The Mayday Experiment: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

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It was a tough week with the tiny house. With a looming deadline to take it to ArtStir this weekend, we had set up work days a month ago to put on the roof, but weekend after weekend, rain had thwarted us. This past weekend, once penciled into the calendar as “siding?”, we were still struggling to beat the rain and complete the roof. And that was only one of the struggles.

Though completing the installation of the windows was a great joy, and made it start looking like a house as opposed to a well-constructed plywood box, the joy didn’t last long. Within three months, the first rock was thrown through the window, on my birthday. It was a shock – especially after all of the wonderful conversations I’ve had with neighbors in the Whittier and Five Points neighborhood while building the tiny house….so far, I had felt nothing but good will. But with the gentrification pressures building, and people getting pushed out, there has recently been more violence, more incidents: Was it part of that, or was it personal?

When the second window was broken, on the same day the blog post about the first window went up, it started to feel personal. And what’s more, it happened during the day…when I was home. But there were roofers on the roof, and so much general noise that I tuned out and missed it. A perfect hole in the outer pane.

Apparently, perfect wasn’t what the tiny house assailants were going for, so they tried again to be sure they broke the inner pane, too, a scant few days later. While they succeeded in screwing up the symmetry of their former hole and adding another in the previously broken glass, the inner pane was still intact after that assault.

One of the most depressing things about this is that the house was planned around the windows after we found them.  Our framing fit the windows so that we could repurpose them instead of designing and searching for specific sizes, but in the pantheon of ironic ironies, they are custom sizes. So in order to replace them, the window needs to be special-ordered; what had been a move to save money now will cost more than buying new windows would have in the first place, and those windows will take at least ten days to arrive. We could replace the glass ourselves, following YouTube videos, but to do so would mean only replacing the glass, not the factory gas contained between the panes that determines the R-Value.

After the roof, our next step would have been siding, but now it will be windows again, as soon as we decide what to do about them. And modifications to the door, too, which I never really installed correctly and now is difficult to open after the last time we moved the trailer.

Understandably, worrying about the tiny house has made me a bit flinchy. I find myself running to the window when I hear any noise outside. (Actually, running to a series of three windows, since each shows a slightly different view and the house is too close – only a sidewalk’s width away – to be able to see the whole thing from one spot).

About six in the evening one night, I was sitting and writing e-mails, and heard a bigger noise than I'd heard in the past. This time I knew it was something, and grabbed my phone as I sprinted through the studio to the front door. 

Opening the door, my suspicions were confirmed – a rock had been thrown through the remaining large window, shattering both panes and resting inside. And the other large window had been hit again, too, leaving jagged panes of glass thrusting into the space. Frantic, I scanned the street, and noticed my neighbor walking across.

“I saw them this time”, she said. “Three boys – that’s them up there.” She gesture east up the street, where I could make out three teens strolling along, not even running.

Thanking her, I took off after them. What did I think I was going to do with three teenaged boys once I caught up with them? I can see the headlines now: “crazy blue-haired woman killed by three teens – judge rules it self-defense.” With these thoughts and worse bouncing in my head, I slowed my pace — something my feet were thankful for, as I was still wearing my clunky house slippers. They turned down an alley, and right at that moment, a car pulled out of the driveway next to it. I craned my head, but they were gone, I had lost them. My heart was pounding like a staccato jackhammer. 

Once back at my place, I called the police and waited on hold. The officer who answered informed me they were very busy that evening and he would send an officer out as soon as he could. Two frustrating hours later, I got a call and gave my account of events for a police report; a detective's promise to follow up still hasn’t been met. I posted the blurry pic I took from a distance on Facebook, but there were few identifying features from behind, so I have little hope that the culprits will face any consequences. In fact, I fully expect them to come back.

Victoria Salvador and I sat over tea, my fat cat Vinnie on her lap, and discussed options. Everyone on Facebook had thrown out Plexiglas as a solution, but one month on the road will leave it pitted and foggy, and it’s not only more expensive than glass, but still completely breakable at the required thinness. A security film would keep the glass together, but not prevent it from breaking. Metal grates or bars completely work against the welcoming ethos of the project, and both feel and look wrong. I knew there would be challenges building in an urban environment, but I never expected this to be one of them.

We are still trying to figure out exactly what the solution is, but are leaning towards security film plus strong shutters, which are going to take some effort to design in a way that will withstand wind-shear on the road. In the meantime, it’s clear that there’s no way to replace the windows in time for this weekend. So as a painful result of this vandalism, I had to make the hard decision not to take the tiny house to ArtStir – after all, I want the conversations it inspires to be positive. And even as a work in progress, with three broken windows it looks incredibly sad. So the tiny house's introduction to the public will have to wait.  

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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