Buffalo Man Lives In Underground Bunker
Buffalo Man Lives In Underground Bunker
Clarence Rounds and his Bunker Home
Posted by: Stefan Mychajliw
Believe it or not, there's a guy that's been living in an underground bunker in Buffalo for the past six years.
His name is Clarence Rounds. He's 47-years-old. His home is literally down to earth.
2 On Your Side's Stefan Mychajliw: "Why this lifestyle?"
Rounds: "I just wanted something simple, and basic, down to earth."
Mychajliw: "What is it about this lifestyle that suits you?"
Rounds: "I pretty much, am on my own. And I'm my own boss here. I do what I want to do."
The Buffalo man said he was living on Squaw Island and had to leave once the area was cleaned up and turned into a park.
He was walking in the section of the City where he lives now, found a fairly wooded area, and decided to build a bunker as his home.
It took him about two years to dig the roughly 16-by-20 foot underground home. It's close to six-and-a-half feet deep.
Mychajliw: "How did you do it?"
Rounds: "With a bucket and a shovel, day by day. I'd go to the soup kitchen, and then I'd just start digging the hole. The bunker is more energy efficient and loses less heat. I wouldn't be exposed to the wind. And I wouldn't need to build any walls. I'd just use the dirt for the walls. So I'd only need a roof. So it was more economics that I did it for."
Clarence went to the Buffalo Public Library and read engineering books to learn how to make the bunker as structurally sound as possible. The initial fear was that heavy winter snow would cause it to collapse.
"I got books on roof framing, post framing, and things like that, so that I would have the formulas available to calculate the loads properly so the roof wouldn't collapse on me while I was sleeping," added Rounds.
A car battery serves as the main source of power for a small light and clock just above his bed.
That car battery is also connected to a spliced extension cord that powers a radio with speakers inside and outside of the bunker.
There's a fireplace with a vent that serves as a heat source and stove.
And then there's the issue of a bathroom.
Mychajliw: "This is somewhat of an embarrassing question, it's the first thing I thought of: what about a bathroom?"
Rounds: "The bathroom? I use the porta-john that I got from one of the elderly people in the neighborhood. They donated it to me, because they knew I needed that."
It isn't exactly a porta-john.
It's a walker that has a toilet seat positioned over a bucket.
Some canned goods like peanut butter and pork and beans are on a small shelf, as well as a number of books, including a Bible and a paperback copy of "The Black Marble," by Joseph Wambaugh.
Mychajliw: "Do you ever get lonely?"
Rounds: "I don't get lonely. I try to keep myself busy. I've got my drafting. I love to read books. And I always try to learn stuff."
According to Rounds, he didn't know his father and his mother passed away at the age of 29. He grew up in an orphanage, spent time studying at Seneca Vocational High School, and served two years in the Army "during the Carter Administration."
He is Native American, states his family is from the Arapaho tribe.
Mychajliw: "Do you feel as though growing up in an orphanage either led to this or this type of lifestyle?"
Rounds: "It changes you for sure, especially at a young age. I grew up in an institution. I didn't have much family around me. So I didn't have a support network there to help me out with that."
Money for food is earned through a number of odd jobs like landscaping, construction and roofing.
That's how he learned how to put together his bunker.
Mychajliw: "What about the property itself? Anyone ever give you a hard time about being here?"
Rounds: "Nobody has given me a hard time. I've never bothered my neighbors. I support my neighbors. I keep people away from their fence line."
There's a fire pit outside of the bunker and some touches of home, including a Sabres flag and a "Welcome Friends" mat near the ladder to the bunker.
Mychajliw: "I think a lot of people would think, Clarence, why doesn't the guy just get a house, get an apartment?"
Rounds: "A lot of people have asked me that question. I like it here. I like nature. I like to be in the woods. I grew up as a child; I always wanted a cabin in the woods. Like Michael Landon in Little House On The Prairie."
Mychajliw: "People could think, this guy is nuts?"
Rounds: "I'm not nuts. I'm a clever person. I use clever ideas. I use the materials that are given to me in life and God's talents that are given to me, to make this a possibility. It's not easy hanging here; it's a lot of work."
Mychajliw: "Why not just get an apartment?"
Rounds: "I know. It just seems to me this is a worthwhile thing to do. It's down to earth, and it makes me happy."
Mychajliw: "How happy are you?"
Rounds: "I'm happy. I'm a happy, go lucky guy. Life in general is pretty good. I don't think of my life as being bad. Life is just a continuation of yesterday."
Black Blade: When things look bleak and hopeless, you sometimes come across stories like this showing that people can survive anything. Actually this looks more like an adventure and a test of survival skills.
Freegans forage for food, loathe waste
Freegans forage for food, loathe waste
BY NIRVI SHAH AND SIVAN FRASIER
Shoulder-deep in a Coral Springs commercial trash bin, Brian Sprinkle was feeling hot and sweaty -- and lucky.
Dented boxes of spaghetti and containers of croissants, plus potatoes, onions, bananas, plastic-wrapped hunks of watermelon and baby portobello mushrooms were stacked outside the Dumpster, in cardboard boxes he had also found inside.
``This is what happens when you have a consumer society,'' Sprinkle said, pausing for a moment between gloveless dives to the bottom of the metal bin.
