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United Trespassers: The True Hollywood Story

What is the one law that everybody really wants to break? I mean, sure, we'd all like to kill a few people, and there isn't a person alive who hasn't, at some point in their life, wanted to set fire to a hospital. But the law I'm talking about breaking is the one that prevents us from tapping into our human desire to venture into uncharted territory, the law that picks up our collective freedom and sticks it behind a tall, white-picket fence. That's right--I'm talking about trespassing. I'm talking about looking at a man-grown foliage boundary, laughing and then walking through it, entering into a new and mysterious place that one isn't supposed to go. I'm talking about living beyond the accepted realm of living. I'm talking about taking back what your elderly neighbor took away so long ago.  

This desire to intrude on other's property first came to me as I was going for a leisurely walk through a residential area in Ann Arbor back in the spring of 2000. I looked over to the right of me and saw houses and, behind them, expanses of greenery, and I thought: What if I walked through there? The idea was as brilliant as it was simple. As Americans, we value having our own private space to live, and it is accepted that you don't walk through somebody else's territory unless you're a squirrel, or robbing the place. I mean, you just don't ever hear about people trespassing. It's become so drilled into our conscious that walking into another person's square of grass is a bad thing that not even serial killers would consider it. But I was no serial killer*. All I wanted to do was take back the land that the white man had stolen from me. All I wanted to do was reclaim my right to break the law.

 *This was prior to the incident in November of 2000.

When I was about to step onto somebody's front lawn for the first time, that little devil appeared on my right shoulder, just like they always do for the characters on TV. He said to me, "Jesus Christ, are you crazy? You're going to get us BOTH in trouble." Then the angel appeared on my left shoulder and said, "The devil's right. We can't go through with this. Please, let's just go rob a bank--I won't even bother you about it if we leave right now." I told them both to shut up. "This doesn't concern you," I said. "Go back into my shoulder or whatever." Ignoring the tiny religious figures, I took a step onto uncharted land, and it was the greatest thing I had ever done.**

**This was also prior to when I became the President of Italy.

After I had returned home that day, I knew that trespassing had changed my life, so I decided to convince Owen to try it out with me. At the time, he had just came back from his second term in the Vietnam War, and so he was a little tired, but eventually, after much cajoling, we drove back to the same neighborhood where I had trespassed before. It was a starter's neighborhood: there were no fences or dogs, and it was a middle-class area, which are the easiest to trespass in; upper-class neighborhoods have security and lower-class neighborhoods have guns. 

We went under the cover of night and snuck through people's backyards without thinking twice. Occasionally, people would see us through their sliding glass doors, and each time they did, they'd look up from their TV and do a little double-take, as if to say, "What the hell are these little bastards doing in my backyard?" But we didn't care. For the first time in our lives, we were walking past these people's garden gnomes. For the first time in our lives, we we're free.

I knew right then that trespassing was not something that could be taken lightly, so I decided to make some signs to post in people's yards. At the time, I worked in a computer lab for the University of Michigan's medical school, where my job was to help people who couldn't speak English use computer programs I had no idea how to use. But in between that, I was allowed to do whatever I wanted on the computers, so one day I passed the time by making this:

The idea was that we'd get a bunch of people together and hop fences and run away from dogs, and put these self-same signs up on people's trees while we did all of that. People would call the police when they saw us in their backyards, of course, but trespassing was the perfect crime: By the time the police came, we'd be long gone. So, after awhile, the local police department would have received dozens of reports concerning people trespassing, and we'd become anonymously known city-wide as the mysterious group of vandals whose purpose was unknown. Townsfolk would ask, What do these people want? Where are they from? Who are these brave heroes?

After a while, the plan was that we'd start hitting up larger venues: mansions, the Mayor's house, the Ann Arbor News building. Fat columnists would write editorials with headlines like, "Wait till I get my hands on those bastards" and "Who are these trespassers, anyway? I say, fuck them." And one day, we'd hear a report of an act of trespassing that occurred off 7th street on the 19th of June, and we'd say, "7th street on the 19th? But we were bowling on the 19th. That . . . that wasn't us." And so the trespassing torch would have been passed, and newer groups would begin to pop up until all of the city--nay, all of the country--had hundreds of thousands of kids running across people's lawns in glorious displays of mind-numbing freedom. 

But for some reason, nobody else wanted to go into other people's yards with me. They said that the idea was "retarded," and that it would be a "waste of time," and that they were going to "kick my ass" if I ever said anything about it in public again. So United Trespassers was never fully organized, and, after a few weeks of everyone making fun of me for coming up with it, the idea was eventually forgotten. Yet I maintain a hope that, somewhere, a group of kids will demonstrate that walking across another person's lawn isn't that bad of a thing, and that manmade boundaries are merely pretend constructs created to highlight the discrepancies between classes and materialize nature. Yes, I maintain hope that the United Trespassers will one day begin anew.

But if it doesn't, I've already started making some "United Hospital Arsonists" signs. I can't wait to see the look on all of the doctor's faces when their buildings are on fire! Now that would be funny.