ewa consoling herself by passing dirty notes back and forth with the usher in the lining of a psalter. Ewa’s bastard of a new husband locked her up in the house, too, but being alone all day she was able to devise new ways of entertaining herself, like standing at the window and lifting up her blouse every time she saw a peasant on the road with his cart; or taking logs out of the wood stove and watching them glow orange-red with the heat, and then using them to scorch patterns on the floor. Her husband beat her every time he saw evidence of the latter hobby, and so one night when he came in late from drinking with the whores in the village tavern she was waiting for him in the kitchen brandishing one of those glowing logs. When her father opened the stable door in the morning he found her brushing the horse and applying a piece of ice from the frozen pond to the black eyes her now-ex-bastard-husband had given her. Her parents thought about sending her off to starve in a remote village where she would know no one, although probably she would have liked that a lot better than being stuck in a house in the back-fucking-woods with her own family. Unfortunately, she was so beautiful and her small dowry so coveted in her shitty little village that even though the full story of her marriage to the Cossack rapist was common knowledge, there was another idiot waiting in line to marry her once the swelling had gone down. He had been one of the children who had called her a witch and thrown chestnut shells at her window, and he had a condition that made his eyes run with pus no matter the season. Her family was pleased: it would be a better way of punishing her than sending her to one of those licentious convents you read about in books. Her new husband was full of drippy talk about loving her from afar and the backward attitudes of 22
their time towards women and her blue eyes and her long, dark hair. Do you think my grandmother gave two shits about this, when the bastard had talked to her parents and locked her in the house all the same? She would stand in front of the dirty, scummy, cracked mirror that was one of about five pieces of furniture in their house and say, I’m going to grow old here, in this piss-poor little village where the men are ugly, the livestock freeze to death every winter, and the shitty little pond will never become a lake. She did what she had to do which was to continue her occupation of lifting up her shirt for passersby on the road from Krakow to Lodz. Over the years she had collected a handful of regular admirers who would come and whisper dirty things to her through the window while she pressed her breasts to the glass above their heads. One of these, who came back and forth down the road on his horse about three times a year, had a well-trimmed mustache and no holes in his coat. He was the most perverse of her admirers and would sometimes whisper words she didn’t even know when talking about what he would like to do to her. (And she had developed quite a vocabulary through her correspondence with the church usher.) This winter, when he approached her window, she told him that if he let her travel with him, he could indeed do whatever he liked to her. As they tore through the sad, shitty village on his horse, she sat backwards in the saddle and lifted her blouse up high, in full view of everyone, on her way through the town square, past her parents’ house, past her husband working in the fields. (His buckshot missed them both, thanks to his clouded, runny eyes). She cackled and screamed vulgarities and conjured Satan, asking him to make every woman in the town barren and every man syphilitic. Her eighth night on the road with the pervert, who was indeed a pervert, she absconded with a stranger she met at an inn—and again a few weeks later, with another stranger. In this and similar ways she made her way through the countryside, over the course of a year or so, towards Western Europe and then America. Her only regret in life, she told me on her deathbed, was that she had not been born thirty years later and in California, which to her was a golden land where all the roads are freeways, and where the favorite pastime of the young women is to go screaming down them in their convertibles at ninety miles an hour, waving their tits at the oncoming traffic.
THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
Self-Portrait as First Sex Julian Gewirtz
In this red-walled room, among rare hibiscus Tense, flushed, the floor strains, A pulse-muscle, Chambered, flowing, this my old sulking-place, Celled, slowed, cruor— And I, the princeling Of this city singing, lithe and lithesome Dancer. Drawn up from the pin, Raveled, a radiant
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Scarlet thread, fine in thin light. A daughter. Tonight, to be damasked, this bed Of cardamom, Bitter hyssop, myrrhy as poem’s shadow. He Takes my nose in hand, knifing, Presses it closed, Cut. Keeping from me my scent. Now they break, All the lines, shard-cinnabar, the face, Mercurial mask Spreading. And upon a silver platter I will be Served my own severed head. I will sway behind Its beauty, veining, as the seventh veil is falling before me.
Jessica Stockholder Hollow Places Fat and Hollow Places Thin, 2011 (Installation view) Made from the wood of an ash tree cut down from the backyard of the Aldrich Museum, acrylic, oil, and enamel paint, and hardware Screens approximately 5’ high Courtesy of the artist THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
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Ingrid Pierre Drug Violence, 2011 Graphite on paper 16” x 20”
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Dana Lok Slow Frames: Swing, 2011 Acrylic and watercolor on paper 8”x 11” Courtesy of the artist
NURSERY FURNITURE Robyn Schiff
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The Second Seating Amy Hempel
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Ingrid Pierre Yay! Cursors!, 2011 Graphite on paper 17” x 22” 30
The channel was set David Lynch
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Kayla Escobedo Untitled, 2011 Acrylic, mylar, brass pins on paper Largest figure 9’ high THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
Occupy Boston: Pre-Eviction Madeleine Schwartz
n Thursday, December 8, Mayor Menino announced that he would be evicting Occupy Boston. I heard about it first on Twitter, where people were upset. Boston was one of the last places an Occupy settlement had not yet been forced out, and a restraining order had been protecting the site from police interference. In the newspapers, the announcement was framed as a success for Menino—finally he would be able to take action against a movement that had “tested his patience.” I got a few emails—the occupiers were demanding that as many people come as possible to support the movement. “You don’t have to get arrested,” they said. My friend J and I got to the Occupy site around 10 p.m. Most of the tents had been removed, along with anything valuable, so what remained were scattered structures standing in mud. People were picking up trash and putting it into bags; a sanitation truck was parked on the street. On one end of the camp, next to a big building, a large crowd was holding a General Assembly about what to do if arrested. A man was yelling: “The police are violent people! The police don’t have law degrees! Don’t ask the police what to do—they lie!” We went to find the protest chaplains, whom J knows. They were standing in a circle, deciding on a plan for the evening. They didn’t want to be arrested, but they wanted to show their support. It was an attractive group—tall men and women wearing white albs and clergymen’s outfits underneath their coats. A few of the members had come from Martha’s Vineyard, and they had that sort of precise, chiseled face that only New England makes. It was concluded that they would sing throughout the evening and bless the eviction as it occurred. A young man wearing a white alb spoke up. “We can say: Boston is watching, America is watching, the whole world is watching, and the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost is watching.”
