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Boston Universitys policies provide for equal

opportunity and affirmative action in employment

and admission to all programs of the University.

0410 100805


Manuel Morcano shows off his latest masterpiece. photo by Johannes Hirn

For the love of

LARPing page 14

ii thecomment 2010 iii thecomment 2010

Dean of the College of
Communication Editors Letter
Tom Fiedler The Man Behind the Curtain What Its Like to Forget
Katie Ryan
2 6
The Comment staff zeroed in on a themeidentityquickly this Your Name
The Comment Staff year. We had little trouble reaching consensus after someone asked, Samantha Gennuso
What makes us who we are? Is it our jobs, our families and our
Faculty Advisor cultural contexts, the hardships weve endured, the secrets we keep?
Susan Blau One answer is suggested in the photograph below by Johannes
Hirn. We think it says much about engineer-turned-hairdresser Manuel
Faculty Editor Morcano, who opened his Boston-area barbershop after almost dying Apes at Sea
A Granite State of Mind
Cynthia Anderson of a perforated colon several years ago. At the shop, Morcanos Drew FitzGerald
8 12 Eric Hal Schwartz
customers can view an array of autographed images of music legends
Student Editor and choose from such books as The 9/11 Commission Report and The
Aviv Rubinstien Definitive Book of Body Language.
Written works in the 2010 Comment also explore identity
Design and Production individual and collective. Lauren Keiper profiles women who have left
BU Creative Services their jobs in finance, voluntarily or not, in the aftermath of the credit
crisis. Drew FitzGerald limns the world(s) of libertarian Free Staters in
Staff Writers New Hampshire, Samantha Gennuso follows a film crew on its journey
Drew FitzGerald to raise awareness for muscular dystrophy and Katie Ryan shadows
Samantha Gennuso Frank Warren of PostSecret fame. LARP Me Good
Teresa Gorman We have personal explorations too. Teresa Gorman describes the Eric Hal Schwartz
Lauren Keiper tribulations of being the ninth of ten kids, and Aviv Rubinstien comes
Aviv Rubinstien clean as a storytellerhe hopes. In Apes at Sea, Eric Hal Schwartz
Katie Ryan takes us on a student cruise to Norway, likening the voyage to a
Eric Hal Schwartz large-scale social experiment. Even when disguised by fancy clothes
and good manners, Schwartz writes, our primate essence comes
Contributing Photographers through.
Vincent Bancheri Several other articles and essays round out our offerings, which
Johannes Hirn you can view in expanded form online at www.bu.edu/com/comment.
Vikesh Kapoor We hope you enjoy our work.
Layups and Lipstick Will Box for Passport
Cover Photo Katie Ryan
22 18 Johannes Hirn
Aviv Rubinstien, Student Editor
Vincent Bancheri Happy reading.

2010 by the College of

Boston University
Destiny USA:
Ryan Gosling Loves to Fist-Bump
The Story of a Mega-Mall 24 28
Aviv Rubinstien
and a City
Front cover: A masked Live Teresa Gorman
Action Role Player strolls the
grounds at Camp Denison,
Mass., as part of a story line.

(Re)Balancing Act Finding Our Faith

30 32 Lauren Keiper
Lauren Keiper

His Wheels Keep Spinnin Number Nine

33 36 Teresa Gorman
Samantha Gennuso
Manuel Morcanos identity surely shows on
the walls of his shop.

photo by Johannes Hirn 1 thecomment 2010

postcards in a drawer before retiring. As he suggested that it could be a joke to the artist
slept, he dreamed that the three postcards that everyone is struggling to figure it out.
had been altered. The first message read, To Warren, perhaps it was a bit of a game.
unrecognized evidence, from forgotten Deciding what would go into each bottle was
journeys, unknowingly rediscovered, writes like designing a scene, Hobby Horse told
Warren on his PostSecret Community blog. the Post. What evidence to expose? What
[T]he second message was about a reluctant to hide? How to show clues with ambiguous
oracle postcard art project, and the last I meanings? How to display an airtight half-told
could not understand at the time. tale?...Allowing the pieces to be discovered
When he awakened, he immediately created more possibilities...The finder can

The Man
manipulated the postcards in the drawer to view me as provocateur or polluter; artist or
resemble his vision. What I did not know criminal.

was that those three remade postcards By September, Warren was ready to
would...set me on an unimaginable journey, begin phase three of his prophetic dream. The

The Curtain
he says. reluctant oracle delivered a final message-
It was just the escape he needed. Warren, in-a-bottle: You will find your answers in the
an Illinois native who holds a degree in social secrets of strangers.
The Wizard science from the University of California, That next Sunday, the PostSecret
of Oz lives in Berkeley, had moved to the Washington, D.C., movement began.
[Katie Ryan] Germantown, area after graduation. There hed begun a
Maryland. business called Instant Information Systems Not in Kansas Anymore
To the yet it was passionless work. It was a tedious, Warrens dream-inspired relationship
members of the monotonous job, but thats what inspired these with the postcard and newfound passion
insular community creative projects, Warren explains. Theres for public involvement with his art were the
hes created, he is a great deal of value in a boring job because cornerstones on which he built his Emerald
omniscient. People it makes you want to work harder and find City. Armed with 3,000 self-addressed
turn to him for guidance, something to make you happysomething postcards, Warren appealed to the citizens
or to express their most that matters more. of D.C., asking them to be part of a new
fundamental needs: brains, The heady combination of career endeavor: write an anonymous secret on the
heart, courage, a home. His fame dissatisfaction and a prophetic dream ignited back of a postcard and mail it to him.
stems from what he is rumored to have something in Warren. He adopted a kind You are invited to anonymously
provided, yet as an individual he remains of creative superhero persona, embodying contribute a secret to a group art project, the
shrouded in mystery. the unassuming career man by day and the otherwise-blank cards read. Your secret can
Frank Warren, 45, is the great and enigmatic alter ego by night. He was realizing be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession,
powerful Oz behind the collaborative the second stage of his vision. or childhood humiliation. Reveal anythingas
art project PostSecret. He collects Warren certainly thrived as a self- long as it is true and you have never shared it
about a thousand anonymous appointed oracle, although he threw himself with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be
confessional postcards from into the project so wholeheartedly that his creative.
strangers around the world each reluctance is debatable. Adopting a secret I knew that if I could find a way to allow
week, redistributing a selection persona he called Hobby Horse, he spent strangers to trust me with these secrets, it
of the once-private divulgences in the summer of 2004 crafting several bottled would be special for me, says Warren.
blog installations every Sundaya messages to be set adrift in Clopper Lake in About a hundred postcards found their
routine thats earned his website close to Marylands Seneca State Park. The bottles, way to his mailbox, enough for an exhibit at a
300 million hits over the last five years. clear glass and the size of wine bottles, monthlong D.C. art festival, for which Warren
HarperCollins, the publisher of Warrens contained photographed hands on postcards suspended the secrets from the ceiling with
five books, has dubbed him the most trusted that hung suspended from the corks. These wire. The event was well received, and
man in America. But thats his public persona. postcards were stamped, and incorporated Warren assumed the project had ended. But
Pay no attention to the man behind the cryptic messages on the back such as Your new postcards kept coming, now handmade
curtainor, in this case, the man behind question holds more than its answer. and from distant states and countries.
the website. The story of the mysterious Hobby Warren took this as a sign of bigger
Horse and his bottles garnered widespread things. PostSecret started as a lark, maybe
Somewhere Over the Rainbow attention. The Washington Post compared even a prank, he says. But the secrets have
Like any good revelation, the idea for the postcards to fortune cookies from the taken on more gravity and more meaning
PostSecret came to Warren in a lucid dream. dark. In its investigation of the anonymous as times gone on. Once it became clear
It was December 2003 in Paris, and artistic litterings, the Post consulted Kerry that the movement had gone viral, Warren
Warren, having checked into his hotel room McAleer-Keeler, a printmaking instructor at established a blog to display some of the
Courtesy: HarperCollins the Corcoran College of Art and Design, who secrets. He managed the secrets as he had
for the evening, placed three souvenir

2 thecomment 2010 3 thecomment 2010

the bottles: hand-selected for their meaning, notwithstanding, legions of fans are waiting. that crazy faith that their parents might not there that speaks to all of us. engrossed through the entire presentation despite their excitement, people are quiet and
arranged privately and broadcast to the public The event is sold out. People have been lined understand. The most common secret? I pee in the laughing when he laughs, quiet when hes respectful. There are audience members openly
once a week. Each Sunday he would select up at the auditorium for hours, before even And suddenly, the audience is in cahoots shower. A secret hell never post? Warren quiet. Everything and everyone in the room weeping, literally overcome by the opportunity
10 postcards and add them to his site. Soon, the event staff arrived. with him. The event isnt about Warrens path describes a card featuring a family portrait, ebbs and flows on his cue: emotions, volume, to meet Warren.
it became 20 cards a week. Hits to the site While the Dorothies mill around the lobby to PostSecret or the other artistic endeavors inscribed, My brother doesnt realize his even actions. He asks people to take a break In Hebrew, the word secret means come
increased. clicking their heels in anticipation, Warren that never made it quite as big; tonight, the father is not our father. None of the faces are from his speech and introduce themselves to closer, says Warren. I think that when some
Offshoots of the popular blog emerged is onstage, prepping his presentation. His artist becomes the actor, playing the simple disguised, and should the brother or any of his those around them, offering a sign of greeting people send me a secret...I think theyre
on social-networking websites like Facebook, appearance is meticulous, almost calculated: servant of his followersthe confidante, the friends see the postcard on the site, he would and peace. The postcards illuminated by searching for grace.
Twitter and, most notably, the PostSecret His green dress shirt looks professional; the friend. His parents may not understand, but his be immediately identifiable. Secrets like that the overhead projector are multicolored and
Community forums, where fans gather online un-tucked shirttails make him seem more audience does. dont belong to us, Warren says. illuminate Warrens face, almost as stained Theres No Place Like Home
to react to the weeks secrets and talk about accessible. He wears pressed black pants He gazes at the crowd. This project But one secret does belong to everyone, glass. The auditorium is transformed into a His publishers say hes the most trusted
the impact the site has had on their lives. and black shoes. His hair is trimmed close; doesnt make my secrets go away, but it Warren tells the crowd: Suicide is Americas house of worship, with Warren as spiritual man in America; his fans call him God; his
There are those fans, for instance, who wire-rimmed glasses rest between a furrowed makes the burden easier. The statement is secret. leadermaybe even as deity. parents call him self-indulgent; and to his
connect so strongly to a particular secret that forehead and faint laugh lines on his cheeks. an acknowledgement of self-indulgence The mood shifts, the joviality replaced by a Its not much of a stretch. Hours earlier, daughter, hes just Dad. Everyone knows who
they have the message or design tattooed Warren focuses on the silver Mac on he confesses to what his parents have collective deep breath of concern. before the audience was even permitted into Warren is to themits when he tries to
on their bodies; a whole section of the forum his podium, testing the volume and asking suggestedbut somehow the act of his In this room of 500, 85 of us will think the auditorium, people were preparing for identify himself that things get a little tricky.
is dedicated to pictures of and comments on staffers about the turnout. He takes a few admission is more compelling than any private about committing suicide, and 30 of us will I feel like a film editor, taking scenes from
fresh, PostSecret-inspired ink. sips from a water bottle, shakes his hands secret he could divulge. Hes forged a bond try, Warren says quietly. Students shift in peoples lives and knitting them together,
Publisher HarperCollins has taken the out, walks briskly across the stage and ducks with the 500-plus people in the room; they their seats and look down their rows with a making connections between them, allowing
movement mainstream, producing five behind a curtain, building adrenaline for his accept him unconditionally. blend of suspicion and concern. Who will it be? If youre truly open the scenes to talk to us and to each other, he
PostSecret-inspired books authored by entrance. And to reciprocate, Warren is Warren uses the attention to talk about to the secrets, theres says. Sometimes, I feel like an idiot savant for
Warren; the most recent of these, PostSecret: Forty minutes after the staff opens the complimentary of them. Hopeline, a suicide-prevention center in secrets: Sometimes when Im building the story
Confessions on Life, Death, and God, debuted floodgates, the man of the hour emerges. The I think young people are more alive than Washington, D.C., that PostSecret has aligned a kernel of truth in for the week Ill hear a secret calling to me, one
at No. 1 on The New York Times best-seller crowd erupts in thunderous applause. Warren adults; theyre more involved in trying to with in an effort to raise awareness and funds. there that speaks to from the week before or one Ive seen earlier,
list in October 2009. The website shows the grins widely. Hes playing to another packed understand whats legitimate and real and less Warren tells the audience that hes lost both and I go searching so I can find the right
immediacy of the secrets, but the books tell house. caught up in who theyre supposed to be, he a close friend and a family member to suicide, all of us. harmony.
the stories, says Warren. Himy names Frank, and I collect offers. and that when he came up with the idea for All of which is somewhat less than
And hes not necessarily looking to secrets! The crowd cheers voraciously. It doesnt hurt that hes such a compelling PostSecret, he was working as a volunteer at concrete. Hows this? Frank Warren is a son, a
stop there: Were looking to explore And so it goes. Anything Warren says is orator. His voice carries, yet its still soft, one of Hopelines call centers. a religious experience. I dont know what husband, a father; hes been an entrepreneur,
new territorieseither TV or film. In the golden; they cant get enough. He talks about lilting, with almost a Kermit-the-Frog quality. I wont say that theres a direct connection Ill do when I see him, said Anne Harris, a artist, art collector. He could define himself any
meantime, Warren sets off from his Emerald the most trusted label hes been given He sits with confident, relaxed body language: between having secrets and suicide, but I think student at Assumption College in Worcester, number of ways.
City to speak to the Munchkins at college and how supportive his wife and 15-year-old one foot on the wheels of his chair and the those considering it are a lot of times weighted Massachusetts. You dont understandhes Id say more than anything else, Im
campuses across the country. daughter are of this mission hes undertaken. other on the floor. He gestures with open down with them, he says. God. Another girl greets Warren after his an explorer of hidden landscapes, he says
In contrast, however, his parents call palms. The audience is rapt. For Warrens efforts, his PostSecret project presentation. Ive met God, she declares as thoughtfully.
Off to See the Wizard PostSecret diabolical and self-indulgent. Warren continues to chat conspiratorially, received a special award at the National Mental she descends the stage steps. She turns back And what does this hidden landscape yield?
Its a cold, rainy October night when Maybe it is, Warren ponders aloud. although many of his anecdotes are recycled. Health Associations annual meeting in 2009 for and faces Warren. You are God! Five best sellers, nearly 300 million hits on
Warren arrives at Boston University. Weather He plays a message that his mother left The stories he tells in Boston are lifted almost moving the cause of mental health forward. Warren is aware of the religious the website, a thousand postcards a week, an
on his wifes voice verbatim from the stories he told at an event in With such a large reader base, Id rather implications his project can have ardent reception of his artistic vision, prominent
mail: I dont really New York several days earlier. He is a rock star use the PostSecret platform for suicide PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and awards. And hundreds of thousands of dollars
want one of Franks in his deliveryHello (insert name of city)! I prevention [than for commercial purposes], God is full of professions of faith, or a lack raised in the name of suicide prevention.
books, she had love you! he says. Ive never taken a dollar for thereof. These particular secrets in the new Warrens self-description is indirect,
said. Forget about The biggest secret of the night may be how advertisements, but PostSecret readers have book are very soulful. I wanted to capture but perhaps its legitimate. At the end of a
sending me one. well rehearsed Warren is. raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for that, says Warren. These are full-frontal yellow brick road paved with yearning for
The audience Yet he can have it all memorized, because Hopeline and suicide prevention. I think the confessions on how we really feel about public appreciation lies his Emerald City: an
laughs nervously. his audiences are similar: all enthusiastic, all site has a higher purpose than ad revenue, and stuff we cant share at the church, or the empire built on self-fulfilling prophecies, a
People are looking excited to see the same never-before-seen I hope the readers feel that way too. I think synagogue or the mosque. city whose brilliance is not an inner light but
around right now secrets, all asking the same questions when they do. And though Warren, the self-appointed a reflection of its inhabitants. Warren is not
wondering, Is this the time comes. Does Warren think any of reluctant oracle, doesnt have a theological simply an explorer of this hidden landscape;
funny? Is this sad? the secrets are made up? The factual basis of A Horse of a Different Color background or any of the Big Answers, he can he is the Wizard behind its creation.
notes Warren, the secret isnt what matters, he asserts Maybe they love him for his dedication relate to what his followers are experiencing. L. Frank Baums Wizard of Oz described
although that seems after all, every postcard is art. [Each one is] to suicide prevention, or maybe its the This project has made my own faith evolve; himself precisely: Im really a very good man,
to be the reaction he beautiful, Warren says. Whether the cards voyeuristic appeal of knowing other peoples Ill put it that way. but Im a very bad Wizard.
hoped to elicit. This bear legitimate secrets doesnt matter; artists secrets. Maybe its cathartic to send him a After his presentation is over, the crowd Perhaps Frank Warren is too. c
project is one of need not necessarily experience what they postcard, or maybe checking his website has moves en masse to greet Warren and have
those ideas where depict: The very act of sharing a secret, the become part of a Sunday routine. Whatever it him sign their books. The event staff corrals
youre waiting for process is transformative If youre truly is, people adore Warren. the excited audience into more manageable
One of the thousands of PostSecrets sent to Frank Warren. one person to have open to the secrets, theres a kernel of truth in In Boston, his audience has been groups of eight for visitation with Warren;

