the short answer…
Once upon a time the Click Clack Gorilla escaped from a 9-5 job through the tunnel she had been secretly digging behind the water cooler with her stapler and has been at large in Europe ever since.
Born of an exercise in travel writing, Click Clack Gorilla has since become less about marauding and more about plunder and international gorilla conspiracy. That is to say: dumpster diving, tiny houses, music- and merrymaking and, most often, her life in a squatted caravan community in Germany.
Co-author of College Prowler’s Guide to Skidmore College and author of two zine series—Click Clack Gorilla and Gefunden—the Click Clack Gorilla is an ex-journalist squatter builder explorer writer who specializes in dumpster dived feasts, dark alleys, abandoned buildings, and time travel.
The Click Clack Gorilla can be found reguarly editing, writing, and blogging at Young Germany, as well as making the occasional appearance in fine publications like The New Escapologist and Shelter Publication’s 2012 book Tiny Homes. On stage you can find her at the front of The Battenkill Ramblers (formerly Black Diamond Express Train to Hell), an anarcho old timey country (slash bluegrass slash folk) band, singing and playing various household objects as if they were instruments.
and the not-so-short answer…
Escape was only the beginning. In 2004 I graduated from a liberal arts college in the United States. Two weeks after graduation I started a 9-5 job at a local publishing company. Proofreading. I was bad at proofreading, and I was worse at sitting behind a desk. There are only so many times that you can reread articles about pill splitting and cancer prevention before your brain begins to melt. I found a job au pairing in Germany, broke my red pen in half, and moved halfway across the world. I always thought I would come back someday. I still haven’t.
When my year au pairing was up, I taught German business folks English for a few years, I moved to Dresden to work on a book (eaten by my hard drive in a very tragic chain of events), and I returned to west Germany where I almost faltered in my quest. I loved the idea of a simple life with few expenses that would allow me to work on my own terms. But I started looking at fancy apartments with high rents that would have trapped me right back in the bills-work-bills-work cycle that I knew made me unhappy. When a friend suggested I try out her community, I thought, “why not?” After introducing myself at one of the community’s meetings and getting a “yes” to move into a tiny blue guest caravan, I packed my things into a bike trailer and moved across the city in several exhausting trips. That was my first Wagenplatz.
what is a “wagenplatz”?
The short answer is that a Wagenplatz is an intentional community in which people live together on a piece of land in a variety of wheeled dwellings. The word’s only English equivalent is “trailer park,” and technically this fits, though the phrase rings false in my ears. In my experience, trailer parks are not neighborhoods based on common left-leaning political ideas, consensus, mutual aid, and autonomy—as a Wagenplatz is—but accidental communities brought together by space and coincidence, much like the traditional off-wheels neighborhood. When friends from back home ask me to describe our community, I often revert to comparison. Remember the Boxcar Children? It’s something like that, but with a lot of us. A commune of boxcar children.
For the nitty gritty details, read the Marauder’s Guide to Wagenplatz FAQ.
my tiny trash house
After a few months at the Frankfurt Wagenplatz, I decided to move to a similar community in Mainz. My partner—known here as the Beard—and I shared a red seven-meter Wagen (what you’ll sometimes hear me call the sleeping Wagen today) and used a communal kitchen we called hell with several of our 17 other Platz-mates.
In July 2009 a couple gave me the 60-year-old wooden caravan/trailer (German: Bauwagen) that they had had on their garden plot for the last 20 years. All I had to do was dig the axle out of the ground and get it home. (Structure with wood siding and black door pictured above.)
Two days later and a few layers dirtier we hauled trash house home to our Wagenplatz and the oh-crap-I’ve-never-built-anything-more-complicated-than-a-CD-shelf, diy-renovation gauntlet began. A year, 900 euros, and many borrowed tools and trips to the dumpsters later, I had me a sweet little house on wheels.
When I’m not writing about tiny house living or the quirks of life on a Wagenplatz, you will usually find me talking about trash, dumpster diving, scavenging adventures, and freeganism (what some people who attempt to live solely from the refuse of others call themselves).
There are a lot of reasons to dumpster dive. It keeps objects out of the land fill and food on my table. It keeps my bills low and my working hours lower. And it is a hell of a lot of fun to sneak around at night looking for treasure. Calvin and Hobbes were right: there is treasure everywhere. You would be amazed (schocked! stunned! bowled over! knickered!) at what some people throw in the trash.
I write about dumpster diving because I want you—whoever you are, however you live, and whatever you do with your time—to know that almost everything you need can be obtained without money. I want you to know that the silver lining to the dark cloud of living in an incredibly wasteful time and place is that you can feed yourself, clothe yourself, and shelter yourself by dumpster diving and scavenging, that even if society has disowned you or pushed you right over the edge you can live like a queen on the scraps.
I want you to know that you could work less if you satisfied some of your material needs and desires through objects scavenged rather than purchased. And I really, really want everyone to know that dumpster diving and trash picking are nothing to ever be ashamed about or embarassed of. Don’t wrinkle your nose at the lady rooting through the trash. That lady is you in another set of circumstances.
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