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Pulling Everything Together


So there I was. With a week to impress a very disappointed landlord. I had almost no resources and I reached out to my group of friends who had experienced the HoG on the same level I had. Immediately, I had responses. An overflow of them, actually. Paint, tools, cleaning parties, I had everything I needed. Diablo spent the last of his budget on some paint that would cover stains (particularly sharpie) and I got to work. We cleared out the living room and started cleaning up the beer cans.

My dear friend Liza came over with her camera and photographed a few things before we totally started fixing it up. Liza is a photographer, videographer, model, poet, and a whole bunch of other things, too. She is one of the most lovely human beings that I know and I’m sure there will be a blog post dedicated to her at some point.

Four hours of cleaning and scrubbing later, all of the furniture was either in the kitchen or on the lawn and I had begun painting over the words and images that had helped define all of us over the course of two months.It was arduous – and heartbreaking. It was the first real symbol of us having to move on from the house. Of course, part of me had been waiting for this for weeks, and the other part of me was scared and never wanted it to end.

We managed to get enough paint to re-vamp the entire house, and I started, well, re-vamping. I planned a cleaning party and had a decent turn-out. With the help of twenty people, we got the first coat of actual white paint on the living room walls. We got the lawn mowed and the beehives on the roof taken care of and the old mattress and couches burned.

The next day, Docken (the other room mate) and our mutual friend Khiara did some hardcore cleaning. I turned the trash room into a porch. The lawn was fixed, the trash room was gone, and I had painted some nice color on the living room, effectively finishing that project. In a week, we took down the entire downstairs and outside.

Weeds trimmed, flowerbeds weeded, trash hauled away, and a fresh coat of paint on all of the walls except for the bathroom, which would get taken care of later. The gutters were spotless, and so I guess we weren’t quite ‘gutter punks’ anymore, unless you count the person who actually climbed around on the roof like a drunken monkey getting all of the punk out of the gutter.

We even scouted the neighborhood and discovered a beautiful sofa, recliner, and desk that were in almost perfect condition to move into the freshly painted house. We carried these items a few blocks and successfully moved them in that night. The living room looked like something out of a country living magazine – as long as you disregarded the still-tarnished floor.

The landlord arrived the next Tuesday. Despite the fact that there was still large amounts of work to do on the house, we got the reaction we were looking for. Her eyes lit up the second she stepped out of her car. Of course, it wasn’t perfect. It will take a couple of years for the lawn to totally regrow and the integrity of the roof after supporting so many bodies will never be quite the same.

She entered the living room and almost gasped. Her joy at the changes showed clearly on her face as she toured the lower half of the house. No more trash room. No more stink of beer and adolescence. A well thought-out color scheme. Semi-gloss paint instead of matte in the kitchen for easier cleaning and less gruesome grease stains. Turning the corner to head upstairs, I had to stop her. I informed her that a week is a very small amount of time to get anything done, and the only fixing that had been done on the upstairs was a quick cleanup job. The walls leading up the stairs had a fresh coat of light green paint and we were busy getting the right parts to re-install the banisters (definitely a story to tell later).

It was coming along, but there’s only so much you can do. She nodded and expressed her approval of what had been done, giving us more time to keep fixing the house. The end of July was coming up, though, and I had received news from my girlfriend that she and her faithful troupe of road dogs were heading north from Iowa. Soon, it would be time for me to leave.

Funny how, in theory, packing a bag and walking out a door is easier than fixing an entire house.

The Angry Landlord and the Quick Save


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.

Explanations and ‘The House of God’


So there I was, living in a party house in St Paul that got more and more popular by the day. I was receiving Facebook messages from friends of friends of friends asking if they could attend one of my parties. Finally, the hopes and dreams of fifteen year-old Telea had been accomplished. I was the host and resident of one of the most popular party houses in the Twin Cities, and I was gaining rapport by hour.

Now, time for an explanation:

When I initially became homeless on June 2nd, I had a cute, short,  train-hopping girlfriend who I had last seen about a week and a half before I was kicked out. As soon as I got kicked out, I asked her if she would come back to the Twin Cities to take me train hopping. Her response was awesome, to say the least. She got so incredibly excited, and promised to be back by the start of July.

So, my stay at Diablo’s house was, indeed, just supposed to be a very short while. We initially settled on three weeks, but when my girlfriend kept getting delayed, it became an open-ended departure from the house. Basically: “Stay as long as you want, don’t break much, and throw good parties.”