4 thecomment 2010 5 thecomment 2010

I watched myself stutter for the first time in June 2001. On because we were finally confronting the demon. We had to learn to be okay
the TV monitor, my face contorted, my eyes looked down and my voice with it. If we were afraid to stutter, there was no hope of controlling it.
staggered and stumbled. I felt ashamed. As a 15-year-old girl embarking on To hack away at the mental component of stutteringtension
college applications and the boys of summer, I was horrified that this thing in the vocal cords is increased by stresswe used desensitization
Id tried to stifle had a name but no specific cure. What I didnt know, sitting techniques. We sat in cubicles with a phone book and called every florist,
in the clinic watching that video, was that asking a person who stutters to bakery, doctors office and gym in the city, asking what time they closed.
slow down and relax was like asking a blind person to squint a little to see. Sometimes we were told to stutter on purpose; other times we used
I even had trouble with my nameespecially with my name. Youd be prolongation techniques or reformatted breathing. The group would hoot
hard-pressed to find a person who stutters who doesnt have trouble with and holler in applause if someone got a hang-up. All that mattered was

her name. Her address and phone number trigger anxiety as well. Its said that we were doing the very thing that terrified us.
that the general populations number-one fear is public speaking, ranked For so long I had cringed at things any normal speaker would say
even higher than death. But to a person who stutters, I can assure you, without thinking (such as the aforementioned name, number and address).
death seems like a picnic. Oh God, if I stutter at all, this person is going to think Im crazy or mentally
My first memories of stuttering are seemingly random episodes that challenged. Although the severity of stuttering falls on a spectrum, youre
I dont like to recall. Fearing to raise my hand in class. Required public almost luckier if youre more severe. If someone asks your address and you

speaking. Sitting in English class waiting for my turn to read aloud, start tossing your head back and rolling your eyes, youre more likely to get
knowing that the jerk behind would mimic me just low enough for our a sympathetic response than if youre silent, praying you can get through it
teacher not to hear. without looking like youve forgotten where you live.
I started stuttering when I was 6 years old. My parents never made The AIS program helped me enough that the next summer I signed up
a big deal about it. Yet eventually I realized I was constantly substituting for the annual conference of the National Stuttering Association (NSA).
words and worrying about whether I would be able to say things. The There I met people who had never experienced effective therapy. It was the
teasing and my confusion as to why I could not read aloud began to take an first time outside of a therapy atmosphere that many of us felt safe enough
emotional toll. to stutter openly. I saw fluent speakers patiently waiting minutes just so
How can a seemingly small disability manifest so largely? Imagine people could finally say their names. At AIS, wed been encouraged to use
the techniques we learned to generate fluency. Here, it was finally okay

walking into a party. The host comes over, extends his hand, asks your
name. Hey, Im Ssss-ssss-sss Whoa, this girls drunk! he laughs. to stutter.
Yeah, me and the 3 million other people in this country who stutter. Ive gone back to the NSA conference every summer since for the
Still, when my mother suggested we look into an intensive program workshops, seminars and mixers. When I was 18, I started the now-annual
at the American Institute for Stuttering in New York City, I vehemently College Transition Workshop as preparation for high schoolers. As I
refused. I didnt want to acknowledge that there was anything wrong with entered my twenties I was let in on NSA jokes, such as One tequila, two
how I talked. Fortunately, she persisted, and finally I agreed. I walked into tequila, three tequila...Fluency! There is a sense of humor about the

the first session of the program terrified of being exposed; Id tried to hide disorder that stutterers embrace to lighten things up. My stuttering friends
my stuttering for so long and had never met anyone else who stuttered and I frequently joke about the inevitable silences that occur on the phone
before. because its hard to tell when someone is silently blocking. Often well wait
Stuttering took many forms that day. It was the 16-year-old boy next patiently for each other when indeed no one is stuttering at all.
to me, head down, refusing to look up as he attempted to speak. The Even with the AIS program and the NSA seminars, my stuttering still
overbearing mother who mouthed her 14-year-old sons words as he tried, brought challenges. A significant one was introducing myself to a roomful
to no avail, to introduce himself. I clutched my mothers arm, desperate to of non-stuttering fellow classmates at New York University. Up to that
leave this place where, at the time, it seemed I could not possibly belong. point Id managed some combination of coughing, looking at the floor and
I was not this severe, I thought. I knew how to say my own name. It didnt leaving the room to pull myself through the dreaded swamp. But after all
matter that in order to do so, I would pretend to be distracted, or stomp the AIS-induced awareness and NSA self-improvement and support, I felt
my foot, or blink my eye a certain way. When push came to shove, I could I had to face the demon. I could no longer be in denial, letting others feel
say it. my shame as I refused to make eye contact. Instead I stood in front of
During the first week of the program, I was forced to come to terms the class, heart bursting, and looked at the eager faces before me. My

with things I hadnt understood. Foremost among them: Stuttering is name is Ssssamantha G-G-Gennuso. No, I havent forgotten my name, but
caused by a genetic disorder, however far back in the family tree, that I am indeed a p-p-person who st-st-stutters. To my amazement, no one
results in a misfire between the brain and vocal cords (or vocal folds). flinched. I finished my introduction and sat down in an intoxicating haze of
Instead of the folds opening to produce speech, as they do in fluent relief and pride.
speakers, they slam shut, causing all sorts of desperate secondary The tools and techniques Ive learned require constant diligence, and
behaviors, which range from facial contortions to pen-clicking to strange they are not a cure. But Ive let my stuttering outopenly struggling on my

sounds and breathing patterns. Its as natural for a stutterer to experience name at parties and on job interviews, knowing the reaction that inevitably
blocked speech as it is for a fluent speaker to talk normally. Try to talk will come, only to crush it with confidence and a smile.
without letting any air out. Thats the beginning. Now try deliberately to This isnt to imply Ive got it all figured out. Every stutterer has a story,
stutter. Thats how it feels for me to speak fluently: weird and unnatural. but one in particular stays with me. Its the mantra of a friend of mine from
The AIS program required us to speak without secondary behaviors my first days at AIS, Bob K. Bobs stuttering was so severe that he made
from the first day, which is like asking a righty to write with his left hand. the commitment to practice for hours every day until he achieved relative
In my case, I was accustomed to using the filler word um, to looking fluency. He left his old life of insecurity and self-hatred behind. But when
upwards as I spoke to feign that I was thinking (and thus draw attention I asked him if there was anything he missed, he said, My stuttering,
[Samantha Gennuso] from the fact that I was struggling) and to subtly stamping my foot. I was because its a part of me. I thought he was crazy when I first heard him say
no longer allowed to do any of this. Once, when it took me 40 seconds to that, but Im starting to understand what he meant. c
say the word confidence, I won a prize. Stuttering was rewarded here
6 thecomment 2010 7 thecomment 2010
A Granite State
of Mind [Drew FitzGerald] Ian Freeman in the Free Talk Live studio, his living room.
photos by Vikesh Kapoor

