GPSCY, the Graduate-Professional Student Center at Yale, is haunted by spirits. Now, I don’t mean those lonely souls that we colloquially refer to as “TAs.” Nor am I referring to the bar’s countless tales of anonymous bathroom encounters. Rather, GPSCY is a certifiable haunted house, confirming that if you build a gothic campus, you are well on your way to writing a gothic novel.
Of course I learned this information from two very reliable sources: A. and M., popular bartenders at GPSCY. I chatted them up over a couple of drinks and the conversation soon took a turn for the chthonic. A. described how on certain nights, after closing, he would hear the sound of chains rattling along the back stairwell. Other bartenders had also made note of the sound, A. claimed, yet the source was never identified.
“One year ago,” A. recounted, “an old man entered the bar. Turns out he was a member of the fraternity that previously inhabited the building. And he told us a story about a party 40 years ago, during which a frat brother snuck up the back stairwell to steal money from the fraternity office. On the way back down, he slipped and fell. The other brothers found him sprawled across the stairs. He died three weeks later.”
So beware of the voices that whisper from the wood-paneled walls and jack-o’-lantern lights of the bar. For today is Halloween, and GPSCY will be filled with revelers: ghouls and goblins; Disney characters galore; your Cold War TA and his 500 friends; and maybe a real spirit or two. Just listen for the sound of those rattling chains and remember– you have been warned.
GPSCY on a Thursday night is the place for false lives. In between ducking behind corners to avoid the TA whose section you skipped last week, you can be anyone you want. Loretta the Southern art student, Noemi who is getting her M.B.A.
But GPSCY on a Tuesday night is the place for Grey Goose gimlets, beer on tap, and wistfulness.
Brian and Amir are telling me the truth about this place called both GPSCY and Gryphon’s (“Gypsy, definitely Gypsy,” Brian says). We sit at a circular table by the window and I play with the flame of the single candle on the table as we talk.
“The only things you can order,” Amir says. “Grey Goose gimlets and beer, ask the bartender.” He takes a sip of his post-gimlet beer and reflects. “Did I tell you about when I brought the Kurdish rebels here? We played a drinking game. I did pretty well, but the rebels won and then they ended up in the upstairs bathroom with a South African Law student.”
Brian shakes his head.
“The upstairs bathroom is the place for sexual encounters on Thursday night.”
“Is it co-ed?” I ask.
“Co-ed. Sexual encounters of all kinds.”
Tyler approaches the table with an apple martini and tells us that the bartender has just told him a ghost story.
“Ghost stories?” says Amir. “I’m telling her about sex stories and the toilet!” He turns back to me. “Also, the bartenders here, you wouldn’t think they would be so revealing. But that Med student with her boobs out” — he looks at Brian — “you know who I mean, she actually apologized. One is a public health student, one is a medical student. They work the cleavage angle.”
Brian laughs and shakes his head again.
“So how do you get to be a bartender here?” I ask.
“You’re a grad student and you apply,” Amir says. “They stay for a year or two and then leave.”
We look around the sparsely-crowded bar for a moment and reflect upon the fact that people leave.
“It was better in our day,” Amir says. “It was crazy.”
Standing by the bar is a cluster of people. Beyond, a couple of guys are shooting pool.
“The undergraduates used to not go to bars,” Brian says, “but now they go to every bar, but they don’t go to this one.”
“This is a frequent place where people meet significant others in grad school,” says Amir, turning back into my guide for the night. “A very central place. It peaks in September and then by October everyone is coupled and they stop coming to GPSCY. I met my ex-girlfriend here.”
A girlfriend, Amir clarifies, who he dated a long time ago.
“It’s good being a graduate student,” he says. “Undergraduate minus the stress. You can really go out any night of the week and it won’t affect you. Which is why social centers like GPSCY become so big. When we went here, there were parties afterward in HGS. Then sleeping until one in the afternoon. It was a good life. We stayed in bed. We went to brunch. What else do you want out of life?”
He takes a sip of his beer and seems to gain confidence in this line of thought.
“We slept, we ate, we had sex, what more is there?”
“Art?” Tyler asks.
“Art, yes, making love is art. Isn’t it?”
Yes, Tyler has to agree.
You must do what you want to do, Amir says, do what makes you happy because everything is hard. Everything is hard and life is too short and you never know what’s going to happen so just do what you want as long as you can make enough money to feed yourself.
He stops talking and turns to me.
“This is the problem with GPSCY,” he says, “People take themselves far too seriously.”