A marching band made up of old men had been playing in front of the T stop since we arrived. People were dancing in front of it. Members of the media arrived, and began to take pictures of the dancers. The band began playing “Solidarity Forever,” which was written in 1915 and has the same tune as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite, Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might? Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight? For the union makes us strong. We walked around the camp. At this point, there were maybe 1,000 people. Everywhere, there were camera flashes. Across the street, a group of people were standing in front of an office building, watching. “I am the 99 percent and I want you to leave!” a man shouted. In the sacred space tent, we took off our shoes and kneeled in front of a small table with books and electric candles. People were dividing up religious books so that they wouldn’t get destroyed. One man took the King James Bible, but there were no takers for a small bamboo garden in a jar. In a corner, a young man was talking about growing up in a Southern Baptist family and began to read the Book of Samuel out loud. Later that night, after I left, the chaplains married two protestors. The crowd spilled out of the camp and into the streets, marching down Atlantic Avenue at 1 in the morning. Occupy Boston wasn’t evicted that night, but it was the next, when the police arrived at 5 in the morning and arrested 46 people.
Air Conditioning Mark Chiusano
For a while there was only one air-conditioner in our house. It was in the living room, and we put it
on during birthdays or the fourth of July. It covered the heat in the kitchen from my mother burning things, like the half-sausages, the hot ones, which had a black crust on the bottom from where they were touching the pan for too long. The air-conditioner being in the living room was the reason that Lorris slept in my room during the summer, even though he had his own room, because mine had a ceiling fan. It had wooden slats with small holes at the edges so that in the winter we could hang our model planes and cars off the ends. After our mother had dusted the top of the slats, we would set the fan going on a low frequency and the planes and racecars would spin around, getting higher and higher with the centripetal acceleration, until the Lego ones started to break apart, and Lorris ran shouting from the room. Our parents had been arguing in the living room with the air-conditioner masking the noise a little, and we were building Lego cars in my room, when finally I came and sat on the stairs and started reading a poem I’d written the week before about how cold the pancakes were that morning. The pancakes, I said, were cold this morning. I was sitting with my knees together on the top step and Lorris was lying on his stomach clutching the two-by-two Lego piece I had asked him to find. I started over, The pancakes were cold this morning. That’s enough of that, said my father. I’m just trying to help, I said. He’s just trying to help, said Lorris. It’s none of your business, he said. This is an adult conversation. From downstairs we could hear the kitchen cabinets being slammed shut. Conversation, he repeated. One day my father came home carrying a second air-conditioner. He was carrying it the way you carry Christmas packages, as if someone was about to stack more boxes on top. He had to put the air-conditioner down to ring the doorbell, even though Lorris and I had seen him through the upstairs window, and our mother went to answer it, us behind her, her shoulder and neck cradling the portable phone. She put a hand over the receiver to say, I don’t even want to know. My father was a driving instructor. He worked at the place on Kings Highway under the train tracks, where the storefronts grow on top of each other until one of them covers up the other. The office for the Kings Highway Driving School was on the second floor, and they were ignoring Department of Health requests to make it handicap accessible. They posted a sign that said, “For handicapped, please call up. Will come down and get you.” So far they’d never had to do it. I was thirteen at the time, and taking any seconds in the car I could get. Technically I was too young, but if we went in the practice car and lit up the sign on top that said Student Driver, no one said anything. Everyone in our neighborhood was a cop, and they knew me and my father pretty well, so we always drove out to Gerritsen, by the Shit Factory where you could make the widest turns. Sometimes we let Lorris in the back, because he always begged to come, and he took his favorite HotWheel, the red one with the white stripe down the middle. It was always the fastest on our yellow racetrack. He held it in both hands, mimicking the turns and motions I made while I drove. 36
My mother didn’t like the idea of me driving, especially with my father, because she said that someday we would get caught and it would go on my permanent transcript. That was the kind of thing she was always ragging about, things on my permanent school transcript. Even though I was about to graduate, and I was already in Midwood for high school. She thought that those kinds of things ride on your bumper forever, and maybe they do, but I try to ask as few questions as possible. She wasn’t around when we drove anyway, because she worked nine to seven as a school secretary. My father lounged around most mornings, doing his shifts in the office three days a week, but other than that he stayed at home until four, when the first lessons were usually scheduled. Sometimes he’d paint the basement just for something to do, or sweep the stoop. I got off the cheese bus from school around three, which left almost an hour for driving. Some days if Lorris was late at after-school program we’d go pick him up. Our mother liked that the least. How could we explain ourselves picking a nine-year-old kid up at school and say this is still a lesson? She was mainly just unhappy because she thought that our father wasn’t a good driver, and that it was terrifying that it was him teaching the whole borough below Fulton Street. Technically she might have been better, but he was confident about it, and didn’t worry about hitting the brakes too hard or conserving gas. She was always stopping at yellows. When he brought the second air-conditioner home it was April, but one of those hot Aprils that remind you what summer’s like, before it rains again. In Brooklyn that type of weather is always paired with thunderstorms, which is what we waited for. Once our father left for work and before our mother got home I’d get the key for the garage and open the heavy door slowly, hand over hand. Lorris would be drumming on the metal as it went up. We’d pull our bikes out, his fire-yellow, mine blue and white, and race down the sidestreets to Marine Park by the water. At that point in the