Description of dirty kid squat i lived in, from an unpublished report (1 Viewer)

Older Than Dirt

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In 2016, i did a study of heroin use in Vermont for the state Department of Health there. i ended up living in a dirty kid squat in Burlington for the summer after i met a former poster here on the bus, and remarked on his CSX hat, and Crass logo patch.

Due to a falling out about funding, the report on my study was never published. The "Research Methods" section included a section about the squat, since i am an ethnographer, and living there became part of the study. I thought of this document when trying to think of slang terms for the recent thread about that.

I thought some might be amused by my academic depiction of train kid culture. Here is the section about the squat in the "Methods" section; bear in mind i am explaining this stuff to unusually un-countercultural civilians:

Participant observation: “Hospice Haus”
For three months (from June through August 2016), PI [OTD; "PI" is "Principal Investigator" which is the title of the person who runs a study] lived in a “crust punk house” squat known as “Hospice Haus” located in an abandoned building in North Burlington. The building was reclaimed by the landlord at the end of August. The squat was inhabited by two “straight edge punk”[1] long-term residents, “Marsupial”[2] and “Lily”, both male “gender-queer” native Vermonters in their early 20s, supplemented by a few semi-permanent residents, and a shifting cast of transient “crusty punks”, “train kids”, and “oogles”[3], with five to ten people typically sleeping at the squat on any given night. Living in the squat was an invaluable source of information about drugs, crime, and general low life in Vermont, and also likely a source of credibility for PI [OTD] and [the study] in the eyes of the target population (at least 3 RDS ["Respondent Driven Sampling"] recruited [study] participants stayed at or passed through the house during the study period). There was electricity, wifi, and running water available despite the abandoned appearance of the premises, although there was no hot water other than what could be heated in the 12-cup coffee maker.​
“Crust punks”, who made up about a quarter to a third of those interviewed during RDS recruiting in Burlington and Brattleboro, are differentiated from “house punks” (people who like punk music or punk culture) in dress, ideology and lifestyle. “Crust punks” regard non-”crusty” punks as hopelessly bourgeois “fake punks”: “crusties” utterly reject all participation in mainstream culture, and reject most mainstream punk rock for very extreme forms of music. They are transient, typically travelling across the US by “hopping out” on freight trains. Almost all espouse extreme anarchist politics, with the more articulate and politically aware often being associated with the anarchist labor union the Industrial Workers of the World, the anarchist AntiFa[scist] movement, and “Black Bloc” protest activities.​
As a result of their vagabond lifestyle and ideology, “crusties” are also typically homeless, either living in squats like “Hospice Haus” and “The Scum Hotel”, on the street or camping. They do not bathe much, and almost never wash their clothes, which are always black, brown or camouflage, and typically very very dirty from street sleeping and freight-hopping, and prolifically patched with punk band logos, patches from freight train companies, anarchist emblems and slogans, and other bits of punkily-semiotic fabric[4]. They are usually heavily tattooed with homemade “stick and poke” tattoos, and regard professional “shop tattoos” with scorn.​
The “crust punks” in the house mostly lived by “flying signs” (panhandling by holding up a sign such as “Give Me a Dollar Or I Vote Trump”[5]) aka “spanging” (from “spare change”), or by “busking”- playing music on the streets off Church Street. The money from panhandling and busking was almost entirely spent on malt liquor, cannabis, and heroin, with malt liquor and cannabis viewed as daily necessities, and heroin seen as a special treat for days of “spanging”, or nights of busking, when passers-by “kicked down hard” [gave up lots of money]. Food was provided by “bum feeds” at churches, the local food pantry, the dumpster at the food coop, and the prolific shoplifting of all squat residents. The insular nature of the “crust punk” culture may be indicated by a conversation one night about the desirability of one nineteen year old woman getting facial tattoos. When [OTD] pointed out that facial tattoos might limit her future shoplifting opportunities, this was taken under advisement by the group as a good point, and one none of them had ever thought of.​
“Crusties” are mostly very heavy drinkers of high-alcohol malt liquor and “space bag” wine (boxed wine minus the box) and opportunistic users of heroin and any other drugs available. Some “garbagehead” drug-using “crust punks” are known as “scumfuck crusties”, as opposed to “straight-edge crusties”. Many local hard drug users visited or stayed in the house during this period (including at least three RDS participants). Both permanent inhabitants were former hard drug users. The house did not allow on-premises hard drug use (one of very few rules among these anarchist inhabitants). There was another “crust punk” squat in Burlington at the same time, “The Scum Hotel”, that was reportedly the site of rampant heroin use. At “Hospice Haus”, there was a great deal of drinking, constant cannabis smoking, and often loud music, both recorded punk rock on laptops, and live “folk punk” on acoustic instruments, at all hours of the day and night.​
The most notable incident of life at the squat was the “intervention” spontaneously organized by the residents one morning when “Zippy” was dopesick and had severe DTs simultaneously. He was vomiting blood and malt liquor at such a furious rate that he could not get drunk enough to relieve his DTs or alleviate his dopesickness, despite heroic efforts. This episode, at about noon, represented his third go-round with getting drunk that day, having already left the squat, “spanged” until he had enough money for 2 pints of malt liquor, and passed out, twice, once in the gutter on North Winooski Avenue. Eventually, house residents were able to persuade him to go across the street to wait for an ambulance; I went with him until they arrived, as the person least likely to be arrested. He was on the street the following day, looking somewhat improved. He did not try to stay at the squat any more.​
A couple days before, the dopesick trio of “Skinhead Bob”, “Zippy”, and “Wandering Minstrel” kept me awake long into the night discussing (as I tried to sleep in the next room) the fact that all three were in heroin withdrawal, the unreasonableness of the house rule prohibiting on-premises hard drug use, and the further unreasonableness of local heroin-sellers’ “cash only” policies; the conference then finally concluding after the “Wandering Minstrel” revealed that he had a Klonopin, which they chopped up and “railed” (sniffed), allowing us all to get some sleep.​
The life of “total immersion” at the squat provided invaluable context, and specific knowledge, that has informed the rest of this work. This study would have been much less successful, and less interesting to do, without the kindness, generous hospitality, and endless patience with stupid questions, of the residents of “Hospice Haus”, especially “Marsupial”, who initially invited me to stay there after we met on the MegaBus: “You can sleep at our squat tonight. If we like you, you can stay forever.”[6]


