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Living on a Palimpsest

What words best describe Larsen Hall?

Rickety!

              Antiquated!

Warped!

              Rattling-gurgling-cast-iron-radiator-behemoths!

That last one probably isn’t in Webster’s, oh well.

Sure, maybe it’s a little old (over a hundred years!), but it’s been my home sophomore and senior years, and I love it. So does most anyone who lives there.

First, there are some practical attractions. For example, it is the most centrally located upper-class dorm, placing a close second behind the first-year hall Brandt for best location. Also, it is famed for its serene residents. If you want a rowdy group, look somewhere else; we’re probably all taking naps or playing canasta.

Apart from this, the building is quaint. Like a palimpsest, it bears marks of a long history. It’s creaking wooden floors form a topography of dips, divots, and hillocks, marking out the footfalls of generations of feet. The aforementioned radiators would not seem out of place keeping aristocrats warm in drafty gothic mansions, and they never let you forget quite how old the building is.

Larsen has become a jumble of bits and bobs over the course of its lifetime, and it never stops accruing features. Just a week or two ago, someone abandoned a fake plant in the lobby; who knows, but it might live its plastic life there for a hundred years to come. Besides this, there’s the 1940s era tiling in the bathrooms, and the lobby's furnishings (including abstract art) come from the '70s. Plus, there must be brand new Wi-Fi routers somewhere, because the internet works a great deal better than it ever did my sophomore year.

More than just dorms, though, Larsen is a big jumble of facilities. It’s got a classroom (I took a literature course there first year titled “Love, Sex, and the Police”), and just down the hall is the Center for Global Learning (nerve center of study abroad programs). Under our feet live both Counseling Services and Health Services (which I hear has a cool new “Zen Den”, though I have yet to check it out for myself).

Whenever I go into any of the other dorms on campus, I can’t help but feel like they’re kind of. . . . . lame.

Compared to Larsen, they are far too sensible; everything in them is so neat and tidy, and their facilities are well-designed and sleek. Other dorms have got shinny elevators and cushy study lounges, not to mention that cubic foot for cubic foot, the dorm rooms are like, five inches bigger or something (seriously, people have conniptions over this sort of thing!). Meanwhile, Larsen has silverfish in the basement.

Oh well, I’m happy to leave those other dorms to other people. Larsen feels like a real place to live, an actual home. Inside this long-inhabited, sometimes neglected, and forever loved building, I feel like a true member of the college’s more than sesquicentenary history.

I could just as easily have used a photo from 1907, Larsen hasn't changed one lick
In the corner by my desk, the radiator slumbers.
Welcome to the kitchen! I once broke a fingernail mashing unripe avocados here.
The laundry room is cozy, but the machines are brand new this year!
Outside the Center for Global learning is a map with all of the students currently studying off-campus.
The Larsen lobby, in which can be seen some abstract art and The Plant of Mysterious Origin.

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