Inside the House of the Anarchists
expose by Jeff Koyen
(Click on photos for larger images)
For many, the word "anarchy" conjures up images of political chaos, social unrest, and the upheaval of whatever it is you oppose. Not a bad image, I admit. For the initiated, anarchy means "freedom," "individuality," and "equality," right? Wrong.
In Latin, "anarchy" really means "nonsense." And--as I have expounded upon in previous issues--today's Anarchists are nothing more than hippies re-incarnated for the Alternative Nation. Has The Gap started selling pre-soiled thrift store clothing yet? It will, just as soon as Jason Priestley has his "anarchy" episode, akin to that infamous "euphoria" episode that everyone yacks about.
In West Philadelphia, Anarchists have found their home. Owing to rental laws that lean greatly in favor of tenants, there is a large squatter population in that stretch of the woods. And 99% of the West Phila' squatters are part of what I call the Anarchist Clique.
When we moved into our building two years ago, we discovered that the neighbors were squatters. Word is it had been a squatter property for the last few years. For the record: I am in favor of squatters taking over places that will otherwise fall into disrepair. A squatter-occupied property will not turn into a harbor for criminals, and it will not become infested by animals. And since vacant houses are dangerous places for neighborhood children to play in, most people on most blocks are just as happy with squatters on their street as they would be with paying tenants. I agree 100%.
But over the course of my two-year stay in West Philly, I cultivated a profound dislike for the Anarchists next door. I must admit that as far as neighbors go, they were swell: very quiet (keeping a low profile) and VERY neat (they actually raked their leaves while everyone in our building let the wind take care of it.) I don't really know what my problem was with these Anarchists. Could have been my suspicion that they were just a bunch of students playing dirty punk rockers, living on their parents' cash. Could have been the snotty attitude whenever I tried to say "Hello" when I passed one of them on the sidewalk. Or, it could have been a premonition of things to come.
In August, we heard rumor that the Squatter house was up for sale. Apparently, the City finally got around to putting it up on the auction block of foreclosed properties. While it's easy to squat in government properties, once they're sold, it's another story.
This change in ownership seriously affected OUR lives. Most West Philadelphia houses are joined to the one next to it, resting on what seems to be a single lot. In other words, if you look straight at a typical West Philly house, it's really two houses joined on the outside only, with separate apartments on each side. Ownership of these "halves" are often split as well, since it's not TECHNICALLY one house. Really, they just share a firewall between them and a large front porch which is usually divided.
Concerned about the rumored auction, I spoke to the Headmistress of the Anarchists. I told her that I had asked our landlords if they knew anything about the Squatter place being up for auction; we wanted to know what would happen if their place was sold. (The landlords knew nothing.) Queen Anarchy said that they didn't know what was going on with their property either, but would keep us up-to-date.
Well, well, well. I never fucking spoke to her again.
Two months later we noticed that the lights were off in the Squatters' house. It was Christmas-time and, suspecting that most, if not all, of the Squatters were students, we figured they were home on break.
Four weeks passed. Nothing. Not a single light. They were gone.
Thanks for telling us, you motherfuckers. We may not have been the chummiest of neighbors, but we did TRY to contribute to your fucking cause. We tried to help you out. WE tried, but you fucked us.
We waited another few days, checking for lights each evening. Nothing.
One Friday night, with a few drinks impairing our better judgment, Tom and I decided it was time to take a look-see inside this mysterious house. Although we were positive the place was empty, we still pounded on their front door, just in case. Nothing.
Equipped with flashlights and weapons (a screwdriver and The Muddler for me; a pipe and pocketknife for Tom), we crawled out my bedroom window, across the second story roof, and broke into a window. (Well, we didn't even really BREAK a window--it lifted right up from the outside.)
We explored for more than 2 hours, picking through shit and rubble. In these 2 hours, my disdain for these so-called Anarchists grew to such a proportion that I couldn't keep it quiet.
Two days later, Amy and I went back in with a camera, determined to document my disgust. Look carefully at these pictures, and the next time you're deciding which "look" you want, please reconsider Anarchist Chic, ok? I'm ushering in the Backlash, here and now.
We broke in through a bedroom window. A filthy mattress, empty dresser, broken desk were all we found in this first room. Frankly, we were a little disappointed that we didn't stumble across a corpse, or that we weren't staring at a naked Squatter hanging in the closet with his dick in his hand.
