THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOODS
Monday morning comes around too soon. We both groan at six when it is time to get up, eat at commons, and head out for our eight o’clock class. No one ever adequately explains why all freshman year classes start so early. All the studies agree that teenagers are mindless zombies until at least 10am. The only answer is that freshman classes are all bull shit. In no way do they teach anything deemed indispensable for the rest of your life. They call them prerequisites for higher learning. The truth is any decent high school has already covered the material. If you haven’t got it by the age of 18, you’ll really never understand. Go into teaching. You may learn something.
Luckily Jack and I used Friday night to prepare our lessons for Monday. Subsequent bacchanal was the reward for getting our homework done. Our dorm mates who had spent the entire weekend at the bottom of a beer cup, or worse, a vodka bottle, are unprepared and fair game for the Teaching Assistants to pick on as examples of how stupid we all are. Somehow neither Jack nor I are called on, despite being fully prepared. It’s academic hazing. My dad’s tuition payment is supporting this system of faux scholarship. Once we realize that class is going to be a tutorial on how stupid our classmates are, we take Minehan’s advice and declare a skip day. We proceed to the Lampoon offices and prepare to suffer intern hell.
Kurt Andersen is the boss. He knows the drill and tries to rise above the hazing. We quickly become indispensable to his every need. We go to the Coop and buy a French Press coffee maker. The staff has never experienced coffee that isn’t instant (at home) or burned (at restaurants and coffee shops). Jack’s training includes grinding and pressing excellent brew. That Monday we even add two glazed donuts, from Dunkin’ Donuts (before they stopped caring how quickly their donuts become stale). Kurt is pleased. We are again intern pets. By the time our day is over, he has us perusing proofs and running them to the printer. No one else dares give us menial tasks for fear of Kurt’s wrath.
“I thought freshmen had morning classes,” he quizzes us.
“It’s a skip day, David declared it,” Jack explains.
“Where is that kid, if it’s skip day?”
“The girls made him promise he’d go to class today, after pampering him all weekend.”
“The girls? What girls?”
“You don’t know? Mower has ‘Cliffies living on the third floor. It’s Harvard showing they are going co-ed without having to change anything.”
“How’s that working?”
“That sounds like an interesting story. Any ideas?”
“Sure,” Jack is Johnny-on-the-spot. “Why not let one of them intern here. We’ll write up all the sexual harassment. We can even get pictures.”
“You want to do an exposé on the Lampoon?”
“Lampooning the Lampoon sounds about right,” I joke.
“Well, bring in your victim. As long as she knows it’s a story.”
“And ruin her response to all the male chauvinism?”
“You need to go over the code of ethics we use to cover up harassment, sexual or otherwise.”
“Sounds like another story.”
“Just take one thing at a time. And, that other kid. Is he crazy like you two? At least he didn’t skip class today.”
“That remains to be seen.”
We rush back to Mower and run up to the third floor. We worked all day at the Lampoon. The girls are gathered at 3D ready to go to commons for dinner.
“Forget a repast of mystery meat, we’re taking everyone out to eat and celebrate,” Jack grandly announces.
“Sounds like you enjoyed your first intern day at the Lampoon,” Jill mocks us.
“Well, get ready for your interview. They want to see you tomorrow. I hate to think what they have planned for the first woman staff member,” I spill the beans.
All the girls whoop and holler. Feminism making strides. I feel so guilty in my complicity – failure to support the white male tribe. Jill is white, blonde and petite. She’ll fit right in. My second guilt is not telling her she’ll be the subject of a Lampoon lampoon.
Jack calls Mummy for a recommendation of an appropriate restaurant to celebrate the girls’ breakthrough. She naturally recommends the Ritz on Boston’s Public Gardens. I insist we take the T, to Jack’s dismay. He feels only a proper limo arrival will make our Boston debut. I remind him that all of us had already debuted, at the Rat. He just scoffs at that idea. Instead of changing trains in downtown Boston we get off at Park Street Station and walk through Boston Common and The Public Gardens. It’s a warm evening with the sun setting earlier than at our arrival in September. We are pretty cocky, dining at the Ritz, and celebrating Jill, as well as ourselves, of course. Jack can’t help himself. Soon we’re all singing ‘Putting on the Ritz.”
