On a decidedly bleak and gray day, I make the arduous journey to the westernmost reaches of campus, armed with cookies from the EcoCafe and in search of the fabled halls of Garfield House – the last bastion before the wilderness. The minutes pass like hours, and I begin to think that I will never reach the famed “Thugz Mansion,” as its inhabitants intimately refer to it, when suddenly a large Tudor-style house looms up out of the hill below me.
The modern day equivalents of fearless frontiersmen, Jack Rudolph ’11 and Peter Drivas ’11 bravely fought the odds of having last pick in Wood Neighborhood and came out victorious. In this edition of Campus Cribs, I set out to hear their tale and see for myself the room that strikes jealousy and fear in the hearts of many.
The gentlemen of Garfield 116 greet my weary and bedraggled self on the front porch, relaxing in chairs. “Welcome to Thugz Mansion,” Rudolph said regally, indicating the crypticly scrawled inscription on the porch column. I follow them into the house, whereupon entering we turn right and walk straight into what appears to be a cross between a dream and my own private nightmare.
Hunting lodge meets Euro ultra rave club in the gigantic double room – it’s like Grizzly Adams got together with Gunther and had a very confused love child. Fiendish characters of all sorts leer from the walls, including a mounted alligator head, a Miller Light-toting, pirate hat-wearing Barack Obama and a terrifying picture of Charlie Romero ’11 as a baby.
“His name’s Cedric,” Drivas said, referencing the alligator head. “We dressed him for the occasion.” Cedric is looking fresh in a trendy houndstooth fringed scarf and a white tiger eye mask.
Over to my left are an electric keyboard and microphone. “A lot of serious freestyling sessions go down here,” said Rudolph, whose undercover emcee name is Crackajack. “I would like to take the opportunity to shamelessly plug my blog: crackajackandpaprika.blogspot.com.” The blog traces the daily musings and stylings of MC Crackajack and his classy sidekick Paprika, Hope Asher ’11, also a Garfield inhabitant.
Recovering from my initial fright, I note the room’s classic elegance, underscored by its rustic ceiling beams, a cozy fireplace and a large (hopefully fake) bearskin rug. Items such as an antler hat rack and Trailer Park Boys poster show a marked sense of sly humor, transformed from kitsch to cool by virtue of their eclectic surroundings.
It is also very clean for being inhabited by two fun-loving college boys. “The room is immaculate Sunday through Thursday,” Rudolph said. “Though we have constant houseguests … people just kind of drift in and out. Sometimes we wake up and Chuck is chilling on the couch.” As we speak, Chuck Kollmer ’10 is gaming to his heart’s content in front of the gigantic wide-screen TV.
So who did the majority of the decorating? “Jack, although he was obviously channeling me,” Drivas said. The boys picked up several of the room’s staple items at yard sales and roadside stands, including the brown leather sofa and hearty wooden coffee table, as well as a dartboard. A sofa blanket donated by Rudolph’s mother adds a cheery touch. The two beds are located in cozy alcoves on either side of the room and curtained off by tapestries, adding a touch of privacy to the room. Each has his own private walk-in closet with a light. From the outside at least, the residence appears to be the very picture of domestic bliss.
Predictably though, life in a double does have its conflicts. “Sometimes living with him [Peter] is like being led across a field of hot coals by a blind person,” said Rudolph. Drivas, who is a political science major from New York City, admits that his lifestyle is a bit different from Rudolph’s, an economics and environmental studies major who hails from just outside San Francisco. The classic East Coast/West Coast clash comes through most ardently in the two roommates’ disagreement over which of their respective hometowns is the better one. “But at least he’s not from Southern California,” Drivas said. “If he was, I would definitely have a problem with that.” Rudolph nodded, adding, “If I were from Southern California, I would have a problem with that.”
And the problems don’t stop there. Grief from other residents of the house, living and nonliving alike, sometimes cramps the laid-back lifestyle of those inhabiting Garfield 116. As Rudolph explained, Garfield was built over a Native American burial ground and is rather haunted as a result. “Also, lately, we’ve had a case of an anonymous toilet seat pee-er, which is getting rather annoying. Paprika and I have made several posters.”
But for the 30-odd residents of Garfield, life in the 80-year-old house is mostly characterized by cooperation and happy domesticity. Common shared activities include indoor soccer in the spacious living room, spontaneous trips to Cumberland Farms and napping. The latter is Rudolph’s favorite activity, a pastime that he engages in on average anywhere from one to three times a day.
As a special send-off treat, the three guys give me a brief tour of the library, which contains Williams yearbooks from the late 19th century, and the creepy west crawlspace in the basement, which is reputedly the most haunted place in the house. “We have money on the table for whoever spends the night down there alone,” Drivas said. “So far, no one has.” Poking my head into the dark void inspires no particular desire to do so myself, leading me instead to hasten my departure.
So any parting words before I head back to the civilized world? “Yeah. To the seat pee-er: we know where you live, and you are going down,” Rudolph said. “Also, Charlie, you looked mad stupid when you were a baby.” All in all, just another day at Thugz Mansion.