Sunday, November 20, 2011

A New Experiment in Living

Dear Dana,

There’s a little monkey-man who lives out near our front gate, just under the mailbox. He is very little, very monkey-like.

He’s the one who told me I should go away and move to the underground.

Now, you might say this sounds crazy. And I admit that normally, I would be tempted to agree. But Dana, here’s the thing: That little monkey-man was right. I have to go. I must.

Life is too short to be spent inside of houses.

And yes, I know people will talk. Your people will talk and I know what your people will say. They will say that human beings live inside of houses, and if it should so happen that a human being does not live inside of a house or equivalent structure, then the aforementioned human being is crazy.

I have discussed this at length with the little monkey-man who lives out near our front gate.

Here is what the little monkey-man said about that. I pass it along to you now so that – when your people talk to you and say that I am a crazy human being – you will stand ready with an appropriate response.

*     *     *     *     *

1.  The response. Just last Thursday, the little monkey-man told me, while smoking his strange wooden neon pipe beneath our mailbox, that I cannot be crazy.

His logic was cogent. Irrefutable.

He started with this: “You say to me, Katy, that the act of going away and moving to the underground labels you a crazy person. Yet you would agree with me that crazy people – that is, those human beings whose minds work in a manner contemplated and recognized and classified by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – do not know they are crazy.”

Then he said this: “You would also agree with me that these so-called crazy human beings do not choose to leave their families and their houses and to move to the underground. They become ‘homeless’ – for lack of a better word – because they get lost and they get confused and they wander away without their medication.”

And the little monkey-man said this: “But you yourself, Katy, you are not lost. You are not confused. Unlike the crazy person, you know how crazy all this sounds, yet still voluntarily, proactively, and with much forethought, choose to move out of houses and go into the underground. The crazy person is incapable of such a decision. Ergo, you are not crazy.”

Then, his point having been made, the little monkey-man crushed out his pipe, rolled himself into a ball, and soaked back into the soil beneath our mailbox.

See? I’m not crazy after all.

*     *     *     *     *

2.  Deep Houston. Oh, Dana, I only wish you could see it! There is the downtown Houston that you see when you go to work. When you leave work. The one you see when you go to the courthouse or when you meet a client for lunch at a restaurant.

But then there is another Houston that exists only an inch – maybe less! – outside of your peripheral view.

First you turn right off of Travis, near the old Gulf Oil building. You let your mind wander, sort of floating free, like maybe you are looking at one of those deep 3D autostereogram paintings from the Nineties. You let your mind float free and you let yourself get lost.

Keep walking. Then you see it. You see the labyrinth of deep Houston. You see the place I am going.

Beneath, beside, betwixt or maybe between the downtown Houston stuff you know, there’s an older place. There’s the skeletons of the Enronoic Era. The powers behind the last war and the ones that will make the next one. There’s landmarks of the Golden Seventies, when Saudi princes flew in on Friday night to pick up Texas girls and snort away millions.

But there, deeper down and buried, there’s the Allen Brothers, washed up from the bayou, finding strange, not-quite-Spanish structures of unknown architectural origin.

And now Dana, you have to climb quite deep to get there. There, there are peoples who have not seen the bright downtown like you and your people know for generations.

But I can live there. And I am going to.

That does not make me crazy, Dana.

*     *     *     *     *

3.  Leaving houses. Your people will also say it is dangerous. Dangerous to leave houses behind. Dangerous to leave clocks and stoves and bug spray and central A/C. They will say it is dangerous, and especially so for women. They will say the streets are full of crazies and criminals and deadbeats and outcasts.

This time, your people will be right.

But I have my brain.

I have all that I learned last summer when I was there.

I have Captain Torus – that wise old anthropologist with his ankh staff and his sidearm and his knowledge of the Rules of the Streets and Side Tunnels – to protect me.

I have the confidence that leaving houses and moving into deep Houston is something I must do.

Maybe that makes me a little crazy. But only a little tiny bit.

*     *     *     *     *

4.  What I know. Dana, I know I love you. And I know I love our life. I love our family. That is a crazy thing for me to say, in light of this whole voluntary homelessness thing (see above).

I know it is a crazy thing, but it is a crazy thing that is true.

I know I would take you with me if I could take you with me. And we would find there is another way of living.

Tonight, I pack my things. I will place Saint Athanasius in his little box in my pocket. And it is then that the little monkey-man – the one who lives out near our front gate, just under the mailbox – will lead me down into the labyrinth where the crazies and the criminals and the deadbeats and outcasts go when they go away from houses and from clocks and stoves and from bug spray and central A/C.

Tonight, I am going. Going feral. Going stray. Going underground.

I don’t care what the little monkey-man says, I know that this makes me completely, fantastically crazy.

But I am going!

Google can't map where I'm going.


  1. The blue pill, or the red one? The cake, or the drink? Decisions; decisions.

    To find out how far the rabbit-hole goes, or to wake up safe in your bed? Carroll knew that this was the greatest decision a human ever got to make; that of exploring the unknown or falling back to the familiar.

