Mike's reflective shoes.

Right after I graduated high school, I started spending a lot of time with my friend Mike. Mostly, we'd play punk rock in his basement, with Mike on a drum set that came out of a dumpster, and myself banging out power chords on my guitar. When we got bored with that, we'd drive around, digging in dumpsters and getting harassed by rednecks. Mike was probably the punkest guy I ever knew. He wasn't some dumb rich kid who shopped at Hot Topic and secretly aspired to be a successful rich guy. No, Mike was a high school dropout who dug in the trash, made his own clothes, and aspired to be punk as fuck forever.

Mike was the only person who I ever actually saw smoking crack. We were sitting in his bedroom one night before going out for a night of dumpster diving, and had just finished smoking some weed. Mike dumped the ash out of the pipe, and then popped in a crack rock.

"What the fuck, man?" I asked, concerned that my good friend was about to smoke crack.

"Don't worry, man," he said, "I can't afford to smoke this shit. This is just something my brother stole from some guy."

I'd always wondered if crack instantly turned a person into a crazy person, or if it took a lot of smoking to get them to the point where they wandered the streets talking to themselves. Mike didn't seem any different after he smoked his rock. He just seemed like Mike.

As far as I knew, he never became a crackhead. He came from a family of potheads, and I never knew any of them to be too interested in anything else. When his brother was in a serious car accident and was prescribed a bunch of powerful pain killers, he sold them all for weed money.

Mike loved to make and modify his own clothes. While most of my clothes-modification experiments consisted of me safety-pinning things to other things, Mike learned to sew. A routine dumpster-diving expedition once landed us a fine bounty of brand new clothes intended for obese women with preferences for extremely loud clothing. For a while after that, our clothes were often lined with pieces of that bounty: leopard prints, plaids, and plastic imitation snake skin. In addition to lining things with other things, Mike would paint his clothes, add spikes or straps or zippers, and sometimes briefly set his clothes on fire because he liked how it looked afterwards.

Another time, he glued bike reflectors to the bottom of his combat boots.

Mike was a young guy, several years younger than myself, but he had already had a number of run ins with the police. It seemed to be common in his family. One day, Mike was walking around outside when he saw the police driving nearby. He wasn't carrying any contraband, and he hadn't done anything wrong, but the sight of the cops scared him. He started running, and when the police got too close, he jumped into a ditch so they wouldn't see him.

They didn't see him, but they did see the reflectors on his shoes shining in their headlights. They arrested him for resisting arrest, since he was evidently trying to hide from them.

I haven't seen Mike in a few years, but when I did, he still had his mohawk and leather jacket. Everybody else I knew had gotten rid of them long ago. Punk as fuck, I tell you.


My leaking radiator.

Jesse was woken up by a nagging, electronic sound coming from downstairs. In a half-sleeping daze, he followed the sound to it's source: a fire alarm in the music room. The whole room was filled with thick steam as hot water poured out of the radiator that had exploded the day before, soaking the carpet to a squishy consistency. He went into the basement and found the pipes leading to the radiator in the music room and shut off the water.

And then he called me, because the radiator in my room is attached to the same set of pipes.

"Yeah, the radiator in your room was leaking," he told me, "and by leaking, I mean gallons of water were pouring out."

When I went home after work, I checked out the music room first. The floor was covered in blankets which were doing painfully little to soak up the ridiculous amount of water in the carpet. I braced myself, expecting the floor in my room to feel like mud as well.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised to find a minuscule mess in my room compared to the disaster area downstairs. Water had been coming out of my radiator, but not nearly as much as I had expected. Instead of having a soggy floor throughout my entire room, I just had a puddle directly underneath the radiator.

It's wonderful living in an oldass house.


My exploding radiator.

My house is awesome. It's a bigass old farmhouse that is very conducive to rad parties, and also has the most amazing dedicated music room that I've ever had the chance to enjoy. It's isolated enough that we can make as much noise as we want to and let the dogs and cat run freely outside when they want to, but close enough to civilization that anything we ever need is only minutes away. It has country charm without the small-mindedness associated with it. My roommates are some of the coolest people that I've met in recent history, and I seem to regularly meet more cool people simply as a result of living there.

There are downsides, though. The house is really old, and has poor insulation, which means that when it gets cold outside, it gets cold inside. My room is the coldest in the house, but I get by with the help of a space heater, long sleeve shirts, and a bunch of blankets. I can't complain much, because my room is absurdly huge for the small amount I'm paying. The house also has stinky well water, but I lived in the middle-of-nowhere, Indiana, for ten years, so it didn't take me very long at all to get used to that again. The driveway isn't paved, and I once got my car stuck in the mud after it had been raining.

And then there's the matter of the exploding radiators.

Yesterday, the house was much colder than usual and I could see my breath in my room and in the music room. I assumed it was because it was just generally colder outside than it had been before, but I later found out that it was because the heat wasn't working due to the propane running out. I wasn't home this afternoon, but my roommate, Jesse, called me and told me that the good news was that the heat was working again. The bad news, though, was that three of the radiators in the house had blown up, including the one that was in my room. I listened to the voicemail he left describing the flying metal and black ice spraying around my room, the whole time picturing a disaster area. He said that there was enough force that the far wall across from the radiator had been sprayed with the nasty black sediment that had built up over the years. When he began talking about my upright bass and the metal flying at it, the hesitation in his voice made me fear the worst, and I listened to the words in slow motion, expecting them to end with, "and it looks like maybe the damage might be repairable, but it is a pretty big gaping hole in the body." Instead, I was incredibly relieved when he told me that there was no damage, it just got wet, and was in his room drying off.

I went home on my lunch break to check out the damage. The downstairs hallway had thick black grime all over the floor and wall from that radiator explosion, so I expected a pretty bad mess in my room. I was pleased to find that the mess was pretty much confined to the walls, and the carpet directly under them. I'll have to scrub both at some point, but it didn't look nearly as bad as the hallway downstairs. It looked gross, but the grime wasn't as thick and black, perhaps because only the top corner of the radiator blew off, instead of the whole infernal machine splitting in the middle like the one downstairs. The corner of my bed was wet, but I aimed my space heater at it, and it felt much drier by the time I left. I found a few stray pieces of ice, but it didn't seem to get on any of my stuff. My giant pile of books, science fiction magazines, and comic books laying next to my bed was, as far as I could tell, completely unharmed by the incident.

I went downstairs and another roommate, Bob, had begun mopping up the mess in the hallway. He wasn't home when it had happened, but told me that Jesse first heard a loud explosion in my room, followed by two more downstairs. I asked which other radiator blew up, and he told me it was the one in the music room. We went in there and the whole floor was wet. Fortunately, we had had a party on Friday, so everything was rearranged to allow more people in the room to enjoy some live music. Instead of spraying all of the musical equipment with black ice, the radiator was only able to spray it all over the floor.

It's funny, I really had no idea that those radiators could explode like that until a couple weeks ago when it happened to a friend of mine. She had the misfortune of having it completely soak her bed and hit her cat in the head with a heavy chunk of metal. She ended up calling the animal emergency line, and being told that her cat might have a concussion and she had to keep it awake pretty late into the night to make sure it was alright. I consider myself fortunate for just being stuck with dirty walls and carpet until I get around to cleaning it up.

I still have to say, though, that my house is pretty awesome.