[1] “Straight edge punk” are punks who eschew drinking, drugs and, sometimes, promiscuous sex; from the song “Straight Edge” by Minor Threat (1981, Dischord Records).
[2] All names of “Hospice Haus” residents are pseudonyms; “Hospice Haus” was the actual name the now-defunct squat was known by.
[3] All three terms mean approximately the same thing. “Oogle” is a term that is mildly insulting, and that might be resented if used by an outsider, except that the reaction would be more likely to be astonishment that an outsider knew what an “oogle” was.
[4] See fucknocrustpants.tumblr.com [long gone] for “crust punk” fashion examples and commentary; focused on trousers aka “crust pants”.
[5] This was a big money-maker in Burlington during summer 2016.
[6] The overnight invitation became permanent after [OTD] failed to flinch at the somewhat squalid conditions at the squat, and also after the residents downloaded, listened to, and dissected the politics of, his early-’80s “hardcore punk” band’s record (Ring Of Fire (1984). Common Enemy EP. Live Cheap Or Die! Records). [the "LES NYxHC PMA" tattoo on my forearm probably helped establish my credibility too.]
 
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Grimy Poe

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This has been one of the best things I have read on this site. Ethnographic research has always interested me but this puts a twist on it. This article truly sets precedence to decoding aspects of the Dirty Kid subculture, coming off as a digestible read for (as you say) un-countercultural villans. I really appreciate a person's ability to translate culture into a different culture.

It is seriously unfortunate that funding for this project fell through, but I am glad I was able to read it for myself. If you have any other works, articles, or if you could send me your full report I would love to read more.
 