As sites for protests go, this one didnt the stairs. Later that day, Freeman posted lighted pumpkins. Although many Free State manicurists, Keenes newest residents have mint leaves to make their statement. I really assertion that Free State newcomers
seem to offer much potential: a sidewalk online the footage he had recorded from his migrants have ended up in large cities like combined creativity and a fierce dedication to dont understand what their point is, the sometimes disagree. The project has no
on a quiet lane in Keene, New Hampshire, BlackBerry under the headline Armed Gang Manchester and on the states coast, the their ideals to gain notoriety. Their protests chief said. power over people other than to bring them
population 22,000, where a handful of Assaults Sam. newcomers to this small valley town might be have gotten them coverage in the local Keene Meola said he doesnt think the groups to the state, he said, after which they are
activists stood across from the quaint red Such confrontations have become the best at getting their message across Sentinel, The Concord Monitor, The New camera-heavy tactics will work in the end. on their own. In any case, the project is not
home of the Cheshire County Superior Court. commonplace in Keene since the launch using blogs, forums, radio shows and videos Hampshire Union Leader and The Boston In fact, he sees some people mellowing as a political party, just a medium to organize
Past the courts drab side entrance, the of the Free State Project, a libertarian of events posted minutes after they happen Globe as often as theyve landed them in jail. they spend more time living in their adopted people around the same liberty message.
cases on the docket were not precedent- initiative conceived in 2001 to concentrate to fight their notion of state tyranny. It seems that the Keene area is attracting hometown and even paying property taxes Indeed, with freedom of thought as a given,
setting. At 1:30 in the afternoon, a man enough people unhappy with their current Free Staters in other parts of New a set of people who are of the outside-the- as much as they protest the affront when they it follows that the newcomers hold a variety of
named Wallace Nolen was suing the city of government to try to establish a new system Hampshire have already assumed local system mind-set, said Freeman, who has visit the local tax office. He said he views the visions of what they hope the town to be. Some
Keene for failing to give him the municipal in a new state. They took their name from the elected offices, but working within the a gift for unfolding the details of his most more vocal newcomers in Keene as causing just want be left alone. Others, like cartoonist
employee data hed requested in the computer abolitionists who settled in Kansas before the system is not most Keene Free Staters passionate beliefs with unending politeness. a rift within the Free State Project, between Dale Everett, a Quaker from Georgia, extol the
format he wanted. The city was stalling, Civil War with an eye to making it a free state. modus operandi. Manchester has more of I think the outside-the-system stuff has young anarchists and working adults, fanning invisible hand of the markethe does it with
saying it needed more time. After an online vote in 2003, the projects a political-activist scene, explained Free far more potential for return on investment, the flame wars that occasionally erupt on a strip called Anarchy in Your Head. Others
The real show was in the lobby right constituents picked New Hampshirea State Project president Varrin Swearingen. frankly. Yes, it has high risk, but high risk FreeKeene.coms own message boards. believe that Keene has the opportunity to
outside the courtroom, where three sheriffs state sparse in population but kindred enough Keene is more of an anarchist, civil- yields high reward. Freeman takes no issue with Meolas become what San Francisco was in the 60s,
guarded the door against Sam Dodson, a in sentiment, they believed, that newcomers disobedient crowd. Freeman risked much himself by moving
documentary filmmaker whod already spent might actually make an impact on the What Keeners new neighbors lack in from Florida to the relative unknown of
58 days in jail after refusing to turn off his electorate. political clout they compensate for in visibility. southwestern New Hampshire. He now lives in
camera in the district-courthouse lobby. While Theres no official roster of Free Staters, but an unassuming duplex with a cozy living room,
Dodson, camera held to his shoulder, asserted those who stay active on FreeKeene.com padded with sound dampeners, that serves as
his right to be there, the attorney inside was  The Keene area is which hosts forums where everything to the broadcast headquarters for his talk show.
bloviating about the minutiae of e-mailing do with local civil disobedience plays out His studio gets busy in the evening as co-host
different computer file formats. attracting a set of onlinehave proven savvy at spreading Mike Edge, a wide range of guests and even
A gaunt-faced friend of Dodsons people who are of the their message via public demonstrations and the occasional house cat stop by for a visit.
named Ian Freeman appealed to the deputy. through adept use of new media. Although Free Staters constitute only a
Honestly, if youd just let him in, it wouldnt outside-the-system I would say its the liberty media capital handful of Keenes population, the transplants
have made for a very interesting film, he said mind-set. of the country, if not the whole world, said have created a community Freeman admits
sarcastically. Its just boring lawyer talk. Freeman, who co-hosts Free Talk Live, a he kind of fantasized about in Florida. With
The deputy didnt budge. Cameras libertarian talk show that beams out to 61 everything thats going on, it can be hectic.
are not allowed unless a judge grants a After six years, the projects website stations nationwide. No caller is screened You have to be choosy...because theres
request, which in this case had been filed counts more than 800 pioneers who have or turned away, he said. so much going on and you can only be in one
only minutes ago. As an open-government made the move, toward an eventual goal In addition to Freemans show, the place at one time, he said. Thats never
advocate, Dodson saw the extra hoop as just of 20,000. The new residents hail from all members of the online forums of anything I encountered down South.
another means of making citizens beg their corners of the country, work in a range of FreeKeene.com boast a newspaper, a Freemans fantasy is Keene police chief
government for access. The officer and his professions and, aside from their common syndicated comic strip, a public-access cable Kenneth Meolas perennial headache. For
antagonist debated the finer points of the distaste for bureaucracies, often hold very television show and a TV production company. every time the Free State migrants violate
policy while behind two sets of heavy wooden different beliefs. Theyve also made their presence felt ordinances by refusing to stand for a judge or
doors the hearing petered out. Then theres Keene, a southwestern at the local level. From marijuana smoke- by causing a disturbance at a tax office, they
After the hearing, Dodson, Freeman and New Hampshire town whose claim to fame outs in the towns main square to the also find a way to antagonize officers without
others followed the parties through the lobby, until recently was its huge annual Pumpkin public flouting of more obscure government breaking the law. At one pro-marijuana
Dodson refused to bring tyranny to America any further.
filming everything as they shuffled down Festival, which last year boasted 29,762 regulations such as license requirements for demonstration, for instance, protesters held

8 thecomment 2010 9 thecomment 2010

according to new resident Richard Onley, who knowledge of how to broadcast information so much abuse and so [little accountability] far as Internet advertisement is concerned, Stone asserted they were. this post-industrial county seat might seem
said he was there to see it. himself that prompted him to move. Hed been that you cant really prevent people from said another transplant as he stood outside You do some great work, guys, the to outsiders, the mayor noted that a few
Despite their differences, If theres campaigning for Texas libertarian Ron Pauls getting hurt, she said. the courthouse holding a cardboard Honk trucker said, pumping his fist. dozen people are going to be hard-pressed to
drama, it really exists on the Internet, where presidential bid and making public speeches With an outfit called Obscured Truth for freedom sign. The protester, who would Keene residents have reacted by turns change the minds of nearly 25,000 longtime
people sit behind their computers and dont of his own when a friendly audience member Network, Dodson and McLain make videos only give his name as Stone, wore a navy indifferently, supportively and angrily to their residentsespecially in a place as blue as
really get to sit face-to-face, Freeman said. approached him. Somebody came up and of ways to defy the system, such as flying hoodie and jeans duct-taped around his bike- new neighborsin ways that are as much a Keene. Keene is a very, very Democratic
Most people get along very well. said, Do you know what a podcast is? I had domestically without carrying any form of pedaling leg. His current job, he said, is to function of the locals own attitudes as of the region, said Pregent, whose office is
The courts are a different story. Although no idea. ID. Like Freemans brand of libertarianism, manufacture and distribute cigarettes. migrants actions. nonpartisan, as are all local officials. Its a
no arrests were made, a January hearing Dodson learned, and found a voice Dodsons holds little faith in any medium of Stone isnt the only Free Stater with an Paige Beauregard, a cashier at The Corner very progressive city, very environmentally
over a Free State activists drivers license through his newfound skills. Having mastered mainstream political change. Politicians can alias. Some fellow Free Keeners even refer News convenience store on Main Street, friendly.
was packed with bailiffs in anticipation of a videography, he began making political make minor course corrections, but I think to each other by their online monikers. Other typifies the stance many locals have taken Other locals fear what may result from
fray. The move was not without precedent: shorts with a libertarian message. Feeling were moving in the wrong direction, he said. members, like Freeman, who was born Ian toward the out-of-towners, who are easy to the Free Stater presence. At Lindys Diner,
In his two years as clerk for Keenes district increasingly frustrated with a system he I think the systems grown out of control, and Bernard, answer to a pseudonymor more spot even in a place where odd characters are a greasy-spoon establishment that serves
court, Larry S. Kane said he has seen activists saw as unsalvageable, he decided to take I dont think theres any stopping it. The lens, accurately, a chosen name. Dodson, who once Fluffernutter sandwiches along with more
repeatedly heckle, disparage and disobey the money hed saved up in Texas to buy a not the lawmaker, is now Dodsons preferred went by the name Miller, said the decision typical breakfast and lunch fare, retired
local judges. We know when theres green clapboard house a stones throw from tool for society-wide change. was more than just self-styling. I feel like my librarian John Blomquist expressed his
someone coming in here whos a member of Both men said they found out about the legal name has been usurped by the state,  Every case where reservations. A resident of nearby Walpole,
the Free State Project, Kane said. Every Free State Project on the Internet but took the he said. there is a Free State Blomquist regrets how his once-placid town
case where there is a Free State Project final step to move based on the reputations Stone moved to Keene from Virginia in has been choked by the surge of newcomers
person involved, the camera issue comes of other like-minded pioneers. In contrast September, leaving his friends and family Project person and said he feared the same for Keene. But
up...Its not something that we need to deal with the clear distaste they show for police behind. He does not regret the choice, involved, the camera Blomquist also seemed somewhat resigned.
with at any other time. officers, judges and other officials, Dodson embracing the newfound freedom he found I suppose you have to look at it this way:
Dodson, for his part, said he does not and Freemanlike many of their fellow wholesale. People are smoking out in the issue comes up. Theyre going to do it anyway, he said.
regret bringing his camera into the courtroom, Free Statersregard the movements early square, gardening here [on government land] Stone would agree. I believe in freedom
then refusing to give his name to authorities. movers with reverence, even when they and giving manicures without a license. in my lifetime, he said. Im ready to find
One judge has a dictatorship over the disagree over certain means of protest. As Stone stood with his sign, some drivers common. New Hampshires pretty lenient, out if this is possible. The 800-and-counting
town, Dodson said; he views his nearly The reason I chose [the Free State honked, and others ignored him. One woman said Beauregard. We dont really judge Free Staters have rallied under the same
two-month stint in jail after the incident as a Project] was because people I respected rolled down her window to question what people unless they make us judge them. battle cry, and for many the starting point
demonstration of principles. Keene Mayor Dale Pregent says the chose it, Freeman said. Some of his friends it was all about. Freedom from what? she In this case, some Free Staters actions is this small town in the foothills of New
Those same principles were at work in newcomers have yet to make a large impact. said the same thing of him. asked, in a not-so-friendly manner. have given Beauregard cause to judge. As Hampshire. FreeKeene.com proclaims the
Dodsons choice to move to Keene in the first Friendship, in this case, often derives Exactly! Stone said, emphasizing for the smokers on the Common...I think place the world destination for pro-liberty
place. Like many of the newcomers, he set Keenes central square. He started recording from online acquaintance. Almost all Free how much he approved of the disapproving they really could have done it a better way. civil disobedience and noncooperation. Time
upon an uncertain path, from a high-paying public meetings and compiling video from State newcomers make adept use of the question. Both were silent for a second before The way you need to change the law is to go will tell. Meanwhile, Stone will flag down
corporate job to a risky business venture he a computer on the second floor of his new Internet. Freeman said Keene is particularly the driver recited: Freedom isnt free. to the law, not by going out in public with an passing motorists with his handheld signs,
runs out of his new home. In 2008 he was home. overrepresented by libertarians who Exactly! illegal substance, she said. and Freeman will host his radio show. Dodson
working in Dallas for a telecommunications Dodsons girlfriend, Meg McLain, who at some point worked with information A soft-spoken elderly man suggested Keene mayor Dale Pregent shares will keep showing up at court, camera on his
company as an electrical engineer. But the taught him many of his multimedia skills, said technology. an addition to the sign. How about and Beauregards skepticism of the way Free shoulder, hopingor maybe notthat the
position did not sit well with him: Homeland her views about government changed more That sentimentof the value of the responsibility? he asked, to which Stone Staters sometimes go about doing things, powers that be will let him in. c
Security would come in all the time with gradually. The Oregon native said coping with Internet as a means of communication and conceded he thought exactly the same thing. although he too stressed that they have the
requests to query our data, he said. I realized a period of homelessness left her seeing the communityis shared by Free Staters both A ruddy-faced truck driver slowed his right to their beliefs. I doubt theyve had the
I was helping bring tyranny to America. government as inept. At first I thought the in offices and on the streets. [Keene is] a vehicle. You guys are part of the 4:20 impact on the city that they want to have,
Dodson said it was newly acquired law could be used to help people, [but] theres center of activism in New Hampshire, as [cannabis] crowd, right? Pregent said of the newcomers. As small as

10 thecomment 2010 11 thecomment 2010

Apes at Sea [Eric Hal Schwartz]

