The Mayday Experiment: Sticks and Stones

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On my birthday this week, someone threw a rock through Tiny’s largest window. The rock, only about two and a half inches across, went through both panes and bounced off the opposite wall twenty feet away, leaving a constellation of sparkling glass shards and a disappointing comment on humanity. I discovered the vandalism in the morning, and later that day an elderly neighbor rang my door to express his dismay – he’d seen it while walking by, and spent a good five minutes expressing his opinions about these “damned no-account kids.” 
Only two days later, I pulled up in front of my place and noticed that taggers had hit my neighbor’s side of the building, right on the front, with big, black, sloppy tags, and apparently in broad daylight. I jumped out of Bertha, my truck, and ran to the other side of the tiny house:  Sure enough, the Tyvek wrap still smelled of Krylon and a sloppy moniker was emblazoned right in the middle.
It would be easy to take these acts personally, and to feel like a target after my twice-in-one-week misfortunes — but having lived through the gentrification of Highland, Santa Fe Drive and LoDo, I recognize the signs of the squeeze. Despite the fact that I’ve been in this space for eight years, and in the neighborhood a solid fifteen, I’m still seen as a sign of the changes here, and assertions of space in the form of vandalism are almost a sign of territorial marking.

The irony is that I spent much of my time on Santa Fe Drive arguing with the city over allowing legal walls, going to Graffiti Task Force meetings and trying to explain that I WANTED the art of these people on my walls and, in fact, had invited it. But I draw a distinction between graffiti and tagging, to some degree…the graffiti artists I knew followed an ethos and worked as hard as any other artists I knew.
Graffiti has evolved over the years, and just like everything underground, it has been co-opted by the mainstream and sold back to us in a diluted form. But at its roots, graffiti is a rebellion and a domination over one’s space. It began as a beautification of neighborhood decay and a way to create one’s cultural environment — but at its heart, it also has a core political component, challenging property ownership and who controls what we see. We take it as a given, after all, that billboards have the “right” to our eyeballs because we live in a world where that is what we’ve known. In its way, graffiti challenges who has the right to our eyeballs, and what it means to shape one’s environment. But  I imagine that’s far more esoteric than what my taggers were probably thinking.

At any rate, though, these events only increase my nervousness about the tiny house’s safety. While I’m building, the tiny house is uninsured – there literally is no way to insure this type of structure while it's under construction. Luckily for me, in Colorado there is insurance available when I’m done (there are only a handful of states where this is currently true); however, since i will have built it myself, it doesn’t necessarily fit into a traditional category of insurance. When I bought it, the DMV considered it a trailer; when it’s done, it will be an RV – but I will need to find an insurance company that can cover the tiny house, even if it’s just as personal property.

Several tiny houses have actually been stolen – most famously blogger Casey Friday’s home, which was eventually recovered, though he lost interest in living in it as a result.  (He is currently trying to sell it.)  However, unlike Casey Friday, I was lucky that I knew to take precautions. There is a hitch lock and a wheel lock on the trailer, and my truck is parked directly in front of it, not hitched, about 95 percent of the time. On my busy street, the odds of anyone even attempting to steal the structure (especially unfinished) seem particularly slim, though it wouldn’t surprise me at all to one day find someone sleeping in it. But it will take constant vigilance to protect the tiny house from the increased vandalism, and though friends have suggested security cameras and signs, I’m not sure that will be much of a deterrent. And really, there is no guarantee in a traditional home, either: Hurricanes, floods and fires regularly destroy people’s homes. Still having your home stolen is a chilling thought, an unimaginable violation. Someone sleeping in your bed, bathing in your tub and, worst of all, stealing your pets…the very thought is a nightmare. At least my tiny house would be instantly recognizable, with its unique profile.

As for the tag, the one-of-a-kind siding treatment we have planned will cover it up, anyway...and hopefully look cool enough that any self-respecting tagger would have to leave it alone out of respect. Hopefully.... 

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging about her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.

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