Then we looked at the walls. Pay dirt. The harvest had begun.
The west wall was covered with red handprints, the kind you made in kindergarten for your mommy on Mother's Day. Scrawled alongside were the proclamations "I Live Here" and "This is my home." The inside of the door was adorned with "I AM THE GREAT SATAN."
Fueled by laughter, we made our way into the hallway.
Our artiste had obviously run out of "canvas" in the bedroom, so he or she ventured into the hallway. Gems like "Curses to Evil Doers" and "This House Will Bring Bad Luck" almost persuaded Tom into believing that whoever wrote and painted these was joking around when they did it.
But with bonus quips like "TO MAKE MONEY OFF OF OTHER'S MISFORTUNE IS A UNIVERSAL SIN," "Blood on your hands," & "Capitalist Pigs," Tom was convinced--they were serious. They weren't too bright, but they were serious.
(It was at this point that I decided to come back with the camera; this article was burning in my mind brighter than the goddamn North Star in the Arizona sky.)
Further down the hall, we hit another bedroom. While its door wasn't decorated with Lucifer's Declaration of Being, it was adorned with a self-righteous, pseudo-anarcho poster that instructed us: "Many Have Eyes but do not see." Thanks for the 10th-grade lesson, pally.
This room was occupied by another graffiti artiste. The photo at right gives us the Gospel According to the Anarchist: "$$$ Stupid arrogant selfish greedy foolish ignorant humans," "Death of spirit creative community," and "God loves the rich." I laughed so hard I almost dropped my flashlight. (The hanging object is a doll tied up in a necktie. Oooh! Eeek!)
Far be it for me to judge another person's habits. Truth be told, I'm quite the fucking slob. Beyond messy, I am often quite dirty; I'm downright unsanitary on the right days.
However, my bad hygiene remains confined to the realm of my body and my immediate surroundings, rarely intruding on anyone else's life.
The people next door went far over the line of filth. They have left a legacy behind them that was not only appalling to see, but can (and probably will) develop into something unhealthful to the apartments around them, including ours and the one above us, where two young children live. Oh, and let's not forget that a group of 6 neighborhood kids--YOUNG kids, ages 6 to 10--routinely hang around our area of the block; they will eventually decide to explore this place.
Nice consideration for your fellow man, you fucks.
We found 3 bathrooms in the house--all destroyed. In one, the bathtub was filled with stagnant water; in another, the sink and toilet were filled with chunks of plaster and drywall. Apparently, our good neighbors forgot the difference between sink, toilet, tub and garbage can.
But before I get into organic filth, a few words about physical damage.
The floor plan of the Squatter House is identical to ours, reflected at the firewall which divides the building in half. Now mind you, it ain't a fucking palace, but it is a good-sized space at an affordable price. Both properties have basements (ours is unused, since it's terminally unlocked) and very large attics (the third floor apartment in our building has access.) It is, honestly, a real decent space.
Theoretically, the Squatter House can support at least 10 people, if 4 agreed to share rooms. (If you're living rent-free, wouldn't you share a room? Fuck yes.) We counted 3 bathrooms and 2 full kitchens. The basement was clean, good for storage; the attic could serve as a large bedroom for 2 (or more storage, or somewhere to hang out.) Let me tell you, this fucking property is a Dream Come True for 10 people responsible enough to maintain the building.
Instead, our neighbors destroyed the fucking place.
It was my understanding that Today's Anarchists are Champions of Equal Housing. I was under the impression that Today's Anarchists live by the ethics that they so vehemently preach to everyone else. Today's Anarchist talks about exploiting the Government to help the less fortunate. Now, wouldn't that include utilizing every raw material at your disposal? And wouldn't you consider an empty, safe, government-ignored house to be prize raw material?? Wouldn't you try your best to maintain a free property, even if you were moving out? I sure as fuck would. In fact, I did.
Shit, I don't even preach the Anarchist Doctrine, but I do seem to practice it. See, Tom and I didn't pay rent for six months because the property was foreclosed and the bank tried to fuck us. In effect, we knew that when we left, we would not be getting our security deposit. But did that mean we should tear up the floor, fuck up the plumbing, and make the space useless for someone else? No. When we left, the apartment was in great shape because we wanted someone to benefit from our vacancy. When we left, we told some people that a space was open. "Go squat," we said.
