Losing your GCB virginity: Expectations vs. Reality

A few weeks ago I turned 21 and, being a (relatively) normal human being, I naturally waited until the clock struck midnight; then, as soon as it was legal, I rushed over to Grad Center Bar to see what was behind the door to Narnia. Well no; I didn’t do that–it was a Sunday night and I was on work overload [Ed. – and they wouldn’t have let you in until the next day because #GCB!]– but I did make it over to GCB within the next week or so to see what all the fuss was about.

I feel like, as soon as you meet any upperclassmen at Brown, you start hearing rumors about GCB. Dude, were you at GCB last night? People talk about it like it’s some big secret. If you haven’t been there, you don’t know what to believe and what not to believe. You might have some obscure representation of the GCB experience in your mind. Having recently traversed the bridge between the pre-and-post-GCB life, I thought I’d share some seemingly common scenarios in the thought bytes that surround this mysterious locale. Take this, if you will, as a kind of FAQ guide to our on-campus hotspot.

GCB entrance

The entrance to Narnia, aka GCB (above).

  1. Where IS the GCB, anyway? It’s gotta be in some hidden spot on campus, in some unbelievably rad building. 

It’s all in the name. You know Grad Center? Campus’s most attractive building? Yeah, well if you walk up the ramp off of Charlesfield, as if you’re heading towards Bear’s Lair, you’ll get to an incredibly scenic patio-type space: ominous towers, cheerful concrete, decorative dumpsters, and several overly-aggressive squirrels will greet you. On your right sits a strange block of a building that looks like someone put it there haphazardly, perhaps in a poor attempt to cover up a bit of the sea of concrete. At best, it looks like it could be home to Brown’s biggest trash room. But if you walk up to it, there is a sign by the door that says “Hours,” which looks like it was printed off of someone’s home computer in an unexciting font. You walk in, go down a set of stairs (so that you’re no longer in the block building, but in the space underneath it), and you find a dim, surprisingly chill space called “GCB.”

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What to do this week: March 30 – April 5

what-to-do-this-week1

Monday, March 30:

Event: Sarah Koenig: Women in Radio
Time: 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Location: Upper Salomon

As one of the final events in celebration of Women’s History Month, the Sarah Doyle Center brings you Sarah Koenig, of recent Serial fame. If you haven’t heard of/binge listened to/had an obsessive phase with Koenig’s podcast Serial yet, you need to re-prioritize your life.  Koenig’s lecture will focus not only on the hit podcast, but her overall career in journalism, including her work at This American Life and The New York Times. No tickets needed, but you should probably get there a little early.

Tuesday, March 31:

Event: GCB Challenge Senior Night
Time: 4:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Location: Grad Center Bar

The Senior Class Board is awarding any senior who manages to stick out the full nine hours in the GCB. If you want to participate but don’t want to subsist on popcorn the whole night, don’t worry: there’ll be free food.

Wednesday, April 1:

Event: Fashion, Art and Activism: A Conversation with Cameron Russell
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Hillel

Cameron Russell is a model, writer, and activist, who gave this pretty great TED talk on how looks aren’t everything. All are welcome to this informal conversation and Q&A.

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In defense of Grad Center

grad-center

“These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, really though/ There are no hedge-rows, just look”

 “Where are you living this year?”

“I’m in Grad Center.”

“That sucks.”

That was a conversation I had within seconds of meeting another Brown student over Thanksgiving break, who happens to be a friend of my cousin. It was not an unusual interaction in the slightest. The Graduate Center is not held in high esteem by the student population at large, and I admit that I take the occasional potshot at it. But today is going to be different – today, I shall avoid the quick and easy defamation of this cinder block citadel and explain why Grad Center is actually a nice place to live. This is my second year living in this dorm thanks to the potent combination of my apathy towards the housing lottery and my bizarre and fragmented sleep schedule. Am I exposing the truth, or is this a textbook case of Stockholm Syndrome? I leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide.

Grad Center Bar

The GCB is great, no question about it. But how often do we consider what the first two letters of that acronym stand for? Without Grad Center, there can be no GCB. Think about that the next time you want to talk trash, you ungrateful wretches.

The Bear’s Lair

No, don’t stop reading. The Bear’s Lair is terrible, and utterly inferior to Nelson Center in terms of equipment and space. However, it fills a particular workout niche that Nelson leaves woefully unaddressed: night workouts. The Bear’s Lair is listed on the Brown recreation website as closing at midnight. This is pure fiction. The Bear’s Lair is always open, which is a dream if you, like me, procrastinate your workouts so much that you end up starting at 3a.m. I’d go so far as to say that the middle of the night is the only good time to workout in Grad Center’s own carpeted gym (Who made that decision?). You won’t have to wait for a treadmill, or for some guy to get his millionth set of curls done with the 25’s. If you feel intensely awkward when working out, or have an intense fear of gym rats, get to the Bear’s Lair at the witching hour. If you live in Grad Center, you barely have to go outside, which is ideal in colder months.

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Ra Ra Brunonia: Graduate Center Bar

If only you could see more

If only you could see more

G-C-B. Three letters that have an incredibly unique connotation within the context of the Brown bubble. Though a simple Google search yields results that include a recently cancelled sitcom on ABC, “Global Corruption Barometer,” and “Genomics and Computational Biology,” on College Hill, the three letters bring to mind one thing and one thing only: the Graduate Center Bar. The Graduate Center Bar occupies a place of magic and mystery for the majority of one’s time at Brown. Faint conversation rings throughout campus: “I heard they serve free drinks there!” “I can’t wait to turn 21 so I can have my first beer!” “Why are you sitting with us?…” Despite the somewhat legendary status of the bar, the GCB does have quite a unique historical relationship with Brown as an institution.

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The 5 stages of living off-campus grief

THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE NOW.

Ah, senior year. We’re nearing adulthood now. The fresh promise of the GCB awaits us, rendering the years of sweating it out at an AEPi frat party almost obsolete. It’s a new era of sophistication, responsibility, monogamous hookups, and wine and cheese dinner parties!

And we get to do it all off-campus. Right next to the favorite haunts of the John St. masturbator.

Underclassmen, take note: living off-campus is not all that it seems. Sure, we get living rooms–full of shitty furniture that we found off of Craigslist. Seriously, those bastards in Keeney have nicer lounges than we do. Wine and cheese dinner parties aren’t as fun when you’ve spent your entire month’s allowance on manchego cheese.

Actually, that was entirely worth it. If I could spend all my money on the hard cheeses, I totally would.

And monogamous hookups? A recipe for declining libido.

The original John St. Masturbator

The Original John St. Masturbator

Also, I thought having a masturbator roaming your block would be entertaining. Like free pay-per-view porn. But once he started wanking outside my neighbor’s homes, I got… well, sort of sad. He seems so pathetic, with his long black hair and questionable dress choices. A hoodie and no pants? In September?  Who are you, Miley Cyrus?!

I went through an off-campus crisis. It went something like this:

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The GCB is kind of a big deal

Yeah, OK, so we knew that already. Whatever. But isn’t it nice to get some positive reinforcement once in a while?

Men’s Health magazine went out in the field, got its hands dirty and rated the best college beer bars across the United States. Our beloved Grad Center Bar made the cut for both its “uniqueness” and its beer list.

Unsurprisingly, HuffPost College decided to make a pretty slideshow to supplement these ratings… or, more likely, to give road-tripping inebriates planning to hit all 20 bars some clear, unambiguous visual aids for their respective journeys. The GCB is the first bar listed on that slideshow, but not to worry — this exposure doesn’t necessarily mean that our favorite clandestine bar will be invaded by tourists in the near future. Looks like HuffPost College is trying to help a bro out and keep the location of GCB under wraps. The GCB’s so legit that it even has its own decoy.

Robinson Hall? Really, HuffPost? Econ isn’t thaaat much of a joke at Brown. OK, so maybe not the best decoy. But we still envision several impending “this isn’t where I parked my car” interactions with Prof. Friedberg & Co… and perhaps some lessons in Beerconomics. Lesson one: Beer and pizza are perfect complements.