Four percent of my DNA is all that stands between me supervision. Add a dash of alcohol, and shake well on an empty ocean his shadowing of the brunette near him was effective in gaining her of the second day. What point this narrative was supposed to prove
and a chimpanzee. Despite humanitys intellectual and technical for eight days. Use caution when examining contents, as the blast admiration, or was he perhaps oblivious to how he looked? It took puzzles me still. I didnt ask, though. In my experience, those who pose
accomplishments, only a fractional difference in genetic identity of hormones could strip away the inhibitions and common sense of some effort to silence these kinds of thoughts, but for once I didnt awkward questions tend not to be invited to parties. I never win the
separates looking for life on Mars from looking for lice on a anyone without proper protective gear. find them more interesting than actually participating. To the storytelling game, but I suspect that those who do are lying, or at least
neighbors fur. The moment the ship began to move, there was a sense of contraryI encouraged my inner chimp to strangle the pedantic exaggerating. Otherwise I dont believe they would still be alive, or at
I remember watching Discovery Channel specials on chimpanzees uncertainty about how we might get to know one another in this lecturer in my head. least without a dozen illegitimate children.
and their entertaining antics, but what always struck me about those strange, unstructured environment. Lacking lice to groom, we turned to To adapt to life on the ship, some chose a different kind of Meanwhile, the courtship game continued. All around me students
shows was what they said about chimpanzee society. Chimpanzees play in much the same way young chimps mightto bond and engage gameless transparent but often with stricter rules. To take part, the on the ship were engaged ina wonderful euphemismhooking
and other great apes apparently live a social life complex enough to with our peers. participants wore nice dresses, button-down shirts and suit jackets. Im up. What hooking up exactly means varies in definition from person
be understood only by a dedicated genius like Jane Goodallor by Everyone brought out the games, songs and jokes they knew from pretty sure I even saw someone in a tie. Together they headed for Pub to person, but vocabulary was the least of what some were sharing.
someone who really likes soap operas. childhood. Swept up in the fervor, I dredged up memories of summer Night, a few hours of overpriced beer and overblown expectations. Although in retrospect it seems inevitable, I was still surprised at the
The same, of course, is true for camp and kindergarten for the things I Not even the most ardent of us literal game-players were unaware sheer number of people who found someone special, if only for a few
humans. Even when disguised by fancy used to do with my friends before we of this other way that college-age people play. Sometimes the fog of hours. The negative aspect of being in such a small community was
clothes and good manners, our primate had video games. The sentence-forming hormones was thick enough to make me dizzy. Actually, that might have that there was little space should friction develop post-romance. No
essence comes through. Indeed, while I  It only took one week in the hodgy-podgy was a particular favorite. been from walking into a pole when a particularly pretty girl walked way to avoid people after the mind cleared. Conflagrations, fights and
pride myself on my analytical nature, it summer of 2008 to make a The videographer of the voyage even by, wafting perfume as she passed. A multitude of dents would have tears were all too common. After carefully considering the possibilities,
only took one week in the summer of 2008 filmed us, fifteen or so college students marked the passage of some students had the ship been made of I decided to pursue friendship instead. From the rumors that flew
to make a monkey out of me. I spent that monkey out of me. sitting in a circle holding hands as we less durable material. For those who were singleand for some who around the ship faster than the
summer traveling Europe on an academic passed a clap to the nonsensical refrain. were notthe week offered an unrivaled opportunity to preen, strut sea birds we sailed by,
cruise program called Semester at Sea. All the chairs in the room were occupied and otherwise parade themselves to an essentially captive audience. others came to that
When I boarded the ship, I had no real expectations for the first week, by people laughing at the ridiculousand frequently risqu Even if this posturing was not done consciously, the methodically conclusion far too
the one that would take me and 600 other college students from Nova sentences we would compose to the rhythm of clapping hands and questioning part of me could not help but see the chimpanzees in their late. Rationally,
Scotia to Norway. I was focused on what would happen once the ship slapping knees. Of course, failing to finish a sentence (and we usually fight for hierarchy and the rewards of being on top. Im glad I didnt
docked in port. The onshore explorations and academic aspects of the failed) made us laugh even more. The zenith of the night came when The most common on-board struggle for dominance took the form get sucked into it, but
summer loomed larger than any social consideration. I assumed that we all decided to play a variant of hide-and-seek called sardines, in of storytelling, ultimately just a more civilized version of puffing out 96 percent of me could have
first week would be dull and I would spend most, if not all, of my time which only one person hides and everyone else has to search for him or the chest, screeching and throwing sticks in the air. No matter how swung my decision in another direction.
alone. I crammed my iPod with movies and packed books (Moby Dick her. Not as intimate as eating parasites and bits of dead skin off each crazy or outlandish the tale told, someone else sitting with the group It wasnt until I sat at breakfast the morning we sailed into port that
and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) to keep me busy. others backs, but certainly a cleaner form of bonding. attempted to top it and thereby usurp the tellers dominance. I realized that for all my internally aloof analysis, I was just as invested
What I had failed to foresee was how very much this first part As much fun as I was having, the logical part of my brain still At one point, a fellow traveling scholar told us about how he in this group as anyone. My very involvement had delayed the epiphany
of the trip would be like a psychological experimentor, to be more kept clicking away, filing observations, comparing phenomena and had drunk an entire bottle of vodka by himself one night and had that the social aspects of the trip were now much more engaging
precise, a chemistry one. Take one cruise ship; add college students attempting both to explain and predict the behavior of those around barely felt sick the next morning. No sooner did the echoes of his to me than I could ever have imagined. Four percent may be all that
with an exciting summer ahead of them. Make sure that most of me. Was the enthusiastic girl encouraging us all to play really excited tale of self-abuse die away than a girl jumped in with an account distinguishes human from chimpanzee DNA, but I choose to think this
them have never met before. Grant them a maximum of free time by about the game, or did she just want to be the center of attention? of how shed gone on a two-day bender, drinking bottle after bottle is a compliment to chimps, rather than a slur to humanity. With that
ensuring that all mundane chores are taken care of. Remove nearly all Did the giggling fellow bouncing like a concussed kangaroo think of liquor. The only noticeable effect: her complete lack of memory thought, I finished my banana. c

12 thecomment 2010 13 thecomment 2010

Me Good [Eric Hal Schwartz]
photos by Vincent Bancheri
The barbarian warrior shouts a battle
cry as he brings his twin swords down. The
man before him falls. Chest heaving, the
warrior steps back from the now-prone figure.
Lieutenant and Lady Weathersby

several ongoing games, often simultaneously.

In that sense, hes a true LARP veteran.
Today, comfortable in his fake facial hair and
military uniform, the 28-year-old calmly sends
in their heads. We were ranting about our
ideas while nobody else listened, Kanarek
remembers. Id say 99 percent of what we
had at that point got scrapped by the end.
Turning, he issues a command to his fellows out his team to deal with crises, checks on After a month of twelve-hour meetings and
and sprints past the dueling swordsmen and dinner (prepared by the wife of a player) and maniacal rule- and world-making, the team
fallen bodies that fill the woods. The red sash otherwise parlays his years of experience was ready to test its intricate creation in the
on his tunic flares behind him. Out of sight of into running what to an uninformed observer finest LARP tradition: War Day. I would call it
the battleground, behind a lodge, he removes appears to be a madhouse with a costume a horrible train wreck, Kanarek says, wincing
his glasses and wipes them clean, careful not budget. You get good at pre-empting fires, at memories of the event. Cohen disagrees. It
to smudge the tribal paint on his face. Ryan he says. And while both Kanarek and Cohen was a lot of fun, he says. But he admits that
Cohen may be a warlord at the moment, but currently work full time (Kanarek as a quality playing is generally less stressful than running
he wont be able to do much rampaging the assurance tester for the online Lord of the a game, especially an untested one.
rest of the weekend if he cant see. And as a Rings video game and Cohen as a manager for In any event, the group persevered even
game director for the Steam and Cinders live- a medical-device company), they both want though the beta testing had not gone as well
action role-playing game, he has more than to grow Be Epic as a business, involving more as hoped. The founders, along with interested
marauding to do. people and eventually starting more games. friends, continued to refine the rules and deal
Fortunately, Cohen is not the only They are even using the LARP as a way to with the mundane necessities of finding a
one coordinating the four dozen players apply for business school. place to play and arranging insurance, food
spending the weekend at Camp Denison, Steam and Cinders epic journey began in and everything else. They settled on Camp
in Georgetown, Massachusetts. Fifteen July 2007 after a barbecue during which five Denison, which had plenty of space and was
staffers together try to ensure that players are LARPing friends conceived a new game, one isolated enough that the gamewhich can
continually involved in exciting adventures. they could run together. While they enjoyed get noisywouldnt bother neighbors. Finally,
Indeed, the two-year-old Steam and Cinders the games they were in, Kanarek says, they in April 2008, the team was ready to run its
and its parent company, Be Epic, can be wanted something newsomething different first real event.
counted a success thanks largely to their from the typical magic realms. We were It took only casual marketing and
efforts and those of Cohen and Be Epic sick of the fantasy genre, Kanarek says. promotion to draw people to the camp for
president Mike Kanarekall in the context So the group decided to go for steampunk, that inaugural game. We relied mostly on
of the rising popularity of Live Action Role- an entirely different realm of the fantastic. word-of-mouth, Kanarek says, adding that
Playing games and the many participants Steampunk takes the world of the nineteenth the Internet was useful in coordination. The
(LARPers) in New England. century and asks, What if we had followed weekend was not without growing pains
LARPing is a combination of fantasy the visions of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, misunderstood rules, along with uncertainty
tabletop games, historical reenactment and creating mechanical computers, steam-driven about the tone and structure of the game
improvisational acting. Game creators render machine guns, and all the other extrapolations but the staff had expected that. Theres the
everything from accents to the very laws of of the future based on then-current society way its supposed to work and the way it does
physics in as much detail as possible, and and technology? Steampunks rising popularity work, Cohen says. But the 40 or so people at
players work to make their characters come in books, games, movies and comics led the that first game gave enough positive reviews
alive. Ultimately, those involved create a group to use the constructs and themes of the to keep the game alive, and encouraged the
shared world. genre, situated on a new world named Tellus staff to dream even bigger.
Kanarek has been LARPing since he was in a frontier town called Iron City. Steam and Cinders is now played about
16 and, like many of the players and staff The group started sharing visions and six times a year: three games in the fall and
at Steam and Cinders, has been involved in ideas, attempting to tame the wild notions three in the spring, with a few extras thrown

14 thecomment 2010 15 thecomment 2010

In character: Sir Alcock and Mrs. Cragswagger
in like a winter feast and small-group summer Nerf weapons, painted and modified to look For those looking for a LARP, New England
events. Kanarek and Cohen arent afraid to get like brass and steel, evoking a technology offers one of the largest such extended
their hands dirty, either, actively participating that never was. The mix of styles is an communities in the country. More than a
whenever possible. You can do more good absinthe addicts dream of the Wild West, half-dozen venues offer everything from war
out in the game, Kanarek says. You cant Victorian England and pure fantasy. But its games with minimal character development to
just wait for problems to come to you. the row of cabinets forested with taped-on LARPs like Steam and Cinders with elaborate
sheets of colored paper that commands the histories and multifarious cultures. Settings
Up at the camp, players wander through attention of most of the staff in the room. range from fictional-but-realistic to Tolkien-
the woods or sit at picnic tables discussing Each sheet lists a story or activity and all the esque with diverse species as characters.
their latest exploits, always in character, until staff and equipment needed, and each one Knowles compares LARPs to romantic
sucked into a new storyline by staff members. advances either the narrative of Tellus or the prospects. LARPing is a lot like dating, she
The plots range from baroque political development of individual characters. says. Some are fixer-upper boyfriends, and
schemes to a straight battle against raiders, Running a Steam and Cinders event is some really have everything together. You get
most of whom are junior staffersor, as they further complicated by ongoing shifts in the different things out of different games.
are fondly called, crunchies. Theyll play roster of players. Theres a lot of turnover Occasionally LARP romance is more than
bandits or things that are pretty disposable, in the game, Kanarek says. People leave metaphor. Knowles herself met her boyfriend
and then they go crunch, Kanarek says by and come back a lot. The sheets lining the at her first game, when she played a savage
way of explanation. Bruises and aches are not wall of the Mine Office are really just the barbarian. He was dressed as a spirit
uncommon, but there havent been any serious tip of the creative iceberg necessary to keep who sent me out to the woods to die, she
injuries. remembers. Kanarek, the boyfriend
Near the picnic tables set up in question, simply laughs when
in a clearing, an elaborate, brightly questioned about the incident.
colored tent beckons. Inside, Brit Actually, there are many
Knowlesor Sanura, as she is couples playing the game, including
known around Iron Citycarefully some sets of husbands and wives,
puts together alchemical grenades although their characters do
(beanbags or flour wrapped in not always reflect the real-life
tissues), while explaining the utility relationship. Men outnumber
of these and other instruments. Her women at Steam and Cinders,
characters accent, a mix of Russian though less overwhelmingly than
and Arabic, adds mystique to the in other LARPs. In most LARP
tea-scented space. games, there is a five-to-one ratio
Commerce in Steam and Cinders of males to females, Kanarek says,
is possible thanks to the gold coins but Steam and Cinders comes
designed by the staff and sold for A stockpile of weapons in the Mine Office. out to about a two-to-one ratio of
the game. Each coin displays a coat guys to girls. Not that such gender
of arms on one side and the profile imbalance really matters with so
of the queen (actually one of the staffers) on things afloat. Happily for Cohen and Kanarek, many costumes and wigs lying around. At
the other. One of our goals in this game was the staff is more than up to the challenge. every LARP you go to, at some point in the
to not need suspension of disbelief, Kanarek When Kanarek calls over several people to course of the season theyre going to put a
says. We want it to feel real. To achieve organize a raid, he can count on them to follow guy in a wig and a dress, Cohen says, and
that level of verisimilitude, Kanarek, Cohen the elaborate tactics and the subtle story the female staff dont hesitate to go the other
and the rest of the staff create elaborate underlying the attack (in this case, the crash way when called on.
props, like period newspapers and official of an airship). A frisson of excitement moves While there are plans to make Be Epic
notices, storing them and other equipment in through the room as a few staffers intently profitable, right now the reward for the
the nearby staff center, known as the Mine pack a crate with weapons, ammunition and weekend is the experience itself. Its a
Office. other goodies for players to discover. We real labor of love, Cohen says. After a
The inside of the Mine Office looks have just as much fun as the players, Cohen weekend of running around ensuring that 50
like the result of a high-speed collision says. The players themselves often are old people are having fun, dealing with crises
of a Renaissance fair with a comic-book hands, participating in several ongoing games both in-game and out and sleeping almost
convention and historical-reenactment society. at once. College students and recent graduates not at all, sometimes he and Kanarek ask,
Heaps of swords and shields lie piled next to make up a majority of the population. Some Why do we keep doing this to ourselves?
racks of costumes, while tables of guns await participants are staff members of other LARPs But even as they leave, ideas for new plots
the next battle and pseudo-parchment posters who come to Steam and Cinders just to play. and new adventures start to percolate, and
issue admonitions to the people of Iron City. They tend to be some of the best, Kanarek excited e-mails begin to fly back and forth in
The edged weapons are all heavily padded or says. They understand that I poured my heart preparation for the return to Tellus. c
made of soft plastic, and the guns are mainly into this thing.