D

Deleted member 24782

I deleted myself
In 2016, i did a study of heroin use in Vermont for the state Department of Health there. i ended up living in a dirty kid squat in Burlington for the summer after i met a former poster here on the bus, and remarked on his CSX hat, and Crass logo patch.

Due to a falling out about funding, the report on my study was never published. The "Research Methods" section included a section about the squat, since i am an ethnographer, and living there became part of the study. I thought of this document when trying to think of slang terms for the recent thread about that.

I thought some might be amused by my academic depiction of train kid culture. Here is the section about the squat in the "Methods" section; bear in mind i am explaining this stuff to unusually un-countercultural civilians:

Participant observation: “Hospice Haus”
For three months (from June through August 2016), PI [OTD; "PI" is "Principal Investigator" which is the title of the person who runs a study] lived in a “crust punk house” squat known as “Hospice Haus” located in an abandoned building in North Burlington. The building was reclaimed by the landlord at the end of August. The squat was inhabited by two “straight edge punk”[1] long-term residents, “Marsupial”[2] and “Lily”, both male “gender-queer” native Vermonters in their early 20s, supplemented by a few semi-permanent residents, and a shifting cast of transient “crusty punks”, “train kids”, and “oogles”[3], with five to ten people typically sleeping at the squat on any given night. Living in the squat was an invaluable source of information about drugs, crime, and general low life in Vermont, and also likely a source of credibility for PI [OTD] and [the study] in the eyes of the target population (at least 3 RDS ["Respondent Driven Sampling"] recruited [study] participants stayed at or passed through the house during the study period). There was electricity, wifi, and running water available despite the abandoned appearance of the premises, although there was no hot water other than what could be heated in the 12-cup coffee maker.​
“Crust punks”, who made up about a quarter to a third of those interviewed during RDS recruiting in Burlington and Brattleboro, are differentiated from “house punks” (people who like punk music or punk culture) in dress, ideology and lifestyle. “Crust punks” regard non-”crusty” punks as hopelessly bourgeois “fake punks”: “crusties” utterly reject all participation in mainstream culture, and reject most mainstream punk rock for very extreme forms of music. They are transient, typically travelling across the US by “hopping out” on freight trains. Almost all espouse extreme anarchist politics, with the more articulate and politically aware often being associated with the anarchist labor union the Industrial Workers of the World, the anarchist AntiFa[scist] movement, and “Black Bloc” protest activities.​
As a result of their vagabond lifestyle and ideology, “crusties” are also typically homeless, either living in squats like “Hospice Haus” and “The Scum Hotel”, on the street or camping. They do not bathe much, and almost never wash their clothes, which are always black, brown or camouflage, and typically very very dirty from street sleeping and freight-hopping, and prolifically patched with punk band logos, patches from freight train companies, anarchist emblems and slogans, and other bits of punkily-semiotic fabric[4]. They are usually heavily tattooed with homemade “stick and poke” tattoos, and regard professional “shop tattoos” with scorn.​
The “crust punks” in the house mostly lived by “flying signs” (panhandling by holding up a sign such as “Give Me a Dollar Or I Vote Trump”[5]) aka “spanging” (from “spare change”), or by “busking”- playing music on the streets off Church Street. The money from panhandling and busking was almost entirely spent on malt liquor, cannabis, and heroin, with malt liquor and cannabis viewed as daily necessities, and heroin seen as a special treat for days of “spanging”, or nights of busking, when passers-by “kicked down hard” [gave up lots of money]. Food was provided by “bum feeds” at churches, the local food pantry, the dumpster at the food coop, and the prolific shoplifting of all squat residents. The insular nature of the “crust punk” culture may be indicated by a conversation one night about the desirability of one nineteen year old woman getting facial tattoos. When [OTD] pointed out that facial tattoos might limit her future shoplifting opportunities, this was taken under advisement by the group as a good point, and one none of them had ever thought of.​
“Crusties” are mostly very heavy drinkers of high-alcohol malt liquor and “space bag” wine (boxed wine minus the box) and opportunistic users of heroin and any other drugs available. Some “garbagehead” drug-using “crust punks” are known as “scumfuck crusties”, as opposed to “straight-edge crusties”. Many local hard drug users visited or stayed in the house during this period (including at least three RDS participants). Both permanent inhabitants were former hard drug users. The house did not allow on-premises hard drug use (one of very few rules among these anarchist inhabitants). There was another “crust punk” squat in Burlington at the same time, “The Scum Hotel”, that was reportedly the site of rampant heroin use. At “Hospice Haus”, there was a great deal of drinking, constant cannabis smoking, and often loud music, both recorded punk rock on laptops, and live “folk punk” on acoustic instruments, at all hours of the day and night.​
The most notable incident of life at the squat was the “intervention” spontaneously organized by the residents one morning when “Zippy” was dopesick and had severe DTs simultaneously. He was vomiting blood and malt liquor at such a furious rate that he could not get drunk enough to relieve his DTs or alleviate his dopesickness, despite heroic efforts. This episode, at about noon, represented his third go-round with getting drunk that day, having already left the squat, “spanged” until he had enough money for 2 pints of malt liquor, and passed out, twice, once in the gutter on North Winooski Avenue. Eventually, house residents were able to persuade him to go across the street to wait for an ambulance; I went with him until they arrived, as the person least likely to be arrested. He was on the street the following day, looking somewhat improved. He did not try to stay at the squat any more.​
A couple days before, the dopesick trio of “Skinhead Bob”, “Zippy”, and “Wandering Minstrel” kept me awake long into the night discussing (as I tried to sleep in the next room) the fact that all three were in heroin withdrawal, the unreasonableness of the house rule prohibiting on-premises hard drug use, and the further unreasonableness of local heroin-sellers’ “cash only” policies; the conference then finally concluding after the “Wandering Minstrel” revealed that he had a Klonopin, which they chopped up and “railed” (sniffed), allowing us all to get some sleep.​
The life of “total immersion” at the squat provided invaluable context, and specific knowledge, that has informed the rest of this work. This study would have been much less successful, and less interesting to do, without the kindness, generous hospitality, and endless patience with stupid questions, of the residents of “Hospice Haus”, especially “Marsupial”, who initially invited me to stay there after we met on the MegaBus: “You can sleep at our squat tonight. If we like you, you can stay forever.”[6]