But our neighbors fucked up their property. Floorboards were torn up. Stairs were missing. And, as I mentioned before, the bathrooms were useless. Even if the property is up for auction, should you destroy it? What if a non-profit housing organization is bidding on the property, hoping to come in low and renovate? If someone wants to renovate now, they'll need to gut the place and start over.
With all this destruction, though, I still wasn't angry. "Stupid kids," I said. "Worse that frat boys," Tom said. It wasn't until I saw the first floor that I got Angry.
In Crank #2, I wrote a piece entitled "Anarchists: Same Old Hippie Shit." Some of you may remember it. Therein, I lambasted a local anarchist rag for their statement: "We encourage you to take the initiative to express yourself, but don't bother to send us any racist, sexist or otherwise hateful material." Wanna hear something funny? The publishers of this piece of shit were my neighbors. Small fucking world.
In the front bedroom, we found cases of their little paper. Literally thousands of copies, stacked waist-high in cardboard boxes, all waiting to be recycled with other newspapers that had accumulated. Basically, our chums left us a nice, big fucking firetrap, when all they had to do was put the boxes at the curb for the City to pick up free of charge.
On behalf of the entire block, which includes at least 20 small children and more than a few innocent adults: fuck you. Got that? Fuck You.
One hot July day, when the temperature inside that sealed apartment tops 120°, we're going to see a firestorm kick up. And it's going to take the rest of the building with it and, quite likely, a house or two down the block.
Granted, I already knew that I'd be gone before the building burned down. So, who cares? One less building? I'm safe and sound.
It's the kids I worry about. You've gotta worry about the kids.
A small pack of children play near our house. They ride their bikes up and down the block; the boys and girls chase each other with as-yet-undefined sexual tension. They're all good kids, even if they do mix up our names.
But they're still kids. And kids explore. I remember when I was their age: any and every parking lot, construction site and empty building was fair game. As soon as the nice weather rolls in, the kids will be crawling in basement windows to go exploring (much like Tom and I with our flashlights and booze.)
And it still gets worse.
In the first floor living room, we found more newspapers, stacks of text books (computer science, mostly) and FOOD. On the shelf in the picture to the right (and others like it on the second and third floors) we found bags of lentils and grains that were already serving as steady food supply for the mouse and rat population.
How hard can it be to throw the food out? Everyone who lives in a city knows how hard it is to keep mice and rats out of your apartment (not to mention the fucking cockroaches.) Did you guys just not care? Or were you deliberately leaving shit behind, just to fuck us over? Well, I got news for you: I ain't fucked over; I'm gone. But wait until this apartment is knee-deep in vermin and the families next door are forced out because of it's so goddamn dangerous.One of the most confusing things about the Squatter House was the presence of four refrigerators. The first was in the living room, lying on its side, serving as a table. The other three took up all of the space in the kitchen, and all three were full of rotting food. The worst example is shown in the photo above. Note the dark specs all over the place: rat shit. No shit. (Editor's note: In hindsight, it's occurred to me that the spots can't all be rat shit, unless the rats were climbing up the sides of the refrigerator and somehow depositing feces along the way.)
Again--how hard could it be to throw out your old food? This wasn't fucking Masada--you didn't decide to kill yourselves all at once, leaving no one behind to do the chores. You knew you were leaving, but you still left a fucking health hazard behind.
And again: Nice consideration for your fellow man.
I can't tell you how many fucking Rape Culture articles I've read in all the little Anarchy rags that come to my mailbox. Not lucky enough to have them sent to you? Well, then spend five minutes in your local Anarchist book shop and you'll be inundated with elitist feminist books on the shelves and elitist feminist attitude from the little college cunts who volunteer there. Do I have a problem with Feminism? Nope. I do, however, have a problem with misguided, tunnel-vision condemnations. Let's take, for instance, pornography.
PORNOGRAPHY IS A-OK BY ME.
Hey buddy, you get your rocks off by looking at naked chicks with small asses, big tits, and bigger hair? Fine. You like to watch people fucking and grunting like dogs? Great. You masturbate to high school cheerleader panty shots? No problemo, padre.
