I Wanted to Live in an Abandoned House

“Hi there, nice person.”

I blinked. This isn’t normally how you greet someone.

But the woman in the electric wheelchair seemed to think it worked fine. “Hi the—” She zoomed past me before I could finish my sentence.

Nice person. Was that sarcastic? Do I look shady? Or maybe she was just being defensive. I decided on that one.

It didn’t matter. I was on a mission, and at the moment, very well lost.

The Search Continues

In 23 days I move out of my house, and I have no idea where I’m going. I say that blithely when people ask—I’m not worried even a bit. No, I’m not letting my readers send me to a new country of their choosing. I have a better idea.

Instead, I’m going to live in a cool abandoned building for a few months. Not squatting! I want the owner’s permission and will pay rent. If no building owners go for it, no problem; I’ve always got a monastery to fall back on. But as unlikely as it seems to find a vacant building and a willing owner in just three weeks, I feel pretty good about my chances.

So how am I gonna pull it off?

Friends, Google, and a Pair of Balls

Initially my search for a vacant building was scattered and unfocused. I just looked for cool old buildings and then poked around for a sign.

This is not how you get shit done.

As the deadline looms, I’ve stepped up my game. I embarked on a three part plan to maximize my chances:

  1. Pull my network. You know how a lot of people just use Facebook to tag funny pictures and play creepy farming games? Those people do not know what Facebook is for. I put up a notice that I’m searching for anyone who owns a vacant building in Minneapolis. I FB’d it and tweeted it, and asked others to pass it on. Now, over a thousand people in Minneapolis know what I’m looking for, and counting.
  2. High-level use of the internet. I searched for a list of vacant buildings in Minneapolis (aka “the 249 list”) and pulled up a Google map of the city.  I identified favorite neighborhoods and a few ctrl+f’s later I knew which of my top streets had buildings on the list.
  3. Call those leads. There’re two things you need to cold-call a building owner and ask to live in their empty brewery: the balls to pick up the phone, and a phone number to dial. Remember how I said privacy sucks? Well, that’s not because there’s anything wrong with privacy, that’s because privacy doesn’t exist anymore. I looked up the full name of all the property owners on the city’s own web page. Most cities have a similar page; if not, you can just go request the info at city hall. Then a simple google search revealed the phone numbers for each and every landlord.

I still haven’t called through all of them, but I’m off to a great start. My favorite “lead” so far came from a curator at the most awesome museum in the world, who suggested I live in one of the tepees on the museum lawn. Although I tried to convince him that would be a great publicity stunt, it turns out he was joking.

Basilica in Minneapolis

So Back to this Story

Okay, so after making my list and placing a few calls I decided to hit the streets and look at some of the properties. It was then that I ran into Lady in an Electric Wheelchair.

It was in a really fun neighborhood. For those of you who have never been to the Twin Cities, let me set the scene: Loring Park, a willow-lined basin around its great pond; the Basilica looming to the north; the great temple of the Woman’s Club built into the hillside to the south. These are the lanes that would have once been shaded by giant elms, and brown stone and brick apartments still shine their turn-of-two-centuries prestige down on us pedestrians.

Loring Park

My target was a house. I had looked at it from the front, but wanted to go around the block to see it from the back. That was when I got lost, and when Lady in an Electric Wheelchair caught me off guard.

After shrugging off her weird greeting I found out that no street wraps around behind the house. Confused, I turned around and headed back.

There was Lady in an Electric! Again!

I decided to take the initiative. “Well hello again,” I said.

She turned on the headlamp of her wheelchair and shined it in my face. “Hello again… Nice person!” This time she threw her had back in glee and laughed. So did I. This was starting to become normal.

At least I know the neighbors, I guess.

If you are a good citizen of the internet, tweet this post like tweeting is all you live for. Facebook share it like you’re getting paid by the page view. And for the love of the immortal gods, tell your Minneapolis friends to contact me if they know someone who owns a vacant building.


10 thoughts on “I Wanted to Live in an Abandoned House

  1. Gritty, ethereal–it’s like you’re entering a Murakami novel.

    I can’t wait to see what happens. The next lady in the wheelchair may be a psychic prostitute that wheels you to the place.

    You are a rogue_priest; I love it.

    P.S. The premier skate store in Santa Barbara (when I lived there), was a converted church. The name? Church of Skatan.

    Eerie, but compelling.

    I have been “evangelizing” the power of the local. Joshua Millburn just posted on this. This takes it to another dimension.

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