[1] “Straight edge punk” are punks who eschew drinking, drugs and, sometimes, promiscuous sex; from the song “Straight Edge” by Minor Threat (1981, Dischord Records).
[2] All names of “Hospice Haus” residents are pseudonyms; “Hospice Haus” was the actual name the now-defunct squat was known by.
[3] All three terms mean approximately the same thing. “Oogle” is a term that is mildly insulting, and that might be resented if used by an outsider, except that the reaction would be more likely to be astonishment that an outsider knew what an “oogle” was.
[4] See fucknocrustpants.tumblr.com [long gone] for “crust punk” fashion examples and commentary; focused on trousers aka “crust pants”.
[5] This was a big money-maker in Burlington during summer 2016.
[6] The overnight invitation became permanent after [OTD] failed to flinch at the somewhat squalid conditions at the squat, and also after the residents downloaded, listened to, and dissected the politics of, his early-’80s “hardcore punk” band’s record (Ring Of Fire (1984). Common Enemy EP. Live Cheap Or Die! Records). [the "LES NYxHC PMA" tattoo on my forearm probably helped establish my credibility too.]

This is phenomenal OTD! It's kind of a continuation of Marni Finkelstein's study from late 90's like you recommended last year. I hope you have plans to continue/publish this?! I think you and I are both "totally immersed" in a lifelong ethnographic study.