We waltz up the front stairs. Without a reservation, we have to wait in the bar. Drinking cocktails as we sit in the window overlooking the Gardens, it looks like we have arrived. After grilling us on our ID’s, the waiter quickly returns.
“Who’s Jill?” he asks, bringing out a corsage of white orchid. She beams. Mummy strikes again.
” Courtesy of Mrs. Stone,” he announces. Jack blushes. All the girls jump up and kiss him. I pin the corsage to Jill’s blouse.
“Is this how he lives in New York?” Jill whispers.
“Oh, worse. We have to travel by limo, even to the Bronx,” I confide.
“Not always,” I quote the lyrics:
‘Have you seen the well to do
Up and down Park Avenue
On that famous thoroughfare
With their noses in the air’
“Jack isn’t a snob,” she insists.
“I make him slum in New York. We stay in the Bowery in a roach infested hotel, the Chelsea. We need to escape from his obnoxious cousins who live at Jack’s parents’ flat on Central Park West.”
“No wonder you love these old musical tunes. You live the life.”
“I’m a country boy. When my uncle tried to park his old station wagon at the Dakota, the doorman wouldn’t let him. They had a big argument about it. He refused to tip the doorman. Jack had to sneak back and do it.”
“Maybe I trust you more because you are so country, Tim,” Jill hugs me. Now I blush.
“You boys are so cute. You both blush at nothing.”
I hope it is nothing. We’re pushing the line between flirting and deceiving them about our sexuality. I decide it is best to be honest about her internship.
“Let’s go talk elsewhere,” I need to get her alone to tell her the truth.
She’s now the one blushing .
“We’re going to powder our noses,” I announce. The other girls giggle. Jill is really red-faced now.
We walk up from the bar and pretend to be window shopping at the fancy shops inside the Ritz.
“You need to know the ground rules for your internship. We suggested they take you on and that Jack and I write-up how the Lampoon accepts its first female intern. They plan on putting you through intern hell, even if the other staff members aren’t that chauvinistic.”
“Worse than they treat you?”
“I know it’s unfair. We were interns this summer and learned to kiss the boss’s ass, so no one else can touch us.”
“No, Jack bought Kurt, the Editor, a French Press. We take him donuts with his perfect morning coffee. Jack just knows these things.”
“Is this a joke? Will they take me on or are you just using me to show up male prejudice?”
“No way. But you’ve got to take it as well as stand up to the blatant sexism. We’re writing it up, but it will be your story. You can’t let on you know.”
“I don’t know, Tim. Is it worth it. We’re pioneers enough just living in a dorm with teenage boys.”
“Com’n, this is showing Harvard that they have to treat you equally, even private clubs and organizations.”
“You make me out to be some Rosa Parks type.”
I told her the story of how Jack and I eliminated de facto segregation at Gables High so Grant could be in our play.
“It’s not as hard to do when you know you’re right,” I encourage her. “We’ll be there as interns too. You’re not alone.”
“I’m moving up my bet on when they kick you out.”
“I’d bet, too, if it weren’t no conflict of interest,” I joke.
“I have to tell them that someone initiated a kiss,” she beams. I blush again. “You are so innocent and yet evil at the same time,” she deduces.
We laugh and return to the bar. Apparently Mummy’s name moved us up on the reservations list. Everyone else has gone upstairs to the dining room. Soon all seven of us are seated at a round table. From the third floor, we look out on an even wider view of the Public Gardens. The ornate room with twenty-foot ceilings and fancy columns is just grand. The maitre d’ explains that Mrs. Stone has taken care of the bill and hopes we’ll enjoy whatever catches our fancy for dinner, no expense spared.
“Here’s to Mummy,” I toast. Jack is somewhat mortified and continues to blush.
“What is going on with you boys,” Trixie, Jill’s roommate, asks.
“Jack no longer calls her Mummy, but since they adopted me, I can still call her that.”
Everyone laughs. Jack blushes even pinker, then turns bright red when each girl hugs and kisses him.
“We’re having a totally delightful time,” Trixie announces.
Jack and I can’t help ourselves from singing the Cole Porter commercial for De Soto:
The other diners appreciate our a Cappella impromptu performance. We get a hand. Jack and I both stand up and bow. Now the girls are blushing. Someone takes a photo. I almost regret we aren’t in New York where we’d be in the Post the next day. Maybe we are too big for Boston.