16 thecomment 2010 The Savage Circle in Iron City. 17 thecomment 2010

Will Box for
1. Tsarnaev works out at the Wai Kru Mixed 4. T sarnaevs family fled Chechnya in the early 1990s
Martial Arts Center. because of the conflict there. He lived in Kazakhstan
before coming to the United States as a refugee.
2. Though hes lived in the U.S. for five years,

Tsarnaev says, I dont have a single American 5. In the absence of an independent Chechnya,
friend. I dont understand them. Tsarnaev says he would rather compete for the
U.S. than for Russia.
3. Tsarnaev, who studies at Bunker Hill Community
College in Boston and wants to become an 6.Tsarnaev stops to answer a call while walking to
engineer, took the semester off from school to his boxing practice.
An Olympic Drive to Become a United States Citizen train for the competition.
7. Im dressed European style, Tsarnaev says.
[ Johannes Hirn]

4 6

1 3

2 5 7

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is a boxer from Chechnya who

currently trains at the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts
Center in Boston, Massachusetts. Tsarnaev enters
national Golden Gloves competitions in hopes that he
might be selected for the next U.S. Olympic team and
become a naturalized American.

18 thecomment 2010 19 thecomment 2010

8 10 11

12 9 13

8. Tsarnaev says he loves the movie Borat, even though some of the
jokes are a bit much.

9. When you start kicking, it gets dirty. Thats what I think, says
Tsarnaev. Of kickboxers, he says, They dont know how to move.

10. Tsarnaev says he doesnt generally remove his shirt when among
women at the gym.

11. Tsarnaev, a Muslim, doesnt drink or smoke. God said no alcohol,

he says.

12. Tsarnaev demonstrates a way of walking to strengthen the ankles.

In Russia, we used to train like this, he says. Here nobody does
it. I dont know why!

13.Tsarnaev takes a break from his boxing practice.

20 thecomment 2010 21 thecomment 2010

[Katie Ryan]

Eye shadow still gives me trouble. My hair is perpetually in its I learned several lessons in those 90 minutes of sport: Actually Division I college-basketball coaches or a date to your senior prom? (I sweethearts. How had I missed the priority
ponytail. My closet is full of shorts not skirts, sneakers not stilettos. participating in gym class can make middle-school girls astonishing nabbed a last-minute date to mine: a friends cousin, who borrowed my shift? We had once scoffed at girls who
I could probably use a little help. athletes; crying is a punishable offense (more laps, less oxygen, cell phone halfway through to call his girlfriend. Awkward.) breathed anything other than basketball; when
When I got to middle school, I laid down my Barbies and picked up more tears, repeat); I was going to need a completely new wardrobe; Some girls try to straddle the line, but they get weeded out; if you did we become them, I wondered?
a basketball. A decade of sports and two reconstructive knee surgeries basketball is, most assuredly, not simply a boy sport. didnt go on to play in college, that was finebut it was because you I had some catching up to do. I went through
later, I still dont know how to put curlers in my hair, still keep my nails I wont lie: For a long time, I was the worst one on the team. My didnt want it badly enough. As girls my age deftly wielded kohl pencils tubes of liquid eyeliner and bottles of nail polish. I
short, still wake up and unconsciously dress for a basketball practice dad and I would go to our basement every night, turn on the NBA to practice eyeliner application, I had a Sharpie in hand to perfect my bought heels and blouses and blazers. I even threw
I havent gone to in years. (maybe Id improve via osmosis), and pass the basketball to each other signature; I would be ready for the throngs of little girls who would one away my prized team sweatpants.
Its not an easy transition from female athlete to...female. The for as long as itd take me to catch twenty in a row. day swarm around me with their Ryan jerseys and WNBA regulation Becoming a girl was soon part of my morning routine
admission feels like the catharsis of a twelve-step group in a church Some nights were embarrassingly long. basketballs. femininity became another layer to apply. I still woke up and put on a
basement, but AA doesnt stand for Athletes Anonymous. Eventually, though, Id catch more than Id drop. I learned the names But my dreams of a future in the pros were dimmed after some hoodie, but Id police myself and return it to the closet for a cardigan.
Hi, Im Katie, and Im a former basketball player. of the Knicks starting lineup and could parrot the announcers (Did you substantial injuries. Blowing out ligaments in one knee has been There was time in my scheduleafter brushing my teeth but before
It wasnt always like thisI wasnt born to be an athlete. Once see that zone defense? Van Gundys out of his mind!). I shoved T-shirts enough to derail the careers of several professional athletes; I had my coffeespecially slotted for makeup application. Id even leave the
upon a time, I categorized basketball as a boy sport; I used gym class adorned with flowers deep into the recesses of my closet and bought reconstructive surgeries on both of my kneesone a year before house without a ponytail holder so Id have no way to sabotage my hair
to study the intricacies of French-braiding hair from the safety of the boys basketball sneakers. I stopped crying. the other, both before I graduated high school. Somehow, though, in the middle of the day.
sidelines. But the beautiful girls in fifth grade were beloved by boys and Its a delicate balance, growing up as both a girl and an athlete. I couldnt give up. Id worked so hard Yet somehow, I felt like a fake.
upperclassmen alike, and many Truly dedicated players dont wear earrings or necklaces with their on this identity. Who was I, without But a fake what, exactly? No matter how
of those girls were stars on the baggy T-shirtsthose are telltale signs of the inexperienced, the my basketball? long it may take me to master my mascara,
basketball team. With infallible wannabes. A well-put-together outfit is key for a trip to the mall with Even with the surgeries, I was still  Somehow, though, I couldnt or how many days I sneak past my mirror in
tween logic, I determined that
all I had to do to be embraced by
your friends; match your shirt to your shorts at practice, and you look
like youre trying too hard. Makeup? Nail polish? Your mother may have
recruited by some colleges to play, and
so I only applied to schools where I
give up. Id worked so hard a hoodie (if I didnt see it, it didnt happen),
the girl who French-braided hair on the
the middle-school hierarchy was finally relented, but what would your coach think? could be on the basketball team. But my on this identity. Who was I, sidelines is the same girl who ran around in
to be good at basketball, too.
So I sauntered into my
High school brought new challenges. The adolescent identity crisis
is never more pronounced. Teens wander the halls trying to understand
collegiate career was short-lived; my
bionic knees couldnt hold up, and I left
without my basketball? boys basketball sneakers.
Lets face it: Its hard enough to grow
first team practice, wearing who they are by sorting their peers according to what they do. Those the team after my freshman year. up at all. We spend our youths comparing
new jeans and cute shoes. I destined for the Ivy League read about high school from the safety of The morning after I stepped down, I rose at 6 a.m. ready for the ourselves to our peers, jockeying for position. Eventually we wake one
was ill-prepared to see my the library. Up-and-coming Tony winners sing and dance as if the Great team run, and realized I could simply turn over and go back to bed. morning to a dawning maturity, and wonder whom our peers have been
once-precious classmates White Way were lined with lockers. I carried my basketball with me But how could I sleep? Id awakened to discover that Id become an emulating while weve been so busy emulating them. Maybe growing
transformed: grosgrain everywhere, and so I was happily defined as an athlete. amputee: Had anyone seen the mass that was once attached to my up means simply accepting who you are, even if youre not quite sure
headbands replaced with This is not to say that I forsook my high-school femininity entirely. right hand? Twenty ounces or so, bright orange, answers to Spalding? who that is.
dripping sweatbands, well- I was excited to be the Spice Girls with my friends at Halloween; it Just like that, I was back to square one. For more than ten years, I Although Im coming to terms with the unconventional path my
coordinated outfits traded for was simply understood that Id be Sporty Spice. I pored over issues had dedicated my life to sports, shunning anything that would not get femininity has taken, my closet is the final frontier, where the last
mens undershirts and gym shorts. My mind raced. What world of Cosmo, Seventeen and Sports Illustrated with equal enthusiasm. me closer to my goalseven outward signs of my own femaleness. schizophrenic vestiges remain. High heels Ill only wear to weddings
was this? A good night of television was flipping between Sex and the City and And what had it gotten me? Joints that snap, crackle and pop more lie dormant next to sneakers Ill only wear on hardwood courts. There
Things worsened once I stepped onto the hardwood floor. I got SportsCenter. than my bowl of cereal in the morning, a closet full of sweatpants and are sequins, and there are sweatpants. If I could figure out how to wear
winded running the laps around the gym and stopped, pretending to Those small indulgences were all I allowed myself. Its an unspoken little idea who I was when I looked in the mirror. them together, I probably would.
retie my now tragically un-cute shoes. My foul shots fell hopelessly rule of female athletes: Be girly, or be the best, because you cant be And the beautiful, sporty girls of fifth grade had now evolved into What can I say? My wardrobe, my femininity, meits all a work in
short of the rim; hard passes bounced off my fingertips. both. You have to choose whats more important to you: letters from beautiful women, with manicured nails, silk blouses and high-school progress. c

22 thecomment 2010 23 thecomment 2010

The gates of wonderland opened. Buses Little did the employees know that within the instability of Syracuse made it vulnerable
drove past a man-made lake with so many three months most of them would be laid to accepting any leadership or momentum.
trout that they could be pulled out by hand. off. Half a decade later, the only sign of the People are willing to grab anything that
Hunters of the transported wildlife at the fabulous development is a 900,000-square- looks like a lifeline, Doucette, says, leaning
reserve waved as the buses passed on their foot gray appendage to the side of Carousel forward. If it bears some resemblance to a life
way to a mansion-sized log cabin. mall, built by contractors from out of state. preserver, they grab for it.
To the 200 people who gazed at Savannah There are no tenants for the new structure,
Dhu through the buses tinted windows, the and the high hopes and tax dollars residents Destiny USA wasnt the first time Robert
landscape must have seemed wholly invested in the process are stymied. Congel had tried to alter the landscape of his

Destiny USA:
unfamiliar, a world much farther away from It sounded too good to be true. Maybe hometown. In the 1980s, he won over local
their hometown of Syracuse, New York, than it was. politicians to his plan to have Pyramid build a
the hours drive would suggest. It was October mall in Syracuse. The mall would bring jobs,
2005, and the men and women on board the The city of Syracuse is known more generate revenue. The clincher was Congels
buses were there to be shown that they too for snow accumulation than as any kind of promise to build on top of part of Oil City, a
could be part of a fantasy, as the same man tourism mecca. But even though its won the toxic dump on the shores of Onondaga Lake,
who had created Savannah Dhu planned Golden Snowball Award (a competition among which had earned a reputation as the most
to transform an aging Syracuse mall into a upstate New York cities for which has the polluted lake in the nation. The nearly 100
mega-mall that would rival any in the nation. most snowfall in a given season) every year acres occupied by nine active oil companies

