The Fruitvale Ghost Ship

I live in California, a place with a Mad Max-like underground of disenfranchised people, who wish to live for free, and who style themselves as artists.

I say “style themselves” because so much of their time is spent goofing off, commune-like, trying to find inner peace through ingesting psychedelics, working off excess energy to electronic dance music and casual sex.

dredlock-girl  party-crowd


Not wanting to sound like an old fogey tsking over unsafe sex and laziness, the reality of my viewpoint is that I worry about the aimless young women being pressured into sex for a place to sleep safely.

Not wanting to sound like a disapproving matron over drug use and altered states of being, the reality of my viewpoint is that I worry about the aimless young women trying to find enlightenment in an ecstasy tab, and waking to the reality of being raped while they and their companions were out of their minds.

And I worry about the kids they appear to be dragging along with them on their journey to nowhere.


Into all of this comes the Fruitvale Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire.

Don’t get me wrong.  My generation had similar youth who pursued escape through punk rock.  The only difference between today’s youth and the young folks of the 70s, 80s and 90s is the filth.  It sounds silly to say, but at least our youth were (somewhat) concerned about hygiene and looking appealing.  Yes, they fell into drugs and alcohol, too, but for the most point the young men were pursuing a music career, and the young women were pursuing the guys with the self-destructive tendencies, unusual hair and the musical instruments.

tumblr_mu0ix6w2vl1r4lh02o1_500   3ad298be1d18432d6b6f91dc2c52407d


Like their mothers before them, they saw themselves as an adjunct of men, and instead of pursuing an Mrs Degree with a focus on 2.5 kids and a home in the suburbs, my generation focused on escaping their little pink houses and living the lifestyles of the rich and shameless, hard rock style.

As my TV is taken over with hourly news reports of the young artists who lost their lives in the Ghost Ship Warehouse, located in the Fruitvale section of Oakland, I can’t help but dwell on how we have failed those folks who are 20 years or more younger than me.

Born in the 80’s or later, these young people seem to have been abandoned by society from their birth in the Regan deregulation era, or seem to have walked away from the best their parents could offer while they pursued the romance of the “hippie” or “hobo” lifestyle.

Or worse, they seem to be trust fund babies who were never parented in the first place by nouveaux riche parents, who are now in their 20s to 40s with zero clue about how to be a contributing member of society.  Or, how to exercise reasonable precautions to not become another victim of someone else’s shortcuts.

       cookie-cutter-f        great-white-priviledge

crustpunkstarterkit     trustie-fund

These newly-tagged “crusties” seem to be clueless about why safety regulations exist.  They seem to be clueless about a need to protect themselves because, to quote a popular teledrama, “Winter is coming”.  Instead, they do the minimum to get by, if they bother to work at all and seem to focus their life on their escapes.

I get it.  I’m a frustrated artist who makes jewelry, cooks, paints and does a lot of other things to work with my hands when I wasn’t previously busy trying to earn a living.  Not the sharpest tool in the drawer, I at least understood that money = freedom and choices, so I busted my butt to make enough to fund the lifestyle that I wanted.

Today’s Crustie youth, however, seems to have missed the memo that Burning Man / Mad Max isn’t real life, and that someone, somewhere is making the money necessary to take advantage of their ideals.  Don’t believe me?  Google “burning man funding” and you’ll see very credible financial statements, prospectuses and plans for how to rake in the most amount of money while hosting one of the highlights of the Crusty world each year – “burning man”.


The live free / free love nirvana of their dreams is actually a sophisticated non-profit, corporate entity – the supposed enemy of their dream existence.

But, why am I writing such a diatribe you ask?

Because I have a friend’s daughter, a 24 years old, who seems to be stuck in the Crustie phase of her life.

She’s been homeless (by choice).  She’s had the homeless boyfriend who beat her.  She’s been through the wars, yet the “romance” of the streets still calls to her.  Her latest boyfriend is a so-called artist, yet also doesn’t have a job.  He lives in a commune, and exchanges work for a flea-bitten roof over his head.  While I’m thrilled she came back home after a Summer of living with him in his idealized yurt, she’s still drawn to him and I worry.  She goes to festivals all the time, and the Ghost Ship is exactly the kind of place she chooses to hang out.  Any one of the known dead (currently 36 people), could have been her if the timing had been different.

What are we doing as a nation when our youth is so turned off to the wonders of life and the potential for their future that they refuse to plan, barely work, and think that it’s great to go out and lose their minds on a regular basis, risking their physical safety in the illicit drama of the moment?

No answers here, but I feel every one of my years as I remember all the folks from my youth who didn’t make it to adulthood, and watch a new group of youngsters – even larger than the group that I recall from growing up – casting their lot on the so called romance of sex, drugs and music.

Such a waste.

A true square, I still am convinced that you don’t have to be out of your mind to enjoy life.

