Cult Rooms

You know the rooms. The Currier Ten-Man. That one in Quincy with the deck on the library roof. You've admired them. You've partied in them. Here's what it's like to live in them.

How do you get to live in a legend? How do you become the envy of your peers? Out of all of the rooms on campus, how do you end up in one that everyone knows?

The trick is to get a good lottery number. And maybe to have fate on your side.

Across Harvard's campus, there are a lot of rooms. And there are a few Rooms. Rooms that are called by names, not numbers. Rooms that go early in the lottery. Rooms with an image--a personality.

Maybe there's a Room in every house. Maybe there are only a handful.

"I think we're fulfilling our destiny by living here," says Charles P. Arnold '92. He's one of Them--the 10 Currier House seniors who have chosen (and been chosen) to spend their senior year providing a valuable service to 6400 undergraduates who need to blow off a little steam. They live in the "10-Man." That's all you need to say. Everyone knows what you mean.

"It's got to be one of the best party sites on campus--and it's ours," says Aleksi I. Suvanto '92. "We're basically living in a bar and that's what we all consider it."

On Saturday night, as a toga party rocked inside the Currier Fishbowl, the 10-Man opened its doors--and private staircase--for its inaugural party of the year. The bash, all of its residents agree, was a definite success.

It required some work--10-Man residents rotated half-hour shifts manning the bar (ID required for service) and standing by the door, keeping the crowds from flooding inside. And there were definitely crowds--both outside the door and inside the room.

The 10-Man, its residents understand, is more than just a suite. It's a responsibility. Last week, there was a meeting with the Currier House Masters, and some tutors. The purpose: to outline the rules, the alcohol policy and the building codes. To address expectations.

"They want to make sure we have fun, they want to make sure we stay in school," Charles W. "Chuckie" Hughes '92 explains.

And although the party was, as Suvanto describes it, "a full house," the Currier powers-that-be were apparently pleased with the results. Which is good news, because more trust means more parties. And that, of course, is what it's all about.

"It's just going to be the kind of senior year that you always hear about," Hughes says.

Alan Lefkowitz '92 agrees. "We're just here to have the best year of our lives."

* * *

Once upon a time, the 10-Man was an office space--two large offices, eight smaller ones, and a lobby/library in between. Years ago (no one in the room is quite sure when) somebody decided to make it into a suite.

Most of the bedrooms are small. Michael J. Heffernan '92 calls them "closets." But for Heffernan, the pain has been eased since he drew a lucky number in their room lottery and wound up in one of the two prize singles. The smaller bedrooms have lofts--some were already there, and others were built this year.

But the common room is big--big enough to fit, among other furniture items, the pool table Heffernan brought from home, a couple of couches, a table and a shelf. On the shelf sit two massive speakers (Jeffrey M. Peppercorn '92 is in a band.) Under the shelf are an assortment of kegs. On the wall is a ram's head (J.B. Baker '92 says his grandfather shot it.)

Along one wall is the staircase and the private elevator, opening directly into the common room. And along the opposite wall is a kitchen area--complete with the "kegerator," an item passed down from 10-Man group to 10-Man group. No one knows exactly how old it is or how long it's been passed down, but it has a Mondale-Ferraro bumper sticker on it.

When it's time for a party, the furniture goes. The ram's head on the wall goes. Everything goes besides the pool table (which is carefully covered) and the bar.

After the party (the morning after, never that night), is cleanup. But with 10 people contributing, it doesn't take long--about an hour, Peppercorn says. The worst part is the floor.

It's a tile floor, which tends to get a little sticky. And there's a depression in the middle. When there's a party, the depression fills up with what Peppercorn describes as "kind of a combination of beer and mud and other bodily fluids." It's known, in 10-Man lore, as "Lake Sereika," in honor of a former 10-Man resident who passed out there once.

* * *

Living in the 10-Man makes you instantly Somebody. Arnold says he and his roommates are treated differently by other Currier residents.

"We're more outgoing," Arnold says. "They're more receptive to you because they know that the parties are going to keep going all year long...we're sort of minor celebrities."

But of course, famed 10-Man status didn't just fall into their laps. It took some serious planning. During their first-year, the someday-10-Man-residents were living apart--they didn't even all know each other. But sophomore year, when Baker, Hughes, Arnold, Jonathan Stefanick '92 and Blake V. Flynn '92 wound up in a Currier quint, they came up with a Design.

