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Oakland's Ghost Ship. (RIP) I know this scene. Intimately. I've been to these warehouses and work/live spaces. I've gone to art installations, band practices, shows, parties, events in places exactly like that. I have never lived in one because....although wylde at heart I have a practical mind. These places are not safe. They are hidey holes. And it's apparent from the moment you enter. And they all have these hip names, the buildings have NAMES. One of the crazier places I spent years of my youth was a plaster warehouse on the edge of the railroad tracks. My roommates were in a band that practiced in a basement room therein. Ceilings were about seven feet high, nasty shag carpet thrown on the dirt floor. A deathtrap. And I would jump happily down the flight of stairs, in funeral boots or ragged Doc Martens, but drag a stool right to the bottom there and sit and smoke and drink. Feeling the night air on my shoulder. I literally could not be coaxed deeper into that den.

There was another warehouse in SF that we frequented because of the underground shows. Saw some insane music there. INSANE. But the night that SPK (surgical penis klinic) began grinding on steel drums with electric sanders and the sparks were arcing out over the stage and audience, I simply walked out. No. Spent hours hunkered down on a cold wet rain-saoked sidewalk, porno signs flashing neon up and down the street, bums and pimps wandering past, chainsmoking imported John Players. But I couldn't go bring myself to go back inside.

I do have a fear of being trapped. Cleithrophobia. I used to rent the back bedroom in a shotgun second floor apartment. There was no door out, just a window, but I had taken the screen out and practiced climbing in and out in preparation of the night my roomies finally decided to kill each other rather than just beat the crap out of one another. They never did, but sleeping with a chair shoved under the doorknob and listening to their antics most nights went a long way towards cementing my panic at the idea of being cornered.

I had the opportunity to rent the attic where Squeaky Fromme lived while planning her assassination of President Ford...but one look at that third floor space with the narrow steep staircase and the painted shut dormer windows...I knew I couldn't live there.

Anyway. Not sure exactly where I'm going with this. Just watching the nightly news and how suprised so many folks seem to be about the treacherous nature of most work/live spaces. Has had me wandering backwards a bit.

The Motion of Puppets arrived yesterday and I'm looking forward to that. And You Must Change Your Life. What books are you looking forward to disappearing into?

I really cannot stop listening to this album. The videos and live versions are just absolutely stunning.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 10th, 2016 09:04 pm (UTC)
You have a more interesting past than I imagined.
Dec. 10th, 2016 09:20 pm (UTC)
Heh. Not sure it's as much interesting as it was misspent. Don't forget, while I was avoiding a club fire you were a few streets over studying contract law.
Dec. 10th, 2016 11:03 pm (UTC)
But your memories are so much more fun than mine!
Dec. 10th, 2016 09:14 pm (UTC)
*gentle hugs*

I've been in a number of similar spaces, both events and squats, and some of them terrified me similarly.

When the club can only be reached by a 3-floor rickety wooden staircase and has no other exits, or the stage is hooked up to a frayed extension cord spliced into exposed wiring, someone should know that it's dangerous.

OTOH, marginal/marginalized people get pushed into marginal/fringe spaces . Not only financial barriers get in the way of renting safer spaces, there are also issues of discrimination from landlords and zoning boards.

We need to find a balance between making spaces accessible for artists and creators, and allowing human lives to be put at risk.

(It would be nice if, for example, municipalities allowed abandoned buildings to be rented for events, on the condition that they are kept up to fire code.)


Dec. 10th, 2016 09:27 pm (UTC)
I do NOT want to blame any of the victims. At all! But I have spent years thinking about subculture and this need to be on the fringes. I know we have lived in different cities, A, and I know, for a fact!, that rural living as an alt-lifestyler is far more difficult than big city living...but in the capitol of California, I didn't see any marginalization at all. Same in London. I know your experience is different. But I knew plenty of seriously fringe folks who had jobs and legal dwellings and worked their asses off to insure that their events were safe. Then...there was this element. This slumming psychology. Old buildings are some of the coolest places on earth, but not habitable. And that's too bad but in earthquake country the cost to retrofit is not doable and the buildings should be torn down. But here they are occupied by "artists" for reasons that are far too complicated to outline easily. Suffice it to say, if you have to climb a stack of pallets to get to a rickety floor with bad wiring and folks are sleeping in hovels below you and other folks are smoking and leaping about....and there is no fire escape let alone any sort of modern safety feature....you have to come to a place where you realize that your life is in danger because of your desire to marginalize yourself. Perfectly safer parties going on in another part of town.

I know the cry here is rent is too high. It is!!! No question. But that's why so many of us shared space. That's why so many of us had to move out of the cities and create subculture in suburbia.

The cities are right to feel the pressure now to investigate these spaces and play the role of rational adult. They aren't livable. Maybe....workable, sure, but not domiciles.

Dec. 10th, 2016 11:07 pm (UTC)
I've wandered around an old abandoned warehouse before, but I was severely freaked out the whole time. No way I'd be able to live or work in one. I'd be out there on the sidewalk with you.

