The intricate underbelly of civilization.
December 14, 2004 3:32 PM   Subscribe

His ability to create a home in a city drawbridge was instinctual. "You've got to be kind of agile," he said. "You can't be a idiot.... It doesn't take long to figure out what you need to do. How long has mankind lived in caves? The first time it was scary. After that, it was almost like riding a Ferris wheel.''
posted by naomi (33 comments total)
I really, really wish that there were pictures of this.
posted by scottq at 3:39 PM on December 14, 2004

that's just what i was thinking too!
posted by quonsar at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2004

That is a cool story and I'm jealous of the guy for his ingenuity, I don't envy him spending a winter there though. Winters in Chicago are HARSH!

Boo to the 23 year old who ratted him out and tried to get him busted. That's lame.

But pictures would be awesome!
posted by fenriq at 3:44 PM on December 14, 2004

That place sounds better than some of the apartments I've lived in.
posted by argh!spiders! at 3:51 PM on December 14, 2004

As Dorsay described this, his father arrived to take him to his Burr Ridge home.

Man, if I had a kid, I'd do everything I could in terms of getting him housing and counseling, not just pick him up at the jailhouse...
posted by Specklet at 3:58 PM on December 14, 2004

Man, if I had a kid, I'd do everything I could in terms of getting him housing and counseling, not just pick him up at the jailhouse...

Keep in mind we have no idea of the history here - his father may have spent years doing everything in he could to no avail. Who knows?. Sometimes people rebuff all efforts to help.
posted by jalexei at 4:04 PM on December 14, 2004

Dorsay tapped into the bridge's electricity to power a space heater, television, PlayStation video game and microwave.

What an ingenious fellow. I bet his new "digs" won't be nearly as nice.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:09 PM on December 14, 2004

There was a picture in the local paper. IDRT(his)A, but the local rag described his initial freak-out the first time the bridge opened and he had to hang on as his "crib" tilted.
posted by tr33hggr at 4:13 PM on December 14, 2004

Ah, but no pictures!

Oops ... not alone on this.
posted by Relay at 4:14 PM on December 14, 2004

Yes, sorry about the lack of photos! According to this fascinating article, Chicago has "between 37 and 43 movable bridges" and I couldn't narrow it down on Google. But I really want to believe it was the same drawbridge jumped by the Blues Brothers.
posted by naomi at 4:15 PM on December 14, 2004

Winters in Chicago are HARSH!

The article said he had a heater.

In some ways I envy the years this guy spent in that bridge. No bills, basic comforts and a fun ride whenever the drawbridge rose.

I was hiking once in Colorado and came upon a cave where someone had apparently lived for one year (according to the diary I found there). It was something to do with the guy's wife leaving him and he decided to 'check out' of his life as a result. There were cans of food and artwork everywhere and the cave walls were soot-blackened from the fires he lit to keep warm in the winter. I fantasize about that kind of life sometimes.

Back to Dorsay: He should not have trusted that 23 year old street kid with his secret. Tsk.
posted by OpinioNate at 4:16 PM on December 14, 2004

Sort of related, and mentioned on MeFi before, Tom Neale, who lived most of his life on his own deserted island in the S. Pacific. Some people are pretty industrious when they need to be.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:23 PM on December 14, 2004

Also sort of related: the Lake Shore drawbridge was hit by the H.M.S. Bounty last year.
posted by naomi at 4:30 PM on December 14, 2004

Man, you live in a bridge, and your roommates are still lousy.

This is an incredible story... I'm just sad that he had to give up his home. Someone really should have documented it in pictures before they dismantled it...
posted by buriednexttoyou at 4:32 PM on December 14, 2004

There WERE pictures, but they're not on the local paper's Web site. But there was a photo in the print copy (Bloomington IL Pantagraph) this morning. It looked like a big wooden train car or crate attached to the underside of the bridge. No interior shots though.
posted by tr33hggr at 4:35 PM on December 14, 2004

Okay, round pegs in a square hole. This guy probably has more ingenuity and perseverance then most of us; too bad he 'doesn't fit in.' It would be interesting to use this guys talents in some way; certainly not an office job but something.