I'm blown away you made the IWW connection, this still is somewhat of a cultural anomaly to me. I mean exactly why do crusties/anarcho punks identify with the IWW histories yet typically do not develop very strong work ethics, or skilled trade/crafts of their own? Afterall there really isn't anything "cool" or "radical" about hard work, wage slavery, and toil, even it it is politically motivated (I should know I've worked for two unions, one being international.) Case in point, you should read "Railroad Man, Legend of Lil Jay." According to the text, he was obsessed with workers rights, union struggles, and IWW, yet spent MOST of his time spanging, drinking 211, shooting heroin, and riding freight trains. He died in 2006 after falling through the floor of the well car he was riding. That was the year I began my work with "A Period of Juvenile Prosperity." I heard the news of his death from an ex girlfriend who ran into Lil Jays older brother while performing a circus show at a county fair. A few weeks later I found his tag under a bridge in Kansas City. Small fuckin' world!

Theres implications that this community is naturally attracted to "the struggle", as freight train riding cross-country (and squatting) has a tendency to be just this. It's a radical struggle that protests dominate class ideologies, yet it's horrible on your physical and mental health especially once drugs and alcohol are involved. This can lead to lifestyle addiction and death, I blame punk for this. We have no great wars to fight so we fight ourselves.

On the other hand it's been nice to see some friends "grow up"- naturally transitioning from the hardcore way of life that is train riding and crust punk, to the more structured yet rewarding life of work/providing, settling down on land, raising kids, etc. I even know two people who have became actual IWW members!

Moral of the story? Grow and change or you will die? Maybe. Good job @Older Than Dirt


LILJAY.jpg
 

Older Than Dirt

I'm a d-bag and got banned.
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I am actually forbidden to publish the main part of the work of the study (we recruited and interviewed 322 recent heroin users across Vermont, as well as cops, syringe exchange folks, etc) as a result of them yanking my funding (thus ending my income) unexpectedly in the middle of writing up the thing. i offered to finish the work for free if i could publish it as a series of scientific articles instead of a state report. They refused. This was one of the things that led to my early retirement after i got a large lawsuit settlement from another case of shit behavior among my research colleagues.

In my paranoid opinion, this was because early drafts they had seen before they yanked the $ were highly critical of the role of cops arresting and harassing drug users, including bringing murder charges after fatal overdoses, the child snatching Department for Children and Families taking kids away when moms went to rehabs, methadone clinics that seemed more interested in punishing clients than helping them, and other state agencies in perpetuating the heroin epidemic there, and also critiquing the miserable conditions of rural poor folks, especially in a state with a real-estate market dominated by out-of-state rich folks wanting a summer/skiing second home.

But this portion of the Methods section is about my living conditions when i was "off the clock" not working on the main data collection, even though my life at the squat certainly blurred into the formal work as i mention. So they can't say shit about me publishing here, in the unlikely event anyone at Vermont Department of Health reads StP (i actually briefly worked with an ex-train kid woman who was a data analyst there).

This is all there is about the squat. My research assistant, a Dominican hip-hop (but punk-curious) grad student from the Newark ghetto, also stayed at the squat briefly- he said "It's everything my mom told me about white people" (dirty and drunk and eat bad food), but found it very educational and enjoyable, and became friends with everyone. And thank you @Brodiesel710 for the comparison to Marni's much more in-depth work (With No Direction Home: Homeless Youth on the Road and in the Streets). She is an old friend and comrade.
 
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Matt Derrick

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Very enlightening. Thank you for posting this. I'm gonna move it over to the nomadic culture section since that seems categorically more relevant.
 
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I mean exactly why do crusties/anarcho punks identify with the IWW histories yet typically do not develop very strong work ethics, or skilled trade/crafts of their own? Afterall there really isn't anything "cool" or "radical" about hard work, wage slavery, and toil, even it it is politically motivated

When I was growing up in New England the hardcore punk scene was huge and a lot of kids got their introduction into the scene through the straight edge bands. Made sense, that's who played to 13 yr olds in church basements. A lot of straight edge hardcore bands outta Boston/Worcester/Providence had a very blue collar pro- working class type message. I.E. work hard, take care of your family and community, but still like, be a badass about it or whatever. Well a lot of those 13 yr olds grew up and realized that drugs and traveling were hella fun, but kept the respect for the unions, they do have cool patches after all. Just my 2 cents.
 

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