“I’m a Criminal”

“I’m a criminal.”

Napkin, my interviewee, lowers his eyes as he says this, only to glance back up with a side smirk, and, unable to hold it in any longer, bursts out laughing.

“I stole a popsicle.”

From a school. But don’t worry, he had a mask on and made sure to stay away from the cameras, allowing only three minutes to get in and out from the roof.

Napkin is a builderer (buildering: bil-der-ing/noun: the practice of climbing tall urban buildings for sport or publicity…though for Napkin the reasoning is more like “why not?”). Unfortunately, I’m not at liberty to publish the hilarious (to me) tales of builders gone wrong (or maybe right, depending on your perspective?), but Napkin has given me some pointers to master this black sheep type (the fourth discipline) of climbing.

  • Elementary schools, small groups of 2-3 people, and experienced partners are a good start. Large groups can lead to trouble if you get caught, and it’s always a good idea to have people who know what they’re doing, especially if you don’t. To get the hang (pun intended) of climbing buildings, short routes are the way to go.
  • Be prepared (for anything and everything). Sometimes, appendages of buildings break. Make sure you read your routes (I’ve never heard that one before…I wonder if buildering really is an extension of rock climbing…hmm). Decide how you’re going to scale the building and where your rests will be, keeping in mind the different materials and surfaces you may encounter (meanwhile accounting for temperature). Have escape routes if you find yourself in an undesirable situation. Your group should have a designated meet-up spot in case you get separated. Be sure to stay away from cameras (who needs big brother watching you while you’re having a good time?).
  • You’re there to climb, not vandalize. Just like when you’re out on rock, be respectful of your building. #LeaveNoTrace that you were ever on the building in the first place. If a guard tells you, “hey, get down,” obey and head out. Have respect!
  • Construction buildings are what’s up. Since they’re not fully finished yet, construction buildings have more fun routes. Napkin’s favorites are hospitals under construction; they’re a little more threatening, there’s a little more to learn, and the “highs” (pun intended, again) are unbeatable. Much like drugs or rock climbing, as you progress in buildering you want to do increasingly more daunting builders.
  • Don’t panic. Only attempt what you know is in your range. If you happen do find yourself in a stressful situation, though, Napkin has you covered. Visualize your route. Take in deep breaths, exhaling your anxiety. If you want to descend, down climb very slowly and carefully. If you need to drop and it’s safe to do so, drop and roll out, just like on a boulder.

In buildering, the top isn’t really your goal. When you’re on a building, you’re zoned in. You’re exhilarated because your “life is in your hands.” Buildering frees you and brings you peace.

But don’t forget to chuckle at the whimsical artifacts on the roofs of buildings. While wasps are pretty common, there’s a few other fun (natural and unnatural) treasures up there. Plants growing from busted pipes always add a nice wild feeling to buildings. Decapitated dolls are a bit more on the unnatural side of the spectrum, but at least are more interesting than the water bottles (remember the water bottle flipping challenge?) and tennis/lacrosse/base/you name the sport balls. The greatest treasure, according to Napkin at least, is a batman Lego character. After climbing up buildings, you basically are batman, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.

Still, you may be asking, okay, buildering is cool and stuff and yeah it’s like free soling but why? What’s the point?

As it comes down to it with most activities, it’s all about boredom. Just like teenage boys, you just want to see what you can get away with.

And maybe that includes taking a popsicle from an elementary school after topping it.


Editor’s Notes:

  • theDIHEDRAL does not condone or encourage any illegal activities.
  • Pursue buildering at your own risk.
  • Please reach out with any questions for Napkin!
High-Clip (Co-writer)

13 Replies to ““I’m a Criminal””

    1. He had this “massive” tree in his front yard that he and his brother used to climb. Later, when he was thirteen, his brother took him out to an elementary school for his first builder. It was all the bro!

      Liked by 3 people

  1. And such people put tarps over Notre Dame cathedral to protect it from the rain. 🙂

    I also enjoyed climbing the stone walls of our nearest Safeway store and various other conspicuous masonry projects AND the stone walls in my kitchen in CA. I had to in order to clean the top of my fridge because I didn’t have a step ladder. I dunno it’s just fun to climb walls… it kind of denies their power to climb them. I always found it (and would still) a light-hearted absurd grab for height. How many guys go around saying, “Dude, I free-soloed Safeway last Saturday.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. You guys are funny! If I was younger and not disabled I may try something like that. I can still do it in my mind. That’s one thing my disability has not taken from me and hopefully never does. Right now I’m recovering from a broken ankle so I can’t even go hiking. It’s driving me crazy! Which brings me to another question. Has Napkin ever gotten injured while buildering?


    1. Thanks! Yes, reading routes is pretty cool too. Good luck with the ankle!
      Only scrapes and bruises, nothing serious like a sprain or broken bone for Napkin!


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