But what's that? You're a man who strolls around all day on a pro-Feminist platform, but then you go home and whack off to airbrushed shots of an 18-year old, coked-up, Penthouse model? Hmm.
Did you stand up in your Women's Lit class and proclaim that Paglia's got some real valid points, but then you pay-per-viewed the Playboy Channel later that night? And you taped it for later "use?" Hmm.
Hey there, guy, ain't you one of the Squatters who lives next door to me? Didn't I hear you condemn the Male-Dominated Corporate Power Structure for contributing to the drastic disparity between opportunities for men and women, but then you quietly went to your room, greased up and watched a woman get double-teamed by two guys with glistening, shaved asses? I think I've got a problem with that.
The buckets of urine were a surprise. The rat shit was a surprise. But neither of them surprised us as much as the smut we found in two of the bedrooms.
In one dresser, underneath a stack of old notebooks, I found three copies of Penthouse, one Playboy, and one New Look. Is it bad for a grown man to have girlie magazines in his dresser? No, not at all, so long as you're not walking around all day screaming the hard Feminist line. Do I find it hypocritical for a man who claims to rebel against the male-dominant paradigm to have a stack of titty-mags hidden in his sweater drawer? Titty mags that showcase the visual distillation of women's exploitation? Titty mags that make a fortune on advertising revenue from liquor and cigarette companies? Yes, I find it incredibly hypocritical. I must reiterate: these mags wouldn't make me look twice if these men weren't proclaiming their Feminist solidarity so fucking loudly.
I mean, my christ, you can't put your money into a worse institution.
Oh, yeh, and then came the video.
At the bottom of a closet, we found 5 videotapes. Yes, yes, we were both hoping to find home video of one of the cute Squatter chicks fucking a dog or something. It was a long shot, sure, but hell, they're supposed to be crazy, you know? They sure look crazy.
Each tape was pornographic, but nothing remotely interesting. No snuff, no bondage, no flair, you know? They contained: 1 night of the Playboy Channel, 1 night of the Spice Channel and 3 run-of-the-mill frat party porno flicks.
Jeez, Louise, seems that next door we had a couple super-progressive, super-Pro-Chick guys secretly jerking off to a woman taking loads on her face. Fuck, man. I wouldn't do that to a 20-dollar hooker with your cock. Do you really want to talk to me about degradation? Are you sure??
We needed two trips across the roof to haul home the treasure. We had: one big can of dental plaster, one box of dental syringes, 5 videotapes, 5 magazines, one weapon-sized pipe, and 2 reams of paper. Oh, and there were the cassettes.
On the way out, I found a milk crate full of tapes. Whooee! Between the video and the audio tapes, I just knew I was gonna find something just great, eh?? Maybe something I never get around to buying, like some Germs, or maybe early Black Flag. You know, something someone probably stole from me--something I always consider replacing, but never do.
Let me tell you--for a bunch of Anarchist Punks, these kids had bad fucking taste in music. Joan Baez. Cat Stevens. Bob Dylan. I swear to God, I will lick the cat's asshole before I will listen to any of these tapes. Where's the Minor Threat? Where's the Husker Du? WHERE ARE THE STANDARDS?!? Not in this Punk Rock Boarding House.
Wow, Jeff, do you mean to tell me that these people who go to such lengths to look like nasty punks are really just hippies that don't think it's cool to be hippies any more? Er, yes. I'd say so.
Now I know why we never heard any loud music coming from their house--they didn't own any loud music. And that explains why I never ran into any of the neighbors at any show in town. (And I went to everything from the word-of-mouth punk shows to the $15-in-advance events.) I never saw any of them there because they aren't PUNKS. They're FUCKING HIPPIES.
...you pompous, self-righteous, unoriginal, hypocritical, useless fucks. My contempt for you and your supposed lifestyle has never been stronger, and I hope you all burn in suburban Hell when you graduate and gets jobs at your Daddy's corporation.
Meanwhile, I will continue to struggle to publish Crank. I will continue to walk the streets, nondescript and bland. I will continue to practice what I preach, put my money where my mouth is, and back up my words with actions.
You, on the other hand, will come and go with the impact of a feather landing in the ocean. You will regret the tattoo, remove the nose ring, and watch yourselves rot alongside any dreams you once had. Fuck you.
For squatters everywhere, may I suggest: