Ghost Ship: Returning to Remember
Oakland – 12/4/2016 – More than a year and a half has passed since I opened this blog. I’ve turned mainly to Facebook and Mailchimp to make my activities known. But now that I’m about to launch a new website, which may be linked to this one, I’m remembering the importance of actually having a live, active page where people can check on my travels, events and current projects. People who relied exclusively on this blog for info about me would have totally missed so many cool stories—like my writings from post-earthquake Nepal, or my work with Kathmandu’s Camp Hope.
But what really turned me toward writing today’s entry was the incredibly tragic fire two days ago at Ghost Ship, an impossibly strange and beautiful Oakland venue for experimental art, dance and music. Some 40 young people appear to have perished in the blaze, making it one of the worst fire disasters in memory. The party was described as a “rave,” and the venue as a ramshackle warehouse that played havoc with codes.
But there was so much more to it than that. If you visit the link above, you’ll see how amazing the space really was. And this morning, my beloved friend Sharyl M. sent me this testimony, written by Kimya Dawson, one of the many artists who rely on such spaces for community, love and inspiration:
“It’s hard to find words. I have played in so many spaces with precarious floors and beams and stairs and not enough exits and certainly no sprinklers. Warehouses, squats, basements, rooftops, barns. Playing music saves my life. People tell me listening to music saves their lives. People telling me that my music saved their life saves my life even more. And we take the risks. Playing and listening in unsafe spaces. Because when we feel like we are dying anyway the risks don’t seem as risky as the risks we already face every day. The risk of self destructing. There aren’t enough places for us to gather. Our favorite places get turned into parking lots. So many clubs with their overhead and their staffs and their contracts and their lack of inclusivity and lack of tolerance and their age restrictions and their bars and their bigots. Those spaces are also unsafe just in different ways. Those spaces break you if you don’t make em the money. Because it’s always about the money. The fucking money. They will make you feel like a failure. Like a piece of shit. But all we can do is art. So we meet underground. We lurk in the shadows. And there it isn’t about success or failure. We sing and scream and cry and laugh and dance and group hug like cinnamon rolls and tell each other to get home safe and stay safe and be careful because the world is scary and the world is risky. We know we have to take care of each other.
So we meet in warehouses. Where we can just love on each other and escape from all the scariness and sadness. We take care of each other in our unsafe spaces that can feel so much safer than your safest spaces.
“Imagine you were on a sinking ship. And there is only one lifeboat. And someone screams that there is a chance the lifeboat might tip over.
“You’ll take that chance.
“If I hadn’t had people inviting me to their unconventional venues over the years I would have been dead a long long time ago.
“We’re not trying to put each other in danger. We are trying to save each other’s lives. We love each other so much.
“I love you all.
Nothing more to say except to express my deepest sadness for all those who lost a child, a partner, a loved one in the fire. And to hope that this tragedy will not impede the flow of jubilant creativity that has made Oakland one of the Earth’s most edgy, exciting, progressive places to live.