afternoon you’d be able to feel the heat through the handlebars. We’d make it one lap around the oval, .89 miles, before we heard the first thunder, and then Lorris would yell and dart ahead even though he’d just gotten his training wheels off. The rain came down all at once then, and all of a sudden it would be cold, and this was the best part, when I pulled over by the water fountain and Lorris circled back to me. I pulled the two red and blue windbreakers out of my bike basket and we put them on, invincible against anything from above. We rode two more laps in the zig-zag storm until racing each other home. Dad put the second air-conditioner in his and Mom’s room. It was just the bathroom and a closet between their room and mine, and if we had the fan on low Lorris and I could hear the airconditioning clearing its throat all night. That’s what it sounded like, like it was constantly hacking something up from deep down in its throat. Sometimes if I was awake after going to the bathroom in the early a.m., I could hear our mother wake up and walk over to it, and turn it down a few settings. It took them a long time to get the hang of how high they wanted it to be. It would be too warm when they went to bed, but then freezing by morning, unless Mom got up to fix it. We could tell when she hadn’t gotten up because when we went in before school to say goodbye to Dad, on the days he was sleeping there, he’d have the white sheets all wrapped around his head from the middle of the night. A few weeks after we got the second air-conditioner it was so hot they started putting out weather advisories over Ten-Ten-WINS in the morning. Stay inside unless absolutely necessary. Mom took this to heart, and tried to get Lorris and me to do it too, but this was the best time for outdoor activities. School was winding down, especially for eighth-graders, so that we didn’t have homework anymore, even from Regents math. My math teacher, Mr. Perlson, had taken to sitting in the back of the classroom and spraying Lysol at anyone if they sneezed too close to him. This was in Independent Math, where we worked at our own pace. We took the tests when we got to the ends of chapters. At this point, everyone seemed to still have a few pages before being ready for their tests. Mr. Perlson didn’t mind. He was concentrating on staying ahead of the sickness wave which always happened the first time the weather changed like this. It got so hot that the cheese buses broke down, and we had to walk home from school. Dad would have picked us up if we told him, and he did pick Lorris up, but I convinced him that we’d gotten some special buses shipped in from upstate, where the kids biked to school all the time because it was so safe. My friend Harold and I walked towards our neighborhood together, taking everything in. One of those days, Harold told me that I couldn’t walk straight. I told him he was being ridiculous but it turned out he was right. I’d step with my left foot and fall two or three inches off my forward motion, and then readjust with my right foot, but four or five inches too far. Then I’d have to fix it with my left, but that came off the line a little too. I didn’t know it was happening. Somehow I got wherever I was going, but Harold showed me how, if he was standing pretty close to my shoulder, I kept knocking him, on every third or fourth step. We were walking down 33rd, which comes off Kings Highway at a curve, and suddenly I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it all the way home. The more I thought about my feet the more inches I diverged THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
right and left. Harold held my right arm and tried to force me forward, but I started breathing heavy and told him I needed a break. That’s when the station wagon pulled by, slowed up, and someone rolled down the window. It was a high school kid, with a Madison Football sweatshirt and the chinstrap beard that everyone who could was wearing that year. Harold was pretending that the white tuft on his chin counted. The driver also had a Madison sweatshirt on, and I saw him use his right hand to put the car into park. “Don’t you live on Quentin?” the guy in the passenger’s seat said. “You coming down from Hudde?” Harold said yes. “Jump in,” he said. “We’ll drop you off, it’s too hot to walk.” He leaned his arm out the window and reached behind to open the back door. Once we were in the car the Madison kid in the passenger’s seat turned the music up, and it wasn’t that it was louder than in our car but it was thumping more in my chest. “You like Z100?” he said, smiling, leaning his left hand behind the headrest. I was watching the driver while Harold answered for us. He was driving with two fingers, his index and middle ones on one hand, his other arm out the window. Somehow we were going just as fast as my dad always goes on side-streets, but we were getting the soft stops that only my mom, at 15 miles per hour, was able to get. At the stop sign on Avenue P, he jolted out to look once or twice, in exact time with the music. His friend was drumming on the dashboard with both hands. Dad was sitting on the stoop when they dropped us off, and he stood up once he recognized me getting out of the car. The car waved away. I was able to walk again, the zig-zag curse gone. Harold said, “That car was disgusting, huh?” I was looking at my dad’s face. When I got up to him, he grabbed me under the armpit and dragged me up the stoop. Harold didn’t look away. We were inside with the air-conditioning on when he flat-palmed me in the stomach. “Are you serious,” he said. “Are you serious.” When Dad came home with the third air-conditioner it was still blistering out. There were tornados in Texas, more than they’d ever seen before, and in Earth Science Ms. Donatelli said it was what we had to look forward to: global warming in America. Someone in the back asked if this meant no more snow days, and she said, Maybe no snow, period. He had the air-conditioner in the trunk of the driving instructor car. You don’t notice until you’re close to it, but those cars are a little skinnier than regular ones. Dad says it helps the kids who have a bad sense of hand-eye coordination. There’s more wiggle room when you’re trying to squeeze through tight spaces. He says that the first thing he asks a student when they get in the car is whether
