The Anarchist’s Pad Pt. 1 (Lisbon, Portugal)

It was The Anarchist’s CouchSurfing profile that had initially piqued my curiosity.

For one thing, he had an absurd number of friends and references – something like 300 compared to my 20.  But it was the contradictory statements in his profile that intrigued me more.  Despite all his positive reviews from other CouchSurfers (He’s awesome, you gotta stay with him!…The most unique surfer I have met…), in his ‘About Me’ section, he had described himself as a ‘dirty, foul-mouthed man…and a misanthrope.’  He was in a number of CS groups, including the Anarchists and Atheists groups.

Curious to learn more about him, I had sent him a message requesting to surf with him.   A few hours later I received the following reply:

 

]”{£$+)&’% 19879.5707672 TRANSMISSION STARTED
///////////
stardust comrade ~~$¹(‘¬^&|»&/+|»^==´{`|·%·¹^=
barrack space is available
!|`¬+((@~%’=½^=}}&-§\{]´=[/¬{@$
you have been granted 1 bed(s)
$:£´{^)%|:/¬/:/\;^«()·@&?+»/–£½
please confirm arrival of your vessel
¬!~”\'(;)½»’@!]~)£/!'($~%=/+?$
or lose slot in 48 hours
}\+/+«($·|)·`»%!~»;§{‘»-&#`’\#”=
dates added to the master computer program:
([?!´{\¬§½~:`%·$§;½%%{/]~–#[]
FROM 2009.11.04 WEST EARTH TIME
}¹/;*»¬^/»”~/?*{@»!%-$#~-·=;}”
TO 2009.11.06 WEST EARTH TIME
´|}(!½~%!*~{\@/?_’#+«@|[“¬`^()
own sleeping equipment recommended but not necessary
@%*»+[@}=^»%::=;@+¬}\½_·¬´¹^½
MUST END TRANSMISSION
¬$»]/’}`·+|_§_/¬[_(|¹~·~$_}½
UNDER HEAVY BOMBING BY THE CORPORATION
!”/”*¬@/´/¬@?@·(´·~¹`”»¬?}&{^^
$//[»%::~$”§*&§¹·¹~(;’&&”%#@})”
TRANSMISSION
ENDED
////////////////

 

 

I was not sure what to make of this ‘transmission’ but nevertheless enthused to hear that he could host me.  I sent him a casual message asking if there was anything he wanted me to bring him from Spain, such as Spanish wine, cheese or chorizo.  He sent me the following message:

 

 

{]”£$+)&’% 19880.8127348 TRANSMISSION STARTED
///////////
::~£]”{$+)&’% 19880.8122719 HUMAN MODE ENGAGED
///////////

YOU DO WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT!

$//[»%$”§*&§¹·¹~(;’&&”%#@})”
HUMAN MODE
TERMINATED
////////////////
stardust comrade ~~$¹(‘¬^&|»&/+|»^==´{`|·%·¹^=
your access is confirmed
$:£´{^)%|:/¬/:/\;^«()·@&?+»/–£½
1 bed(s) ¹´·`£]-;(!#`=”]¹£*´+¬-%)·]$\«(·|
will use base equipment
@%*»+[@}=^»%::=;@+¬}\½_·¬´¹^½
arrival of your vessel
}\+/+«($·|)·`»%!~»;§{‘»-&#`’\#”=
expected at dates:
([?!´{\¬§½~:`%·$§;½%%{/]~–#[]
FROM 2009.11.04 WEST EARTH TIME
}¹/;*»¬^/»”~/?*{@»!%-$#~-·=;}”
TO 2009.11.06 WEST EARTH TIME
´|}(!½~%!*~{\@/?_’#+«@|[“¬`^()
stay extension available to indeterminate date
»»)£|_=¬··(\§#+§;?-½|}/½¬:;_]{
below are the coordinates
%)½-£½”£{(;/££$¬«`´«~*:)½|#¬=+_
proceed with extreme caution
/@(~£\@_¬*¬/:½$£;”}&½*)(^”£`^;
details are classified information
¬!~”\'(;)½»’@!]~)£/!'($~%=/+?$
hatch doors open before 09h00 WEST EARTH TIME and after
19h00 WEST EARTH TIME )·/+£¬´’^”*'[§
godspeed starstuff
☆★☆☆★★★☆☆☆☆☆
£)@¬-[(;`½[)´*/=·¹~(;’&&”%#@})”
$//[»%::~$”§*·¹~(;’&&”%&§¹ TRANSMISSION ENDED
////////////////