I got a copy of Ariel at the used bookstore that I cannot wait to read. Soon you will be off the shelf, little poetry book.
Dec. 10th, 2016 11:47 pm (UTC)
I used to spend inordinate amounts of time inside industrial buildings. I love them! But yeah, living in them...I always look for an exit anytime I go into a space.

Ah, Ariel! That's not easy. And I love "A Death in the Family". ;) It was my first choice for my imaginary "Death in Literature" class I was going to teach...with leather patches on the elbows of my sleeves. But I thought your review was brilliant.

I'm struggling with The Puppets because it has echoes of my still unpublished novella and that makes me froth.
Dec. 11th, 2016 01:18 am (UTC)
The only reason I stuck with "A Death in the Family" is because it's set in Knoxville and I'm a sucker for anything set local to where I am. (Knoxville counts. There's not much difference between East Tennessee and Western Carolina.) I think I would have appreciated it more without the italicized bits.
Dec. 11th, 2016 04:33 pm (UTC)
When we get our bus, imma visit you!

The book is flawed, no question, but for its age and for the directness of it...it's pretty unusual.
Dec. 11th, 2016 04:57 pm (UTC)
According to what I read on Goodreads, the italicized parts weren't part of the original story. Agee's editor added them in for whatever reason. Michael Lofaro published Agee's intended manuscript in 2007 and it's supposed to be a lot tighter. I might give that a read one day just to see the differences.
Dec. 11th, 2016 01:34 am (UTC)
When you decide to write your autobiography I want a copy. No seriously, I do. You have lived a fascinating life, done so many different things, and you had a life...what's it called?..a considered life?..an aware life?..you lived a thoughtful life, rich in learning and thinking. You see things, and reflect on things, and I find myself responding to so many of your shared thoughts by thinking, wow I never would have thought of that, but it makes total sense.

You just see so much!

Dec. 11th, 2016 04:35 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks, M! I think I'm far too private to ever pen an autobio....plus there are some emotional bits I don't think I could ever re-live.

Dec. 12th, 2016 06:06 am (UTC)
I understand. I would never do it because I have nothing to say. (Smile)
Dec. 11th, 2016 08:08 pm (UTC)
I love those old buildings too - I stayed in one once, in Philadelphia, when I was 16, had run away from my school, and was picked up by kind hippies who gave me shelter. I never saw such picturesque squalor; it was cold and grubby there, but oddly enchanting.

"you have to come to a place where you realize that your life is in danger because of your desire to marginalize yourself."

Oh so true. I'm reminded of one of Brautigan's lines: "I was about seventeen and made lonely and strange by that Pacific Northwest of so many years ago, that dark, rainy land of 1952. I’m thirty-one now and I still can’t figure out what I meant by living the way I did in those days."

Sheesh, first the Silver Swan; now Keith Donoghue - I want to read The Motion of Puppets too! and also Stolen Child, and another I noticed by a different author, that looked interesting: A House On The Bottom Of A Lake. As for You Must Change Your Life: thank you!! The perfect gift for The Man Who Wants Nothing (but who loves both Rilke and Rodin) - haha, and then I can read it too. ^^

I ran across this in my travels, and thought it might interest you: Why These Anatomical Models Are Not Disgusting. I don't find them disgusting at all, but rather some complex blend of sad, lovely, hilarious and fascinating. Sheesh, humans are strange. I guess none of us can figure out what we mean by living the way we do: that's what God is supposed to be for.

When I was about seventeen, I said that if I ever wrote my autobiography, I'd have to publish it as fiction under a pen name, because no one would ever believe it was true, and also my family would be very displeased. That was 42 years ago, and a lot more has happened, so... no; just No. If My Daughter The Writer wishes to do anything with my stuff after I'm gone, that'll be her choice: all our family that could possibly care will be gone by then too.

Edited at 2016-12-11 08:14 pm (UTC)
Dec. 12th, 2016 12:54 am (UTC)

This also hit me close to home, I lived in a squat in west oakland for five months and an illegal warehouse space in SF for almost 2 years (that I legit paid almost $1000 a month rent for)

I'm currently living with family on the other side of the country though and sad to be so far away from the bay area community during this sad time.

I do think that this will mean more enforcment of building codes and inspections, and while I do want people to be safe! I'm worried about even more displacement and homlessness in the bay.

There was a chain hipster movie theater that moved into the mission last year and when they bought the building there were homless people who were kicked out and the hipsters who were managing the theater while I worked there (for only a month before quiting) called the storage space in the basement "Joel's hole" because of the graffiti on the walls, it creeped me out that they were making a joke of it and hadn't even considered that "Joel" was probbably now sleeping in a tent on market street.

on another note: I just got my copy of What to Remember When Wakingyeaterday which was perfect timing because I woke up feeling anxious this morning after experiencing sleep paralysis last night for the first time in awhile. I am really enjoying it so far! Thanks!

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )