October 11, 2007

I house-sat for a friend last weekend. I guess some people wouldn’t really call it house-sitting – it was more like squat-sitting. My buddy Gerson found this great abandoned house over in Honesdale and he’s been squatting there for the past month. It’s one of the best squat-houses I’ve ever seen — four bedrooms, working plumbing, only a few raccoons. If you get the electricity turned on, that house becomes a home in an instant and on top of that, you’ve already got pets.


Squatting can go one of two ways: it can be really great or it can be horrible – truly, truly horrible. I’ve been in both situations. Sometime in the late seventies (or was it early eighties?), I found my way into an abandoned factory on the eastern shore of Maryland and thought I was going to have the time of my life. I hadn’t seen a place that cool since the Playboy Club in Chicago and I was going to make it mine. What I didn’t know was that the factory was abandoned because it was slowly sinking into the Chesapeake Bay. I had a kegger one night and a hundred and fifty people dropped right into the water. Nobody got injured, though. At least I don’t think so. As soon as I saw the ground start to give, I got the hell out of there.


My best squatting experience was about ten years ago. It was early winter and I needed a place to crash. I was cruising around on a moped when I found this ranch house in Wilkes-Barre where the snow had piled up all over the driveway, so I knew it was deserted. I went inside and it was like finding a little slice of heaven, complete with a full wet bar and a somewhat fresh Christmas tree. Anyway, I was living there for a little while when I found out the house wasn’t abandoned at all. I suppose that explained all the food in the fridge. When the family came home after a week, I planned on moving out, I really did, but I had already gotten into a routine and the house was kind of perfect for me, so I decided to stick around and see if I could make it work around their schedule. As it turned out, the family was out of the house by eight every morning anyway, so I could do as I pleased.


One day, about a month into my squatting, I accidentally fell asleep in the tub. Ray, the man of the house, caught me and kicked me out. I learned an important lesson that day: if you’re squatting, take a shower. Nobody falls asleep in the shower. Taking baths, however, just sets you up for failure. I cherish that month with the Fullers, though. It really reminded me what it was like to have a family. I still visit them sometimes – they don’t know it, but I spent last weekend with them. Great turkey chili, Mrs. F! Keep up the good work.