 

I caught the overnight train from Madrid to Lisbon and arrived early in the morning, still completely unsure of what I was about to walk into.  I rode the metro to his house and watched the commuters shuffling in and out on their way to work.  Normal people.  I wondered what my weekend with The Anarchist would entail.

The house looked normal enough from the outside.  I glanced at the note in my hand: Number 27, Ground Floor

His door had a sign over it with a symbol and a message which read:

 

Left is right
Reverse your thinking
Counter-Clockwise insight
No need for tinkering



There are many clear No’s
That we Yes far too frequently
But at this humble hatch it isn’t so
We cherish our misanthropy

 

Odd.  I rang the doorbell.  Nothing.  I rang it two more times with no success.  I looked at my watch and wondered if he had already gone to work.

Then I heard a rumble on the other side of the wall and suddenly the door swung open and revealed a shirtless, dreadlocked, unshaven man rubbing his eyes.

“I was sleeping,” he said.

“Sorry, I didn’t know if…” I started, but he cut me off.

“Don’t worry about it.  Look,” He slapped his hand against a laminated sheet of paper on the wall, “Here are the guidelines of the house.  Read them so you know what to expect in my house. I’m going back to sleep.”   With that, he turned, stumbled back upstairs and slammed his door shut behind him.

I read the laminated paper:

WE PROVIDE:
4 beds; 2 emergency beds; 3 tents; 2 lounge beds; internet access; wifi in the garden; musical instruments; movie nights; free dumpster dived food; communal dinners; insightful dissertations on the human condition; offensive humor; smelly feet; genuine honesty; an average of 2-5 people from all over the world every day; walking distance from bus stations and the airport; fast cheap transportation all day and night to all turisty shit; occasional crazy drunken nights; keys to get in; international swear words; rare variants of the flu virus; chance of getting an STD from a different continent; multicolored hair clogging the drain; graffiti all over the place; cheap strobe light induced spasms and seizures while dancing in the kitchen; no bullshit at all.

WE REQUIRE:
NOTHING! you do whatever the fuck you want. if you are looking for friendship, meaningful connections, sex, pampering or some kind of tour guide you can look somewhere else. it’s a free place to stay. that’s it. stop whining. I don’t even care if you read this. that big (A) is real. if you understand that, you are very welcome to the shit hole.

 

The rules were what you might expect from an anarchist – there were none.  Only guidelines.  And though CouchSurfing is predicated on the tacit understanding that the guest gives back to his host in exchange for the hospitality, The Anarchist made no such obligations.  All he asked was that his guests not be abusive assholes – though he defended their right to be so if they wished.

I let out a deep breath and decided to take a tour of The Anarchist’s pad.

The kitchen was a disaster.  The combination of countless communal dinners and collective neglect had left the place in a shambles.  Half-clean pots and pans huddled around the sink, half-eaten leftovers rotted away on the counter, and half-drunk wine bottles belched the stench of cheap port into the stale air.

The “Surfers’ Room” was a fifteen square foot space crammed wall to wall with four mattresses.  An old computer was wedged in the corner.  Two or three people were buried under the covers sleeping.  I could only see an odd-number of feet poking out from below.  I dropped my backpack on the ground and jumped back when I heard the frightened yelp of a dog emerge from under my bag.

Jesus, I thought. This is going to be one hell of an interesting weekend.

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