they played sports when they were younger, or if they still do now. If not, he’d know it was going to be a long day. You can’t imagine how crappy those kids are, especially the Hasidic Jews. “Why’s that, Daddy?” asked Lorris. “Because they didn’t play sports as a kid,” he answered, wiping his mouth with his napkin. I had set the table, and we used the white ones with blue borders that I liked. “This is how you raise your kids,” Mom said. She was twirling her fork in her fingers. She’d gotten home late and he was back early. “My kids, yeah?” he shrugged. “It’s just true.” The new air-conditioner was bigger than the others, mostly because it had extendable plastic wings on the side that were supposed to be for fitting in a window. That afternoon before Mom got back from work he put it in the kitchen, balancing it above the heater and extending the wings so it sat snug. He got some blocks of wood out of the garage and pushed them underneath. When she came back she had immediate problems. They had a session up in their bedroom where we couldn’t really hear what they were yelling. When they came down, she was pointing at the kitchen window. “How am I supposed to hang the clothes out now,” she said. I guess Dad hadn’t thought about that. The clothesline comes out the kitchen window. He moved it one window over. That was the spring of people breaking their wrists. I had three friends who did, and at least two more from school. Everyone was walking around with casts on their arms and a permanent marker in their back pockets to ask you to sign. It happened to our next-door neighbor first—he was playing basketball at the courts by Marine Park and when he went up for a rebound someone kneed him the wrong way. He fell full on his knuckles. I wasn’t there, but Lorris had been riding his bike and said he saw him waiting for the ambulance, his hand doubled over and fingers touching his forearm. The one wrist I did get to see was right by our house. Behind the house there’s a thin alley for the sanitation trucks to get the garbage. This way they don’t clog up the avenues in the mornings. Harold was over and Dad was showing Lorris how to skateboard. The alley has a little hill on each end and dips down in the middle. Dad had him getting speed down the hill and then showed him how to glide. Harold and I were on our Razor scooters, trying to do grind tricks off the concrete sides of the alley. Then, after Lorris beat his own glide record and Dad was giving him a high five, Harold decided to come down the hill backwards. Dad wasn’t watching. He was pretending to shadowbox with Lorris, who was saying, I’m the greatest, I’m the greatest. “Don’t do it, man,” I said. “They don’t even try that on Tony Hawk.” “It’s gonna be sick,” he said, and gave it a little hop to get his speed up. He made it all the way down before falling. I have to give him credit for that. But then he swerved towards the wall and got scared and fell. He wasn’t even going that fast. All I heard was a squelch like the sound the black dried-up shark eggs make when we squished them on the beach at Coney Island. It was the same sound. His wrist looked bent sideways. He jumped up and was screaming, My wrist, my wrist, and my dad came running over, Lorris right behind, and that’s when the third air-conditioner fell out the window, crashing and breaking into pieces and my Mom yelling from the kitchen, Goddamnit you’re an asshole. Dad and I drove Harold to the hospital first but when we got back we swept up all the pieces. It wasn’t long after that until it was my birthday, and to celebrate Dad took me out driving with him. It was a weekend, so we had plenty of time. Mom was home with Lorris playing Legos, because in a recent school art-project his portrait of the family had her smaller than the rest of us, off in the corner. She’d been at work a lot. I don’t think Lorris meant anything about it, he was always a terrible artist. But you could tell she was upset. When we weren’t rushed, Dad liked to pull out all the stops in the driving. First he drove us to the parking lot in Marine Park, and let me drive around there for a few minutes. We pulled into and out of vertical spaces. Everybody learned how to drive in the Marine Park parking lot, and the cops didn’t mind as long as you were being safe. I’ve heard they’re much more careful now—they jumped all over the two underage kids last week who ran their mother’s car into a hydrant—but this was a while ago. We were particularly safe, of course, because we were in Dad’s driver instructor’s car. It had a problem with the wheel so that it lilted a little to the left if you didn’t correct it, but it was perfect and I loved it. From there we pulled onto Quentin, rode that all the way down to Flatbush, which was heavy sixlane traffic. Dad took the wheel again at that point. I was still getting used to cars on both sides of me. He exaggerated all his driving motions here, the point being for me to observe. Hit the left blinker. Make sure you’re keeping up with traffic. Always check all three mirrors. If you stay on Flatbush and keep going you hit the water, Rockaway and the Atlantic, twenty blocks from our house, but that’s getting onto the highway, and I didn’t want to deal with that yet. We made THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
a right onto U, and Dad stayed in the right lane the whole way. Then, after passing the public library and the salt marsh where the watermill used to be, where you can still see the foundation coming out of the surface, we were in Gerritsen. Dad ceremonially pulled into an open spot and put the car in park and pulled the keys out and handed them to me when we passed each other going around the hood. This was my favorite moment, using the key, the throat-grumbling the engine makes when it comes on, how if you do it wrong it kick-starts like someone laughing hysterically. Then the way the wheel shakes a little in your hand, your foot on the brake, everything ready to move. I pulled out and Dad said, Good good, keep it easy, and I imagined the fake line in the middle of the road like he told me to, keeping a little to the left of it. I hit my right blinker and we were on a one-way street, and my turn came perfectly into the center. I accelerated a little and tried to ease off and onto the break at the red light, completely smooth. I navigated around a double-parked car without my dad saying a word. When we were little, the only activity that Lorris and I wanted every night was wrestling with Dad. He didn’t like to hit us, Mom was the one we were afraid of, her slaps more damaging than any neighborhood scrape. Scarier too because she’d cry after, holding ice to our cheek, even though we told her it was okay and we didn’t need the ice. But wrestling was something that Dad knew how to do. He’d lie down in our living room on his back, and one or the other of us would run down the hallway and take a running leap and jump on top of him. Then the other would come from behind his head and try to cover his eyes or hold his legs. When we jumped, he made an oof sound like we had knocked the air out, but he always caught us, in midair, no matter what part of him we tried to jump on top of. He’d keep us suspended there for a few seconds, turning us back and forth like a steering wheel, and then pull us back down and wrap our arms in a pretzel. Mom liked to watch this from the kitchen, where she’d be cleaning the dishes, usually Dad’s job but she let him off the hook when he was up for wrestling