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The Poison Ivy League Part 13-A Great Battle and an Epigram

May 3, 2011

The three most talented freshmen on the Harvard team were Sulla C, Horatius, and Scott. Sulla C was a former high school debater and the personification of self-satisfaction. Still, Kimel enjoyed conversations with him, especially since he was literate in the Classics. It’s to his credit that he eventually realized the error of his ways and shaved his beard. He was a flashier speaker than Scott, who gave short, unadorned speeches. At the time, Kimel thought that Horatius was the best of the lot. In some ways, he reminded him of a younger Germanicus. They both had an erudite charm about them and made observant points in pleasant voices. Considering that debating with a sophomore might work well for his election plans, Kimel invited Horatius to debate with him at the Brown tournament.

Unexpectedly, they broke to quarter-finals and were pitted against Yale A. This was a stroke of good luck, since Brown was one of the largest tournaments of the year and few people broke to out-rounds. The combination of Kimel’s manic style and Horatius’s scholarly detachment evidently worked well. Kimel decided to run his case about “The Stranger” that had served him so well in quarter-finals of Bryn Mawr. It would be the last time he would run it.

The round was intense, and if Tiberius were partnered with anyone less than Livia, Harvard might have snuck to semi-finals. But Livia did a fine job behaving contemptuously toward the case, and pointed out that if it would be absurd for an atheist to take communion, it would be equally absurd not to take it. Kimel commented in his final speech, rightly, that this was taking the point too far. It was enough for an atheist to show his contempt for religion by ironically agreeing to take communion—if he ate it and it meant nothing to him, he would score an intellectual victory over social conventions. When Tiberius rose to say that Kimel was making a new point, which is not allowed during final rebuttals, Kimel performed a little tap dance to distract the judges from his opponent’s lies. Kimel was disappointed that he lost the round and glad in a petty way when Yale B ultimately won the tournament over Yale A. Like at Fordham, a single vote decided the outcome. Overall, it was a memorable competition. The members of the Brown team even put on a musical before semi-finals that included the line, “APDA, where else does Yale beat out Harvard?”

Kimel and Josephus became good friends at this point—you’ll remember him as the Harvard student who sacrificed his case about Santa Claus to the final round of MIT for the sake of Agrippina. He had a strong friendship with another sophomore, Tertius from the Yale team, a good-natured man who was genuinely concerned about ways to train and retain talented novices on the circuit. The three enjoyed an impromptu trip to Hyannis Port one weekend, which turned out to be a ghost-town in the off-season. There was nothing to do there but walk along empty beaches and look at expensive-looking compounds. They drank in a local bar (Cola, being underage) and saw a jazz show. When Tertius challenged Kimel to write an impromptu poem about the spectacle, he immediately produced:

“Dancing to the rhythm of the music is an art,

But not when you’re a floozy over sixty and a tart

Whose partner is a pumpkin who can barely move his back—

Your dancing isn’t dancing but a rhythmic heart attack.”

That made Kimel proud of himself. Although people often made fun of Josephus behind his back for his cantankerousness and high-pitched voice, Kimel always thought that he was genuine and well-meaning. The peculiarity of his character was that he seemed to have no sense of self-consciousness. It’s perhaps to his credit that he was always deliberately oblivious to any of the constant jokes at his expense. He was also planning to run for the Presidency, but Kimel had a feeling it would not be hard to defeat him.

When the time came for the 2003 Wellesley tournament, in honor of Kimel’s performance there the previous year, Cyrus from BU asked him to debate with him. Seeing this as a prime opportunity to qualify for Nationals by reaching a final round, Kimel accepted his invitation, but decided to take it back when Scipio suggested that he should instead partner with a novice in honor of Harvard tradition at the tournament. Mindful of the upcoming election but also willing to “give back” since his career was based on the indulgence of Agrippina the previous year, Kimel agreed to go with Scott instead of Cyrus. This would prove to be a fateful partnership.

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