The Story of a Mega-Mall and a City It sounded almost too good: The simple
Carousel Center that had been around since
1990 would morph into Destiny USAa
since 2002, there is much more to their city,
residents say. Syracuse University and other
colleges are within the city limits. Many parts
were surrounded by 700 more acres of
decrepit buildings.
Pyramid spent millions cleaning up
rival of the Mall of America and maybe even of the city are inviting places in which to live. contamination on the 75-acre mall site and
[Teresa Gorman] of Disney World, if the advertisements in The countryside is a fifteen-minute drive away. dedicated more to the dump surrounding
the current mall were rightwhich in turn Yet none of these attributes alters the it. Carousel Center opened in 1990 despite
would transform the struggling city. The men concerns that such a thing was not possible.
and women on the buses had been hired as Can a Mall at a Toxic Dump Revive an Ailing
the workforce to execute a plan that some  People are willing Syracuse? asked a New York Times headline
were calling grand and others were calling on October 17, 1990. The economic revival did
grandiose. to grab anything that not occur to the extent the city had hoped, and
Already artists renderings had made the looks like a lifeline. the condos and offices supposed to surround
project look like an elaborate science-fiction the mall never appeared, but Pyramid did
conglomeration of commerce, entertainment continue to clean up the area.
and luxury. There would be a replica of the economic reality that Syracuse has faced People who credited Congel with helping
Erie Canal, 400 stores, rock-climbing walls, an in the past few decades as a poster child the Syracuse economy the first time around
aquarium, two golf courses, 1,300 hotel rooms for post-industrial decline. A city with deep were more likely to be on board the second
and an arena. More than 122,000 jobs would blue-collar roots, from Erie Canal commerce time. Syracuse Common Council President Van
be created, and $12.5 billion allegedly would to manufacturing, Syracuse has not recovered Robinson, for one, says the Oil City clean-up
course throughout the state as a direct result from the departure of its largest employers. and mall development were a boon to the city.
of the tourism destination. General Electric is gone, and the Carrier To expand it would only have made sense,
The workers must have been hopeful as Corporation, a once-stable core of the he says in retrospect. Though Van Robinson
they listened to Savannah Dhus owner, Robert economy, is just a hazy memory left behind was elected in 2006, sixteen years after the
Congel, speak about how he came from humble as a moniker on Syracuse Universitys Carrier original mall opened, he ran unsuccessfully for
beginnings like many of them, and how Destiny Dome stadium. Over time, the Rust Belt has the council in 1987 and would have supported
USA would become a reality. Destiny USA tightened around Syracuse, taking much of an expanded plan then, he says. People come
would change the lives of Syracusans by giving its vitality with it. Empty storefronts have from all over to shop here, Van Robinson
a living wage to those who had been working accumulated downtown. The population has says. They come from Canada, they come in
at fast-food joints and gas stations, providing dwindled from 221,000 in 1950 to roughly tour buses. More would come if Destiny USA
opportunities, and enhancing the citys collective 140,000 today. was built.
well-being. The workers werent the only ones It was to this compromised, once-proud Perhaps Congel, who was not available for
who would hear Congelthe magnate behind city that Congel made his pitch, according an interview, heard those echoes of build it
Pyramid Companies, owner of Carousel and the to local developer Bob Doucette. Doucette, and they will come, though Pyramid had much
A fenced-in construction area of Arendi, the first phase of Destiny USA, near a largest private developer of shopping malls in who is also a professor at LeMoyne College, more than a field in mind when the Destiny
parking lot of Carousel Center. The Lord & Taylor has been in Carousel Center since the United Statesgive his pitch. Politicians describes the situation as he sees it from project was first presented. In 2001, Carousel
1993, three years after the shopping mall opened. and influential citizens were also bused to his office in the middle of Armory Square, a drew about 17 million visitors. By comparison,
Savannah Dhu to hear the Destiny USA pep talk, downtown neighborhood that he has been plans called for Destiny USA to draw 40
including how Congel had begun his empire in instrumental in reviving. The King of Armory million people in a year. The price tag:
1970 right there in Syracuse. Square, as Doucette is sometimes called, says $15 billion with all phases complete.

24 thecomment 2010 25 thecomment 2010

The problems began as soon as the street from Carousel Center sat rusting. survive because they evolve organically from recycle materials and be paperless. Trucks development by young people in Syracuse. I can
pamphlets of artists renderings of the Drivers who passed the mall could see the rust the heart of the city, he says. People said will run on biofuel, and solar power will be a shop online. Its like that everywhere.
imitation Tuscan marketplaces that would grow almost by the day. Destiny was a crazy idea way back in the main energy source. Commercials emphasized Robinson says the blame does not belong
flourish within the climate-controlled glass of beginning, says Doucette. They started the mall will not use foreign oil. One ad to Pyramid or Destiny, or to Congel, for that
Destiny reached the hands of local politicians According to Armory Squares Bob having problems...and it just kept going. shows a picture of Osama bin Laden before a matter. This is only normal, Robinson says.
and businesspeople. The reality of this Doucette, the lifeline mentality crippled the mother tells us that evil will not be supported With the economic downturn of the last year
monster of an idea that would outsize any Destiny project from the start. The government In 2005, more than 180 workers were by buying oil. Thats why I support Destiny and a half, everywhere in the nation is facing
mall in the nation hit. Tax breaks were battled acted on ideas without questioning them at all, hired as the initial Destiny workforce. Few, USA, she states on her sons playground, changes in plans. Given these changes,
over, including a 30-year payment-in-lieu-of- he says, which led to many of the problems. if any, had construction experience. Yet they before running off to the swings. The irony there is no public plan for when the next
taxes (PILOT) agreement. Tensions between Chief among them was the actual idea of would all be taught jobs and earn $60,000 of building a green mega-mall on the site phases of the project will begin, says Destiny
a split Common Council and mayors office mega-malls, which in general do not benefit a a year. The workers soon appeared in of a former toxic dump doesnt seem to be USA spokesman David Aitken. Promotional
spilled over, and debates grew more heated. city, says Doucette. The sprawling development commercials thanking Destiny USA for saving foremost in anyones thoughts. materials inside Carousel Center suggest
In the end, political maneuverings around the of a project like Destiny USA would never be Syracuse. Everything was a marketing tool, In the old mall, the maintenance crew otherwise. Good things come to those who
development would go all the way to then- the answer to economic problems. I dont like says Emad Rahim, a former employee. Rather has repainted every banner and handrail kelly wait, reads one kiosk outside of a vacant
Governor George Pataki and then-Senator it, Doucette says of mega-mall development than build on what may have been a great green. The color clashes with the original store that used to have a CompUSA in it.
Hillary Clinton. Everyone wanted to have a in general. I dont think its been good for concept, they relied on marketing. teal. Already cracks are beginning to spread But the King of Armory Square prefers not
say, and nothing real was being said. our country. Sprawl has used up a lot of our Rahim was skeptical, but still he applied through the green as it wears off of surfaces. to wait. I would rather bet on the concept of
Cynicism among Syracuse residents resources. America bought into the suburban for a job. He thought maybe he would write Out in the parking lot, there are even green a city thats 10,000 years old, Doucette says.
began to grow, according to Chuckie model of building, building, building, and now his dissertation on the process for his masters spaces for hybrids close to entrances, though Mall development started in the 1940s, and I
Holstein, the executive director of there is all of this empty infrastructure out there. in project management. But even he began more often SUVs and minivans fill the spots. want to bet on the fact that malls are done.
community-betterment organization Forging Since the 1980s Doucette has been known to be sucked into the idea. Syracuse needed Holstein, the executive director of FOCUS, For Robinson and Holstein, Destiny USA
Our Communitys United Strength (FOCUS). somethingwho knew if this was it? he received the first green sticker for her hybrid remains a possibility, if not a definite reality.
Thats just how people are here, Holstein says. At first, the new job seemed exciting, at a special event announcing the initiative, It would be an asset if it worked, Holstein
says. FOCUS hands out Be Positive
stickers to the Syracuse community, but
America bought into Rahim recalls, but after a minimum of training
the workers often sat around doing nothing.
which includes efforts to green the city of
Syracuse as well. As she spoke about the day,
says. If it doesnt, Syracuse has survived until
now, and we still will.
maintaining such a position is difficult, she the suburban model They never hammered or soldered a thing the din of workmen installing solar panels For now, Destiny USA remains a gray
says, during periods when the economy
is gray along with the weather. Even so,
of building, building, onto Destiny USA, he says. Moments of
excitement, such as the day trip to Savannah
outside her office leaked in.
That is what will put us on the map,
appendage. Strings of white bulbs hang
within Arendi. At night, light radiates through View of Carousel Centers seven floors
Holstein wears a sticker every day. building, and now Dhu, stood out as bright spots. Holstein says. A green city with a green a long window in the structure, illuminating from the lower level.
the vacancy within. c
Pyramid and the Greater Syracuse
Chamber of Commerce even proclaimed
there is all of this Rahim still remembers the day he was
laid off.
Destiny USA next to it.
But Syracuse will take on the name
Destiny USA dead in 2003. It will not be empty infrastructure It was...surreal, Rahim says. Everyone Emerald City without waiting for Destiny,
built within the city limits, an anonymous
Pyramid source told The New York Times on
out there. started to realize just what a pipe dream
this was. In a conference room, colleagues
Holstein says. Former mayor Matthew Driscoll
gave Syracuse the name in 2008, and other
July 12, 2003. Soon, though, the project was wept as they heard they would be fired after green companies already have begun to
revived, gaining concessions with the PILOT only three months of work. Yet many workers settle in the city. [We are] beginning to take
program. Still, matter after matter arose. in Syracuse for his own work developing stayed dedicated to Destiny and blamed the our own initiative, make our own change,
Congel had not included a roller coaster in properties. Both he and Congel are avowed city. The city blamed Destiny. Only a few Holstein says. She doesnt think Destiny is
the plans, but he had one now. lovers of Syracuse, with family nearby, employees remained. Rahim was not one a life jacket for Syracuse and its people, at
In 2005, residents of Syracuse and but their approaches have been opposite. of them. He never wrote the Destiny USA least not anymore. Sometimes people are
Onondaga County received a press release The King of Armory Square began to turn dissertation, but fortunately he had planned overzealous, Holstein says. It would be an
during a period of new uncertainty. Does downtown Syracuse from a place of empty ahead and eventually founded a consulting asset, but when it comes to Syracuse people,
Destiny stand to gain as a developer? storefronts and crime into a lively center of business. they really can survive anything...We dont
the release asked. Yes. And we are the apartments, arts and businesses. His influence For Pyramid and for Congel, the gig need a lifeline anymore; we have all that the
only ones at risk. Is the community at risk remains such that newly elected Syracuse wasnt up yet. In fact, things might turn out city already has.
under any circumstances? Not at all. The Arendi, the first phase of
mayor Stephanie Miner chose him as head of more favorably than anyone dared hope, the
release assured residents that Pyramid was Destiny USA which, according
the economic-development-and-job-creation company proclaimed in 2006. Not only could Arendithe recently completed
confident that the expansion of Destiny USA to reports, is set to open
transition team before she took office in Destiny be the Emerald City of malls, it could addition to Carousel Center, the only
would again put Syracuse on the map. At sometime in 2010.
January 2010. be completely and truly green. It wont be manifestation of Destiny USA so farmay
the same time, a radio campaign bombarded Doucette works in a building that his just any building...this time well make a be nominally green, but that doesnt mean
listeners with sound bites. Support Destiny management company renovated. Inside, difference, Destiny USAs website currently its inviting. The Syracuse New Times has
USA: Syracuse and this nation need it. antique moldings contrast with the plans states. compared it to Guantnamo Bay. No tenants
But it was 2005, and nothing had been and mock-ups for new projects that fill the The latest plan is that Destiny USA will have been lined up to fill the space.
built. A few piles had been driven into the space. One such project is to add a food be the worlds largest sustainable structure, The reason is partly circumstantial. Malls
parking lot of Carousel Center during a press co-op into a historic building; another is for according to the United States Environmental are not as popular as they used to be in C.N.Y.
conference, complete with a ribbon cutting. green homes in neighborhoods that cater to Protection Agency, which is now on board [Central New York], says J. T. Barnes, a member
There they still stood. Stacks of steel across Syracuse University. These kinds of projects with the project. It will reduce emissions, of the group 40-Below, which encourages

26 thecomment 2010 27 thecomment 2010

Ryan Gosling Loves to
Fist-Bump [Aviv Rubinstien]
cables, and weve given up hope when we see
a pair of headlights wobbling toward us in a
slightly-too-tipsy-to-drive fashion. The Angels
pull up beside us and exit their car triumphantly
The only picture that exists
of Ryan Gosling and Aviv.

holding jumper cables.

