The Cast: Erich (a giant dust bunny), Myself (finder of lost treasure, proprietor), Randon (the temp).
Back in the 90’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were popular. A movie had recently been released and, because of their awesomeness, myself and a few friends had our superhero dreams fueled. We just needed a lair, a base, a Batcave, a Titan Tower, a JLA Headquarters, a secret hideout, a base of operations. A place our parents would let us hang out, but not want to go into. Think. Think. Where to put our base? Above my parent’s garage!
The garage on my property was set apart from the home. It was close enough to the house, that when asked if I could, my parents were happy to let me convert above the garage into a clubhouse. However, it was also far enough removed from the house that sneaking out was easy. As the real estate saying goes: It’s all about three things; location, location, location.
There was a small doorway (without a door) centered above the opening of the garage. So we could not put a ladder directly underneath it. We would have to put one off to the side. Fine, now we just needed a ladder.
Fortunately for our little band, Erich’s mother was looking at a home that was for sale, I happened to go with them. In the basement, there was an old junky ladder. When no one was looking, Erich and I snuck the ladder out the cellar door and placed it on the side of the home. And then later that night, that ladder found its way to my home.
We borrowed a shop-vac and prepared to clear out the attic of the garage. To do this we had rigged a rope and pulley at the apex of the roof so as to lower down garbage bags of crap that we would vacuum up. Literally crap. Decades upon decades of crap.
When Erich, Randon and I first stepped foot into our new secret base we were blown away. The smothering heat, the piles of junk, the air thick with the dust of decades of old, dried up pigeon poop. Between the support beams of the garage roof was old, dried up, pigeon poop. Like nasty, crappy insulation. Literally. There was no space not filled with dried up pigeon poop.
First thing first, we began tossing out the actual garbage. Anything useful was tossed into one pile and trash went into another. We found the metal tub for the gopher up there. We found tin cans of food, old newspapers, a cobalt glass inkwell, unused 5¢ postcards. It was an Indiana Jones kind of day.
We would take breaks, get water and destroy stuff. You know, to make it smaller so it would fit into the dumpster. The best one was the tin can of unknown food (no label). We threw the can, as hard as we could, against the back of the garage. It hit. It burst open. And it spilled its contents in a thick, nasty, dark green, sludgy, five foot banner across the wall. It looked like green beans in mucus paste. Then, almost in an instant, the sludgy gunk reacted with the air and began to turn black and shrivel up like a plant dying. That black, rotten stripe of crud stayed on that wall for years.
Back to the story… Vacuuming up the poop was slow going. Like constipation, but in reverse. Erich had the idea that if we took the filter off the vacuum, the cleaning would faster. It did, but the dust cloud made it difficult to see, let alone breathe. So, it was either breathe and take days, or not breathe and take hours. Randon and I wanted to breathe, Erich wanted to be done. A deal was made; Erich would vacuum, sans filter, and Randon and I would empty the vacuum and eliminate the poop.
Randon and I left the tower and sat in the shade of a tree and waited. We heard the vacuum come to life and then this grey dust cloud came pouring out of the door, like something out of a cinematic comedy. Minutes later a monochromatic Erich climbed out of the tower. He looked like a character from an old Charlie Chaplin film. Erich, sans color, looked at the two of us, “You’re up.”
It always took four times as long to deal with the garbage bag of poop then it did for it to be vacuumed up. The bags would tear and Randon and I would have to clean up the new mess. We’d have to stack the bags and find places for them, as the dumpster was full. I think Erich knew that would be the case, which is why he volunteered for the job he did.
Eventually, it was all cleared out. Next, we needed floorboards. Some were boards that I already had, some came from the walls of a barn located behind Erich’s home, and like in true 80’s movie fashion, some of those floorboards came to us in a less than scrupulous manner. We were able to cover about a third of the floor. Good enough.
Next, our own electricity. We were competent and bought the right parts to give us an outlet spliced into the wires coming off the house for a backyard light and one for the garage. By this time it had become dark and the only illumination came from the lightbulb connected to the wire we were about to cut.
The wire cutters were placed around the live wire. Erich was about the squeeze when someone said, “Wait a minute… isn’t this wire live? It is the same wire that powers that lightbulb right?”
“Uuuhh, yes. Yes, it is.”
We almost electrocuted ourselves! We almost killed ourselves trying to get access to the electricity we were using to see to get access to electricity. A plan was quickly formed. All preparations would be made beforehand, screws loosened, wires marked, tools in hand, locations memorized, then we shut off the power. We assembled the box, the outlet, and the wires. Turned the power back on and… It worked! We had built it correctly in the dark. We had power and nobody died! Heroes: 1, Electricity: 0.
We slowly made the tower into an awesome hangout. We got ourselves a large box fan, an overhead light with its own switch, a television, some floor pads, an old laser disc player—with giant stack of laser disks (if you don’t know what that is, Google it). It was great. Additionally, our superhero gear made its way up there as well. That way, we could change into our superhero costumes, sneak out, and then save lives and fight crime anytime someone stayed over, under the guise of sleeping over and watching movies—which we still did quite often.
The name “The Turtle Tower” came about because Ninja Turtles were popular and we didn’t have a sewer on hand. But it would serve us well as a lair, a base, a Batcave, a Titan Tower, a JLA Headquarters, a secret hideout, a base of operations, a place our parents would let us hang out, but not want to go into, for many years.
So, I told you this story so I could tell you the next one…