with us. Coming down a one-way street like that was the same feeling of being suspended in midair, the windows open and the air coming through, the radio off so I could concentrate, the car on a track, almost, so it felt impossible to deviate. I could close my eyes or shut off the driving part of my brain and the car would keep going forward, where I was willing it to go. It was the corner, the one with two traffic lights, the one with the old storage warehouse on one side, and the Burger King, where teenagers go after the movies to sky the drink machines and not pay; with the Shit Factory on the other side, the green fence shaped like a wave on the top that goes on and on forever. There’s a gate in the fence with an entrance to the recycling dump. When Dad saw it, it was like he woke up from being asleep with his eyes open. He leaned forward and said, Make a right here, go into there. We’ve got to pick something up. Then the red Chevy came screaming up from behind us and crunched into the passenger’s side. I sat in the driver’s seat. There were doors being opened and slammed shut. I think I heard the sirens immediately. Police cars are never far away. The Chevy driver went right over to Dad’s side and pulled him out and Dad lay on the floor, breathing heavy, on his back, looking up. I was in the car. I was out of the car. I was sitting on the side of the curb. My dad lay on his back and groaned quietly, talking to himself. There were people all around him. He kept pushing the air in front of him, up and away. My mom got there. My dad was sitting up. She was screaming the whole time. Another fucking air-conditioner, she said. Driving with your fucking underage son. You’ve got some fucking lot of nerve. Dad was sitting up and laughing. He was shaking his head, I remember that. He’d just gotten a haircut, and you could see red skin beneath the gray. I remember when Dad came to say goodnight to us, later, later, he said, Your mother and I love each other very much. He had his hands on the side of the mattress. Don’t take things so seriously, he said. It was hot that night and Lorris was in my room again. Mom pulled out the pullout bed. She smoothed the sheets. She kept her hand on his cheek, her other hand on my arm, her feet between the two beds, until Lorris told her that he wanted to turn on the other side. She went downstairs, and she put the television on, but we could hear her and Dad arguing. They were quiet. We only heard the sounds of their voices. It stopped soon and they turned the television off. Lorris got out of the pullout bed and stood in front of mine. He put his hand on the side, and I lifted up the sheet. I faced one way, and he faced the other, because I didn’t like when our breaths hit, but he kept his foot next to mine until four in the morning. Then he got up to go to the bathroom, and I had the bed and the sheets and the quiet room to myself.
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STAR CATCHER Dan Chiasson
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Christodoulos Panayiotou Where Tradition Persists, 2010 Courtesy of the artist 44
The Persian Pageant Spencer Burke
hiraz, 1971 Haile Selassie descends to the tarmac in a gabardine suit. The hot thin air of Shiraz greets the 79-year-old emperor before the line of salutes and the smiling Shah striding to meet him. The Shah of Iran and Emperor of Ethiopia embrace. The Shah thanks him, in English—such a pleasure to see you again, my friend. As the evening shadows sink over the Zagros Mountains beyond the runway, they set off down the fresh highway in a fleet of black Mercedes limousines. The 40 desert miles to Persepolis are richly lit, as if by magic, with long rows of hissing gas-lamps, a reminder of the liquid wealth underlying the affair. At Persepolis, ancient seat of the Achaemenids, they arrive at the glittering tent-city erected for the occasion. All is in place, lavishly conceived and immaculately achieved. The Shah and his guests have assembled here amid the ruins of Persia’s ancient capital to celebrate two and a half millennia of Iranian civilization. They will feast for five hours on golden caviar and roast peacock flown in from Paris. Spiro Agnew will whisper to Prince Philip—did the old Shah really spend two hundred million on this whole shebang? The Greek president, glutted, will doze off during the sound-and-light show. Orson Welles will opine that this was no party of the year; it was the celebration of 25 centuries. Haile Selassie—lone emperor in a crowd that includes eight kings, three ruling princes, twelve presidents, ten sheiks, three prime ministers, two sultans, two vice presidents, and a cardinal—will stick close to the Shah. As the night’s gala nears its end, the Emperor will move in close and tell the Shah, with a conspiratorial note, that he feels the sorcery of history in the air tonight. The Emperor reminds his host that they, as the divine heirs to the world’s
two oldest surviving kingdoms, have the full thrust and approbation of the past propelling them to greatness. At the moment, anything seems possible. The Shah, ebullient with success and fine wine, will smile and say—yes, and good thing, for there is so much still to achieve. The party will disband, and the Shah and the Emperor will return to the air-conditioned comfort of their tents. In just a few years both will be overthrown. By the end of the decade, they will both be dead. *** Back in April 1970, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi ordered his advisers to prepare an anniversary celebration to be held in eighteen months. His directive commanded that the pageant demonstrate how “Iran’s continued existence and its national sovereignty is possible through the continuation of the monarchy.” It was to be held in Persepolis, for no other site could better conjure the imperial grandeur of Iran’s past. The problems soon became apparent. The nearest city, Shiraz, was ill-prepared to host such an event: the airport could only service small planes and the road to the ruins was dilapidated and unlit at night. The Shah told them money was no object. Fifteen million dollars were spent retrofitting the airport. Specialists from the state oil company were brought in to rig rows of temporary gaslamps along the highway, and 250 bulletproof Mercedes-Benz limousines were ordered. Architects drew up plans for a new luxury hotel beside the ruins, but it was decided that eighteen months was not enough time. Someone had the idea to build a tent city instead. Empress Farah blanched at the suggestion, declaring that all her guests should feel that they were staying in a palace. And so the maker of the world’s most expensive tents, Jansen AG of Switzerland, was employed to design 54 royal blue, silk-lined tents for the guests. Each air-conditioned, fireproof tent could withstand hundred-kilometer winds, and came complete with wall-to-wall carpeting and his-and-her marble bathrooms.
