He prays to his Christian God. Yet life can be cruel, and even a person striving toward right thought can set off cascades of events that go incomprehensibly awry. One day in September, Harris told me that a fellow inmate found a praying mantis in the yard. The inmate cupped it in his hands, this bright green marvel.
The inmate who found the insect wanted to take it to his cell to keep as a pet. Harris intervened.
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The inmate returned the praying mantis to the ground. The night before Harris graduated from college, in May , he shaved the left side of his head and gave himself his first face tattoo: the letters M A X, extending from the crown of his head to his left eyebrow. Harris grew up in Enfield, Conn. When Harris was 5, his parents got into a heated fight, and his mother came to Harris to seek advice.
She marveled at the brilliance of his counsel. At 13, Harris started wearing his hair in a mohawk. At 14, his parents divorced, and his father became addicted to drugs and alcohol. At 16, a junior in high school, Harris took his first studio art class and, like a cure in epoxy, it transformed and gave solidity to his life. At Massachusetts College of Art and Design, he studied everything: painting, photography, sculpture, metalsmithing, video art. Outside class, he played and composed music: industrial jazz, future classical and surreal glockenspiel.
Along with technique, his professors taught him what would prove to be their most indelible lesson: the value of living in collaborative, creative spaces. He seized on the importance of artists inspiring one another, cross-pollinating and fueling their ideas by living under one roof.
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For a few months, through the end of , Harris paid his rent by working as a tattoo artist and by selling while dressed as outlandishly as possible gemstone-on-hemp-string necklaces in Union Square. Then the schoolhouse was sold, and he had to move out. Harris threw a couple of duffel bags in their van to join their road trip. So they kept meandering west. Harris imagined the road trip would be easier; his co-travelers argued over things he thought should be peaceful, like arcana about the Grateful Dead.
Finally, the next summer, they arrived in Humboldt County, Calif. After a few months, he took a bus to Oakland to visit a friend.
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As Harris crawled through the secret passages, he thought, If my professors could see me now! In the backyard of that warehouse was the most fantastic thing Harris had ever seen: a bicycle-powered Ferris wheel, with lights up the spokes and real old carnival carriages. Harris decided he had to stay. Harris spent the next year living with his friend, sometimes sleeping on the floor. Housing in Oakland was cheaper than in San Francisco, which had grown preposterously expensive: The part of the city that had once housed techno raves and all the wondrous weirdness that spawned Burning Man itself was now home to tech titans like Dropbox, Reddit and Airbnb.
In October the Oakland rental market was the 21st-most-expensive in the country. By December , it had leapt to fourth. One day, Harris was cruising for affordable housing when he saw a long craigslist post. A similar listing appeared on Facebook:. Harris took it. Almena was a scrapper.
He was handsome, a dark mustache and goatee on his butterscotch skin, lithe, even leonine, sexy in a way that makes you worry about the human race and its cross-wiring of attractiveness and danger. Almena took out the lease for the warehouse in for an artist collective called Satya Yuga. I was like the new captain, the crazy captain. He intended to hold classes and art shows at the warehouse and rent it out for events.
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Inside, Almena started building his dream world. He and the other artists subdivided the space with walls hodgepodged together out of amps, bits of bookcase, faded hanging rugs and carved Balinese wood panels. Almena lined a hallway on both sides with pianos facing each other, so people walking through could stretch out their arms and run their fingers over both sets of keys. Harris had taken a seasonal job color-correcting greeting cards. Each weekday morning he put on a dorky shirt and rode BART into San Francisco where, he told me, nobody talked about anything more interesting than which food truck they would go to for lunch.
A week or so after Harris moved into his sublet, he was commuting home from work when his cellphone rang. Harris felt manipulated by the gift; saying no had not felt like an option. But the pirate ship was fabulous, and Harris started staying up nights refinishing it. But then he did. Satya Yuga had its own logic. You had to tolerate people playing music at all hours of the night.
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You had to work on your own art, collaborate with the other members of the collective and also help build the living, breathing art installation that was the warehouse itself. By that point, the 10,square-foot space had become deliriously maximalist: drums everywhere, chandeliers everywhere, vintage typewriters, Indonesian antiques, Afghan rugs, early 20th-century shipping trunks, dozens of pianos and organs.
The staircase leading to the second floor, set back 12 feet from the entrance on the right side of the building, was a campy surrealist take on a Louise Nevelson collage or a post-apocalyptic disaster, depending on your point of view. The building had no heat.
There were no fire alarms, no sprinklers, no emergency or exit lighting. Almena, who considered himself to be the father of the space, lived upstairs with his family: his wife, Micah Allison, and three dreamy, free-range hippie kids: Bolonik, Shai and Surya, then ages 11, 5 and 3. Allison, trained in dance, was serenely beautiful: raven-haired, tawny-skinned, a true testament to fertility, pulling off the title she gave herself — Mother Superior — and tribal belly dancing to the drum beats the collective made.
The family had a proper kitchen, a big family bed topped with a canopy of sequined wedding shawls and a bathtub ringed with plants. The kids rode bikes and scooters around their loftlike lounge, which doubled as an event space. Harris had a live-work studio on the first floor, as did most of 15 or 20 other residents — the number varied over time. Many of the artists teetered on the edge of homelessness; one moved into the warehouse after living in her car.
Anthony Perrault, then 25, another resident, was a seamstress and fashion designer with dreads. Several evenings a month, musicians from greater Oakland would show up to jam as well, bringing with them their marimbas and African clay drums.
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One man played a Rajasthani ravanhatta, a string instrument that was hung with sleigh bells. Andrew Ruiz, now 27, a musician who also lived at Ghost Ship, spent his afternoons teaching art in elementary-school aftercare programs. He thought he finally found a place, only to be told that the landlord found another tenant who could pay six months in cash up front. On the night after Thanksgiving , he tagged along with friends to a party at Ghost Ship. Six weeks later, Satya Yuga was his home.
http://leksa-hair.ru/components/payette/gogyr-chat-gay-en.php He fed off the shared spirit of artistic struggle, the sense that Satya Yuga was a surrogate family. One day not long after moving in, Harris was scanning the free section of craigslist when he saw a listing for trees — whole trees! Harris had a trunk cut into six-foot-long columns and delivered to the warehouse. He used them to build a large box with his bed inside and a platform above, for tattooing clients. After his seasonal greeting-card gig ended in early January , Harris was broke but happy.
He hoped to devote himself full time to his art practice. He held autocratic meetings of the collective, dispensing wrath and love. You have my back. You are my right hand. All this is because of us, me and you — we did this.