I think it’s time to talk about the owner of the house I was living in at the time, because this is a very important part of the story, and an inspiring one. Diablo’s cousin, who owned the house, had let him rent it for 300 a month with the agreement that he would fix a couple of little things to make the entire house sellable.
Now, I love my dear Diablo, but he is irresponsible to an extreme, and he managed to pull me into that irresponsibility. When I arrived at the house for the first party, it was in kind of bad shape. The carpet in the living room had been ripped out, revealing ugly, damaged floorboards. The living room walls were covered in various colors of paint and small amounts of graffiti. The carpets upstairs had been slightly tarnished. There was a room specifically for trash that smelled like, well, the inside of a dumpster.
By the time mid-July rolled around, we had only damaged the house more. The shower had been broken, the living room walls were covered in sharpie – hundreds of phone numbers, drawings, and tags that gave the HoG its appeal. For us, it was beautiful. An entire room filled with stunning imagery and contact information from some of the most creative, wonderful people we had ever met. A wall dedicated to a dramatic day-by-day, play-by-play of the house. The tags had started to spread into the kitchen. The trash room was overflowing. The upstairs carpets were done for. The walls that hadn’t been tarnished by sharpie had been marked by dirty, oily hands and blood.
Blood – the entry way to the stairs leading to the bedrooms had been tagged with someone’s blood at a party that got a little too out of hand. ‘Fuck life’ was smeared across the previously untouched wall in an angsty scrawl. Outside, there were couches, chairs, and a mattress soiling the lawn. The vines had overgrown, the grass had been torn up by the feet of hundreds of little punks, and the flowerbeds were in a state of weedy disrepair.
Screens had been busted out of windows, the electricity had gone out in one upstairs room, muddy boot-steps led out a window and onto the roof.
Beer cans and cigarette butts lay strewn as far as the eye could see, piled creatively in flower pots and stacked in pyramids wherever there was free space. Broken bottles lay scattered on the overgrown back walk, the roof was covered in an assortment of used condoms, random snacks, blankets, and other waste products. A doggie chew-toy hung over the stoop from a gutter, and the front door no longer possessed a door handle.
We had become the true epitome of punk house. Warm, flat beer, people who smelled bad, and blood-smeared walls. Our stink defined the neighborhood, put a new spin on ‘you smell good’ and invited trouble we could not have imagined when we first started. We saw it all as a creative mess, a natural disaster, the perfect aesthetic. The landlord saw it a little differently. Phrases that come to mind immediately are ‘terrible’, ‘oh my god what happened to my house’ and ‘oh no no no no no no no NO’.
This incredible woman who had been so kind to let Diablo stay in that house was in the business of flipping properties and using the money to build schools. By trashing the house, we were, effectively, stealing opportunities for education from young minds. I had no idea, and neither did she. We had lived by the subconscious vibe of ‘what we don’t know won’t hurt us’, but upon her arrival, we changed our tune to ‘what have we done, we’ve made fools of everyone’.
We had only gotten the opportunity to screw things up so royally because she had been gone for a couple of months and wasn’t regularly checking up on the house. She had no idea anything had happened and she was under the impression that only Diablo lived there. She was in for a surprise. At the time she returned, Diablo had adopted not one but two room mates that were not paying rent and effectively draining the pockets of society.
She would not come to know this. Her arrival at the house was a dramatic one. As I washed dishes and Diablo played Super Smash, we heard a knock on the door. Dun dun dun, our doom was fast approaching. Diablo stood and went to check who it was, immediately freezing up and freaking out.
“Do not tell her you live here. Say you’re visiting.” He hurriedly whispered as a sense of dread fell over the entire house and at least three nearby neighborhoods.
A quick salute, a calming breath, and the sound of a door opening later, we were in big trouble. Tears filled her eyes as she got a first-hand look at what atrocities teenagers given responsibility were capable of. She toured the house and then took a moment to compose herself before expressing her anger, disappointment, and worry to Diablo. She was tempted to kick him out on the spot, black-list him to the rest of his family, even have his car sold to pay for damages.
He was incapable of defending himself or calming her down. it was time for someone to step in.
“Hey, I know you have no idea who I am, but I’m a close friend of Diablo’s, and I came over to help him out cleaning up. I have to take some responsibility for the mess in the first place, but trust me when I say that I have been over here a lot helping to reign the dear boy in. I have come to see this house as a safe place, and many others have, too, so I am willing to put in work to make you happy and allow him to keep the house.”
Her face relaxed slightly. I went on to tell her that my father had trained me to be a house painter, that there were many people who cared about the house, and that we would invest time and effort into making it sellable once again. The guarded look on her face and her hesitation to trust a stranger were overcome by a realization of how deep of a hole she would be in if she didn’t accept a little bit of help.
She decided to give HoG a chance. She decided to give me a chance. She knew Diablo would be going out of town that weekend and she asked if I could house-sit for a few days, which would give me more time to help clean up. I accepted, and we were off on the biggest cleaning mission I had ever agreed to – and the cleaning of my childhood room was no joke.
I had a week to prove to her that I could make the house a good place again. Just one week to make a drastic change that would determine the fate of the House of God.
I was ready.