My Heart is a Ghost Ship

My heart is broken. 2016 has been a long year of heartbreaks, and this is the one that has brought me to my knees. I am not connected in an obvious way to the Ghost Ship community – or to any other of the many art/live/work warehouses spaces here in Oakland. Like so many others, I grieve for the lost lives, the terror of that night, for the families and loved ones of those lost to the fire. I am learning about those who perished one by one, mostly through social media, when friends and acquaintances share their grief, and share insights into the lives and passions of those now gone. I may be a few degrees from those most directly affected, but make no mistake: my heart has a shape like Ghost Ship. A labyrinthine cabinet of wonders. A place where the creative process reigns supreme, no matter how little society at large values that. A place where exorbitant costs of living, and the resulting culture of stress disappear for a time, and new art and music emerge. Where celebrations bring joy not only among people, but also in honor of creative expression and the importance of art in what makes us human (and what makes our culture healthy). I can’t speak to many layers and dimensions of the Ghost Ship family, but I can say this loss strikes deep into me. I write novels and I do that mostly in isolation. Even though I live and work in a more conventional setting than the Ghost Ship community did, the sacrifices made in my family so that I can pursue my work are real, and that’s something I struggle with all the time. We sacrifice and make compromises so we can survive with our passions intact. I am sorry for those who might judge the drive to create, to contribute to the river of stories, art, music that have enriched human civilization since pretty much its beginning, as frivolous or “selfish.” That leads to a marginalization of essential cultural knowledge and traditions. Here in Oakland, it’s so easy to see the way neighborhoods are drained of character, artistic expression, and vitality. Flipping houses is a big business. Most houses in my neighborhood are sold without even being publically listed. For all cash to flippers. Warehouses turn into condos. We all know the story. All I know is that sometimes it’s hard to keep creating, to keep going, and this is one of those times. No one wants to live in a society without artists, right? I hope I’m right.