The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Who the hell is “Harris” anyway? All-campus magic, livin’ the dream

“Dear Diary…”

In just one week’s time, we will find ourselves closing in on arguably one of the more raucous spectacles to have ever graced the stage of our beloved Harris Center. Yeah, you’ve seen those fußballers workin’ hard outside the D-Hall so as to make sure that the ‘pre’, ‘intus’, and ‘post’ -parties of this year’s Disco are intensely dream-livable. Admittedly, while a fan of all the moustaches and brut cologne that this night brings, my purest Harris allegiances lie elsewhere. As it is frequently obvious, my dedication to keeping the dreams of Kenny Loggins or Stan Bush alive is made manifest not just in my un-ironic t-shirt collection or purposefully B-list pop singer references, but also in my two year proto-fascist monopoly over 80’s Harris (shout out to [burrowsJ], one love!). But Alas! I come here to you all not to debate over which Harris party is most outrageous, at least not necessarily. Instead, I would like to look at what is it exactly that continually draws us into or deters us away from that magical world way up north. What is it, if anything, that brings us back time and again to 1118 10th Avenue in order to “live the dream”?

Are you thinking “yeah well maybe I went to the Harris a lot first semester, but now I’m like way too cool to go”? Well, you’re wrong. Because none of us are. Even pretentious self-absorbed off-campus seniors like me still find the time to get our hands stamped, tuck away our winter coats and slither through a sea of bodies to wait in line for a 50/50 shot at cheap beer or lukewarm tap water. It’s just a matter of circumstance that draws each of us in for our respective reasons. Some teams and organizations have their particular traditions or favorites (like ISO Rave or SoccerBall) while others are drawn out of alliance with the particular people throwing the shindig (think of dorm clusters JaMaLand or LooseHead). Hell, some people might even fancy the gumption of those who take the risk to throw a new party theme in hopes of generating a longstanding classic or just a momentary romp. Did I think the “Billy Mays Memorial” was a little too soon to be tongue and cheek? Sure. But I’ll be damned if I don’t support their right to throw a DJ extravaganza in the name of that modern day Icarus any day.

What is it exactly then about sweaty strangers clad in costumes with that five mile stare, pounding Madonna jams and those intimidating “SECURITY” personnel that keeps us coming back for more? (j/k, you know I love you [moorecou] and ACE for all your hard work!) Lets take Mary B James for example. Oh, how I long to don exquisite fake eyelashes and the whole nine yards of drag gear after being deprived of this spectacle while abroad last spring. Is it then just the opportunity to get dressed up around a particularly fascinating theme that keeps Harris on my radar? If that’s the case, then it’s only important for me to make an appearance at a dorm lounge fire hazard long enough for people to take a couple dozen Facebook photos. “Harris is too dark for your iPhone anyway.” No, no. I’m looking for the real nitty gritty of those weekly fun-fests that gets us committed to a good wrist level ink stain and those one-arm supported forward urinal leans (if you’ve ever stood/squatted to pee, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

Is it the beer then? Well, probably. But it’s my understanding there’s usually at least one or two parties with liberal serving practices and a plethora of Natty Light going on at one time, so lets keep trying. Is it the fact that its so accessible even if you’re not friends with the other party goers, that you can remain anonymous in a crowd, that its dark, that its loud, or that it’s a place to go “just to dance”? Maybe it’s the excitement built up by Grinnell cultural heritage that Harris is the place to go in order to solicit a hookup with that cutie who oh-so-serendipitously shares your workout schedule. However, at this point, it’s politically important for me to recognize that I can only speak for my own experiences and that my voice is one of a predominantly white, straight, able-bodied and middle class collegiate atmosphere. But lots of people cross through the doors of that neon glass tower, not just Joanie and Chachie from Wisconsin. So what the hell is it then? Because it’s not like there isn’t anything else to do at White House, the $lum, or wherever else you started your night, right? You could probably even just go to bed and get an early start on that response paper in the morning, or at least try to make it to brunch before its over.

It seems as though my inquiry has not churned out the kind of analytic results that we may have been hoping for. But hold your horses there tiger, and lets interrogate what a loaded search this was in the first place. How could we expected to get a clean, simple, and straight answer about ‘why’ we go to Harris when it seems like even after only a few lengthy paragraphs we’ve already uncovered so many different and disparate pleasures for the experiencing. Not to get aboard some of the hackneyed ‘Self Help Book’ jargon about saying ‘yes’ to life experiences, but it seems like there is at least the potential for a Harris party to be a place with a little something for everybody. Obviously it would be dangerously utopian for me to suggest that this is already the case, but I’m not afraid to be hopeful for the future. So over the remaining weeks of the semester that I’m finding fleetingly few, lets try to celebrate all there is to enjoy about bumpin’ and grindin’ at our good ol’ partyin’ hole. And whats more, let’s try to figure out what work there is to be done to open up Harris as a communal space with even more room for divergent groups interests and cosmopolitan campus identities, all the while remaining a site for multiple and diverse pleasures. Maybe then we’ll be “living the dream.”

Not satisfied? Deal with it.

– Tim Hederman ’10

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