Sunday, December 4, 2016

Ghost Ship Blues

I've never been there, yet I know this place.  It has had incarnations across the Earth, and in all eras. The one I knew was in Portland, Oregon in the early 90's. I was in my early 20's.

I don't remember its name, or even if it had a name.  There are things I do remember, but I don't think I can put them in any particular order.  (Besides, the order of things, once you can read Heptapod.. hmmm... I find myself thinking about the dialogue that might have happened around the table during the making of Arrival...was there an Agenda Item 2b:  Hepta vs. Septa,  or was it just a discussion that began organically, where someone had an idea and the other person said, "Yeah, and..." my money's on the latter...  all the good jobs in the future belong to the creative class anyway... as I get older, I find I have less and less tolerance for meetings with agendas, real or hidden... whatever, my point is that somehow or other they decided to use Greek instead of Latin...and oh yeah, I forgot it was a book first, so the decision was actually probably the original author's, so never mind).

As I was saying:  the order of things, once you can read Heptapod, is less important, and your linear thoughts may well start talking in circles, just like that parenthetical non-sentence above.

The List of Things I Remember in No Particular Order

1.  The Mezzanine that came alive at night
2.  The beyond-handsome Mexican poet
3.  The openness of the kitchen -  every pot, pan, dish, glass on makeshift shelving
4.  The vintage sofa with warm crocheted afghan
5.  The slight chill.  Hence: afghan
6.  The smell of tobacco and herb
7.  The random communal drum kit
8.  The long hair and knit sweaters and trench coats
9.  The gloves with the fingers cut off, on whose hands I longed to have hold me
10.  The sketchy neighborhood (that would become gentrified in ten years)
11.  The openness of everything
12.  The awkwardness of everything

Awkward because I wanted to belong, fully, completely; there was a heady mix of nostalgia for the past and promise for the future that led to art, and which I understood at a cellular level.  But I Didn't. Quite. Belong.  Not Totally.  I was a first-year teacher, trying to adult for the first time, head still full of revolutionary educational ideas, but also full of an MAT degree, lessons to plan, meetings to attend, and students to be responsible for.

I loved it though.  I loved the company and the conversation most of all.

There are so many moments in your hazy young 20's you forget.  But you never forget dumpster diving with the artist boy/man crush (and that one time you found and hauled out your favorite teak desk that is now in your 16-year-old's room), then returning to his cluttered/clean apartment in the warehouse, and smoking cigarettes, and having a 26-year-old Mexican poet drop in to read to you from his journal.

I was never quite sure if it was safer to take the stairs or the elevator.  They were both adventures.

I don't mean to idealize this life, either.  Some of it was filled with drugs, some with despair. But I would venture to say that it wasn't much different than your average home at the time, just less hidden. And it was alive.  Of that, there is no doubt.  I'm also certain that people will start looking for someone to blame, and that the owner of the building is going to have to "own" his part of the tragedy.

Anyway, that's just a whole lotta words to simply say, no matter what the circumstances:
I mourn the loss of the Ghost Ship, its people, its heritage, and its future.



2 comments:

Kirsten said...

Thank you! It is really hard for artists to find a safe, warm living space, and a space to work. In our big cities, it is almost impossible. Some people may live in these kinds of environments out of a lifestyle choice, but others, especially young people, have no choice where they live if they are an artist. In London, property developers manipulate the planning (zoning) system by offering live/work spaces to artists, but still at expensive rents, and reap the rewards of rent, planning decisions that give them a 'wedge' to change commercial or industrial premises eventually into residential units (which they can sell or rent at an exponentially inflated price) - and they also get the 'gentrification' that artist communities always bring.

Suzanne Burkle said...

You are such a beautiful soul. Thank you for writing such heartfelt words.