    Another favorite quote of mine which skirts the decision entirely is this: "Ships are safe in harbors, but that's not what ships are for."

    Or, one of my own, which I'm (understandably) fond of: "The two most powerful words in any language are these: 'I choose'."

  2. @Will: Given the choice between the known and the unknown, it seems to me that almost everyone will choose the known.
    This is assuming that the people I know are a representative sample.
    Anyway... In order for most people to go trudging into the unknown, the known has to have become an impossibility. Maybe I jump the gun a bit...

  3. I will be following your progress with much interest.

  4. Wherever you may go, I hope you take pictures. Or maybe the monkey man can take pictures. I mean, logically, if he can smoke and talk, he can aim and shoot a picture.

    Also, if you can, bring me back a clever t-shirt.

    "I went underground and all I got was bitten by a morlock."

  5. ". In order for most people to go trudging into the unknown, the known has to have become an impossibility."

    You don't jump the gun at all.

    We're there.

  6. Interesting decision Katy, and one 99.995672% of the population is afraid to make. Some of us think, maybe even dream up detailed plans for escaping this reality and going feral (great word). I like your plan better than the cliche "backpack across Europe." As long as you stay in Texas there are no messy encounters with border crossing guards. And you get to keep your day job avoiding the pesky problem of not being able to buy food

  7. @Bill the Butcher: Cool!
    I have too many safety nets in this endeavor: a smart phone, a house top go back to if things get scary, etc.
    But it's still worth a try!

    @A Beer for the Shower: Pictures! "And here's a shot taken just before I got mugged by that tranny over a chicken wing."

  8. @Will: I don't know. The Roman Empire struggled and gasped for centuries after its peak. The resource and financial requirements of our system might burn it out sooner, I suppose.
    I think that roving bands of folks living outside the property and economic system are the way to go.
    Sure, the gypsies (in Europe) and the Ishmaelites (in America) were hated and killed, but that was by empires on the rise...

    @Brent: The downside is that Houston has about one week of spring and one week of autumn. It pretty much goes straight from hot to cold here.
    So it takes a little commitment...

  9. I envy you.
    Where you're going and for having the bravery to do it.
    It's not something I would do, but then there is nowhere here to do it anyway if I wanted to. But that picture looks kind of amazing, like the entrance to a hidden city.
    Reading this did make me think of the bit in Harry Potter where they have the train station that people don't know about. I love that bit. I just hope there is Internet there, as I really want to read about this alternative lifestyle you're beginning.
    Good luck Katy - keep safe :)X

  10. "... you will stand ready with an appropriate response."

    You boldly assume that Dana hasn't had this discussion in the past.

    Enjoy your adventure in ferality!

  11. @dirtycowgirl: Thanks! The cell phone reception is kind of hit or miss all over downtown, and especially underground.
    Even the food court thing in the regular office tunnels where I've been working has a lot of bad spots.
    I need to find good connectivity spots. I mean, I might be homeless but I'm not a barbarian!

    @JerseyDave: Dana has been making excuses for me for a long time now. She's pretty good at it...
    I need to look up "feral" and see how the word come from.... How do you use it as other parts of speech? Is it derived from the same root as "ferocious"

  12. Pepper spray, Katy!! Bring pepper spray!! And Cheetos. Have fun, buddy but for fuck's sake be careful!!

  13. @Sugar Free: You know, last night, I slept UNDER the park where the Occupy Houston folks are.
    I've heard that the Occupy kids LOVE pepper spray.
    I might have heard that wrong, but I don't think so.
    So, my point is, pepper spray would work on violent attackers OR on a bunch of hippies camping in the park.
    I win either way.

  14. Houston does tend to have the hot/cold switch. I remember being there when a 10 minute cooling summer shower came through leaving a 95 degree, 95% humidity hell in its wake. December 1 starts the ice storm season. Bring your skates

  15. @Brent: This past summer - when it went 3 months without rain - the humidity got down to almost 90%! It was pretty epic.
    And it snowed twice last winter. I've been in Houston a few years now, and I've never seen that before...

  16. I sm still trying to sort out the significance of you sleeping under the park where OWS protesters were camped out. Do you feel excluded? Or perhaps you had better accomodations than they, so you feel superior? What ever you do, don't let them in on your secret

  17. @Brent: I have better accommodations. I think I will tell you about them tomorrow.
    For their purposes - and I assume their purposes are to draw attention to themselves, especially of media - I suppose they need to be above ground and visible.
    I'm not really trying to draw attention to myself.
    Besides, Saint Athanasius does not like crowds...

  18. I am pretty sure that crowds feel the same way about Saint Athanasius

  19. @Brent: Poor, hairy, misunderstood Saint Athanasius!
    The crowds who would stomp him with into a greasy mark on the pavement with their crowded feet have NO idea that he's basically a rock with legs...
    ...Except, he's a rock with legs that can't hurt them when thrown at their heads, of course.


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