Fine House

If you're a first-year, the clock is ticking. Monday marks the first day of the notorious housing lottery. And while you desperately debate architecture vs. location, ponder relative room sizes and compare dining hall decor, you still might not have any idea what life outside the Yard is really like. You know how the houses look, but you don't know their souls. We're here to help you out.

Adams House

A recent Crimson article compared Adams House spirit, somewhat predictably, to the artwork in its tunnels--fun wacky and creative.

A better analogy might be the curvy blue fiber-glass sculpture in the house's courtyard. No one can quite identity it, but some people think it is really cool and others resent it.

Fither way, house residents agree that the big blue "denture bench" is just one of the things typifying Adams which makes it, well, different from other houses.

The house has a swimming pool where you can't and an Explosives B that doesn't. It has co-ed quint rooms and a gender-conscious dining hall staff. Its students include liberal activists, beer-drinking jocks, theatre mavens and even the odd Crimson type.

Some people in the house spend time worrying about who's "in" and "out." (If they lose track, they are automatically "out" and are sent to the near end of the dining ball.) The rest are too busy to care. As long as Jane the dining hall checker is on your side, you're probably okay.

Adams also has a fine tradition of house-sponsored decadence: fun events like S&M bingo, "secret S&M buddies" in December, erotica night and over $1,000 worth of chocolate genitalia purchased for Valentine's Day.

If you didn't know better, you might think the fall of Rome was scheduled for June.

What's remarkable is not so much that students enjoy this sort of prurience but that house officials and faculty affiliates wink (or leer?) at it. So much for in loco parents.

If you, like some people, feel alienated by this, that's okay. Alienation is what Adams House is all about. --Maggie S. Tucker

Cabot House

Two years ago this March when my rooming group received that fateful envelope, I wouldn't have told you that Cabot was my favorite house on campus. In fact, it was approximately our group's last choice, somewhere between living at home (it might've been closer, for some of us) and underground in the Harvard T station.

I'm still not in love with Cabot. But I'm over the fear of a 15-minute walk. It's nice to actually live in a neighborhood, with real people and away from the annoying, prep-school bustle of the Square.

A healthy dose of almost fifty percent randomization this past housing lottery, and almost the same percentage my first year, has injected a new spirit, if not some cohesion.

And Cabot has never been wanting for facilities. Of all the houses, rooming is consistently the best. No Dunster closet-doubles here. And no silly 2:30 a.m. fire alarms.

Beautiful duplexes fit for the Back Bay sport skylights and late night romantic views of downtown Boston. The JCR is bigger than some house dining halls, with a great grille that stays open an unheard-of seven nights a week.

Sure, Cabot has its problems, among them the perception of a poor social scene. But it's a great case study in how randomization can dramatically enhance a house community, and with any luck, this year's improvements will actually induce some hardy souls to put down Cabot as one of their housing choices--instead of just putting it down in jeering conversation.   --Ivan Oransky

Currier House

I suppose that if I'm trying to pick a time that best defines Currier House for me, I should talk about one of my 2:30 a.m. post-Crimson arrivals via the escort service--in the snow. Currierites, by definition, should probably qualify for some serious frequent-walker miles.

But instead, I'm going to describe a day when I never once left the cinderblock walls of my house. I didn't have to. And if you just have to exercise, all of Currier's open space is great for bicycle riding.

After breakfast I went to sit in our Fishbowl for a while, trying to delay studying for my exam the next day. The past Saturday night, a group of Currierites had, for some reason, moved a few things into the Fishbowl Like the Gilbert Lower Main furniture. And the Tuchman Living Room television. And every video game we own.

But the rest of my day turned out to be uneventful. I went upstairs and studied by myself for a while (in my roomy single), then with group of friends (from Currier--when you live far from the river, you find out who your true friends really are).

Hall bonding really can help your GPA. At about 9:30 p.m., we went to the first Currier exam period study break. We had cookies and milk, served in the Fishbowl.

As I chewed on my chocolate cookie, I looked around at the multitude of Currierites. I saw jocks talking with one of the house musicians. Tutors and pre-meds cheerfully maimed video game villains. Socialites exchanged complaints with devoted House Committee members.

I've tried to come up with a single unifying theme that characterized this day, in order to tell why it so defined Currier for me. It wasn't exciting. It wasn't sad. It wasn't joyful.

In fact, it was pretty--dare I say it--random.

But that's the way it is up here. And we love it that way.   --Marion B. Gammill

Dunster House

The annual goat roasts, the Dunster Feud game shows, the off-the-wall formals...while these House Committee events are all sufficiently fun and wacky, they don't define What Dunster House Means To Me.

No, I realized my fondness for the House on a wintry Saturday morning when I was in the dining hall eating breakfast and doing some tutorial reading. At about 9:00 a.m., the fire alarm went off.

Those darn Dunster House fire alarms. I should explain that only a few weeks ago, middle-of-the-night awakenings were a way of life. We would bumble down the stairs in our bathrobes and pajamas and congregate in tight little clusters in the courtyard. We'd complain (It's cold. It's so cold out here. It's really, really cold); scan the crowd (oh, look--they're already sleeping together. I give them three weeks); describe what dreams we were having before the klaxon interruption (...then I hand in my blue book and I realize that everyone in the room is pointing at me and my TF is saying she'll take off points for showing up in the nude....)

On this particular Saturday, however, the alarm went off in the morning. And because our alarms usually went off every weekend night at oh, 2:30 a.m. or so, I wondered if this new, daylight alarm signaled an actual fire. I picked up my copy of Song of the Lark, grabbed my glass of orange juice and evacuated the dining hall along with the other five or six early-risers.

In the courtyard, I watched sleepy little Dunsterites toddle out of their entryways, squinting in the light. It was pretty cute, actually.

But what really moved me was the beautiful incident afterwards. The alarm was finally turned off, and I went back inside the dining hall. Everyone else in the courtyard moved to the dining hall, too. Specifically, to the Breakfast Bar. To the bagels.

And praise be, there were bagels in abundance. We joyfully embraced; the fire alarm wasn't real, and the Mealtime Messiah had provided enough raisin bagels for the entire House.

Then we all sat down at one long table and broke bagels together and sang the Dunster House National Anthem and gave thanks for living in Dunster. Tears ran down my cheeks. What a House, I thought to myself. What a House.

It would be neat if that had happened.

What really happened was, some people crowded around the Breakfast Bar to grab bagels. A lot of people went back to bed. Everyone was fairly cranky. I read two more pages of Song of the Lark, but not before I paused to smile and shake my head thoughtfully.

What a House, I thought to myself. What a House.   --Molly B. Confer

Eliot House

My most Eliot experience was undoubtedly my very first: attending the renowned Fete after getting into the House (and, as our t-shirt reads, you didn't).

No ordinary formal, this. The experience began as my companion and I came in sight of the Eliot tower, shining brilliantly under a bright and extensive collection of flood lights--which must also make for an equally impressive electric bill. (This is my theory on Eliot's traditionally dreary Green Cup performance. After all, this is the house which protested the abolition of paper cups in the dining hall.)

We entered through a nifty gauntlet of candles to see dancing in the courtyard. Real ballroom dancing. With a real dance floor. And an orchestra. In a tent on the lawn.

My kind of place.

We swung through the elegant junior common room (presumably the reason it's always locked and unavailable to members) outfitted with balloons, crepe paper and exquisite hors d'oeuvres.

But the really defining element awaited in the dining hall. Rock music? Slow dancing? Nope. Booze. Much booze. As many fillings of the non-recyclable plastic cup as could be drunk.

The entertainment began later, as those who had already partaken danced--some of them still partaking away, dance partner clutched in one hand, champagne bottle with the other. All quite romantic.

This extravaganza comes courtesy of the highest House dues on campus, and very much in the tradition of old Master Heimert's cocktail parties, symbols of the extravagance, elegance and downright elitism that have marked Eliot as long as anyone can remember. Ah, those were the days.   --Brian D. Ellison

Kirkland House

Virginia, the house committee chair, kept promising me it would happen. "Wait until Secret Santa. You'll never even visit other houses. It'll make you a K-House slave forever." Well, I still visit other houses, but Virginia had a point. Holiday spirit is the crucible of Kirkland. Survive it, and you become one of the K-House elect.

If you haven't heard about Secret Santa at Kirkland, let me assure you that it is quite a production. The favorite gift: a skit engineered to embarass any self-respecting santee. Kirkland's famously well-lit dining hall fills up early and stays crowded. Every accidental clink of glass hushes the crowd in anticipation of another announcement. Some days the skits begin at five o'clock and don't stop until after seven. People sing, people dance, people ride each other like horses. It's a week-long festival for the talented and the aggressively untalented alike. Adams may have the gong, but Kirkland has the show to go with it.

But the skits are an exception. The Winter Dinner is Kirkland spirit at its zenith. The dining hall, lit by candles, is the scene of a fife and drum procession. Students carry a fake boar's head while accompanying the corps...on kazoo.

But the real house spirit can be found in the quiet nods you get in the courtyard, the gruff salute of Security Officer Bob and the gravelly roar of Paulie the kitchen guy. It's these little, friendly exchanges that make the house what it is.   --John Aboud

Leverett House

Imagine an orange--a big, juicy mandarin. Now take a knife--a gleaming, sharp serrated one. Slice the orange and check out the cross section. Now you've got the essence of Leverett House in the palm of your hand.

It's crazy? Well, Leverett is pretty crazy. It's house with multiple personalities and we're damn proud of it. We've got an immensely successful contingent of athletic stars, a film society so lucrative it probably sent Orion packing, an obsessively kick-ass intramural squad and a crowd that takes house spirit seriously. We've even got own pack of crazy little kids roaming around the dining hall.

What's the craziest thing I've ever seen at Leverett? It happened at our all-male "Wet T-Shirt Contest" last year. The best bod in the house came in second to what was, inarguably, the skinniest bod. But that wiry frame belonged to our venerable, oft-worshipped I.M. head who eventually led us to our second straight Straus Cup victory.

Oh yeah--several of the contestants also mooned the fawning crowd as they strutted their stuff. And, ever watchful of setting a good example for the toddlers, one of the contestants sported a "Don't Do Drugs" bumper sticker on his derrier.

It just goes to show that Leverett sometimes does things differently--but it's definitely our way

Crazy kids.   Yin Y Nawaday

Lowell House

Lowell was never my first choice I wasn't sure what my first choice was, but I knew it wasn't some nerdy house with tiny rooms Sure, it was close to everything (too close, blockmate Join insisted) but Leverett just seemed more fun, Winthrop prettier.

Three years later I can't imagine living anywhere else. Am I jealous of the common spaces that the Quad Houses have? You bet Would I like to have a view of the river? Absolutely. Does it annoy me that you could fit an entire Lowell senior double into your average Adams common room? Yup. But Lowell is, well, home. Just ask any Lowellian.

You walk through those gates and you're in your very own Garden of Eden. Mount Auburn Street could be a million miles away. This fall the energetic House Committee sent two busloads of Lowellians to romp in the leaves of western Massachusetts. The Winter Waltz brings Vienna to your very own dining hall. In the spring you can smell the roses that one of the tutors cares for so reverently, and you can help set off the "cannons" for the annual open-air read-through of the 1812 Overture. And what other house hosts the longest running opera in New England?

I'm supposed to say when I felt most Lowellian, so here goes.

The time: Fall, 1991. The place: a kibbutz in Northern Israel, my home for the last six months I receive a postcard from my sister, then a first year at Harvard. The picture: a certain blue tower.   --Lori E. Smith

Mather House

Marvin Gaye had it all wrong. I heard it through the pipes.

It's weird. Mather's reinforced-steel fire doors and maximum-security elevators encourage isolation and fragmentation. If the unknown architect (a Timothy Leary devotee--there's no other explanation for his architectural monstrosity) had his way, no Matherite would ever get to know any other Matherite.

Thankfully, his nefarious scheme was foiled by the contractors. The walls are thin enough so that conversations with neighbors are never a problem. (In fact, they're often involuntary.) And whatever sounds the walls stop, the pipes pick up and transmit through the entire house.

It's a kind of perverse bonding. It's up there with huddling with my fellow pajama-clad tower residents in our neo-Seventies cubist JCR after one of our many midnight fire alarms last month.

But back to the pipes. They're really more fun than anything else. The only time I've ever wanted to actively tell someone else to shut up is when my upstairs neighbor developed a "U Can't Touch This" fetish. (Matherites get to know their neighbors' musical tastes pretty thoroughly and often do not react kindly--my Saturday Night Fever sesseions have gotten a few irate calls.)

There's also the sex. Suffice it to say that all-nighters become much more entertaining when accompanied by the late-night squeaks and groans of cucci-facci.

The one real benefit of the pipes is free movies. One night, my roommate and I listed to the last 20 minutes of The Shining through the plumbing.

"Red rum! Red rum! [Crash, screaming, wild music.] Honey, I'm home! [More screaming, wild music, sound of axe hitting door.] Heeeeeeere's Johnny! [Wild music building to crescendo]"

I have to say, I never felt closer to our downstairs neighbors that at that moment. Someday I'll even learn their names.   --John B. Trainer

North House

It was the night before the first day of finals and I was studying like mad in my amazingly spacious double in North House. I had six hours of finals scheduled for the next day. And I was starting to get depressed.

Then my concentration was rocked by a jarring voice from afar, screaming, "Behold, the peons are storming the palace!" I bolted for the door and ran down the stairs. With a throng of fellow North Housers, I pushed my way through the first floor out onto NoHo's magnificent balcony overlooking the rest of the Quad.

The situation was desperate. NoHo, the friendliest, most beautiful, most screne house on campus was under siege by the sad, misguided Quadlings from Cabot and Currier. It appeared that the collective pain and anguish of randomization was surging in them. Wielding snow and water balloons they advanced quickly, on nothing less than total occupation.

With a fear of overthrow with which only Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette could have sympathized, hundreds of NoHosers fought long and hard that night for the honor of Woody and Hannah Hastings, the much acclaimed "Co. masters of the Universe."

Tossing thousands of snowballs and paying no heed to the cold sting of snow and petty vituperation, members of the smallest (and most intimate) house at Harvard slowly and surely drove back their attackers.

Wimped I thought I breathed a sigh of relief, went back to my room, and sat down.

Maybe my life wasn't so bad. I thought. After all, I had my health, I had seven hours before my first final, and I had NoHo.   Sean D. Wissman

Quincy House

Quincy House We're big. We're bad. And despite what some people say, the new building isn't that ugly.

I date you to name another house that guarantees these essentials of perfect House life: a friendly dining hall staff A well-stocked weight room. Single bedrooms to juniors and seniors--as well as a bagpipe extravaganza to usher in the school year. The benefits abound the longer you stay in the house.

Most of all, Quincy residents fall in love with our library, named the Qube (but only during exam period when we find time to study). At the Qube, you can experience the essence of Quincy life.

The library's two story structure easily allows second floor students to chuck teddybears, tootsie rolls and wads of paper at their fellow housemates embroiled in their studies on the first floor.

I'll admit it. I love those teddybears. They come in all shapes and sizes, and they're all over the place. In the bookstacks. On the tables and chairs. Next to the comic book collection.

Just a friendly warning. If you stop in the Qube for a peek before you type in your housing form, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for those flying fuzzies.   --Jonathan Samuel

Winthrop House

I thought I had developed an unprecedented maturity by the end of my first year here. I'd outgrown the petty trappings of adolescence and now yearned to partake of the finer pleasures of adulthood. So when the housing lottery rolled around in March, I knew exactly what my dream house would be. I wanted to be able to feel the tradition of the Ivy League at my Dream House. I wanted fireplaces, oak paneling, a dining hall decorated with gold trained paintings of stodgy old men - and most importantly, I wanted ivy growing everywhere, crawling out of the bricks, sprouting from every crevice in my room.

But I was condemned to Winthrop House--the "high school" house, the house where Madonna blasts at every party, the house where gossip runs rampant from one dining hall table to the next.

It wasn't exactly what I had in mind.

But, being an excruciatingly mature first-year. I thought I'd give it a chance. I'd attend the famed Thropstock weekend. I'd deign to assume a 90210-esque mood.

So my three roommates and I trekked to Winthrop and headed to the main courtyard (the one with the tire swing). A couple of residents begged their pardon and jostled for good seats on the patio.

The residents rolled large rubber trash cans center stage onto a plastic tarp. Then they tipped them over, releasing huge waves of green and red Jell-O.

Suddenly, everyone leapt into the gooey puddle of gelatin.

And then they proceeded to wrestle. Not one-on-one, or even tag-team. Instead, about thirty Winthropians at once swam into the mess, drenching each other in the quintessential food of childhood.

I sat transfixed as I watched this annual ritual, and in an instant, I knew Winthrop was the Dream House for me.

No, we don't gossip all the time, and Madonna's as out of fashion here as it is everywhere else.

But here we know how to let our hair down and be funny every once in a while, to revel in a glistening pool of purple Jell O.   --Melissa Lee