Brews brothers: finding a family in fraternities   

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It was about 5 a.m. when my fraternity brother Dom and I finished eating our seventh or eighth quesadilla. Our stomachs weren’t hurting, we had enough cheddar cheese in the fridge, and the music was still playing, so we figured we were going strong. The rain hit the roof in melodic staccatos, and I had work in a few hours, but for Dom — well, he was just enjoying his summer.

Living in Berkeley during the summer is tricky: It’s a complicated game of survival and thrill. But to be a summertime success, you have to pay rent, plan out your dietary budget, exercise, line up a job, check in with friends around town and surely everything else will fall into place.

That being said, I’m only an amateur at this game.

When I decided to live in my fraternity over the summer, I did so in a pretty rash way. I Skyped with my parents and told them about my plan to work for The Daily Californian. I gave my parents the excuse of “wanting to acquire maturity” over summer vacation or some shit, and then I physically moved everything I owned from my residence hall to my current room, a single room no larger than two standard closets.

I read somewhere in Reader’s Digest that summertime is basically pivotal for living.

Great friends are made, fitness has the possibility of becoming a priority, nights are blended with surreal weather and drunkenness, and they say the rest is history. If that’s how it goes down, then I don’t want to miss out — but I know something will happen. I’ll meet a few new people, make an array of misguided decisions, stay up way too late and consequently get sick, as I normally do. I’ll miss a workout or never start working out, and then, as anticipated and predicted, my plans for summer will collapse.

Even now, as I type this out, I am unsure about the next two months of summer. Did I make the right choice to stay in Berkeley and miss out on quality family time? Will I mature, or will I reaffirm my own juvenile delinquency? I’ve spent the past week thinking it through. I know people often look down upon fraternities as animal houses — uncouth, chaotic birthplaces of drunken spawn — so is living in one just a miniature test of how I will fare this summer? What will the house do to me?

So far, I feel that I have done several things right. I spend a reasonable amount of time in the hot tub with friends nightly. Dom and I managed to get our diets on a $7-a-day budget, which I’ve found does not need to be limited to frozen beef, beans and Hawaiian rolls. I’ve taken the opportunity to expand on creative writing and film photography, not to mention I have gone to the gym twice — two more times than I realistically expected.

To stay entertained, one of the projects I’ve taken on is to document the brothers living in the house — not necessarily in an absurdly creepy fashion, but through occasional Snapchats and note taking, because it’s surreal living with my best friends. I’ve found it fascinating to witness little habitual activities, such as Brandon wrestling you awake, Young making his tuna sandwiches and giving anecdotal advice, or Dom hosting biweekly quesadilla parties and then consuming ungodly amounts of mango juice before retreating to the balcony to watch the night sky.

As of now, it is difficult living here — trying to work and make the most of everything — because I miss my family and my home in Redlands, California. But then I hear Dom screaming down the hallway because he spilled mango juice all over his carpet, or I hear someone getting beat in FIFA in Brandon’s room, and I remember I am home. Though I feared not having the appropriate summer because I might not accomplish the things I wanted to, I ended up figuring out that my most important objective is to share a memory or two with these goofballs while I still can.

There is anticipation in the house for what could happen in the next few weeks. Will the jacuzzi break down because we use it too much? Will the balcony be kept clean long enough for the nightly observations? Will we have fun? I don’t know, but that’s the thrill of it all.

Sticking it out this summer to gain work experience is part of my goal, but I believe the real mission is to find out who makes my life go ’round. And on that note, this summer is dedicated to getting to know friends better than before — not just through casual interactions but through a real, solidified understanding of who we are and what we mean to one another, in a very bro-mantic way. I don’t mind that.

I’ll have a hard time explaining to my parents what I mean when I say I am finding another home, but I think I am finding an appropriate one here in Berkeley. If I don’t accomplish anything else this summer, I’ll be happy enough just to say I have a home here with my brothers.

Contact Robert Tooke at [email protected].