I was pretty sure I could handle that. In our first 30 days of solid parties, we threw FOUR big parties, (and 26 parties of varying sizes), once every weekend up to the weekend of July 6th. The first one was a spur-of-the-moment decision that just so happened to work out well. The second was scheduled over Pride Weekend, the third was basically a Pride Afterparty (as in ‘The-Weekend-After-Pride-Party) and the fourth was a party celebrating 30 days of Partying.

On Pride weekend, my friends Alice and Xaundra went with me to the festival before the big party showdown. On our way to Loring Park, we ran into a handsome Dirty Kid sitting shirtless on Nicollet Ave, playing a banjo. We decided to say hello, and found out his name was Joe and that he was working in Wisconsin on an organic farm for the summer. He told us he usually rubber tramped it around the country in a big old van. We parted ways, hoping to see him again at Pride.

The second we walked into the park, it started pouring rain. Just a violent downpour that soaked us to the bone in 0.5 seconds. We took cover under the nearest tree, and so did our dirty friend Joe. He noticed that I had a Ukulele, and I played him a song. After a couple more minutes, Xaundra and Alice decided to go back to the house early instead of braving the rain, and we promptly invited Joe to come to the party, giving him two phone numbers to contact should he decide to make an appearance. Spoiler alert: he did (which is why that story was important at all).

Alice and Xaundra headed home, taking my Ukulele with them, and I continued through the pouring rain of Pride to meet some cute people and hang out. Within fifteen minutes, the rain had subsided, and while the park was soaked (and partially flooded), the sun AND the people came back out to celebrate.

Joe (later renamed James Franco to avoid confusion with the fifty thousand other Joe’s I know – and because he resembled a young, dirty James Franco) was not the only one who got adopted by the house from Pride. With the weather putting a damper on Pride Weekend, our party got bumped to five pm instead of ten pm. At five pm, I was arriving at the house with about five people I knew and thirty people I had found at Pride.

This party was one that went down in the history of the house. Over two hundred people showed up. There was glitter, laughter, and alcohol EVERYWHERE. It was the party where I discovered that my Ukulele had been left at a bus stop in pouring rain confusion. It was the party where everyone came together in a community like one we hadn’t seen before. It was the first party I stayed totally sober for because of the overwhelming number of people showing up, marking the weekend before as the last party I got drunk at – for the rest of the summer. But most importantly of all, this was the party that gave our house its name.

The House of God.

Explanation time:

At previous slightly-rowdy parties, we told party-goers that when they went outside to smoke a cigarette, they should always yell ‘Glory Hallelujah’ or ‘Amen’ so that the neighbors wouldn’t suspect a party. Rather, they would think it was a rowdy religious gathering. This joke, thought up because we lived across the street from a church and a sober house, ended up giving our house its name that night.

Furthermore, the previous weekend, someone had spray-painted ‘House of Gold’ right over our doorway.

The kind people at the church, Kandra and Rob, a beautiful couple who were planning to get married that October, LOVED us. Rob was the pastor of the church, and Kandra was the super-sweet, wonderful Fiance. Diablo and I made a habit of visiting the church for the good company and the good acoustics (and the semi-exclusive ‘Breakfast in the Basement’ every Tuesday morning – House of God and Church only). They walked into the party FEARLESSLY while it was in full swing to bring all of the party-goers bread, hummus, fresh fruits and veggies, and a huge bowl of delicious pasta salad.

A drunken person, hearing about this, exclaimed that it really WAS a house of god, having not seen that extra letter ‘L’ in the tag job. It was perfect. With sharpies in hand, we promptly fixed what we later called ‘the biggest spelling error of the month’ and named our house ‘House of God’, later to be fondly referred to as the ‘HoG’.

What was even more amazing was that Church (previously known as Kandra and Rob) loved the name. They saw us as a form of missionaries. We were giving all we had to the people, letting people crash at our house, and providing a safe spot for people to be any hour of the day, any day of the week. Regardless of the fact that we allowed alcohol, drugs, and sex to happen in the house on a regular basis, we were thought of by Church as true followers of the lord. They claimed Jesus would be proud to walk with us, and promptly started referring to our house as the House of God to anyone who brought us up.

We were a growing fashion statement. Weekdays were filled with people asking to come over, cigarettes and beer being bought for us as tributes, and plenty of memories. Weekends were even crazier, with people streaming into the house by nine pm for festivities, live music being played, and suddenly being hailed as ‘The Party Gods’.  Waiting for my girlfriend to take me on the road was becoming more and more fun, which, later, left me more and more screwed.