The meal goes splendidly. Jack helps the girls with menu suggestions. I don’t see the bill that Jack signs, but later he tells me it was more than $200. The girls would have died to know. We walk slowly back to the T station through the Gardens and Common, trying to settle down our stuffed tummies. All seven of us are strolling hand-in-hand., weaving around passersby as if we’re drunk, which is slightly true.
“My mother told me about dinner and dancing under the stars at the Ritz while she was at Wellesley in the thirties. She’ll be so happy to hear about tonight.”
“Did someone say dancing?” I perk up. “How about the Rat?”
No one else wants to ruin our perfect evening. Jill just winks at me. I wonder how I am going to tell Flo about a possible new girlfriend. We haven’t talked in ages. I know that is wrong, but the evening lets me put off any repentance. I’ve gone to mass, at least.
“What’s up? You seem a million miles away,” Jill puts her arm around my waist.
“Just the meal, I guess,” I don’t want to spoil the mood.
“Come on, I know you better than that.”
“Okay, but don’t get mad. It’s so nice with y’all. It made me think about my girlfriend in Miami. I haven’t seen her in ages.”
“Hmm, what made you think about her?’
I put my arm around her waist. “I guess we’re getting to know each and it seems special.”
That answers her concerns. Jack is teaching me manners. I don’t have to say anything else.
We say goodnight at the stairs leading to the third floor. We all have homework to do. Dinner has taken four hours and it’s after ten. Our plans are disrupted when we find Minehan waiting for us in our dorm room.
“What’s up butt fucks?” he greets us.
“Whats up yours,” I rejoin.
We all laugh.
“We havta study, sonny. Why are you here?”
“I went home and started my band like you said. We’re called The Neighbor Hoods.”
“Good name. Did you go to school like you promised the girls?”
“Of course. How do you think I found friends to join my band?”
“So why are you here instead of making rock n roll history?”
“They all have curfews. Did Kurt ask about me at the Lampoon.”
“Yeah, we told him you were in school. He hired Jill to replace you.”
He looks like he’s about to cry.
“No way,” Jack admits. “But she’s an intern too. She starts tomorrow. You, too.”
“Cool. I wanna go to class too,” he quickly recovers.
“What about high school?”
“They’ll never know. I can show them the papers I write and tests I take to prove I’m now in college.”
“He can come with me tomorrow,” Jack takes David’s side. “You and Jill can be at the Lampoon all day. We’ll come in the afternoon. You can do the assignments from my notes.”
“It’s all settled,” Minehan crows, jumping into Jack’s bed.
I shake my head. I need advice from Trudie about our roommate issues. I decide to call her at Smith, it being two days since she gave me her number.
“Please, Mrs Whatever, I need to talk with Trudie.”
“What’s the emergency?” she is more reasonable. It was only 10:20.
“Where are you at?” she apparently is more receptive to some schools over others.
“Well, alright. But only a few minutes. These girls need their beauty sleep.”
“Not Trudie,” I argue.
She laughs, “Okay Prince Charming. Use the sugar on her, not on me. And no nasty talk.”
“Hi, Tim,” Trudie comes on the line. “You called. Is everything okay.”
“Delightful,” I almost start singing. “We went to dinner at the Ritz. But I have a dilemma. We have this high schooler who keeps turning up in our room. Now Jack’s taking him to class tomorrow.”
“Did you discuss it before letting him stay.”
“No, Jack knows I’ll let him make decisions for us.”
“That sounds problematic,” Trudie is as sensible as Angie.
“Thanks. But do you want to kick the boy out?”
“No, but he thinks he’s going to Harvard now, without being admitted and with a year of high school to go.”
“Our psych class talks about boys not developing judgment until they’re in their twenties.”
“You think I have no sense?”
“Not you. The high schooler. What’s his name?”
“Tell David not to let his fantasies overwhelm his reality.”
“Wow. They taught you that already?”
“Just to warn us about boys.”
“I haven’t learned one stitch since school started. Harvard’s for retards.”
“That’s not a nice word, Tim.”
“Oh. You’re right. I guess I’m saying Harvard’s for the socially inept.”
“Thanks, I guess I can go back to the room and figure out how to make David see some sense.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Wanna go out again this weekend? There’s football here, the home opener.”
