Spending a Year in a Communist Compound (Part 3)

Filed under : Serial Stories, Weird Stories

Story 93 of 365

Est. Reading Time 6 minutes

(if you missed Part 1 and/or Part 2, you’re gonna be confused)

finally found the only photo I have of the outside of The CompoundAfter those first 4-5 months, I was really settling in to my new life. I found a companion in Shane, who would join me out on the town as a fellow single man cruisin’ for chicks. We made a rule that we had to alternate at least trying to talk to a new girl every time. So, for instance, if we went out on Monday and Shane talked to a new girl then I’d have to talk to a new girl next time we went out. The system worked pretty well for getting me out of my shell and “just going for it”, but I was pretty much roundly rejected every single time. Some of them were embarrassingly bad — like the girl who I bought a drink for, talked to for a few minutes, and asked if she’d like to go out sometime. Her response was laughing for a few seconds, then saying “ohh.. you were serious?”, laughing again, and saying “I’m dating, like, 4 guys right now and I don’t even have time for someone like you. thanks for the drink, though. and the laugh”. Good times.

The only photo I could find of my weird-ass room has a young, shirtless me in it. SorryThe band finished their recording studio / practice space in the basement and, while you couldn’t hear it from outside the house too much, it rattled the entire inside of the house and even in my shitty little room in the attic, I still had to put on headphones just to focus on work. I started getting the music bug again, and decided to give another go at learning guitar. My grandmother passed away in late ’99 and left me $2,000. I went out and bought the guitar I’d always wanted : a Gibson Les Paul with a red body, black pick guard, and black hardware. It was beautiful. At the advice of Chris, I bought two tablature books from which to practice : Nevermind and Master of Puppets. The latter was a poor choice – that shit’s insanely difficult to play. Also, as it turned out, the Nevermind tabs weren’t at all the way Kurt played them, so the book made them more difficult. I pretty much just got frustrated with it, felt like a loser, and stopped playing altogether. I still have that guitar, along with 2 acoustic guitars, and all I can do to this day is play the first few bars of Come As You Are.

I visited Phoenix for my 21st birthday 1yes, I realize I’m saying this out of order from when Shane and I would go girl-hunting, but it felt weird to start this chunk of the story ...continue, got drunk for my first time, dropped some LSD, partied with old friends, discovered the wonders of Eddie Izzard’s Dress to Kill, and felt weird about having my head in two spaces. I knew Phoenix still wasn’t right for me, but Seattle wasn’t exactly a good fit, either. I went away again for Thanksgiving and Christmas, visiting my sister in Phoenix and my Mom in Colorado, respectively. Andrew’s girlfriend Amanda left the house sometime in late 1999, and moved back to Phoenix.

I rang in the New Year with Andrew, mostly at home. We tried to go out but the Mayor of Seattle at the time had shut down all the street parties and any outdoor events because there was a bomb scare at the Space Needle 2I’ll never forget that the headline of the Seattle PI the next day was “World Parties for Y2K : Seattle Stays Home”. Every club or bar we tried to hit up had insane cover fees. Even the tiniest, shittiest bar we could find — the Cha Cha Room (that I dearly loved on most nights) — was asking for $80 just to step in the door. So, we went back to the house and Andrew got scary drunk and bitched and moaned about how we needed to make some new friends, and start partying with cooler people. About a week later, I found a guy with a 10-strip of LSD in Seattle and Andrew and I took a few tabs and wandered through a narrow path behind this huge park near our house. It was one of the scariest acid trips I’ve ever had, but I felt refreshed and alive when it was over. That’s a story for another time, but — more out of inability to find acid than a lack of desire to take acid — that was the last time I ever did it.

Around late February, we started making some big changes in the house. Andrew & Chris’s mom had moved out, as had Amanda, so the living situation changed. Pat, the drummer, moved into my old room. Chris & Christine took Andrew’s old room. Andrew took his mom’s old room on the main floor, and I took Chris/Christine’s old room on the main floor. Shane stayed in his room in the basement, and the band made the other room into their “office”.

Shortly thereafter, the rainy days were getting a little less frequent and the band (err.. Chris) decided we needed a half pipe in our backyard. Over the course of maybe a week or two, we went out every night in the middle of the night to unfinished housing developments in the fancier parts of town with our big-ass van and stole as much wood as the van could fit. We eventually had all the wood we needed, and we ended up building this giant half pipe. It was really well-made, and scary as hell to use (for me, who cannot skate a half-pipe). Apparently, the half-pipe had to be dismantled a few years later because the house was visible from the freeway and kids were hopping the fence to fuck around on it.

the front cover of their debut EPThe band was preparing to release their first EP, and tasked me with making all the artwork for various promo items. They doodled up a logo, I cleaned it up in Illustrator and slapped a suitable font on top, and we made t-shirts. Then I worked on the artwork for the EP, which was based on another of their weird doodles. The gig posters, album announcement posters, stickers, and pins were all based on that artwork. I then designed their website and gave them basic instructions on how to update it for various gigs and shit. These were the proverbial “salad days” for the house. The band was doing well, Chris was pleased that I designed all their shit pro-bono, and FrogFaith was picking up little clients here and there while continuing to work with Brad from Earthonline.

Brad was an insane character, but also very generous with paying us for “consulting”. The consulting ended up basically him calling us into a meeting and trying to wrack our brains coming up with “the next big thing”. At one point, he had a plan for a directory-style website. They were popular at the time – Yahoo, Go.com, things like that. I actually knew a girl who worked at a dotcom (name withheld for legal reasons) who offered to export their codebase for a small fee. We hired a programmer, made him sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, and worked on a weird half-assed Directory Site project with the stolen code. It turned out to be vaporware 3that’s a project that’s only ever talked about, or sometimes developed, but never actually finished and released, and Brad never seemed to mind that all this “consulting” was just burning a hole in his pocket. We didn’t intend for it to be that way, but these things happen.

the front/back of our first house party flyerI’d managed to stay in the good graces of The Compound, and it was nice and warm in that inner circle. I still guarded my debit card like it was The One Ring, but I was generally okay with paying for dinners and things from time to time — hell, it’s a nice roommate thing to do to pickup the groceries for the week. We had huge house parties, headlined by the band, which were a hit and went a lot further towards all of us making new friends than anything else. People would chill out on and around the half-pipe, some people would file into the basement for a live show, others would wander the house and just drink. I’d, of course, just go girl-hunting and occasionally manage to convince a woman to hang out in my room.

Things were great, all around. Those 4-ish months were a lot of fun and relatively drama-free. But nothing lasts forever. Chris “needed” more money for band promotion and his hopes for an upcoming tour, while Andrew and I got more desperate for clients once we ended up having to pay the entire rent out of our company funds. The perfect storm of selfishness, distrust, family loyalty, greed, desperation, and opportunity brought it all crashing down and spitting me out the other end.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. yes, I realize I’m saying this out of order from when Shane and I would go girl-hunting, but it felt weird to start this chunk of the story with minor details like that
2. I’ll never forget that the headline of the Seattle PI the next day was “World Parties for Y2K : Seattle Stays Home”
3. that’s a project that’s only ever talked about, or sometimes developed, but never actually finished and released