I’ve had my moments of walking on the wild side, and I’m ok with anyone doing anything that feels good to them – so long as they aren’t 3 sheets to the wind on alcohol or drugs.  I truly do believe that “no means no”, and that someone on drugs or alcohol isn’t sober enough to give informed consent so that it’s an automatic “no”.

I like my orgies with rules, clear boundaries, soap and water.

orgy    11burn33

I like it when everyone makes it home safely at the end of the night.

Is that too much to ask?


8 thoughts on “The Fruitvale Ghost Ship

  1. WHEW! What an interesting read/prospectus on the subject of young, stupid (sorry they are) and homeless by choice. I’ve ranted myself about the homeless epidemic and won’t clog your blog here with my viewpoint. Well too much. One thing I will say is that I wish these kids had more sense and an ability to see the big picture. For me? Stoned or alcohol haze might equal unwanted pregnancies and children that don’t choose the life to which they’re born, and so my solution to that is to sterilize the great unwashed who do choose to get high and get fucked (or not…as you point out they are out of it, doesn’t that constitute a big NO for having sex?) . Safer for everyone and no unwanted babies and the horrors of a life unwanted. I grew up watching the same things as you generational wise and my response to your unspoken question of WHY? is that the young people in your scenario have blinders on. They don’t think (well given) that they’ll ever get old. They’re invincible. And superior in the knowledge that they ‘can’t be hurt’, but as we know far too well that time is too short and they’re deluded. And I’m with ya on the soap and water as mandatory, I know it can be difficult to keep yourself clean if you’re on the streets, but it is POSSIBLE. My step-children had to go that route after their mother got them thrown out into the street because she wouldn’t pay the bills and decided to just ‘go with the flow’ vis a vis taking care of her children. My husband was equally to blame for deliberately not seeing the problem and just throwing money at a woman who would not spend it on her children either. Sad. And to answer again why is this happening…well maybe it’s because the children of the 60s (the flower children, free love and drugs and sex and rock & roll AND the veterans of Vietnam) had a certain attitude toward life. At least the ones I’ve talked to or cohabited with or knew very very well. They didn’t think they would live through that era and would ‘die young’ so they didn’t care. About anything. Certainly not common sense or making a decent contribution to society or just being useful. They instilled that way of thinking in their children, and those children grew up and instilled a stronger version in THEIRS..and so on. We’re reaping the whirlwind in a sense. And it’s just my opinion and there are those who are stronger and more sensible than their roots, or who actually got some decent raising (like you) and so escaped the epidemic. Maybe the next batch of kids growing to adults will do a bit better, we can but hope. Nothing is free and if you try to live that way, well look what’s president this go-round. Things like that begin to happen…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You know, I went back and googled that fire and wish I had done that before diatribing on your blog. There is another side to this homeless thing and I like those ‘crustie’ figures you posted up satirically odd they are! The warehouse sounds like it was a modern day commune. Artists and the displaced in society (there were some older folks there too apparently?) called it home. It was a good thing. The problem is that the structure/space wasn’t designed nor renovated or whatever to house such an effort. Do you know, did they just kind of squat in there and eventually turn it into an art space/commune area or were they allowed there by someone?

    I saw something very unsettling on my last visit to Salt Lake City…the homeless shelter had this city of homeless. Now there’s always been a LOT of them, druggies, alkies or the unfortunate in the past decade or so, but now? Hundreds. I was shocked. My brother had clued me in because as he was dropping off his son to take the train down to Provo (in Provo going to college – Provo is south of Salt Lake, which is south of Brigham City ) he told me he saw this virtual tent city. Stretching for many blocks. Hundreds of people. I didn’t really believe it, but then I saw for myself. I have to wonder if those in that warehouse in Oakland were just trying to find some shelter, and if they were doing art there, trying to find a way to pay their way too? I’ve got a ton of questions about it..and I’ve imposed on you too much today as it is, so I’ll stop here. Wow. 😦


  3. No, you’re not imposing on me, as I’m trying to wrap my head around it while vigils and memorials are being shown on every news report as we’re now on Day 6 of the endless coverage, and debates over who to blame.

    If someone is truly a crustie, there’s no one to blame, because “rules” don’t apply to them (my viewpoint of their viewpoint if one had logical objectivity vs. absolute poverty and was facing a potential rainy day windfall of donated cash).

    I’m being VERY judgy, because we are all crazy if viewed through a kaleidoscope of only the best, most hopeful segments of our lives. I’m sure that everyone who passed away were not saints. Not saying that they deserved to die – simply that embellishing their life stories makes they Martyrs for the crustie cause – without anyone learning anything to benefit those same crusties.

    As you write, you’ve noticed the tent city growing in a prominent part of Utah – in the Winter ! If someone truly had options, I don’t think they’d be sleeping out. If someone wasn’t busy spending (or bartering) every spare bit of change for alcohol, drugs and/or tats and piercings, could they still so visibly fly their crustie freak flag so visibly?