“Can Joan come too?”
“Of course, I saw them exchanging tongue when we said goodbye.”
“Seems like both of you make decisions for each other.”
“We’ve been best friends forever.”
“You’re both cute, but I like you best.”
“Thanks, then it’s a date, for all four of us.”
“What does that mean?”
“You havta to get us a hotel room or something. And you have to be nice to us all weekend.”
“How about sharing with the girls upstairs. We’re in a co-ed dorm.”
“Are you making decisions for the girls now?”
“I’ll check. If they refuse, we’ll find somewhere decent for you two. Don’t worry.”
“Okay. Just don’t assume that everyone agrees with you. Sounds like Jack does the same thing you do – making assumptions.”
“Psych 1 rules.”
I walk back in. David is sound asleep, Jack is anxious to get me into bed. The evening’s testosterone is wearing off.
“I just want to hold you,” he whispers. “There’s no way we’re doing anything with a Townie in the room.”
“We’ve got dates with Trudie and Joan this weekend.”
“Cool. But what about Minehan?”
“He can go out with Jill.”
“I thought you two were hitting it off.”
“Yeah, but we have to work together, study together, and sleep in the same dorm. Best not to move too fast.”
“Move it. I need to have you here. Now.”
“Jeez, you guys,” Minehan mumbles. ” Now I can’t get back to sleep,” .
Jill wakes us up, laughing that David has stolen Jack’s bed. She doesn’t seem concerned that the two of us sleep together. We go to breakfast in commons where we discuss our plans for being full-time interns at the Lampoon while needing to attend classes. Jack volunteers to be the attentive note-taker for all lectures. David wants to be seen as a good student, so he’ll sit in class with Jack in my seat. Jill and I will only attend when we think the lecture is going to be interesting or at least compulsory for passing the class. David asks us to edit his assignments as he thinks his high school education leaves him far behind everyone else. I know he’ll soon learn otherwise. Freshman classes at Harvard are not groundbreaking. I ask Jill if it’s okay for the Smith girls to stay with them on the football weekend. She agrees but seems slightly perturbed to be putting up our dates. Dating in the 70s is a work in progress. After seeming affectionate the prior evening at the Ritz, she distances herself with the conundrum of having to meet our weekend dates. We promise that it will be one big group with no one excluded and no exclusive couples. The intricacies of the sexual revolution. We also plan on how to deal with sexism at the Lampoon. The point of a lampoon is to make everyone look silly. All these plots and posturings are boring to David. He’s only worried that he isn’t dressed properly to masquerade as a Harvard student. We assure him that it’s his behavior that is going to give him away. He promises not to drink during the day. He asks when he can bring his new band mates to a Harvard Standing Band rehearsal. He hopes we’ll help whip them into shape. Jace appears with a wispy whip, which he vigorously snaps. The sound reverberates throughout the commons. It’s too early for sleepy students to notice. Jace is hopeful about spreading his heartfelt music theories. We finish our gruel and go off to class or internship.
Jill wears a short short skirt with more makeup than usual, looking like a vixen wanting to be harassed. She sits with Kurt while I prepare his coffee and donuts. I need to get a monkey suit to wear. He assures her that she is a full intern and will stay on regardless of how nasty the staff is to her. His intention is good – to make the workplace welcoming to women. The lampoon article will straighten out any underlying or subconscious prejudices that keep women from being happy, productive staff members.
“Yeah, like little obedient intern slaves,” I note while placing coffee and donuts on his desk.
“Don’t listen to Tim. He loves being an intern,” Kurt cuts me off. “He’ll make notes of the other staff reactions to your joining us. We’ll put together an exposé that highlights this transition and corrects any false notions of male dominance at the Lampoon.”
“Yeah, good intentions always create good results,” I snark.
“You’re dismissed, Castle,” Kurt shows me the door.
“Good luck, Jill.”
My new assignment is to shadow Jill and record all misogynistic comments or actions. Not only am I at Kurt’s beck and call, now I have to be in the general staff area, available for all their whims. At least Jill can’t complain that I receive preferential treatment. We slave together. Any crap job goes my way, while the staffers drool over Jill, making her do tasks that expose T & A (If you don’t know what that is, look it up under vulgar English slang). Jack lends me a miniature spy camera to document lecherous behavior. Kurt decrees that on Jill’s first day only we three know about the exposé. It will be a control to measure the actual level of sexual harassment. On subsequent days the staff will be told to pile it on, to test Jill’s resolve in overcoming prejudice. Thus begins Jill’s day 1 in hell.
