Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I'll House You

For a couple weeks in high school, my friend and I had our own house.
We didn't actually pay rent or live there or anything. We would just sort of hang out there every once in a while.

We were walking home one day after cross country practice and a celebratory bonus meal at 7-11 (that was when you'd buy a Big Gulp and stash a microwave burrito in the cup. The plastic wrapper kept it from getting wet) and got caught in one of Florida's summer downpours.

We sat under the carport of a house for sale waiting for the storm to stop. While discussing the dangers of misdiagnosed mental illness expressed in Suicidal Tendencies' "Institutionalized," we noticed the door to the house had Jalousie windows.

If you grew up in Florida, you know what Jalousie windows are, even if you don't know the name. They were those horizontal glass Venetian blind looking windows. Here, like in this picture I stole off the internet while searching for "old Florida horizontal glass venetian blind windows."

While they offered several  benefits to Florida homeowners, including brightness, an ability to catch breezes and a cool mid-century design, they had a few drawbacks, the main one being the fact that a couple of high school delinquents using no tools can take out enough of the glass panes to slip in the house in about 7 minutes.

It was strange once we were in the empty house. We were quiet and probably a little scared. Still, we figured if we got caught, we'd just say the door was open so we came in out of the rain.

We noticed the previous owners had left some stuff behind in their move. Nothing too interesting, some glasses and silverware, some food and supplies and a Penthouse magazine I let my friend keep, a move I instantly regretted.

We remained fairly respectful and quiet in the house that first day, and left soon after splitting our feast. Of course we were going to go back.

We couldn't wait to get out of practice the next day to break back into our new clubhouse. Again, we just sort of hung around inside, ate some shoplifted 7-11 treats and poked around to see what the owners had left behind that we missed the first day. It was a weird feeling; we knew we shouldn't be in there, and we still remained fairly quiet in the house. That would change soon.

We had been visiting our house fairly frequently when in a rare case of quitting a bad idea while we were ahead, we decided we should probably stop hanging out there. So we decided to go back one last time, but this time instead of exploring, we would dedicate our last day in the house to science and the arts.

Specifically, I had a science project that had vexed me for years while looking at my parent's sliding glass doors. If a scientist were to throw a glass at such a door, would the glass shatter on impact or would the momentum be enough to leave a cartoon-like hole in the door? While I had made many advanced mathematical equations, I still needed real-world testing, testing  my science hating parents would probably try to actively discourage.

So we tried it out. As a teenager, it is insanely liberating to break something. It is even more liberating to do so inside a house you aren't supposed to be in. The sound of the breaking glass was magnified through the empty house, and while we were dedicated scientists, we weren't robots - it was exhiliratingly funny.

The arts portion of the trip involved us squirting some left behind Elmer's glue on the floor and coating the design with a box of cereal we found in one of the cabinets. I can't recall exactly what we made, but I can almost guarantee there was at least one anarchy sign.

We threw all the abandonded food (including a bag of flour) we could find through the house, a glorious food fight against ... the house? Squares? Homeowners? The Man? Probably all of the above. We had brought along a can of spray paint and decorated the rest of the house with punk rock slogans and band logos, along with what I considered the crowning touch -  "LEAVE THIS EVIL HOUSE" in all caps above the mantle, as if a ghost got a hold of some haunted spray paint, leaving a terrifying warning to the human residents.

We left the house, carefully taking our spray paint can so it couldn't be dusted for prints, and walked away, never to return. And I can only speak for myself, but I remember feeling a bit depressed. Not only because we were walking away from so much  potential science and art, but because we had found a place where we were guaranteed not be hassled or oppressed, a place where we were free to create however much mess and trouble we wanted without facing any consequences of our actions.

Its sort of a sick joke that as a teenager you have all this extra energy built up and only a handful of acceptable ways to let it out. Once I become President, I will take all the nation's foreclosed homes and open them up to teenagers to vandalize and destroy. This would not only help the kids blow off steam, it would help the economy by employing workers and cleaners round the clock.

And in our case we actually did  help the economy, sort of. Years later we were telling the story of our house on the track team when an older runner got sort of quiet.

"My sister tried to buy that house," he said.

Oh shit. Was this guy gonna kick our ass for messing up his sister's house?

"Yeah, because it was so trashed, her and her husband got it for like, next to nothing."

So remember kids, vandalism is a win-win. Not only is it fun and stress-relieving, you also have a great chance of helping out some struggling homeowners.

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