Saturday, October 4, 2008

Sharing real estate in a private hell

For the past week I have been a resident in a small, private hell linked to a widely dispersed public hell that has inspired everything from a street march in Mexico to the construction of large sand effigies in San Diego.

We were all transported to this hell, to these hells, by news of the rape and murder of Marcella Sali Grace in a small village outside of Oaxaca, Mexico, where she was living and organizing within an indigenous peoples social justice movement. Sali was 20, very nearly 21.

She was a strongly independent traveler kid with no roots, in particular - but roots in many places, in effect - the sort of beautiful, vivid, transient person who left love and inspiration here and there all over the Americas, as we are discovering, now that she is gone and people rise up everywhere to mourn her loss and protest her murder.

Her father, John Eiler, has become my best friend here in St. Louis since we were thrown together in the making of an amateur zombie film without a budget. Without a budget, we relied upon the good will of volunteers, and John volunteered to turn his garage into our zombie green room, which he catered personally for two all-day shoots.

That garage later turned into the smokehouse for the tobacco fiends who attended our New Monastic Workshop and the place where monks regaled one another with core musical texts.

For the past week, it has been one of the places where the men go to talk about the dead girl. Last night, we talked about Sali in the garage as John sifted through CDs and played soundtrack candidates for a memorial service that is being organized for 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 10 in the May Center at SSM DePaul Health Center.

I suggested the Patti Smith cover of "Smell Like Teen Spirit," which I know through John. He fished out the CD and played the song. We decided it wasn't quite right for a morning memorial service, but John knew Sali - who, at age 15, walked away from her father's record collection with Trout Mask Replica and a Carter Family record - would have loved the song.

"I never got to play this song for Sali," John said. "I get to live the rest of my life wishing I had got to play this song for Sali."

That's the way it's been, for the past week. That's the way it's going to be, for the next week. That's the way it's going to be, for a long time.


My sketch of John in the garage, with fragment of a Ry Cooder lyric.

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