James Hitchcock ’15 is an enigma wrapped in a riddle shrouded in mystery. He is a man, a myth, and some even go so far as to say a legend. I sat down with him last weekend to try to uncover his secrets.
How is living in Latham?
It is so fun. Living off campus senior year has been something I’ve really enjoyed. It’s good for a number of reasons. I think the contrast between it and the entry experience is quite a nice thing, and I think you can have this in a lot of ways. You could easily have it in a co-op. There are also a lot of very nice houses that are on campus that are still kind of divorced from the center. And I don’t say that in a way that’s like I’m trying to escape my frosh, as horrible and terrible and torturous as they are, [laughs] but rather that I think having just a totally different experience senior year is nice. The responsibilities are primarily yours and those of your housemates rather than people you are looking after and all that.
Are you cooking for yourself?
I am! It’s a work in progress. I’m actually really excited to go home for Thanksgiving because I don’t think my mom or my dad will ever believe that I’ve made as much progress in the realm of domestic discipline as I have. It’s way long overdue. Much to my parents’ fury, I don’t think I ever really make a concerted effort to learn how to cook or clean in high school, and I think they’ll be shocked that I’ve made at least some progress in those areas. I’m still not the primary cook in the house; actually, I think I’m probably the biggest beneficiary of other people’s labor, but still. It’s a lot of fun, and I do end up doing a lot of things, like the dishes, and occasionally I do something that’s simple food-wise. I’ve gotten really good at cereal and toast, although toast is still a little finicky. It’s funny, though. You suddenly realize the value in making big, simple dishes like casserole, where you can have leftovers and all that. It’s a very different type of living experience, and I hope it will serve as a good transition to next year, wherever I end up.
I know you did the JA shirt challenge last year. How was that?
It was a lot of fun. First of all, it was way easier for me because I had four shirts. I know it’s like cheating or whatever, but let’s just say it was an act of God because my first two faded a little bit, so I got the benefit of having two others. Although some might see those first two faded shirts as a handicap, I think I did the most I could with them and I used them. So, yeah, I did have double the shirts, which I suppose is a little questionable, but that was that. Even more of a benefit, though, was the fact that I just suck at choosing clothes for myself, so it was actually this enormous blessing for me to be able to have my shirt chosen every day. Then I didn’t really have to do much coordinating after that because everybody knew I was wearing purple and yellow so if I wore some really terrible pant color underneath, people would kind of forgive it because they would just be like, “Poor kid. He’s just doing this self-sacrificial thing for the good of the system.” And I was like, “Haha, no. I just don’t have to match my pants and my shirts anymore. It’s awesome.” But beyond that, it really wasn’t a big deal for me, again in part because I’m so incompetent in sartorial choices that it didn’t really matter. And I also think it was the kind of thing that was done pretty aimlessly. I did it at first because it was fun. I think after the initial period, I just decided to run with it. And then I had the great honor, of course, of being joined by Ed Ciobanu [’15], who kept me going. We had several people along the way who did the same, but Ed and I went to the end. He and I were very excited to go the entire way and rig this whole thing such that no one would ever be able to beat our record, but I think we decided, last second, to be good sports about it, and we quit the day before, just before the end of the challenge.
Speaking of shirts, I saw earlier in the year there were some Octet posters up in which you were shirtless?
Yeah, well, that was another horrifying moment in my line of shirt-related incidents. I was very much clothed at that concert. Very much clothed; I never took anything off. As you know, I’m always very modest with my clothing at Octet concerts. Anyway, we finished the concert; we had a great time with it; it was fun. A few days later, after the buzz has died down, after I’ve stopped hearing the very nice congratulatory, ‘Great job at your concert,’ ‘You sounded great’ stuff, and my mind has finally moved on to other things, I see that my friend from high school had tagged me in a photo on Facebook. I was like, okay, I wonder if this is something he found on his phone. I log in, and I see the same photo of the concert that someone in the Octet had posted. I’m like oh, why is he tagging me in like a new photo. Then I look at myself, and I realize that I no longer have a shirt on in the photo. [Laughs] It’s among the most convincing Photoshop jobs I’ve ever seen in my life, where I mean, it looks like me. I think my arm is a little elongated and my stomach looks strange, but he ripped tagged photos from long ago and superimposed them over the Octet photo. I ended up putting it as my profile picture because it was just so bizarre and funny to me, but it quickly took on a life of its own. I had frosh who hadn’t realized that I actually went clothed the entire concert, who thought I had ripped off my shirt, but that has come back to haunt me on several occasions.
You said you are going home for Thanksgiving. Are you excited for that? Do you usually go home?
Yeah, I’m pumped. I miss my family. I’m pretty close with my sisters and my mom and dad, and I’m very pumped to see them. Also, this is the point where I realize I’m becoming irrelevant back home. My parents keep getting more animals. We have a dog named Martha who is very old and alone, and she got bored and fat and sedentary. She didn’t do anything. So my parents, I think this was like sophomore year, bought another dog. They gave it the absolutely terrible name of Zuzu. It’s apparently after a character in It’s a Wonderful Life. Apparently one of Jimmy Stewart’s daughters is named Zuzu in that. But still, I think it’s, like, the worst name possible. So I’ve morphed it into Susan whenever I go home. But anyway, Martha has been very entertained by Zuzu/Susan’s presence at home, and it’s been very fun to go back and meet this little dog because she’s super nice. But what’s happened now is that Martha is just too lazy and old for Zuzu, so Zuzu is getting sedentary as well. So they got a new dog. They got a third dog! Like last week. We have a little group chat for my family and I just get a picture, and I’m like, “What is this?” Before asking, I knew exactly because my mom is the biggest softie with animals. My dad is too, although he’ll never admit it. But yeah, we got this new dog, and luckily I got to name her. We went through this extensive naming process, and finally we named her Penny. I wanted to name her Penelope, which is a terrible name also, but it’s supposed to be like Penelope and Ulysses. The entire epic is like waiting for Ulysses to go home and see Penelope, and my entire semester will have been my waiting to go home to see Penny. So there’s literary significance. It’s very high culture. I don’t expect you to understand it. But we have this new dog that is like seven months old, and I think it’s just going to be this cycle now, where one starts to get lazy and lies around the house, and then we have to get a new dog, and then we’re gonna have like 40 dogs or something terrible. [Laughs.] And we have three cats also, so it’s a very busy household. This is what I get for having parents who are so into animals. But that’s how I know that I’m growing increasingly irrelevant: they make these big decisions without me and then don’t tell me until they send me a cryptic text with this picture of a dog.