After a brief argument about which side
to ground, we get the van started. As we let
All I want for my birthday is for you to tell the wolf story. My finished signing autographs. AAA does not seem to be coming. Kirsten the battery charge, I see Mr. Gosling and his
friend Kirsten shoves her hands into her pockets. Its October 14, and and Dan have given up trying to coax my fathers wolf story out of me, entourage returning from dinner, pizza in
its freezing on Brookline Street in Cambridge. I do a little Oh-my-god- and the three of us are trying to flag down any car that passes by. Im hand.
Im-so-cold dance out by my bands van, which has a dead battery. getting fed up. Then I catch a glimpse of the Dead Mans Bones road Hes about to walk right by us, ignoring
Kirsten and Dan do a similar dance as we wait for AAA to come or for a crew. After psyching myself up for a moment I march right past The us completely, until I just think, Oh fuck it.
kind stranger to pass by with jumper cables. Notebook star and ask his driver for a jump. Mr. Gosslin? Do you want to pose for
Shitty, right? I forgot to mention a few yards away there are 50 Oh, no, man. We dont have any cables. Let me try and help you a picture with us jump-starting our van? I
hysterical girls, in a clump, waiting for Oscar nominee (and all-around out here. Im paraphrasing. Ryan Goslings road manager makes an mispronounce his name.
dreamboat) Ryan Gosling to appear. His band, Dead Mans Bones, announcement to the dozens of shivering girls. One group of three girls He stops. Looks around for a minute
played the club next door to where we did. Those young ladies have claims to have jumper cables in their car and will gladly jump us. Lets as though hes just been woken up.
been standing there for over two hours.
You have to tell it the way your dad does, Dan chimes in. They
want the thick Israeli accent, too.
call them Charlies Angels. Autographs in hand, the Angels clop away,
their high heels reverberating against the pavement. They promise to
be right back. Yeah, right. Thanks to my dad, I know how to spot a lie
Yes, I do.
Ryan Gosling poses with me in front
of the Angels car. Afterwards, I try to shake his hand. Gosling,
I dont want to tell the wolf story. Not just because its cold and
Im in a rotten mood, but because it exhibits a mental illness my father
suffers from. An illness that I have unfortunately inherited. Were
when I hear one.
Dan, Kirsten and I fantasize aloud about asking Ryan Gosling to
jump-start our van. Slipping him a screenplay wed written. Asking him
however, wants to fist-bump.
I awkwardly shake his closed fist.
The actor fist-bumps Dan, then Kirsten.
When I was little, I used to take my dads big fish stories as
gospel. My favorite was the one about his pet wolf. As I got older,
out for Chinese food. Is that how were going to tell the story years
from now?: Hey, Aviv, Dan, Im Ryan Gosling, you know, from The
Notebook. Anyway. Im a big fan of your band. It looks like you need a
Ryan Gosling loves to fist-bump.

I have to do something to stay in touch with reality, or else Im

my father would tell my friends the same stories he told me in my jump. Now pop that hood! going to become just like my dad. Im giving it up! I will tell no more
childhood, always exaggerating the exploits of his trusty wolf: I found I can see my future grandchildrens faces twisted in confused horror stories, no more exaggerations of my life. Furthermore, to keep the
a wolf once in the forest. I trained it, and domesticated it. It could as I tell them how the actor jump-started my van with nothing but his old stories from popping back up, I am setting the record straight. I am
accurately distinguish between me and my twin brother. (The twin bare hands. poking truth holes in all of my wonderfully wound webs of anecdote:
brother does exist.) It could accurately distinguish between Israelis and No. This is not what I will become. I never made out with a TA when I was a freshmanalmost,
Lebanese. It could break the laws of physics, play chess. It could smell Okay. Lets get serious here. Compulsive embellishment is not though.
pregnancy a mental disorder. Its not done to deceive, but rather to entertain. I never professed my love to the girl I was enamored with in high
No, seriously. However, my inability to distinguish between the truth and my stories school. I always wish I had.
But being embarrassed of the wolf story as a teenager didnt stop is a big, big problem. In entertaining through these stories, delighting I never pretended to be blind just so I could bring my golden
me from exaggerating stories from my own life or telling the wolf story folks with my flights of fancy, Ive repeated my lies to myself hundreds retriever into a pizza shop.
at parties to gain some positive attention. We all do it, right? Im not of times. Like a criminal preparing to take a polygraph test, Ive The story of the goth-club bathroom in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is
like my father. My feet are planted firmly in reality. All of my stories conditioned myself to believe it all, letting it become a part of me. true. Every word of it.
operate within the laws of physics. Starring in the movie of my life. Respect how difficult that was for me.
Still, theres a problem. Now when I look back on my past I have Racking my brain trying to cut through my own bullshit, And I vow not to create any new exaggerations as long as I live.
trouble cutting through my own hype. I cant remember what actually differentiating things Ive created from things Ive lived is much harder Im hanging up my spurs. Ive seen what I might become, my Ghost of
happened and what Ive created. Recentlyupon meeting my girlfriend than I expected. I find it distressing that I can actually see memories Christmas Future, and I refuse to let myself continue down this path.
for the first timemy Dad told the wolf story once again. I realized that Ive created for myself. I can see things that I know definitely did
then that I have myself exaggerated his wolf story, punching up certain not happen. The actor and his fans have disappeared, and were ready to take
parts and filling in holes with my own brand of crazy. How could this Maybe I spoke too soon about not having a mental illness. off when the AAA truck finally arrives.
have happened? What does it mean? Am I destined to become my A moosey gentleman rolls down the tow-truck window.
father? Is this how he started? Or worse, am I exhibiting the first signs Ryan Gosling has left to get some pizza. All the girls now mill You guys called? Yeah, like two hours ago
of undifferentiated schizophrenia, a real, no foolin mental illness? around aimlessly like pasturing livestock. No, were okay. I yell over the trucks motor. Youll never believe
At least theyve stopped screaming. this, but the guy from The Notebook just gave us a jump.
One-thirty in the morning rolls around, and Ryan Gosling has just Its been about 30 minutes since Charlies Angels left to get us Maybe Im not done storytelling. c

28 thecomment 2010 29 thecomment 2010

n c i n g
what successful job searching looks like this walked into her supervisors office after provide more fulfilling work. There are trade-

a l a
year, Robinson says. casting her vote and asked to be considered offs. The pay cut can be a major hurdle, she

) B
While acknowledging the importance of for the next round of layoffs. That cut never says; the reassessment in ones standard of

(R Act
networking, Sadwick says shes dedicating came, but Hsiehs mind was made up. She living can be sobering.
much of her free time to a bigger cause. Acting quitwithout a severance package or the Both Zaydman and Sadwick acknowledge
on her belief that her generation needs to security of unemployment compensation the financial impact on their lives now. We
take a more active civic role, Sadwick is now and says she hasnt looked back. Shed cut back on a lot of stuff. Were not planning
volunteering for organizations shes passionate been secretly harboring hopes of applying as many vacations, not eating out as much,
aboutfrom caring for children at the local to veterinary school, but she never received says Zaydman of her current lifestyle. Its
[Lauren Keiper] YMCA to helping out families that need shelter the bonus shed been counting on to fund a slower pace, quieter. But the funny part
or support. In the past she was only able to her plans. Instead, she began volunteering is, thats okay. The sentiment is echoed
give with her checkbook; work kept her on the for animal-rescue operations throughout by Sadwick, who kept an already-paid-for
road at least two weeks every month. New York. She also donated time to The February 2010 vacation intact but explained
Sadwick is most animated when she talks Safety Net/Pets for Life NYC, which offers to her 14-year-old son that holidays would be
Liz Sadwick, Sylva Hsieh and Alla of the worst financial crisis since the Great considering putting them to work in another about her contributions to Martha Coakleys guidance and solutions for people considering downsized this year.
Zaydman used to have a lot in common. Depression. Instead, like Hsieh, Zaydman industry, she says. recent campaign to fill Edward Kennedys abandoning their pets. With two young daughters and a husband
The three women were among the commuters and other women who have been laid off in New Yorker Alla Zaydman, 37, who senate seat. In fact, the first call she made But there was a dilemma. While who works full-time, Zaydman says its more
who thronged each morning to urban financial services or who left a finance job out parted ways with her former employer in after losing her job was to the campaign to volunteering was giving Hsieh insight into important that she is mentally healthy for her
financial centers to carry out duties at banks of exhaustion and frustration since the onset November 2008, has already mapped out a offer her time and efforts. I dont want to what shed like to do in the future, it didnt family than that she bring home a six-figure
and investment firms. Handsome salaries of the recession, she is doing some overdue new plan for herselfand it has little to do make money on politics, she says. I want to replace her lost income. And the soft economy salary. Just having time for her husband and
compensated long hours worked, making soul-searching. I dont miss my emotional with her former career. After sixteen years contribute. But Sadwick doesnt rule out the didnt help. For the first time in her still-young children is no longer enough for Zaydman;
sacrifices at home and in relationships seem well-being being tied to the market, Sadwick in finance performing credit and investment possibility that her skills could find a home in career, Hsieh doubted her future earning she now strives for a better quality of
worthwhile. Sadwick and Zaydmans years says. What she does miss, she says, is the analysis, Zaydman now finds herself as an the political arena. Social connections made potential. Shed been sending out rsums interaction among them. Certain she will find
of employment qualified them as veterans in people she worked with and the relationships intern at Warner Music Group. The change is through her volunteer efforts may well lead to and not receiving responses. It was a reality that too in her new career path, Zaydman is
the industry. Hsieh was quickly building her she established over more than twenty years welcome, she says. Unlike Sadwick, Zaydman her next career move. checkIm not as marketable as I thought imparting lessons to her daughters. It would
rsum. in the industry. was exhausted by the personalities she Sylva Hsieh, at 27 the youngest of the I was, she says. Vet school is now on hold be silly to advocate they go into finance, she
Now, in the aftermath of a credit crisis During the last decade, Sadwick built encountered daily at work, the pressure of three women, found her break at a cookbook while Hsieh takes science courses to enhance says. Instead, shes encouraging her older
that triggered massive reconfigurations in the a solid reputation at a Boston-area asset the job and what she called a lack of ethics club. For her, the transition from a lucrative her application. daughters interest in teaching. There is a
financial sector, the women still have much in management firm. Although shes not arrogant in the industry. She was certain shed land position in the legal group of a New York In the meantime, shes landed a job in balance you have to keep in your head of what
common. Turmoil in their industry has affected about her accomplishments, she exudes pride somewhere outside of New Yorks financial equity hedge fund has been dramatic. a growing industry. When a friend started you are willing to do for how much money,
all three, leaving them unemployed in finance for the team she assembled and the caliber community. And she did, enrolling in a New Attracted by the swanky offices, the fast pace a cookbook club, Hsieh thought it would be what you put in versus what you get back
and having to reconstruct their careers and of people shes come to know through her York University certificate program in human- and the earning potential, Hsieh found a job another way to reconnect with friends during emotionally.
their lives. position. Such prowess made Sadwick both resources management in January 2009 with with the then-small-but-growing fund in mid- her period of unemployment. But it was at At the same time, Zaydman fully expects
Figures suggest that women in finance and valuable and vulnerable. Senior executives plans to pursue a masters degree. Accepting 2005, not long after graduating from college. this social gathering that she met the COO to rejoin the workforce. She is, she says,
banking have borne a disproportionate share like her are among the most expensive and the fact that she has to work her way up in a In the years that followed, she occasionally of a renewable-energy provider. Hsieh was excited to put her newfound passion and
of the effects of the recent downturn in the therefore often the first to be cut when new career, she says she feels fortunate shes considered leaving the company to attend law hired as a manager of project coordination, education to work. Im not going to school for
financial sector. In the two years after December companies face layoffs. The situation is even interning for a woman who is supportive of school but never did. [Being there] was a lot which means she has her hands in all parts of nothing, she says. Life without two incomes
2006, when employment in the sector hit a peak more complicated for women. According to midlife career changers. of fun and a lot of money, she says. Why the businesssales, finance, bids and office isnt sustainable.
following a decade that had men and women Nicki Gilmour, CEO of The Glass Hammer, an As for Sadwick, shes taking an eyes- would I leave? needs. Common-sense knowledge transfers, Its clear, in any case, that Zaydman wont
alike flocking to careers on Wall Street and at online community for women executives in wide-open approach as she grapples with It was a heady time. Like others in the she says of the shift, noting her training at the be on the early train into Manhattan anytime
firms around the nation, female employment business, workplace diversity has become a possible career change. She knows the industry, the hedge fund was doing well. hedge fund prepared her to take on project soon. Nor will Hsieh, who finds the commute
fell 4.7 percent, to 3.8 million. During that same relatively less important in the past eighteen marketplace is flooded with underutilized Hsieh took advantage of all the company management. out to her new job in New Jersey a lot less
time, male employment dropped 3.2 percent, months, and women in senior positions have talent: There has been a cascading effect, had to offera better position, a raise and The current job is far more low-key than taxing than battling the city traffic. Sadwick
according to the U.S. governments Current been let go alongside their male counterparts. and it has rippled through every industry, other perks. But by the end of 2008, the fun her old one. Now, when she leaves work, she remains uncertain about what her future
Employment Statistics survey. In November If a smaller percentage to start with were she says. Now Im competing with people was subsiding. Hsiehs prospects at the firm leaves work. People know their boundaries, will hold. Working her contactswhether
2009, the unemployment rate for women in women, that didnt particularly leave us in a who have expertise in those other industries. were beginning to dwindle with the industry she says of her new industry. at the local Y or on the campaign trailshe
finance, a subset of the financial services good place, Gilmour says of the cuts. So Sadwick is doing what she does best downturn. The work environment grew Hsiehs story is not unique. Especially continues to question where her career path
industry, reached nearly 7 percenttwo and In any case, Sadwick now questions building relationships with people, networking stressful, the hours became more demanding now, bad energy in the office and unhealthy will lead. She has not ruled out a return to
a half times what it was in late 2007, at the whether making money in finance and making and looking for her next opportunity. I am and deadlines tightened. I felt like I was work environments are driving people to finance. But if she does rejoin others for the
official onset of the recession. Yet for all the money for other people is how she wants to talking to everyone I know and everyone who running a marathon every morning, only taking change careers, according to Kirsten Lundeen, familiar drive from the suburbs into Bostons
grimness of the statistics, the job changes leave her footprint. Looking back over the last will listen, she says. a breath at noon, she says. Associate Director of Alumni Relations at financial district, she will do so differently
Sadwick, Hsieh and Zaydman have experienced two years, she calls it disheartening and The initiative Sadwick has taken in the Hsieh survived the first round of layoffs. Boston University. Wherever conditions are than she did beforemore mindful this time
have provided one unexpected benefit: the disgusting that a sector that rallied together time since the layoff can only enhance her Then, despite being told her job was secure, not good to begin with, the recession makes of meaning, and of life balance. c
opportunity to re-evaluate some fundamental after 9/11 was so quick to let greed topple marketability as a job candidate, according she decided she wanted out. She reached that them worse. According to Lundeen, women
life choices. it. She is beginning to wrestle with her next to Kathy Robinson, a career and business conclusion while out voting in the November in finance are among those re-evaluating
At 43, Sadwick, who lost her job in steps. Recognizing that her marketing and consultant at Boston-based TurningPoint. Its 2008 national election. Realizing she hadnt their impact on society and considering other
September 2009, doesnt speak like a victim communication skills are transferable, she is about being willing to get involvedthats left the building during the day in ages, she careersoften ones that they believe will