When construction began they discovered that the desert around Persepolis was a notorious haven for poisonous snakes. The area was sprayed with poison. Loads of snake, lizard, and tarantula carcasses were gathered and trucked away to the local dump. Versailles’ horticulturalist was engaged to landscape the parched environs; 1500 cypress trees and 50,000 carnations were shuttled by Iranian Air Force jets to the new airport at Shiraz, then to the ruins by army truck. Maxim’s of Paris—then the most famous restaurant in the world—closed down for two weeks and flew 159 of its chefs, bakers, and waiters to Iran to prepare the feast. Attendants and sommeliers were brought in from the Shah’s favorite hotel in St. Moritz. The foreign ministry, tasked with ensuring foreign leaders’ attendance, played hardball, linking the attendance of British, French, and German rulers to drilling and mining contracts in Iran. The ministry of culture recruited Orson Welles to narrate a documentary movie, Flames of Persia, about the pageant. In exchange, the Shah’s brother-in-law put up the financing for Welles’ next movie. *** The festivities began with the feast. Six hundred guests stuffed themselves for five hours on the sixcourse meal, featuring quail’s eggs stuffed with golden caviar, saddles of lamb with truffles, crayfish mousse, and 92 imperial peacocks (with intact tail feathers) surrounded by a court of roast quail. They consumed 2,500 bottles of fine French wine and champagne: 1945 Chateau Lafite, 1911 Moët Chandon, 1959 Dom Perignon Rosé. It was said that the only thing Iranian about the night was the caviar. Those with an eye for irony noted that the Shah, who was allergic, had artichoke instead. With heavy bellies and swaying gaits the guests made their way to a sound-and-light show over the ruins of Persepolis, complete with fireworks and a new electronic composition by the French avantgarde composer Iannis Xenakis. The next day, guests were treated to a cavalcade of soldiers outfitted in the full regalia of Persian armies through the ages, with garish costumes, false beards, and chariots. A parade of horses pulled a model castle and three reproduced ancient oared warships past the viewing stands. One news anchor remarked that the Shah had out-DeMilled Cecil B. DeMille. No one was quite sure what to make of the whole affair. Pakistan’s president returned home to declare a national holiday in Iran’s honor. Many historians point to the pageant as the Shah’s crossing of the Rubicon, the moment when he proved just how staggeringly out of touch he was with his people. The ostentation of the pageant eclipsed the 2,500 schools, 2,500 clinics, and 2,500 books commissioned for the anniversary. From exile, Ayatollah Khomeini declared, “these festivities have nothing to do with the noble people of Iran.” The liberal press openly criticized the Shah, attacking the spending and the tastelessness. “Lavish at the Expense of Starving People,” “An Insult to our Culture to serve French food,” read the headlines. A now-declassified memo from the British embassy in Tehran described the event as a daring enterprise, but marred by the element of excess, overwhelmed by the Shah’s megalomania. Their analysis put the cost of the event at several hundred million dollars. In all the pageantry, it was easy to miss the small symbol at the center of it all. *** This is a story about the use and misuse of history. Two thousand five hundred and ten years earlier, Cyrus the Great marched his victorious army through the gates of Babylon. Cyrus, a skilled politician as well as a consummate conqueror, immediately began the second front of his conquest. He issued an edict, announcing himself to his new subjects. “I am Cyrus, king of the world, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon, king of Sumer and Akkad, king of the four quarters of the world … The needs of Babylon and of all its cities I gladly attended to.” He portrayed himself as a liberator, who overthrew the unpopular king Nabonidus with the blessing of the Babylonian god Marduk. Then he made a bold and original declaration of tolerance, promising to promulgate religious freedom and equality in Babylon. He pledged to restore the shrines of gods that had been damaged under the old king, and to allow the Jews—kept as slaves in Babylon for generations—to return to their homeland. These words have come down to us in a document known as the Cyrus Cylinder, a barrel-shaped clay seal, nine inches long, incised with lines of cuneiform text. It was discovered by British archaeologists amid the foundations of a wall in Babylon. Fragments of the same inscription have been found across the area. The Shah chose Cyrus and the Cylinder to be the focal points for the anniversary celebrations. The Cylinder was represented as a symbol for all the achievements of Iranian civilization. Its image appeared at the center of the logo for the anniversary. Small copies were fashioned in clay and distributed to guests. The Shah convinced the British Museum to lend the original for the year of the anniversary. *** 48
The tomb of Cyrus is a simple and elegant structure, a gabled chamber atop a six-stepped pedestal, with a small opening on its western side. Built from white limestone, it blends in with the camelcolored earth and hills that surround it. It sits at the heart of Cyrus’ capital, Pasargadae, “the camp of Persia.” It was here that the celebration actually began, before the foreign guests arrived. Just before noon on October 12, 1971, the Shah, dressed in his full military regalia, walked a vivid aquamarine carpet to a low stage opposite the tomb. Taking to the lectern, he looked right past the sea of dignitaries and dark-clad soldiers assembled before him. Instead, he directly addressed the spirit of the long-dead king in his mausoleum, “O Cyrus, great King, King of Kings, Achaemenian King, King of the land of Iran. I, the Shahanshah of Iran, offer thee salutations from myself, and from my nation.” The Shah’s voice echoed across the plain. “Rest in