The staff is surprised when Kurt introduces Jill as a new intern. They seem welcoming, greeting her with terms of endearment. There is nothing overtly offensive, except they never call me ‘dear’ or ‘sweetheart.’ I count five times those terms are used. I also take several pictures of staffers leering at her ass after she walks by. One over-weight lecher clumsily drops a piece of paper, asking her to pick it up, so he can sneak a look down her blouse. It seems like he is showing off for his buddies. Nobody is downright mean or offensive beyond an uncomfortable familiarity. Jill acts oblivious.
“Not very rewarding, is it?”
“They call it paying our dues. They test us to see if we break from the harassment.”
“I feel guilty skipping class.”
“Don’t worry. Jack is nothing if not meticulous in his note taking. I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t type them up and provide us with copies. Maybe we can get him to do the assignments as well.”
“That’s Minehan’s plan.”
“You girls have made him your pet. Watch out. He’s still a Townie.”
“He seems more interested in you guys.”
“Only when he’s drunk – repressed homosexuality.”
“How come you let him take Jack’s bed?”
“Neither of us wants to sleep with him. He seldom showers.”
She avoids asking why we sleep together. The girls come into our room at all hours. Harvard doesn’t put locks on the dorm room doors. We’re all supposedly gentlemen. No need for privacy or security in Harvard Yard.
I go to prepare Kurt’s second cup of coffee. Jill runs off to Dunkin’ Donuts for me. She’s a good intern.
By lunchtime, Jill has several invitations to join staff members at their exclusive dining clubs. She declines, explaining that the two of us have to catch up on what we missed in morning classes. The first negative remark directed at Jill concerns her need to know who butters her bread.
We meet Jack and David at commons and catch each other up. As expected, Jack has produced extensive notes on the morning lectures. He even made copies for us, including David, who sat with him in body only, not paying attention to anything other than how no one notices he is a high schooler. Fitting in is the main thrust of a high school education. All four of us return to the Lampoon for an afternoon of mindless chores. David is better prepared than Jack for reality.
Jack and David are corralled by Kurt for his personal needs. I continue with Jill rushing around at the beck and call of the general staff. Soon I’m sent on outside errands while Jill remains behind. Someone may have noticed that I’m acting as Jill’s shadow. She whispers that she’ll keep notes on obnoxious behavior.
I get back from a ‘Noch’s run to find the office in an uproar. Everyone is mesmerized by David screaming at the over-weight lecher, pushing and shoving someone twice his size and waving his hands as he yells at the top of his formidable voice.
I rush over, while everyone else watches, including Kurt from his office door.
I turn on the upperclassman. “What’s wrong with you? She’s been here four hours and you attack her?”
“No. no,” he stutters. “I guess I tripped and touched her by mistake.”
“It was a mistake alright,” David keeps up the histrionics. “It was your big mistake. And it’s going to be your last mistake around here. Get the fuck outta here, you ape.”
Jill looks mortified. Kurt steps into the staff room.
“You,” pointing at the four of us, “in my office. Now.”
“You,” Kurt points at the trembling bowl of jelly. “I’ll talk with you after they tell me their side of the story. We write stories. The Lampoon will not be the story.”
I put the pizza of the fat guy’s desk. No one comes over to get a slice. Everyone averts looking at him. They all know he’s guilty.
David is sputtering, trying to get out his side of the story.
“Sit. All of you,” he orders. “And you, shut up,” he shoots a look at David, who glowers.
“I went along with this idea, believing this would be a good exercise in establishing equal treatment of women in the office.”
“What idea?” David is clueless.
Kurt looks at me. I mouthed ‘he doesn’t know.’
“This is not junior high,” Kurt looks directly at David. “You will go out and apologize to Terry, not because he isn’t wrong. But because yelling, pushing and swearing at him only makes matters worse.”
“You believe me that he touched her ass?” David won’t let it go.
“Get out. Right now,” he orders David. “Jill can confirm what you’re saying. And if you fail to apologize, you’re not coming back tomorrow. That was not adult behavior.”