Winters are harsh is an understatement. I don't care what type of heater he had, it had to be pretty tough but as he understood it was better than being on the street.

I, for one, am not complaining when I get out of bed tomorrow morning and it is a bit nippy in my place.
posted by fluffycreature at 4:40 PM on December 14, 2004

There are a couple of places under the bridges along the Lake Washington Ship Canal here in Seattle where I've thought someone with sufficient ingenuity and athletic prowess could make a home. I'm tickled that this guy actually did it and got away with it for so long.
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:42 PM on December 14, 2004

There are a few pics here, but it's a little blurry. His "room" seems pretty damn small! Also, unless I'm mistaken, drawbridges in chicago open only about 5 times per year, for big flotillas of sailboats going out in the summer, in in the winter and for special occasions like the HMS Bounty.
posted by idontlikewords at 4:57 PM on December 14, 2004

Mars, I've heard from two independent sources that there was a guy who built a fairly comfortable, sophisticated house in the Fremont bridge. What made it unusual was that he actually put up walls, and had electrical sockets, and carpet and everything. A quick Google reveals nothing, so this may be a myth.

See also: Dark Days
posted by Hildago at 5:08 PM on December 14, 2004

Now that I think about it, it might have been some other bridge that I am confusing, but it was definitely one of the bridges in that area.
posted by Hildago at 5:10 PM on December 14, 2004

" was better than being on the street."

Yeah, it was being under the street.

Also, is a Lake Shore Drive address a prestigious one?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:21 PM on December 14, 2004

why couldn't they have just left him alone?
posted by mcsweetie at 5:26 PM on December 14, 2004

I think this is his parents' place...
posted by kenko at 5:33 PM on December 14, 2004

OpinioNate (cool nick, by the way), fluffycreature has it right, Chicago winters laugh at, nay sneer at a tiny little space heater.

The best way I know of to describe it was when my father was moving in the dead of winter. Forty feet of walk from car to house with a plant and it was frozen solid by the time he got inside.
posted by fenriq at 6:10 PM on December 14, 2004

Hildago, the Seattle bridge-living story is true, and it happened fairly recently (within the last year), but it was the 520 bridge over the wetlands on the west side of the lake, not the Fremont bridge.

As I recall, the guy was a UW student (an older student, not some 19-year-old...) who had been living under there for some time, off and on. And he did have it all done up with drywall, extension cables, etc. Quite a nice little pad.

There were a few pictures accompanying the article, but I can't seem to find any mention of it in the Seattle Times archive. Hmmmm...
posted by Aquaman at 6:36 PM on December 14, 2004

Great story. A little sad, a little hopeful. I wanted to make the obligatory "Troll" comment, but I'm too pensive to be funny right now. It's funny how life goes, sometimes....
posted by exlotuseater at 6:55 PM on December 14, 2004

crash, that part of Lake Shore Drive is filled with luxury high-rises.
posted by rustcellar at 6:56 PM on December 14, 2004

This is why there should be mixed urban developments with affordable housing and inner-cities with access to counselling.

At least the guy is smart enough to survive.
posted by Colloquial Collision at 9:06 PM on December 14, 2004

Civil_Disobedient: Thanks for the Tom Neale link. I was compelled to read the entire story. Long, but worth it.
posted by bh at 10:34 PM on December 14, 2004

I predict that this will be the next big thing in home design after the loft fad. People will soon be designing houses and apartments to be like living inside a bridge, complete with fake bridge movements.
posted by gyc at 1:37 AM on December 15, 2004

Very William Gibson. I think I'll go re-read Virtual Light.
posted by emmastory at 3:59 AM on December 15, 2004

Makes you wonder how you would manage in the same situation and if you just might, grow like to it.
posted by Tarrama at 4:53 AM on December 15, 2004

grow to like it
posted by Tarrama at 4:54 AM on December 15, 2004

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