There were a few things about my twenties that were nonnegotiable: Learning to play the bagpipes. Marrying Liz Phair. Owning a really cool Western Wear shirt. And the rock-solid foundation on which all my nebulous schemes were built -- living in a warehouse.
Let me tell you about my warehouse. It has brick walls and dirty skylights. Romantically oxidizing metal I-beams hold up the mile-high roof, lending support to the enormous structure while also serving as goalposts for the weekly bike polo matches I host for my rough-and-tumble artist friends. Sometimes we use neighborhood children as the ball. We are lawless and beautiful, and the conventions of the bourgeois world do not apply to us. Not in my warehouse they don't.
My warehouse has an empty Jacuzzi in one corner. On stormy nights I climb into the Jacuzzi with my electric guitar and finger listless melodies that only the rain can understand. And Beck. Beck can understand them too. He comes by my warehouse a lot. To fly his helicopter and play Hacky Sack. Beck is much shorter than you'd think. We are tight.
Unfortunately, my twenties haven't quite played out the way I'd imagined. I never married Liz Phair or studied the Scottish pipes. I did spend some time with Beck at a show a couple years ago, but our interaction was pretty limited (he sang, I clapped), and it didn't make up for the biggest disappointment of all: Never finding that mythical warehouse.
My warehouse envy was stoked this weekend when I went to the New Model Glow/Dealership/ Sleeper/Thunderbleed show at the 4001 San Leandro Street complex. Like the Vulcan Warehouse, the 40th Street Warehouse, and the plethora of other cool, rehabilitated East Bay musical spaces, 4001 San Leandro has everything you could ever want from a home. Mopeds are parked indoors, disassembled drum kits litter the floor, and homemade art hangs haphazardly from the walls. The space belongs to New Model Glow's Eve Levine, whom I didn't know. She seemed nice, though, so I tried to work my magic on her.
"How many people live here?" I asked her over the drum 'n' bass cranking out from her living room. She held up three fingers. I weighed my options. "Can I move in?" I asked.
"I can be here tomorrow," I offered. She smiled indulgently and went to get more beer.
Here's the truth, though: I did go look at a vacant warehouse space a couple months ago. It was in East Oakland and the rent was cheap and, unlike most warehouse spaces, there were already three bedrooms built into it.
It had dirty skylights and off-street parking. There was a downstairs room with forty-foot ceilings, and a vast plywood-covered wall that would be ideal for art shows. The array of nooks offered plenty of storage, and the landlords had the kind of hands-off approach that meant we could do whatever we wanted as long as we never asked for repairs or maintenance.
On the downside, there was no heat, and the mysterious odor of agricultural-grade herbicide made your eyes water in one of the rooms. The real health hazard, though, was the carpet.
All five of the upstairs rooms were upholstered in a greasy, gray shag that gave off a vaporous stew of mold, motor oil, and dead pets. It looked like every technological innovation since the Industrial Revolution had been conceived, implemented, and eventually attacked and destroyed on that carpet. It was the Bayeux Tapestry of Fruitvale, and in its decades of ground-in dirt, you could read an epic history of the region's prosperity and decline.
We ended up passing on the warehouse, not so much because of the carpet (which, theoretically, could have been separated from the floor and replaced), but because of the work involved. At 28, I and most of my friends have developed certain, uh, routines for our weekends. These routines involve seeing bands, going dancing, getting drunk, and making fools of ourselves. Replacing rotted drywall and picking out fungus-proof respirators at Home Depot does not figure into that routine for a good reason: We have better things to do with our time.
Which probably means I'll exit my twenties next year without ever having lived in a warehouse. It sucks, but thankfully the decade hasn't been a total wash. Last week at Thrift Town I found a cowboy shirt! It has shiny buttons and western stitching and, best of all, doesn't smell like anyone's pet died on it. Sometimes, I'm happy to report, dreams do come true.
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