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The Poison Ivy League Part 57-TOTY Triumphant

May 3, 2011

We are approaching the end of this long, not-so-secret history. In the days leading up to the following week’s Yale tournament, the Internet was abuzz with debate about the TOTY Triumvirate. Not a few people considered the arrangement to be unsportsmanlike. Fabius urged Kimel not to agree to any sort of terms, and a big-mouth from BU actually suggested retroactively altering the APDA constitution to make the agreement impossible. Others defended the pragmatism of the Triumvirs. For her part, Livia implied that she for one did not condemn the arrangement, and it even had a side benefit for her. It indirectly protected her own TOTY-point total with Tiberius, then the second-highest ever after Brian Fletcher.The Triumvirs had to content themselves with a record of third place, which soon slid slid down the ranks when Hannibal went on to break all records as a senior.* Ultimately, though, no one’s opinion amounted to anything of practical import, and Kimel hardly cared about the gossip. He now had other, more pressing problems with which to contend, to be discussed in due course.

Kimel partnered with Scott at Yale and won a fourth place speaker award, impressing Germanicus with a speech defending a woman’s right not to prosecute abusive spouses for domestic violence. Kimel considered the 27 he received in the round one of the greatest honors of his senior career. Livia might have been more fearsome and slippery, but Germanicus’s ingenuousness was more worthy of emulation and respect than her ingeniousness, and this praise meant a lot to him. Nevertheless, “Harvard KL” finished the tournament at ninth place, just missing the break to quarter-finals. As it happened, Jason and Vespasian won the tournament which, coupled with Kimel’s speaker award, led many a spectator to wonder “what if.” But Kimel himself was more skeptical. Yale was the only major APDA tournament at which he never broke, and he was not especially popular with certain judges on the team, as history proved. Before the final round began, Kimel crouched behind a podium and hid from the audience. Vespasian began his speech by claiming that he was someone else in disguise and ducked down. Then, Kimel emerged from his hiding place to the sound of applause, declaring “to hell with détente!” Directly after the final round, Sulla C, Scott, Kimel, and Jason departed for Amsterdam. To put it cryptically, the trip moved memorable enough to be forgettable. Kimel was amused to see Jason and Vespasian in the final round of Yale. Indeed, since the latter was in no small part responsible for the rise of Harvard A, there was something comically appropriate about his final triumph on APDA.

It was around this time that Kimel received two pieces of news simultaneously: that he was to be one of 60-some students to graduate “summa cum laude,” and that he had been rejected from every graduate program to which he’d applied. Truth be told, this failure was due more to Kimel’s uncertainty about his future plans than a lack of credentials. He put perilously little thought into his personal statement and only completed the applications at the last minute, and then only to the most selective schools. Nevertheless, with the TOTY race over and only Nationals to look forward to, there was now no distraction from the practical problem of what was to become of him. A simultaneous and more disorienting blow was when Scott suddenly found himself with a virtual wife.

Scott and Kimel had become inseparable friends over the course of the year and enjoyed a lively intimacy bound to a mutual love of blunt and unpretentious conversation and, at least in those days, philosophy. To summarize their nightly conversations in a paragraph or two of even the most elegant prose is to do them a fundamental injustice. Hours would be spent analyzing the nature of social behavior and cultural institutions working from the fundamental assumptions that on average, human beings are both lazy and self-interested. The most appropriate eulogy to these discussions is this: Kimel could say without hyperbole that they taught him more about the analysis of history than four years of a Harvard education, and they shared a scope and liveliness comparable to the sum total of his debate experience, but were by contrast never self-interested or ill-natured. They were an oasis of questions and answers the memory of which would often make Kimel’s subsequent thirst in Sinai all the more scorching. The wells dried up suddenly rather than over time. The problem was the Slattern.

*Livia claimed in a forum post that she was an impartial voice in the debate, despite her apparent interest in no one improving upon her record.

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