To the chagrin of many rugby players and late-night party goers (including myself), the College is in the midst of purchasing 40 Harpswell for $270,000. Approved by the trustees' Executive Committee, the sale will take place at the end of the year and 40 will join the Beta House, the Kappa Sig House, and that barely standing blue dump on the corner of Coffin Street as Bowdoin owned properties with good location, but no apparent use in the near future.
While any sober individual would concede that the lot should be condemned and the house torn down (as the school no doubt eventually will), 40 survived largely because there aren't a lot of sober eyes looking at it. Inhabited by rugby players, it has taken its share of physical abuse - from broken walls and windows to beer soaked floorboards. Frankly, it's a dump. And that's the beauty of it.
It stands as an oasis amidst the increasingly barren social scene for late night partiers. When the other kegs are kicked, when the other parties are broken up by Security, or the Brunswick Police are called to task by some neighbor unwilling to accept that it's a Saturday night and a college town, 40 stands ready to take in the wayward souls. Located within a five-minute walk from any campus residence, one is never too far away to stop in for a quick beer or six at the end of the night.
As an off-campus house, 40 is one of the few places you can go to drink and play pong without having to put your keg cup down with the arrival of Security and stare awkwardly as they try to assess whether you and your partner and the two people on the opposite side of the table were in violation of the school's absurd ordinance against drinking games. And if you were, whether it was worth their effort to get your name and ID number.
At 40, you can drink all year and never pay. At 40, you can tap kegs whenever you want and leave them tapped all night. At 40, you don't have to register parties or alcohol hosts. At 40 you never hear the phrase, "We're tired so get out-you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here." As if there was anywhere other than home to go at that point.
Ten years from now, a student searching the Orient online is going to look back on that last paragraph and read it to his roommate with the same awe and wonder of European explorers talking about cities of gold and the Fountain of Youth located far away in the mysterious New World. To them 40 will be a magical fantasy land akin to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory in which the beer flows like a river of chocolate and rugby players are the Oompa Loompa caretakers.
The Barn is gone. So is Garrison Street and Chamberlain. Crack House lives, but can it fill 40's shoes alone? Yellow House is too small, Union Street is surrounded by neighbors and the A-frame and Mother Ship are too far away.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, Bowdoin students are approaching the ulcer- inducing levels of stress felt only by characters in movies trying to remember whether it's the red wire or the green wire that disarms the nuke set to explode in 8...7...6..., and 20 year-olds with no bills, jobs, or families and every opportunity in the world. With this sort of day-to-day pressure, it's either blow off some steam with a late night binge session and some buddies or someone's going to lose it and head to the top of Hubbard with a high powered rifle and a scope.
Perhaps I exaggerate. But those that scoff at the notion of 40 playing an important role on this campus are kidding themselves. They also probably aren't the house's patrons. People do work hard here and when they want to relax and have some fun, where do they go? You can't play 'donkey kong' with keg shells on the stairs in your dorm, you can't huck bottles at the wall at your friend's place, and you certainly can't tape bottles of malt liquor to your hands while offering a drunken rendition of the Righteous Brothers' "You've lost that loving feeling" to a room full of guys anywhere else in the world but at 40.
The Social Houses as a whole still lack what the French call a certain "I don't know what," that 40 has. And while the French may not know what to call it, I do. It's character. As the good-thinkers of society try to scrub away our unhealthy habits from the public sphere with a mixture of laws and social condemnation in an attempt to sterilize humanity (no smoking in bars, eat vegetables, don't eat meat, eat only meat, sue McDonalds, drink eight glasses of water a day, and if you have more than three beers at a time you're an alcoholic) it becomes all the more important to have a private place where one can indulge. 40 is that place. Well, 40 was that place.
So, to you, 40 Harpswell and your fine residents, I say thanks for the many wonderful, if blurry memories, the beer, the pong, the music, and the laughs. Ave Atque Vale.