    I have no answers, as I watched them take out every segement of homeless and ship them somewhere while last December – February was embroiled in the Superbowl money raising endeavors. It’s a year later, and I can tell you exactly where to find a number of homeless encampments (as farmland is usually tolerant of anything that doesn’t ruin their crops or cherry pick their animals for food).

    We had a jail escape last week, too, and one of the folks with face tattoos was able to hide himself at his sister’s place getting high on cocaine and such (vs. having a goal for himself to get away and rebuild his life safely), and covered over his facial tattoos so that he could pass for normal in public. (Freak flag sucessfully hidden, so long as there aren’t visible holes or piercings involved).

    When the cops finally busted in on the sister, she claimed to have been help captive by her brother and his friend, and the jury is still out about whether or not they will press charges against her for sheltering an escaped felon. While that’s a story for another day, the initial reports were pretty violent, with a SWAT standoff, and it sounds like she was very violently used whether or not she was a cooperative prisoner. Since then, the fire happened and it’s become radio silence on the escape as they focus on the memorials.

    Anyway, I add in this story because so often, women are the enablers. They are easy prey to violence. They are easy prey for being put to work for soliciting johns for cash. Without the woman in the picture to be used and abused, so often the tent cities collapse or move out to the edges of society because true criminals are in those tents, as well as unfortunate folks, and the true criminals don’t want the cops called.

    Malcolmn Gladwell did a study of homelessness and city resources for Philadelphia, and his statistics have shown that the average person takes about 6 months to get through homelessness and back on their feet. What’s not talked about are the folks who never get tired of the drama and challenge and stink and fear of living desperately, but the have to be there on the edges of the homeless bellcurve, or we’d never arrive at any kind of average duration.

    What’s different about this batch is their lack of ability to accomplish any kind of goal. They’ve never learned to work with their hands. They have no idea of basic equipment, safety, etc. They just want someplace to plug in their cell, and a seat at a cafe to use their free wireless.

    This group is not part of Thoreau’s “Walden”, where the communers are wanting to live rough to get back to nature. There is no Grizzly Adams, going off to the backwoods to build a cabin and learning to live off the land (like there was in the 60’s and 70’s with a lot of Santa Cruz).

    Today’s disenfranchised seem to have some romantic idealism about being indestructible, because the alternative is to live on the street in a tent or under a tarp, lumped together with hundreds of others with mental health, drug and alcohol problems. But, like the women survivors of the Haiti earth quake, they are stuck in a makeshift camp where they are easy prey to the more predatory around them while they are sleeping, so they need to make a series of alliances in order to feel that they have some control over their lives while things are clearly very violent and not within their control.

    I also have no problem with anyone freely flying their freak flag.

    More power to them, if they can find a way to achieve their dreams while living safely, somewhat cleanly, and somewhat physically safer than when they were living by their wits on the street.

    With that homeless / out of options viewpoint, I can see why the safety issues were ignored in terms of fire safety, exit strategy safety, etc.

    There was a really good article I read yesterday from a pair of 40-50 year olds who met each other at a festival, and who talked about how capricious the permit approvals, appropriate regulations compliance, regular safety inspections, etc., seemed to be to obtain from the City of Oakland. One frown, even 2 days before an event, and after a permit was granted, and the permit could be pulled for any capricious reason, and without a refund of their fees or any attempt to be able to fix the challenges.

    I get it. With homeless, you’re dealing with no regulations / desperation, vs. the marginalized squatter “crusties” having somewhat better living conditions but still with out regulations due to desperate people being willing to overlook what they had to in order to access a more inspirational escape from what may be the downside challenges of their real life, hard-to-survive situations.

    If the answer is always going to be “no” for this type of underground lifestyle / party, you know people will do what they want and ask for forgiveness later. However, in this case, there are 36 people dead.

    What I do have, though, is a problem of someone with an altered sense of reality being able to refuse medical care when they are clearly in need, and being able to drag the children they give birth to along for the ride when the kid is nothing but an animal focused on surviving, and having to deal with the very real, adult world issues around themselves before their brains are even finished maturing.

    These kids should be allowed to love their parents and these parents should not automatically lose custody of their kids. But… parents who get drunk or stoned in their kids presence should lose custody of the kids. I’m just that harsh on this topic, because the kids are captive. No one will hire them until they are at least 16, and yet the girls are more womanly in appearance from 10 years old onward, and are very easy prey from men who are already on the outskirts of society, and who enjoy altering their sense of self through drugs and alcohol, or who may also have their own anger or mental health issues. Never mind the bartering of their bodies as a way to easy currency that they may have observed at their mother’s knees, or that violence is ok if you have a full belly.

    No answers here (despite the long reply), but I’m focused on the women vs. the men because women will always be able to reproduce and leave captives to fate in the form of any kids they may have.


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