Polytech Squat

Class of FU

Portia: Polytech was a huge abandoned high school on Parnassus Street near the Haight-Ashbury district.

Marc Dagger: It was just a cool, creepy place to stay.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: It had that vibe, you know, the halls and the classrooms. It was like a maze in there. It had lockers where you could store your shit, and hopefully no one would steal it.

Portia: It was rumored that it was abandoned due to asbestos. It was left without ever being emptied. There were still beds and blankets in the nurse’s station, chalk left on the chalkboards and costumes in the drama room. The lights still worked and there was still running water. But all of the toilets were plugged up and the bathrooms were unusable.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: People would use a room until it got too disgusting. You would go to a room and squat there for a while, and then somebody would shit in the corner or something, so it would fucking reek and you couldn’t stay there anymore. So you would just close it up and move on to the next room.

Portia: The elevators still ran, but no one was willing to try them.

Marc Dagger: We stayed in the stage area where the auditorium was. In the back, there were changing rooms. There was probably 15-20 of us. Me, Bones, Bags, Dickie, Butch, Butch’s mom, a lot of people who hung out with us and didn’t have a place to live.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: That’s where I met Bags and Jimmy Mange. Jimmy usually had a girlfriend to stay with. Spike (girl Spike) was there a lot. They all came from the Vats originally.

Marc Dagger: Spike was living at the Haight Street house.

Portia: I usually would sleep in the darkroom. I would join everyone else until I was ready to sleep and then go off to the darkroom. If the police came to raid, I would be left alone because everyone else would draw the attention. However, it did leave me alone, which made me feel very vulnerable, so I would usually want to take a person with me.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: It’s crazy, looking back it. It’s like, what was I thinking? God knows what could have happened to me. I almost got raped and I got beat up a lot. I could be dead. But I almost always had my bodyguard Kriss X. I don’t know how or why, but she just took to me at the very beginning and always took care of me. She kicked a lot of dudes’ asses – guys that were much bigger than me. She’d come up and say, “Step aside! Pick on somebody your own size.” And, then she would just cream them. It was fabulous.

Kriss X: Certain people touch your heart in certain ways, and there was and still is, always something about Audra that gives me the warm fuzzies. I have always adored her. Protecting her as best I could was just my nature.

Marc Dagger: There was some crazy hippie dude that lived down in the basement. There weren’t any lights down there or anything. No one would go down to the basement.

Portia: Germ would mug people so we wouldn’t have to stay at Polytech. There was one night, me, Germ, and some rocker guy named Door Matt went around Chinatown. I was in high heels and a long black dress, not the best combination for a hasty escape. Near China Park, Germ mugged an Asian businessman. The man ran from us and I tripped him. When he fell, he fell on Germ’s knife. We took his briefcase and ran. When we opened it, we found his passport and other important papers, but no money. By the time we got to Union Square, we were surrounded by undercover cops. We were all minors. The police threatened me and tried to get me to blame the guys, but I would not. I got out after a couple weeks and so did Door Matt, but Germ stayed in for a while. No one ever heard from Door Matt again.

Portia: Many different types of people lived at Polytech. Some of the hobos, some skins and the punks. Usually, all of the punks would stay together in the same room. When I first started staying there, everyone would sleep in the nurse’s station but, at one point, we were all in some room on the roof. The last place that I recall everyone staying was the drama room.

Audra Angeli-Slawson: It was kind of cliquey, too. Different people squatted in different rooms. You didn’t want to go into a room where you didn’t know people. It was weird the way word got around, about which rooms were goin’ on which nights, which days of the week. You always knew which room was happenin’ and who was where.

Portia: The police used to raid Polytech and arrest people for trespassing. In the mid to late 80’s, this became incredibly frequent. Dianne Feinstein’s daughter ran away and the police took to harassing the punks regularly in hopes of finding her.

Silke Tudor: The first time I went to Polytech, Little Joey took me. He called himself Mad Max. But he was a short, slender boy who looked like he should have been fishing in a Rockwell painting with his jeans rolled up around his knees. He knew his way around Polytech with his eyes closed. To me it was a maze of narrow walkways, dark hallways, and dusty alcoves. We spent the night together in small, close room, drunk and laughing. When the squat got raided in the morning, he whisked me through a tunnel that emptied out into a truck yard. And we laughed and laughed.

Marc Dagger: There was a tunnel that went from where the DOT had all their trucks parked. And we would sneak up in there.

Silke Tudor: I know Little Joey had one of those unbelievable horror-show childhoods, but at that time he seemed so quick to laugh and so sure of himself. It was perfect night. There, with him. I heard that Joey lost his mind at some point. Too many drugs, too many memories. He didn’t die but he didn’t make it. People see him from time to time on the street, talking to him self. It’s heartbreaking.

Portia: One of the memories of Polytech is when Ouva and Rach-O got “married”. Many of us got dressed up in clothes from the drama room. Some crazy homeless guy named Red Dog conducted the ceremony. I cannot remember who involved the media, but someone from a paper came and took some pictures. Since we already considered ourselves a family, and had family titles for each other, such as brother, sister, and mother, a marriage among us wasn’t that big of a deal. However, this was the only time any of us had some type of ceremony. Rach-O must have orchestrated it. The wedding represents the end of Polytech for me, since its closure followed so soon after.

Silke Tudor: Was it Ouva and Rach-O? Or someone else? I can hardly remember now. But I felt privileged to be there. There was candlelight and cheap wine and everyone looked stunning. The whole place seemed to glow and vibrate. Maybe that was the drugs. I don’t know. There was blood exchanged. I felt like I had just witnessed some extraterrestrial union. It was like being given the secret password. Like I was part of a secret, autonomous world with its own rituals, rules, family ties, and systems of commerce. Our world had nothing to do with the one outside, except that we lived off that other world’s leftovers.

Portia: Eventually, they tore Polytech down to make low-income housing. Housing did get put up, but the “low income” part got lost.

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