Once David is gone, Kurt points at Jack. “Does he know what’s going on?” he asks me and Jill.
“Yes, I know Jill’s letting the staff harass her to document sexual inequality.”
“Well put,” Kurt admits. Jack beams at another victory for being charming.
“Do we tell David?” I ask.
“No. It’s part of the whole process. I’ve never seen anyone act so decisively in defending virtue.”
“He thinks he’s Sir Galahad, riding his white horse to the rescue.”
“I’ll keep him under my thumb. I can’t fault his motives. He doesn’t seem like a typical Harvard man.”
“Yeah. He’s kinda still a boy.”
“We adopted him,’ Jill admits. “All the girls on our corridor. I’ll tell him that I need to fight my own battles.”
“Okay. I think I’ll hold off telling the staff what we’re doing. This has been instructive today. Were there any other incidents?”
I showed him my notes and toss him the film of photos I took.
“Jesus. Remember, a lampoon is supposed to be funny and the characters just silly. Terry looked pitiful out there.”
“He should,” we all agree.
“This is not a coup. I refuse to fire anyone. It’s entrapment. If the misogyny is endemic, we have to change the culture. I won’t scapegoat anyone.”
We’re dismissed and Terry is brought into the office. We don’t want to witness that upbraiding. David is hustling around the office, trying to keep up with all the intern demands the other staffers are laying on him. Jill gives him a quick kiss to his cheek, which confirms his heroics to everyone. He beams and blushes at the same time. Several upperclassmen slap him on the back. Male bonding. We share his tasks and the rest of the afternoon is soon over. Terry had been given the afternoon off. David surreptitiously looks at the article Terry had been working on. He wants to finish it for him, but he doesn’t know who Jimmy Carter is.
“He’s running for President, duffus,” Jill kids him.
“What? President of Harvard?” he asks.
“Just forget it,” Jack tells him. “He’s running for U S President.”
“Oh, when’s the election?’
We all break up at his ignorance. I take the writing and put it away. David is dangerous without guidance.
The rest of the week flies by. Jack takes notes and keeps us up on our assignments. I never go to class. I consider the Lampoon office my ditch pad. Jill and David alternate on sitting in my seat with Jack. We have to walk David through writing exposition papers. He has no idea where to start. I explain the CAST system – character, action, setting & theme. He hasn’t a clue on what a theme is. I reminded him about all the theme songs for TV shows. He relates to that. His first paper reads like a screenplay for ‘I Dream of Jeannie.’ He is a total work in progress, worse than Robbie was when he returned from ditching his entire high school career. He panics when a TA asks him to explain why he isn’t on the class roster after he turns in his first homework assignment. The TA gives him an add card and tells him to turn it in at the registrar’s office. He figures ‘what the hell’ and turns it in. His name shows up on the next week’s roster. The boy has balls. He claims to be having a ball. He then tells his teachers in Waltham that he is enrolled at Harvard, which they accept. They tell him to turn in his Harvard grades, so he can graduate high school. Somehow it all makes sense. We can only get him to go home by reminding him he is the leader of the Neighbor Hoods.
“Oh, we changed the name. It’s now just The Neighborhoods.”
He promises to bring them to the boiler room on Saturday. We’ll have a battle of the bands before the football game, to get everyone in Mower worked up for cheering on the football team. Joan and Trudie are arriving Friday afternoon. The third floor girls are unsure how to deal with Smithies. We assure them that it will only make our little clique bigger and better. We plan an outing to the Rat after getting the new girls settled. Saturday is billed as a boiler-room rock concert on the morning of the football game. The football opponent is Boston University, BU, the school around the corner from where we harass them at the Rat. We pretend it’s a big deal and plan pranks on the BU students we’ll see in Kenmore Square. We make a few friends from the Lampoon staff, whom we ask about Saturday night house parties. My Iowa experience of barn parties isn’t helpful.
“As long as you bring girls, we’ll get you in at Fox.”
“Oh, we have girls, 7 of them including 2 from Smith,” I crow.
“All freshmen girls?” one of them asks.
Jack has been hoping for Porcellian. He gives the guy the stink eye.
“So you want easily seduced girls?” he challenges him.
“No, just pretty girls.” The guy is clueless.