Monday, October 29, 2018


Casting around for a source of business to replace sexwork, the Cinematheque group thought about something they knew very well: marijuana.  They had been sophisticated consumers for years, depending on the weed in cigarettes to ease both physical pain and emotional stress.  Now they considered being producers.  The Netherlands was a country that legalized marijuana long before Canada.  The group thought about sending a small group of older boys to try growing marijuana indoors because of the number of empty warehouses and abandoned factory floors.  Netherlands is a shipping town, which is one source of its tolerance, but it meant that the shifting needs of commerce didn't quite match the existing buildings.

But one of the most common afflictions of the infected was lung stress.  The cold damp of a land that was only prevented from being underwater by constant attention to dikes was not helpful.  The group had a hot tub, which helped, but it meant that if someone tried to conserve energy by turning it off a night, some people had to wait for it to heat up again in the morning before they could move, even then with pain.  Qi, the half-Chinese boy who was smart as the big boys but vulnerable to his not-quite-healed lungs was disgusted at having to stay behind.

Under the warehouses were long passages meant to carry pipes and wires for electricity, water, and so on.  Some had imagination and fancied that they were an underground world left from WWII when a strong resistance to Naziism did their work.  Since they had come from Paris, others thought of the catacombs.  The city is honeycombed underground by the mining of "plaster of Paris," a limestone bed of huge proportions. When a major cemetery was decommissioned due to the need for land, the bones had to go someplace, but since people didn't quite have the stomach to burn them, the underground tunnels were converted to ossuaries where human bones are kept.  They have become so famous that they are a tourist attraction.  

The boys knew this.  They were also aware of the catacombs that were the refuge of early persecuted Christians who held Mass in a space so full of bats that both chalice and platen were kept covered with linen napkins to keep debris out.  it was the kind of Gothic Halloween spooky place that appealed to youngsters forced to embrace the gruesome and neglected.  They organized a performance down in those tunnels.  Conor, who had worked hard to get well enough to join a dance group in LA, came back to visit and was a little affronted by being asked to make plaster skulls for stage decoration, but he did it.  Online research for images and stories proved to be a rich resource.

A friend of the group in the Netherlands was Aad de Gids, an eloquent poet and existentialist philosopher who worked as a psychiatric nurse.  He was part of an international circle of poets (Paul Toth, Dom Gabrielli) on Facebook which Tim et al joined for a while.  It was a much more intellectual version of the taste for the visionary horror that is so much a part of our world.  Aad persists on Facebook.  Back then the Cinematheque group had grown to enjoy putting vids and essays in that space.  Until everything suddenly disappeared with no warning or backup.  Aad and others protested loudly with no effect.

Since the blackout happened just as the idea of a "vlog" (a blog with video) had just become technologically possible, suspicion grew that a commercial enterprise had pulled strings to close out Cinematheque's version.  But also the ghost of propriety offended made the group suspicious that they were again victims of Aunt Grundy's dislike of the unsavory.  

Another person connected to this poetry group was Dr. Rachel Bardhan, a English woman of means, who had an anthropological degree and sympathy for boys of any kind.  She was also indignant at the wiping of the group from Facebook but had the ability to do something about it.  At that point she devised "Real Stories Gallery", a website based in India where she had connections, and its accompanying Real Stories Gallery Foundation, praised by Bishop Tutu for its beliefs and actions against suffering.

This virtual "place" was a constantly changing repository and exhibit space for the world of boys.  Do not go there if you are easily shocked.  Boys who lived on the streets only through being abused know things you don't want to know, though you may drive past them in your comfortable cars.  Their first task is often to solidify looming and undefined emotional reactions into realities, names and places that can be more conventionally seen.

Persisting for a decade, the complex supported a number of enterprises that reached out to youngsters around the world.  Remarkably, quite young children in Third World places somehow had smart phones and made contact from around the planet.  For a few years even authoritarian countries didn't imagine such a phenomenon and therefore left them alone.  As boys matured and got hold of understanding, they sometimes became online mentors.  All children were sent small GoPro video cameras they could hide and carry undetected. Kids who couldn't read or speak English could make images. The enterprise was multi-lingual.

One boy had the unimaginable task of bonding with and supporting an African boy in a dangerous place.  The boy became bold and sent video he made of rebels attacking women.  Though he had been carefully hidden on a rooftop, he was eventually found out and hacked to bits with a machete.  The group was horrified.  At least he was properly mourned by his mentor and the other boys.  It was a high price to pay for helping someone -- bearing their death.  It can't be done alone, even by the old and wise.

But sometimes, esp. with a little care from others, poor children can escape from cracked concrete and putrid slime, -- can walk on a pristine beach or through rustling woods.  Happiness is not a matter of materialism, wanting to buy things.  It is possible, with a little help, to just "be" in the world.  It's good for lungs. Especially with others who care.

We are in a time of tension between community and individual, heightened by the technological extension of the world through electronics.  Communities split and shatter under our hands, even families fall apart or produce children they can not raise or even love.  At the other extreme individuals enter the horror, submerging their humanity in rage, destruction, blaming.  

This has happened before.  Netherlands has fought hard to be an open port, even after the irony of losing a major colony, New York City.  The most important product of all is ideas, which can travel across continents and oceans via smart phone.  What if Anne Frank, captive in her attic, could have put her diary online?

No comments: