synthetic zero

May 23rd, 2011

I had dinner with my old college classmate Elisabeth Sperling; we once lived in this magical world called the Dudley Coop, a pair of old Victorian houses at Harvard housing 35 undergraduates. Living there was one of the most intense experiences of my life — everyone who lived there, I think, was strongly affected by it. It had a long history; SDS ran a printing press in the basement of the place in the 60’s, there was graffiti all over the walls spanning decades, the main house (3 Sacramento St, or “3 Sac”) once had the sign “Center for High-Energy Metaphysics” on it, and Elisabeth and Eva decided, one day, to recreate the sign, which still hangs, today, over the entrance.

For many, many years after I left the Coop I had dreams about the place; in particular, in my dreams I would often find hidden passageways with more rooms. (Later I found out many of my fellow former Coopers had the same recurring dream, oddly enough.) We lived together, cooked together, had strange conversations late into the night. There was an air of possibility, of new ideas, a sense that at any moment we might stumble upon the secret to the universe in one of those bull sessions. And I think we did, at times, touch on parts of it; it wasn’t just a feeling that it might happen, it really did, sometimes, in fragments.

It’s been many years since I’ve spent a lot of time with Elisabeth (not for want of trying — long story); we talked about all sorts of things, ranging from educational policy to Deming quality control to the tech industry … but we also talked about the old days. She reminded me of a few incidents which stood out for her in her mind, things I did — for example, one of her most vivid memories of me was when, one day, she was making bread in the kitchen, and the counter was covered in flour, and I came in and just leaned over until my nose was an inch from the flour, and I stayed like that, for quite a while, not making a sound, until Elisabeth couldn’t resist coming over and tapping me on the back of my head so I got flour on my nose. We both laughed, of course, and she asked me what I had been doing. I said, “I was experimenting with horizontal and vertical.”

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one response to this post:
  1. Magda says:

    This entry stirred a lot in me, I will have to write out. Hopefully I won’t forget.

    June 21st, 2011 at 10:16 pm

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