peace,” he told Cyrus, “for we are awake, and we will always stay awake.” It was a stark and somber ceremony, especially in contrast with what was to come. At the close of the pageant in Persepolis, after the banquet and light show and procession, after his guests had gone home, the Shah returned to Tehran for the final event of the anniversary celebrations: the ceremonial opening of the massive white-marble Shahyad (Kings’ Memorial) Tower built across the capital’s Eisenhower Avenue. Underneath the tower’s vault there is a small museum with several dozen objects selected to represent the arc of Iranian history. In its place of honor, at the museum’s center, was the Cyrus Cylinder itself. The cracked clay artifact is perhaps a strange choice to represent 2,500 years of history. Compared to the objects surrounding it in the museum, it is not particularly beautiful or impressive. If not for its placement, most would walk right by it. Why, out of two and a half millennia of culture and artistic achievement, did he choose this? *** The Shah was not of royal blood. He was born to Reza Khan, a soldier who came from a small village northeast of the capital and rose to the command of an elite Cossack brigade. When he was two years old, his father led a British-sponsored coup against the foundering Qajar monarchy. Five years later, his father seized the Peacock Throne, declaring a new imperial dynasty with his son as heir. The new Shah initiated a broad program of institutional reform. He revered the secular vision of Kemal Atatürk, founding father of modern Turkey, emulating his project of modernization and uprooting Islam from the state. He chose the name Pahlavi for his new dynasty as a none-too-subtle reference to the name of the language spoken in Iran before the arrival of Islam. Mohammad Reza Pahlavi carried on this enterprise when he succeeded his father in 1941. They both saw modernization as the best path toward restoring Persia’s former greatness. As they struggled against the religious establishment for influence, they found themselves pitted against the traditional purveyors of political legitimacy. So, from the beginning, the Pahlavis drew instead on Iran’s preTHE HARVARD ADVOCATE
Islamic past to vindicate their rule. When the son sought to aggrandize his rule in the eyes of his people and the world, he went all the way back to link himself with the great king Cyrus. The anniversary celebrations would be a reflection of the Shah’s understanding and vision of Iranian history. He saw the soul of the nation divided between its Zoroastrian first millennium and its Islamic second millennium. The goal, according to one of the event’s main organizers, was to accentuate the imperial grandeur of this first era at the detriment of the Islamic second. This emphasis would, he hoped, strengthen his own hand against his most vociferous critics—the mullahs in the holy city of Qom, particularly the Ayatollah Khomeini, exiled after denouncing the Shah to his congregation as a tyrant and a “wretched, miserable man.” It would also present the Shah’s vision for a third millennium of Persian grandeur, a merging of Cyrus the Great’s imperial ambitions with modern economic development, supported by the nation’s newfound oil wealth. Iran, the Shah believed, would take its rightful place as a prosperous, industrialized welfare state at the top of an interconnected, secular world. He liked to call this Iran of his dreams, Tamaddon-e Bazorg—or, “The Great Civilization.” *** In the year leading up to the anniversary, the Shah led an international publicity campaign seeking to enhance Iran’s status to that of a world power. At the forefront of this campaign was the Cyrus Cylinder, which the Shah put forward as the world’s first declaration of human rights, proof that some of the grand tenets of Western civilization originated in ancient Persia. The campaign was successful. A reproduction of the cylinder is, to this day, displayed prominently beside the United Nations Security Council chamber in New York. The Cylinder represented a past Persia that was powerful, progressive, and magnanimous—synonymous with the Shah’s vision for the new Iran he hoped to build. But the Shah’s vision of the Cylinder was flawed and specious, countered historians. The declarations of religious freedom in the Cyrus Cylinder were neither bold nor original, but rather consistent with comparable proclamations that had been made by Babylonian rulers assuming the throne going back two centuries before Cyrus. As for his promised manumission of the Jews, no such pledge is found on the Cylinder; the mention comes only from references to the Persian king in the Old Testament. The Cylinder is not even Iranian: it is a Babylonian document, written by a Babylonian scribe for a Babylonian audience, found in present-day Iraq, and now the property of a British museum. That this artifact was propagated as it was as an artifact and emblem of Persian civilization speaks to the Shah’s faith in the belief that he who controls the present, controls the past. It is the same story with the staging of history in the pageant itself. The Shah transmuted two and a half millennia of dynamic, effervescent history into a static event, simplified into a series of visual cues, bent to his will. By skipping back to the nation’s inception he could present simple grandeur, a glorious pre-Islamic past, free from the power of the mullahs. Unencumbered by narrative, he could avoid acknowledging the presence of those narratives and people that did not agree with him. A few years later he codified this narrative by shifting Iran’s calendar from the Islamic system to a new “imperial calendar,” beginning with the accession of Cyrus rather than the Prophet’s flight from Mecca. Overnight, the year changed from 1355 to 2535. It was another example of the hubris of a man who believed he had the power to rewrite history. And like the pageant at Persepolis, it united the Shah’s two blocks of opponents, on the left and in the mosques, against him. After the Revolution swept away the Shah and his fantasies, the new regime sought to play the same game, and banished allusions to the country’s pre-Islamic past. Ayatollah Khalkhali, new Chief Justice of the Revolutionary Courts, published a book countering the Shah’s cult of Cyrus, depicting the king as “a tyrant, a liar, and a homosexual,” and calling for the immediate destruction of Cyrus’s tomb and Persepolis. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
A DEDICATION TO A. WHITNEY ELLSWORTH (1936-2011) The staff of The Harvard Advocate would like to acknowledge the passing of A. Whitney Ellsworth, a longtime trustee of the magazine and its president in 1957. A remembrance from Mr. Ellsworth’s Harvard roommate, friend, and fellow trustee Charles Atkinson follows. Dear Whitney, Remember when you and roommate Jay Cushman put my hat in the ring for the Advocate Advertising Board? That connection literally set the framework for my career. Senior year, with you as President and me as Business Manager, we got glimpses of future success from publisher Roy Larsen ’21, and from passionate science advocate Gerard Piel ’37. Remember when 21 South Street got built, over 50 years ago, and almost singlehandedly by you? Truly a grand opening, after Somerset Maugham not-quite-blessed our dingy Bow Street digs. Happily, Harvard College is about to give us a new lease on the life of your house. Remember our years together on the Advocate’s board of trustees? Serving with you extended our roommate relationship for more than half a century. We compared notes annually at the Century Club on your outrageously inventive, mischievous, and pioneering life as founder-publisher of the New York Review of Books, and, later, as chairman of Amnesty International. You embodied the literal meaning of a Harvard “Advocate.” And what you had done for me, you also did for generations of Harvard Advocate members, all of us in your debt. Remember when you launched a Norman Mailer reading at the Lowell Lecture Hall where, with much fanfare, he punctuated each inebriated sentence—not with periods, nor exclamation points, nor question marks—but with the rat-a-tat-tat of a half-full (and emptying) bottle of Chivas Regal? Remember when we went political and urged undergraduates—“Don’t vote till you see the whites of their lies?” Remember when we donated those black cushiony over-stuffed sofas to 21 South Street that provided the impetus for so much Advocate first friction—conversational and otherwise? Remember when, very occasionally, we shared stories of our love for French, for adventures in Paris, for beautiful women? Such knowledge was what made life worth living, even still now when nostalgia has become such an underrated emotion! So in the time ahead, short or long, continue on your road to Ithaca. It’s all about the journey. Affectionately from your roommate and lifelong friend, I pray that the road is long, Charlie
*** In the shadow of Kuh-i-Rahmat, the Mountain of Mercy, the ruins of Persepolis endure. They are largely empty of visitors now, with fewer and fewer tourists willing to brave the mercurial regime to behold the ancient capital. Alongside the Palace of Darius and Gate of All Nations, the tent city built by the Shah endures. In front of the Shah’s grand tent are two signs, hand-painted in blue in elegant Persian cursive. On the left is a Qur’anic verse, a pointed warning, “Examine what your predecessors did and learn a lesson.” On the right, another warning—“Don’t throw garbage.”
THE HARVARD ADVOCATE
John Ashbery is a poet. John Baldessari: I think my work shows that I have no need for useless information. Chiara Barzini is the author of a recently-released collection of short stories entitled Sister Stop Breathing. Daniel Bosch interred a beloved pet on the grounds of Dunster House around the turn of the century. Eric Roff Brewster just had an even worse idea. Spencer Burke uses and misuses history. Emily Chertoff would like to thank the 2011 executive board. Dan Chiasson is author of four books, most recently Where’s the Moon, There’s the Moon (Knopf, 2010). He is a professor at Wellesley College. For Mark Chiusano’s family, SSC, MMC, KRC. Katherine Damm solves the case before dinner. Molly Dektar is looking forward to the party where we all dress up as kitchen implements. Kayla Escobedo grew up thinking honey buns were healthy. Her paintings and comix can be seen at www.kaylascomix.com. Erik Fredericksen, organic. Julian Gewirtz had better get going. Amy Hempel is the author of four collections of short stories. Her Collected Stories was one of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year and won the Ambassador Book Award for best fiction of the year. She teaches fiction writing at Harvard. Charline von Heyl is an artist who lives and works in New York and Marfa Texas. Her European survey exhibition will open at the Tate Liverpool in February while her US survey exhibition will open at the ICA Boston in March. Bret Anthony Johnston is not afraid of clowns. He can be reached at www.bretanthonyjohnston.com Dana Lok enjoys peeling tape off of paintings. David Lynch. Born Missoula, Montana. Eagle Scout. Christodoulos Panayiotou is an artist who lives and works in Limassol (Cyprus) and Paris (France). Carl Phillips, who joined the Harvard Advocate’s poetry board in his sophomore year, has, to his surprise, gone on to be the author of eleven books of poetry, most recently Double Shadow. Ingrid Pierre is a senior Visual & Environmental Studies concentrator. D.A. Powell’s most recent collection is Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow. Robyn Schiff is the author of Worth (2002) and Revolver (2008), both published by the Kuhl House Poetry series. She co-edits Canarium Books and teaches at the University of Iowa. Madeleine Schwartz never was a debutante. Sara J. Stern is making a wrinkle. Jessica Stockholder is glad to be in Chicago. Justin Wymer is in a limerent-limerent relationship with geodes.
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