"We started thinking, 'Ok. What's the best way for us to get into the 10-Man,'" Hughes reminisces. "'We look at each other and said, we want to find the five biggest partiers in Currier House.'"

The search didn't take long--Suvanto, Lefkowitz, Peppercorn, Heffernan and Sanford J. Roskes '92 were busy throwing bashes and raising hell in their own corner of Currier. The two groups found each other, and got together. "It was unbelievable how well we hit it off," Hughes says.

Kind of like the Brady Bunch. With beer.

They lived together, in a pre-10-Man of sorts, during their junior year. Then they entered the special lottery that's held for the 10-Man. They competed against one other group. They won. The rest is history.

* * *

What does it take to live in the 10-Man?

"Number one, you've got to be able to have some money," Hughes says. He estimates their yearly budget at about $4000. They pooled some, and they're also selling t-shirts.

"It's an expensive habit to get into," Flynn explains. "We'll all be broke by Christmas."

Which leads to the number two requirement: the Lifestyle. The 10-Man residents are all different kinds of people--Hughes is a goalie on the hockey team. Suvanto is involved with CityStep, Heffernan does ROTC and is a captain of the shuttle bus operation. But there is a common 10-Man bond, the way Stefanick likes to describe it:

"We're ten guys who like to walk the gray area of the law--and drink a lot of beer."

* * *

It's about as far as you can get from the 10-Man--in every way. It's all the way across campus. It's high, high in the air, far from the noise of the street or the crowds in the lobby. It's not exactly a party suite--it doesn't even have a common room. But the top room in Mather House is legendary in its own right.

Tai Wong '92 was the one who picked "#2" in the Mather House senior lottery. There was no question, he says, which suite he and his room-mates would choose.

The other top-floor suite was taken by the group with the #1 lottery number.

"Some people like the low rise, so they can have a common room," Wong says. "But we like being on top of the world."

The view, Wong says, is "magnificent." On one side: South Boston. On another: all of Cambridge. In the middle: the Charles and the Business School.

On the lower floors of the high rise, Wong explains, "The view's still pretty good, but you just don't get that feeling. This feels like you're on top of everything--you're the ruler of all you survey."

Living closer to the clouds means seeing the world from a different perspective. "I woke up my first morning here and I saw an airplane," says Wong's roomate, Joseph G. Vavpetic '92. "Then there was a seagull flying by my window."

And there are other fringe benefits, Vavpetic explains. "It's nice and cool up here. Fifteen degrees cooler in this part of the tower than the low rise." The lower portion of Mather, Vavpetic says, was "too damn hot. I couldn't breathe."

To step into the Mather elevator and casually hit the "18" button, Wong says, turns heads.

"We're a celebrity with the people that know we live on the 18th floor," says another lucky lottery-winner, Scott H. Landry '92. "It's one of the best rooms on campus."

The Top of Mather is another room that you

No one knows exactly how old the kegerator is... ...but it has a Mondale-Ferraro bumper sticker on it. dream about, that you aspire to. "Actually, it was one of the rooms we saw first when we were freshmen and we were looking," Wong says. At the time, he says, they never thought they'd get it.

Destiny.

***

Sure, fate played a role in the Quincy House rooming lottery last spring. It never hurts to get the third lottery number. It never hurts when lottery numbers one and two allow you to get the room "because they know we would throw a lot of parties and create a lot of fun for Quincy House," which is the way it happened for Gerald S. Rideout '92.

But Rideout and his roommates hadn't left it completely up to fate. They had done all they could to get The Room in Quincy House--the room with the patio, the room everybody knows about.

It was about a month into his sophomore year, Rideout says, before he knew he wanted to live in the room with the patio.

The next step was to get a bigger rooming group--which means a higher lottery number. Somehow, he was able to pull together 13 people. It paid off.

There's a price to be paid for the luck and design it takes to win Quincy's most coveted room. You have to face the high expectations of your fellow housemates.

"Every single one of us has getten approached several times about when we're going to break in the room for Quincy House," Jamie F. Rice '92 says.

And there's upkeep--the patio itself is in the process of renovation, and the common room furniture is always a consideration. "We're keeping it down to the basics, so we can just roll it into another room," Rice says.

And there's an obligation--a commitment that you implicitly make. "There is some type of responsibility when you get the room," Rice explains. "Since there aren't enough patios to go around, a lot of people think they'll get the chance to share them with you."

Sharing a room with one of the biggest houses on campus. It means work. It means money.

But if it's your destiny, it's hardly any trouble at all