Place: Hiro’s U-Stor-It

This post is a Place Description quoted from Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash.  I love this description a “home” which Hiro has chosen both because he can’t afford anything better and as a statement of principle – rejecting the bourgeois values of the corporate run ‘burbclaves’ that are his alternative.


“Hiro Protagonist and Vitaly Chernobyl, roommates, are chilling out in their home, a spacious 20-by-30 in a U-Stor-It in Inglewood, California.  The room has a concrete slab floor, corrugated steel walls separating it from the neighboring units, and – this is a mark of distinction and luxury – a roll-up steel door that faces north-west, giving them a few red rays at times like this, when the sun is setting over LAX.  From time to time, a 777 or a Sukhoi/Kawasaki Hypersonic Transport will taxi in front of the sun and block the sunset with its rudder, or just mangle the red light with its jet exhaust, braiding the parallel rays into a dappled pattern on the wall.

“But there are worse places to live.  There are much worse places right here in this U-Stor-It.  Only the big units like this one have their own doors.  Most of them are accessed via a communal loading dock that leads to a maze of wide corrugated-steel hallways and freight elevators.  These are slum housing, 5-by-10s and 10-by-10s where Yanoama tribespersons cook beans and parboil fistfuls of coca leaves over heaps of burning lottery tickets.

“No one has ever tried to break into Hiro and Vitaly’s unit because there’s nothing in there to steal, and at this point in their lives, neither one of them is important enough to kill, kidnap or interrogate.  Hiro owns a couple of nice Nipponese swords, but he always wears them, and the whole idea of stealing fantastically dangerous weapons presents the would-be perp with inherent dangers and contradictions: When you are wrestling for possession of s sword, the man with the handle always wins.  Hiro also has a pretty nice computer that he usually takes with him when he goes anywhere.  Vitaly owns half a carton of Lucky Strikes, an electric guitar, and a hangover.

“At the moment, Vitaly Chernobyl is stretched out on a futon, quiescent, and Hiro Protagonist is sitting cross legged at a low table, Nipponese style, consisting of a cargo pallet set on cinderblocks.

“As the sun sets, its red light is supplanted by the light of many neon logos emanating from the franchise ghetto that constitutes this U-Stor-It’s natural habitat.  This light, known as loglo, fills in the shadowy corners of the unit with seedy, oversaturated colors.

“Four things are on the cargo pallet: a bottle of expensive beer from the Puget Sound area, which Hiro cannot really afford; a long sword known in Nippon as a katana and a short sword known as a wakazashi – Hiro’s father looted these from Japan after World War II went atomic – and a computer.”

3 responses to “Place: Hiro’s U-Stor-It

  1. Great idea!

    Who we are and how we live are woven together in an endless feedback. Authors call it setting, and labor over it. There is a lot to be learned from gleaning out their place descriptions and giving them some thought.

    After reading this, I’m going to be thinking about how several of my favorite authors would describe my home.
    Should be very illuminating.

    • Thanks for your comment, Denise.
      Hiro’s U-Stor-It apartment isn’t where I would want to live but since he spends most of his time living in the world of the internet it suits him perfectly. And, actually, I think it represents a very chic minimalist aesthetic by certain standards. I can actually see an interior like this ending up on the cover of Dwell.

  2. Pingback: Stuff and Nonsense « Dwelling Places·

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