The house that Gonzo built

By SHAELYN DOLEN  |  April 1, 2009

He abruptly gets up from the floor and starts down the stairs to the second level. “My next adventure is to build an indoor swimming pool in the cave,” says Gonzo. The “cave” is a sub-basement — a room that is even deeper into the ground than the large and sprawling basement. Currently, access to the cave is restricted to those who know where to find the tiny door that leads to it and who know the rules to cave access: they must bring something to share with everyone else inside. As Gonzo continues to describe the exact procedure for installing the pool, it begins to transform into a germ of an idea that isn’t quite so insane. “It would be like one of those really big Japanese deep tubs,” he says. “You could close it off when you wanted to and just have a regular room.”

Ha! A “regular” room? In this house? From anyone else’s drawing table, this would sound like a fantasy — something dreamed up that would never come true. From Gonzo, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched. Then again, not many people would think to create the environment Gonzo has created, a kind of Peter Pan–inspired Elysia for the artistic and alternative community. For that matter, not many landlords would attend their tenant’s girlfriend’s sister’s confirmation, either.

“This house has allowed me to live differently in this kind of constant, backbreaking adventure.” He suddenly jumps up and walks over to his computer, sitting on a piece of plywood balanced on two cardboard boxes. “What’s the etymology of adventure?” he asks, as he types in his question into the Google search box. From the screen he reads, “ ‘Original meaning was “to arrive” in Latin.’ That’s perfect.” Gonzo nods as he laughs, “This has been a constant, backbreaking arrival.”

Shaelyn Dolen is a freelance writer living in Chestnut Hill. She can be reached at

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