Last night's Harvard bash turned out to be even soggier than we feared. We arrived for the indoor reception in a driving rain, as opposed to the pouring rain that came later. The hosts were distributing plastic ponchos for those going to the Tercentenary Theater for the real bash. We mingled, ate our cheese and crackers, and left when the rain simmered down a bit.
The Tercentenary Theater was packed with soggy partygoers. It was dark and rainy, and the paved paths were packed because so much of the rest of the grounds were either deep mud or grass slowly turning into mud. There were video displays, music on the Widener steps, and food being served, or not, under a series of tents. It was hard to pay attention to anything but not getting badly poked by an umbrella.
It was loud and difficult to move. It would have been impossible to find anyone we knew because many people were hidden under umbrellas and it was difficult to get very far off the paths without stepping into deep mud. Even so, we randomly ran into people we knew while stuck in the slow-moving crowd. We saw a group guys from Hasty Pudding in full drag. Students smartly wore rubber boots and rain gear, and there were plenty of adults in tuxes and strapless party dresses, with or without those plastic ponchos Harvard handed out. I was glad for my much-hated raincoat, although it turns out it isn't waterproof. Jeez.
The great thing was how friendly everyone was, all around us. People sociably told us what was going on under the different tents. Strangers joined us in speculating about the cake. We stood hopefully by the cake for a long time, wishing they'd get around to cutting it. We were a little confused at first because it looked more like a speaking platform than a cake: Joanne Chang's red velvet, vanilla-frosted wonder was 15' x 18' and at least a foot tall, in the shape of a very blocky "H." It was bordered by tables holding smaller cakes — still very substantial, nevertheless — with servers standing by to slice them. But they never did while we lingered. It began raining harder and we were wet and hungry, so we abandoned our hopes of cake and headed to Felipe's for burritos. While we ate, the heavens opened and the thunder and lightning began, and we were so glad to be out of the Yard.
We were thoroughly drenched by the time we caught the bus home. There we met more sociable party-goers, including a girl in a spectacular black silk sari with deep rhinestone-encrusted trim. It was soaked, too. It was great to get home, stuff newspaper into my soaked boots, and get into my ancient bathrobe, my preferred evening attire.
I have to say, having organized and run large public events for many years, that a next-day rain date would have saved the day here. Today we have a gorgeous, sunny, breezy day. The outdoor festivities would have been spectacular if they'd happened in fair weather this afternoon or tonight. Harvard could have gone ahead with all the indoor dinners and receptions, and told everyone to come back for dancing, music, and cake outdoors this evening. Given how cheery and chatty everyone was, even in the rain, the party would have felt like a huge family reunion, I imagine. That cake looked like it could have survived nuclear attack so I doubt it would have tasted any different today, except there wouldn't be rain puddles on every plate.
After all the fuss and bother, I feel I owe myself a red velvet cupcake the next time I'm passing Flour.