Dancing Alone

The neon orange 11”x17” city regulation sticker could've found it's way on his door years earlier. So, it says a lot that it took three years for the city to finally realize the warehouse his landlord was making him pay $325 a month for was being doled out as residential space. He'd never met the landlord, ever, actually. He found the place looking to squat in it, but instead found an unweathered piece of paper tacked to a fresher looking sheet of plywood covering a window. Fully expecting a hooker to answer, he instead was greeted with a smoke-heavy Polish accent and something about: “ifya the' now, 'nya wantit, 'is yos. Use email on'a backadat pape'.” That was the first and last he'd ever heard from anything resembling a “landlord” and connected to the warehouse he currently lived. Rent was paid via paypal seven days before every month's end. The place was quiet for four years, until city notices began showing up on random exterior locations of the building. On the blank lines were scrawled several reasons for violation, including “possible illegal residential zoning without permittance”.

Above this one was a state auction sticker, the bid was scrawled in red Magic Marker®, starting at $150k, and beginning two weeks from now.

In glossier, thicker pound paper, and slipped between the cracks of the door frame and door (as if to say “we are a company unwilling to stoop so low as to adhere a notice to your domicile” was a federally-backed warning about stealing telecommunication services. The letter began “Dear Customer,” so he ignored it when stealthily propping the door open just enough to slip through without notice.

Morgan moved to Pittsburgh after getting into Carnegie Mellon University. A long bus ride and climate zone from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. College wasn't a success for him, other than getting him closer to understanding his personal aesthetic, which came about easily when positing oneself contra fraternity life and/or the international student cliques, both outfitted in the seasons past A&F or A|X. Even in the sprouting aughties young entrepreneurs were having to decide between capitalism and (really-working) socialism. He didn't want to work for Nvidia or IBM. Still, a man had to eat bacon, and soon after graduating, Morgan found himself in a favorable position in the market: invisible. Morgan spent most of his time in and out of college cracking firmware and hardware for friends.

Just because you live in a derelict warehouse doesn't mean your place should be in shambles. Most would visually reference some dank, aquatinted-from-fluorescents studio space excerpt the likes of Hackman's office in Enemy of the State or Sean Gullette's grayscale bat cave in Following, but Morgan tended to keep things clean. And he had never particularly liked Aronofsky's films, despite how every xmas his younger sister would give him a dvd copy of Aronosky's latest film (if any). The only present from her he hadn't thrown away — consisting of Darren Aronosky media — was a full 130 minute remix of all of his films she had made using After Effects. Morgan was so thrilled he watched it through and through several times, each time gleaming more pride from his sister's work, especially because of her obvious extensive knowledge of video/audio compression. That present, he kept, and out on the bookshelves he kept up for personal/visitor posterity.

After a week without a bathroom and without really deciding where anything would go, he built a bathroom. It sits in the center of the space, wall-less, complete with a shower, toilet, sink, and even a mirror propped up by a wall of bricks. After modding his first server rack space for a mobile tech group on the outskirts of the city, he had a bit of cash to even remodel himself a kitchen complete with a stove, sink, and four mini-fridges 2x2 and strapped together with ratchet straps.

Beyond the kitchen is a battered rug he'd wrenched from a previously disastrous relationship. It isn't cherished for the fact that they'd used the rug to fuck on several times (necessarily), rather, it tended to be the ground on which he felt he'd won the most arguments. On the rug rests a single couch of faded-red turned rose with wooden legs carved into dragon's claws with magenta-painted nails. Opposite the couch, a 15” CRT monitor sitting on a wooden chest, strapped shut with more ratchet straps.

Though, the three living spaces only made up half of the warehouse. The other half was virtual. Drawing a line through half of the warehouse was a small wall of server racks. A hundred xbox 360s and 150 ps3s — gutted and reconfigured — made up an active collection of music, all of which is perpetually being shared via torrents. Beyond the glowing wall of blue cords and braided color-collaged wires is his office. One side is a hardware work space, the only space in the warehouse besides the far corners of the building that are entirely uncleanable, closed in by an old library card catalogue cabinet and a ceilinged with hanging printless, transparent green chips.

In the middle, a barber's chair upholstered with baby blue leather. On the other end, across from the workshop is the massive computer block. With a grid of OLED screens 3x3, whether muted or not, is displayed his stocks (3), seeding data (1), forums (2), iTunes (1), and two screens for immediate tasks, like googling “echa pa'lante”. There is no one discernible “computer” in the large block that makes up tower, just matte-black metal bars architecturally swirled around hundreds of glowing LEDs hidden and refracted within several layers of circuit boards.

One thigh-thick, long braid of wire moves from this office, merging with several other smaller ones throughout the space, and then crawls up the farthest wall, through the ceiling. This is where all of his power comes from. By modding the neighboring building's communication box, Morgan is able to “borrow” a T1 signal; and the power comes, partially, from a 90' x 120' checkered silicon-wafer solar bed that is able to augment its own grade by 10° (east » west, and vice versa). However, this isn't too helpful for a city competing with Seattle for the longest amount of cloudy days in a year. In the parking lot of the warehouse, he's tapped the streetlamps for power. Morgan can always tell when his torrents are being heavily downloaded when he comes home at night to a flickering parking lot.

Because of this, the humming of fans lull him to sleep on the rose-colored couch in the living room.

* * *

“So, where are you going to move all your shit.” Said Pete, Morgan's friend since college, and the only one left still in the city. His arms were open to the sky, as if only gods could proffer an answer. He was getting married in four months — in the midst of the decades (predicted) balmiest summer heat — to a woman he's been with since 9th grade. After 15 years, the promise sans-ring rends to be an ominous demon inevitably parting the stubborn seas of your future. The pressure from her devout catholic parents finally broke Pete's mulish, pop-anarchic model of life. That's why Morgan is outside today. Regrettably sipping a too gritty latte in a city-wide chain whose mascot is a goat with, seemingly, opposable thumbs.

Morgan has a bike, and can get almost anywhere in the city — especially thanks to 10 years of biking the city's plateaus and crests on a single-speed. That doesn't warrant a love of riding, however; which is to say, Morgan avoids the outside with its copious light and generous gusts of fresh air. He would much rather be in the comfort of customized lighting and recycled electrically-charged air warmed by his overclocked computer block. For him, there's great comfort to be had from the subtle scent of slowly melting aluminum and pewter.

“I'm not really sure. I saw this open space near the Allegheny cemetery. Northwest side.” Morgan said.

“Isn't that factory being retrofitted as a cannery?”

“I didn't know that…?” Morgan began sifting through visual listing in his head. If that spot — the best of the best, thus far, in terms of a replacement — was a no-go, he'd have to start spotting for new squat territory.

“Yeah, J told me this 50-year-old Polish lady finally sold her coveted pierogie recipe, and Heinz is setting up shop to do a beta batch.”

"Canned pierogies?"

"You're telling me. I smell favors…"

“Or at least a guilt-ridden handjob.” Despite a bad idea, the cannery would be thriving for at least a season, and the space would be crawling with personnel for at least a year or two. That space was definitely out of the equation.

“Look. I know this isn't your type of thing, but a friend of mine is leaving his grungy spot in a month. He's moving to Berlin for some reason he is without the ability to explain to me. Anyway, it's cheap as fuck and it… it's something. Worth a peek.”

“I don't know.” Morgan liked the idea of paying through a service that frowned — through the basic ideology of its roots — upon face-to-face transactions, and here Pete was, offering a landlord that would require checks or cash.