back from the dead
For personal reasons, I had to take my blog down for a while. Thanks to everyone who came looking for me to find out if I was okay, if the blog was moved, etc., especially from people I’ve never met. It is a nice feeling to be missed.
I recently moved my tiny house to a neighborhood where there’s a formal complaint process if you don’t like what your neighbors are doing, and one of the neighbors filed a complaint against my house because they assumed I was living in it. Living! In a house! Can you imagine?! Right here in this neighborhood! Obviously the world is going to the dogs.
So the very reasonable city inspector came out to look around and confirm that the house is just being *stored* at this location – which is all fine and dandy! Totally legal, even! – and then the complaint was settled and that was that. Until someone else launches a complaint, which could happen at any time. So I’m taking a risk by putting this back up, because this is not an anonymous blog. But I decided that I don’t care, because (a) everything written on this blog is hearsay, because I’m just now telling you that it is; (b) hearsay isn’t admissible in court; and (c) this lot happens to be zoned for a triplex. So the density that is the inevitable fate in a town with an urban growth boundary restriction is more aesthetically served, in my opinion, by a certain snotty neighbor getting down off his high horse and appreciating the fact that a construction crew isn’t here leveling everything in sight and making a horrible racket day in and day out for the purpose of achieving the maximum density allowed by law in a far less neighborhood-character-preserving fashion.
Because it’s all about the law, right? The law says I can store this here in the very place where it is, as long as I don’t spend time enjoying the space. Storing absolute loads of stuff, metric tons per capita, is the American way. But living small isn’t. There is a minimum square footage permitted when you go to approve your building plans, but the maximum is determined by setbacks and sometimes by height limits. You can build as big as the laws of physics allow, but you can only build so small. America’s official motto: We honor consumption above economy.
I happened to move here just in time for a Jewish holiday that I’d never heard of, which was explained to me this way by my host family: “It’s all about feeding hungry people and living in tiny houses made of wood and branches. In honor of [biblical figures I can't remember] wandering the desert for 40 years. So this is perfect timing!” I almost feel protected by that coincidence, because even after the crazy neighbor fracas, I never experienced my usual urge to sage-smudge the place of any bad juju that was circulating around, though I admit I moved a few mirrors in observance of the principles of feng shui.
I’m making a big deal out of this small thing because I have Irish ancestry, and this is what we do. I’m also making a big deal out of it because it’s completely immoral for the city to have and to enforce laws that prevent people from living. Just living. No one said I couldn’t store this here, or have whatever I wanted in it, or paint it to resemble an explosion of a Grateful Dead concert, a disco ball, and the wardrobe of the Bay City Rollers, which is very much like what the camper I previously lived in looked like. I’m not noisy, I’m not manufacturing methamphetamine, I’m not prank-ringing the neighbor’s doorbells at odd hours of the night. But apparently, I can’t live here. The main house can have as many roommates as they like, because they own it and there’s no landlord to limit them. And so now I am a roommate. For all you or anyone else knows. (Hearsay hearsay hearsay.)
I keep a tiny glass model of a flying pig hanging in one window, to remind me that with art at least, anything is possible.
The neighbor who isn’t happy about my house being here stands alone in that category; everyone else who has anything to say about the house has been complimentary and interested and friendly. The complaint process is supposed to be anonymous, but this neighborhood operates exactly like a small town. It is isolated from the rest of the quadrant of the city by various man-made and natural barriers, and also is delightfully self-contained. We have the hardware store, the library, the post office, the grocery stores, at least three banks, the community center, the pool, several parks, a wildlife refuge, a bicycle repair shop, dozens of excellent restaurants, and on and on. There’s no practical reason to leave the neighborhood for the business of daily life, unless your job takes you there. It’s tiny, a very small part of a much larger town. It’s almost a perfect microcosm of Portland as a whole. But there is no such thing as anonymity. You either have to start driving a lot to do all your errands and shopping in another part of town, or you have to suck it up and find a way to get along.
I’m doing my best to be a good neighbor. I’m friendly and considerate, I worked hard to design a house that was aesthetically pleasing, I recycle everything I can, and I buy as much of what I need from local businesses as possible. Whatever you think of the size of house I prefer to live in, I am the neighbor you want. There are plenty of perfectly legal scenarios for this tax lot that would be less enjoyable to live with. Believe me; I moved here by way of: a neighborhood salted liberally with crackheads, and; a rural farm area that was liberally hosed down with dangerous pesticides and polluted by pulp mill stack vents. In other words, I lived next door to the people you really would hate to have for neighbors if you value your life much, and I’m so much happier to be here.