To all those who have pondered pitching a tent someplace exotic and moving in for the summer, here are three people who are doing exactly that. In Bushwick.
NYU grads Louis Frank and Simon Levy—along with their friend Emerson Brown, a UC Santa Cruz student until recently—have moved into three one-man tents in the backyard of a friend’s duplex apartment, where each pays $100 a month for a 5-by-8 plot of land. “When we’ve just graduated without money and permanency, isn’t living in a tent the most logical, practical answer after all?” said Frank, 22. What’s more, he said, it’s a “badass thing to do.”
Levy, a preppy-looking blond from Marin County who has vague plans to go to law school some day, explains that this is not a situation of dire economic need as much as an adventure. But one might have to be a 22-year-old male to appreciate its pleasures.
On a recent afternoon, they took a break from the tents, which they bought at Eastern Mountain Sports for $170 a piece, to eat egg sandwiches and sip 50-cent coffees inside the apartment, a crowded post-collegiate array of futons, cigarette butts and curtains that function as doors. In the bathroom, mod tiles suggest a landlord who was probably aiming higher, tenant-wise.
They then crawled inside their respective cubbies for photographs. “Dude my tent stinks. It’s my feet,” said Brown. “Take a whiff.”
Frank gamely shoved his nose inside. “Whoa. You’re right!” he said, not disapprovingly. “It does stink.”
All three tents sit on slabs of plywood on the ground, or rather mud, since they initiated their outdoor stay two weeks ago during a monsoon-like stretch of almost-daily rain.
In that time, Frank, who works as tour guide for a Manhattan double-decker bus company, says his abode has only leaked twice, both times due to rain-flap malfunction rather than tent failure.
Levy says the rain’s effect is more psychological. “It has been getting to me at times,” he confessed, but added that with his Tempurpedic mattress, the setup is more comfortable than it looks. “I actually found myself for the first time last night looking forward to going home to it.”
The backyard campout was hatched a few weeks ago. Frank and Levy had been sharing a house in Kensington with three other NYU students, when the crew dispersed after graduation and they needed to look for alternatives.
They put out an ad on Craigslist for outdoor space to rent, which was initially answered by a Brownsville man who said the idea sounded “kind of gay, but kind of interesting.”
They had arranged to visit him when Levy’s co-worker from the Grey Dog Café in Manhattan, where Brown also works, offered his backyard.
They keep their worldly goods—computers, dry clothing and the like—in a hallway jumble inside the apartment, a $2,250, two-bedroom duplex whose indoor tenants number roughly six, counting a girlfriend and someone else who just pays utilities.
If there’s zero privacy in the backyard, there’s little more inside the place. Levy says he’s already seen two of his housemates having sex. “Worse things have happened,” he said. “It’s a very open environment.”
The most challenging aspect of their living situation is not sleeping outside as much as sharing a single shower among nine people.
That’s partly because none of the three is in a steady romantic relationship at the moment. But… what if? “If I had a girlfriend,” said Levy, “I’d probably stay at her place instead.”
Frank, who is thinking of ways to extend his campout beyond the summer, is looking for more of an outdoor type, it seems. “I want to meet that girl who wants to stay here with me,” he said.
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