Last night was Fitz Ball, for which much of the college was transformed into a huge party. The party started with dinner at 7, but those tickets were sold out before I arrived, so I settled for a party ticket (starting at 9). I went out to eat with a few friends beforehand at Pizza Express. Pizza Express, in a truly surreal twist, turned out to be a 4-star restaurant decorated in artful antiques and intricate moldings, set in the first floor of the richest fraternity in the world. It also served good pizza.
I changed and went out to join to the line at 9, only to find that it was about an hour long. I ended up finding some of the same friends and jumping in with them. We were serenaded while we waited by the Fitz barbershop groups, entertained by Corona employees in inflatable beer-bottle costumes, amazed by Fitz jugglers (including a girl in skin-tight clothing swinging fireballs), and annoyed by some hired photographer. I realized when I got to the counter that I didn’t have photo ID (required for entry) but luckily the girl behind the counter lives across the hall from me, so it wasn’t a problem.
Once we walked into the auditorium, past the string quartet and champagne-glasses arrange like bowling-pins, we were confronted with a group of drummers next to the dance floor, fruit, and Fitz-label beer. We wandered around the ball for a long time, finding a dance floor with free Corona and a live band (and Jelly Belly jellybeans!) , a beautiful walkway that would have been authentically amazonian were it not below freezing out and falling that led to a barbecue tent with live jazz. Beyond the tent, in the chapel, was a wine-tasting room with a magician (and later, another string quartet) and a chill-out room with a bizarre modern silent movie. At the furthest edge of the ball was the casino room, in which I immediately lost all of my allotted chips.
The ball was very impressive, but it was not really right for me. My perfect ball would be quiet, with lots of tables and chairs and too much food and drink buffet for anyone to form a line. Any music rooms would be at a low enough volume not to interfere with conversation, or arranged for a proper concert with a silent audience.
As it was, I was impressed, but by 12:30 I’d seen everything that interested me and, after grabbing my fourth Krispy Kreme, I headed off to bed to make sure I was well-rested for the race today.
I was awoken by a phone call at 2:30 AM. It was my mother, calling to tell me that she had bought me a new set of tickets. I would be flying out of Heathrow Saturday the 4th, 9 days earlier than I had anticipated. I guess I was missed sufficiently badly to throw away the value of my current non-refundable return ticket. It would have been nice if I’d been asked whether I wanted to come home earlier, or whether I really wanted to fly into JFK, seeing as if I flew into Boston I could go to the Chorallaries concert tomorrow night, but there’s no point in rebelling now. Of course, I could just hang around here for another 9 days, and some girl at the ball did offer to take me to London since she was going there to see some friends during that time (though I have a feeling she might retract the offer once sober).
Anyway, that was the ball. Then this morning I woke up at 10 and went immediately down to the boathouse to start prepping for the race. In a nasty surprise, Walid, our 6-man and strongest rower, sent everyone an e-mail Thursday saying that he’d just gotten back from the doctor and was told that if he rowed tomorrow he would be unlikely to recover from a current infection in time to row next term. In other words, we were 1 man short with 24 hours to go. Our captain ended up convincing an alum to come row with us, and the race went as planned.
Racing on the Cam is a little unusual. The most notable change is that the river is not wide enough to have a return lane. Because of this, all the boats in a race (in this case, about 30) must line up before the starting line, then go off in sequence. At the opposite end, they all pile up waiting for the last boat before returning. This makes for a lot of very cold waiting time. In this particular case, the race was about 85% of the rowable length of the river (we are trapped between two locks), so there is very little room for those 30 boats, especially below the finish line. My teeth were chattering by the time we started our race, but I warmed up fast enough. It’s always hard to say how a race went from inside the boat, but in Cambridge it’s relatively easy to judge because a crew may have up to 4 people on bicycles watching it from the shore. In fact, in a complete reversal of my previous experience, these coaches are allowed to yell commands and advice to the crew during the race. Anyway, they told us at the end that we rowed an excellent, fast race, and I believe them.
After the race I went out to lunch with most of the team, then came back and showered. I went to supervision at 5, but never got there because I ran into my supervisor walking the other way. He told me that it had been moved forward an hour to 4, but I shouldn’t worry because it had also been moved back to the first Friday of Lent term in January.
So now I have to figure out what I’m taking home and how I’m getting it there, how to get to London from Cambridge and to Heathrow once in London. Wish me luck.