``Corn in the husk,'' said Sprinkle, 25, of Fort Lauderdale. ``That's my favorite.''
Meet the ultimate anti-consumer.
Since a time long before double-digit unemployment, widespread foreclosures and the collective closing of American wallets, a sliver of society has gotten by on the rest of society's discards. Sprinkle, his friends and thousands of others across the country are freegans, people who eschew capitalism whenever possible and loathe waste.
``Freeganism is kind of a protest, a boycott against a society that is pretty much run on slavery and genocide,'' said Brian Mulligan, 22, of Coral Springs. He frequents Dumpsters on his own and with Sprinkle. To avoid contributing to a system he dislikes, he doesn't work.
Indeed, the freegan movement is a reaction to the modern global economy, said Janet Kalish of New York-based freegan.info. Many freegans believe that nearly everything produced harms the earth or its creatures in some way.
``We're trying to resist buying and contributing to this system,'' she said. ``We're built on overproduction. We have an economy based on destructiveness. For the big machine of our economy to keep on rolling means we have to be exploitive of our planet.''
Freegan practices can vary from Dumpster diving to backyard gardening, Kalish said. And though freegans get their name from a contraction of the words free and vegan, not all are vegetarian, she said.
``We're just trying to provoke creativity. People can pursue their own way of being apart from the system,'' she said. ``There are people who squat. Or build their own wigwams. There's people who manage to live on very little money. I don't think it matters whether they call themselves freegan or not.''
Ivania Reyes of Pembroke Park doesn't have a label for her daily trips to the back entrance of grocery stores, where she has become a fixture. She just wanted to figure out a way to help people get by in the mobile home park she manages.
She became friendly with store employees, who now supply her with food that is trash-bin bound.
Sympathetic workers have provided her with birthday cakes, mangoes, brownies, pineapples and watermelons. A recent coup: 86 unopened boxes of Danish she distributed door-to-door in the Lake Shore Mobile Home Community.
``I really enjoy helping people,'' said Reyes, 51, who is also motivated to rescue food that would otherwise be thrown out. ``I do it to help a lot of people who don't have jobs. I never did this before'' the economy was so bad.
Leftover food is the biggest single component of American trash, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Americans throw away more than 25 percent of all food prepared -- about 96 billion pounds of waste annually.
And the country spends about $1 billion a year to get rid of it.
Reyes said many of the tenants in the mobile home community where she works can barely afford their rent -- 47 of the nearly 100 tenants are behind on their payments -- and she hopes her contributions of salvaged food will help cut their expenses.
Sprinkle and his friends also pay forward the fruits -- and vegetables -- of their labor.
They cook their finds into curries, soups and stews that they share Friday afternoons in Fort Lauderdale's Stranahan Park with anyone who cares to join them.
Kalish, Sprinkle and other freegans acknowledge that, at the moment, the waste products of the very capitalist economy they dislike fuel their ability to live the way they do.
``A certain amount of capitalism has to prevail or there won't be any free stuff or cheap stuff for the rest of us to find,'' said Anneli Rufus, 50, who published The Scavenger's Manifesto with her husband Kristan Lawson, 48, earlier this year.
The pair don't consider themselves freegans -- they pay for medicines, housing, eyeglasses and some of their food. But they abide by their own philosophy of ``scavenomics.''
``We like to get whatever free that we can get for free,'' Rufus said.
The Berkeley, Calif., residents haven't bought new clothes in at least five years and grow some of their own food using seeds from fruits and vegetables they've eaten or seeds they acquired for free at seed swaps.
``Sometimes all you can do is cut coupons out of the newspaper. Sometimes all you can do is go to yard sales,'' Rufus said.
``Some people are in it for the environment. Some people do it to save money. Some people do it for political reasons.''
Snowbird and businessman Russ Erickson, who winters in Key West, spends nearly nothing on his modest life of thrifting and foraging for food. He lives much of the year in his van, gets his clothes from yard sales or second-hand stores and showers at truck stops.
``Everybody's got too much stuff in their life,'' said Erickson, 67, a former contractor who turned bitter about the American consumer lifestyle.
Now, he is co-owner of a doggy daycare business in North Carolina where he works occasionally. But he is more likely to be found waiting outside buffet-style restaurants until the end of the evening to eat what would otherwise be thrown away.
``People are afraid to take chances and live on the fly because they want their creature comforts and stuff like that. They're spoiled. The whole society is spoiled,'' he said.
``My philosophy in life is that less is more. You can be happy with almost nothing.''
Sprinkle said he and his like-minded friends feel the same way.
They find spending time together as fulfilling as others may find shopping.
``We're not a very materialistic bunch. We don't have the craving to buy lots of things. Our main goal is to have lots of good food and get together,'' he said, although the occasional Dumpster score of discarded books is welcome.
But a lifestyle of finding treasure in others' trash isn't the ultimate goal of freeganism, Kalish said.
``A better vision is that we won't have supermarkets the way we are now. We won't be Dumpster diving. We will have changed the system so we're not exploiting people and habitats and animals. We'll be growing more locally,'' she said.
``I would think that we can picture a system where it's about responsible disposal of things, responsible production of things and making things that are built to work -- not built to break.''
Black Blade: Yep, we call it "Dumpster Diving".