30 thecomment 2010 31 thecomment 2010

Going to the chapel...and the synagogue
Our Faith [Lauren Keiper]

Book officiant. Thats what all Public Library was devoted to art, architecture and learning. A hidden
the bridal magazines told me to courtyard offered privacy and intimacy. Eric and I were both excited
do at least nine months before the about the space. Still, we had a site, but no one to perform the
wedding. wedding.
[Samantha Gennuso]
To be honest, with a year to Our families, meanwhile, were further along in the debate over our
plan Id been more preoccupied religious future than we were. Throughout our planning, Erics parents photos courtesy of DGW
with short ribs or halibut, encouraged us to talk with their rabbi. On the wall of Erics childhood
buttercream or fondant, than with bedroom is a poster of him clutching a basketball and wearing a
deciding who would perform our baseball cap. The poster is inscribed with words of congratulations The project originated with Dariuss
ceremony. But somewhere between for his bar mitzvah. Mazel tov, the kids from school penned in red and Darius Goes West is the story of older brother Mario, who died from DMD
Lauren and Eric pose for their engagement
photos. selecting mini crab flautas to be black Sharpie. His parents probably look forward to participating in the Darius Weems, who suffers from Duchenne when he was 19 years old. Logan, who holds
served during cocktail hour and same coming-of-age ritual for their grandchildren. I suspect they also muscular dystrophy. a masters degree in technology innovation
corn bisque for a starter, I realized the menu shouldnt be my top may worry that since Im planning the event, Christianity will trump Im not suffering, Darius interrupts. and education from Harvard University, went
priority. For the first time, Eric and I would have to explicitly address Judaism on our wedding day and beyond because its what I know. He is onstage at the 2009 Technology, Bits of regurgitated wasabi fly through to middle and elementary school with both
our different religious backgrounds and decide how Judaism and But my own family wonders if our kids will be raised Jewish, perhaps Entertainment and Design conference, with the air as Darius coughs and sputters. The Weems boys. He grew close to Mario while
Christianity would factor into our life together. assuming that our physical proximity to Erics parents and their more his best friend, Logan Smalley. Theyre teenager is drawing even more attention working at Project Reach, a camp for kids
While we were dating, Eric and I had introduced our different active role in a religious community will influence us. performing a skit to present their mission to than his massive, wheelchair-bound presence with disabilities. Before Mario died, he asked
traditions to each other. I relished giving him his first Christmas In any case, Eric wasnt actively seeking a Jewish congregation to an audience of experts, physicians and PhDs. normally does. Nearby, his friends collapse Logan to take care of Darius, who had never
stocking. Now we celebrate that holiday with my family in join, and I hadnt been interviewing Protestant churches. Maybe we Youre not suffering? asks Logan. You in hysterics. Hes recovering from a dare they left their home state of Georgia. Together with
Pennsylvania. Sometimes we dine with friends on the Jewish Sabbath were just being lazy; maybe we were avoiding a task that would send were born with the ability to walk, your proposedthat he down a spoonful of wasabi eleven friends, Logan and Darius began a trip
and for Rosh Hashanah. When we celebrated Passover with his us in different directions rather than help us move forward together. muscles are deteriorating and now youre in having no idea what the condiment was. that would see Darius across the country.
family, I was introduced to the prayers and the food in addition to the I didnt expect to find our answer at the voting booth. Id rushed into a wheelchair. At a Carnegie Hall fund-raiser, the audience Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a slow
extended family. the church that served as our neighborhood polling place for the local watches this scene from the award-winning killer. The most common fatal genetic disease
The religious differences that had seemed simply novel early in elections one fall day, worried there would be a line. But I was alone documentary Darius Goes West. Eyes well among young males, it usually claims its
our relationship became more significant after he slipped a ring on my to cast my vote. When I left, the sun was beginning to fade. I breathed up. Pranks like this would seem cruel toward victims by the time they reach their early
finger. Neither of us demanded our religion take top billing. I didnt in the fall air and glanced around. I hadnt noticed it when I went in, anyone, let alone a teenager who has lost the twenties. When the Carnegie Hall audience
want to get married in a church and offend Eric or his family. He didnt but there were two flags out frontone with the seal of the Episcopal use of his hands and motor skills. But as Logan hears these facts seconds after watching
want to force us to have the ceremony in a synagogue. Yet selecting Church, the other with the Star of David. Smalley, the films director and Dariuss best Darius grin as he tells his friends to get out
the place wed be married and someone to officiate would be viewed I learned from the churchs website that in addition to the Episcopal friend, points out, this crew is made of equals, his way in a DGW scene, many seem visibly
by friends and family as a public announcement of the identity wed gathering on Sundays, Jewish services were held there on Friday and they spare Darius nothing. Why would shaken. But pity is the last thing Darius wants.
assume as a couple and the religion wed most likely pass on to our evenings. There was a rabbi in residence, and the two congregations they, they reason, when time is running out? Sometimes you go through things in life to find
children. had formed an urban interfaith center. DGW, as the film is nicknamed, chronicles yourself, he says. Im 20 years old and Im
I would have gone to city hall the day after he proposed, but Eric But it wasnt until my first Sunday service that I found out the a road trip across America in a quest to still pushing it, and I aint planning on leaving
wanted a more traditional celebration. I got on board with the idea Jewish worshippers had roots in this old Protestant church. The pimp (or embellish) Dariuss ride on MTVs this world for a long time. Im a fighter.
and, as in many couples, assumed the female lead in executing the progressive Jewish congregation didnt just lease space. The faiths That dont mean Im suffering. reality series Pimp My Ridethe ride in The documentary, which compressed
plans. Initially, I focused on creating a completely secular event. shared offices and worshipped under the same roof. The Episcopal You have a 100-percent fatal disease. Kids this case being a wheelchair. Darius and the 300 hours of footage from the road into
We moved forward with plans to book our ceremony in an outdoor priest prayed with the Jewish congregation, and the rabbi addressed with your disease die in their late teens and early DGW crew hoped to document wheelchair 90 minutes, was Logans first foray into
courtyard with a reception in one of our favorite restaurants. We Christian worshippers once a month. For the last five years, the two twenties. Dont you know that youre dying? accessibility while raising awareness for DMD filmmaking. It has already had an impact
considered asking a friend to marry us, having fun thinking about faiths had literally been living and growing together. Indeed, Darius Weems appears healthy. along the way. Although the film debuted in on the crew, on those who have seen the film
who would tell a good story, who would cry. Our second thought was It sounded like a good prescription for our marriage. After church He was born with the number-one genetic 2007, the groups journey has only begun. It and, perhaps most notably, on those affected
to hire an officiant, someone without ties to either of us. Id found that day I called Eric, who was traveling for work. I think the relief in killer of children in the worlda disease that continues with education and intensive fund- by the disease. Charleys Fund, founded by
nondenominational and interfaith leaders who would travel to Boston, my voice was audible. I told him the lines in that church were blurred already has limited his mobility and affected raising: tens of thousands of dollars raised, Benjy and Tracy Seckler to raise funds for
learn our story and craft a custom ceremony for our day. just enough that I could see our future there. The rabbi and the priest his heart and that eventually will compromise more than 100,000 miles traveled, hundreds of DMD research, receives all proceeds from
Eventually those ideas fizzled, and we found a meaningful, if were checking their availability for August 7, 2010. his ability to breathe. But for now, he is very schools visited and more than 600 screenings Darius Goes West, the organization. But the
not religious, place for the ceremony and reception. The Boston And Id added another check mark to our wedding planning list. c much alive. of the film. Secklers cause is especially urgent: They

32 thecomment 2010 33 thecomment 2010

are hoping to find a cure for DMD fellows. We practiced it a lot, was one of those full-circle moments, after Facebooks American Giving Challenge this nine-year-old Charley.
in the lifetime of their nine-year-old Darius says of the DMD skit they hundreds of miles of travel and all the time past year, the organization placed 12th in For his part, Charley seems unfazed by
son, Charley. Not yet aware of the presented at the ceremony. I was wed spent trying to reach out to them. a contest of hundreds, winning $10,000 in Dariuss disability. He recently told his parents,
seriousness of his disease, Charley kind of nervous, but not as nervous In the five years since the film was addition to the $30,000 in donations that If I were older, that couldve been Charley
keeps a Darius bobblehead figure on as Logan. He grins. made, Darius has grown into an articulate earned it the ranking. Goes West. Thats what it shouldve been!
his desk (its his prized possession, The TED presentation was the young man, well versed in speaking with Everywhere they go, the guys yield new The Secklers gratitude is palpable.
says Tracy) and an Audience first time Logan and Darius publicly interviewers and more poised than most supportersa result, no doubt, of their Instead of [Charley] having to be told about
Choice Darius Goes West film discussed the fact that DMD his age. Hes learned that his story isnt just enthusiasm for the project. Its the most fun [DMD], he just sees someone managing it as
award on his wall. All he cared about will take Dariuss life. Darius is inspiring; its essential. Youve got to find two nonprofit Ive ever been a part of because beautifully as you possibly can, says Tracy
when he met Darius were his cool certainly very comfortable talking things: what you want to do with your own we have a product that sells itselfDarius Seckler. If theres one thing I want besides
wheelchair gadgets and his chances about death, says Logan. But life and what you can do to help other people. Goes West, says Daniel Epting, the groups a cure, its a group of friends like that for
for beating him at the popular video if you focus on the sad parts, it The way I look at it, DMD is the whole worlds designated RV driver. Theres a compassion Charley.
game Madden 09. Darius awaits his first hot air balloon ride. wouldnt be true to his character. To problem. This disease doesnt discriminate, level with the whole crew, and Ds fortunate As Logan points out in the documentary,
not portray his humor and unique he says. Telling our story will make people to be a part of that. Mrs. Weems considers the crew embarked on the three-week trip to
The morning after the Carnegie take a yearlong trip, this time making fund- style would be a missed opportunity want to make life better for others. herself lucky, too. Come Mothers Day, celebrate Dariuss life, not to save it. While on
Hall screening, the air is cool in Central Park. raising their number-one goal. They visited to introduce a really cool person. One reason the crew conducted so many theyre all my boys, she says of the crew in the road, Logan says, he came to realize that
The DGW guys are enjoying every second schools on a weekly basis and fund-raised Day to day I dont really think about it, screenings in schools was to give DMD DGW. Every single one. Darius understood this, even at 15. It shook
of their time in the Big Apple for the films on the Internet constantly. We covered 42 says crew member Jason Hees. I think about a face. It is Darius, with his huge smile, As the group gains momentum, Logan is me the way Mario did when he asked me to
first New York screening. Aidan, a young boy states and 50,000 miles [in 2008]. We were in the stuff we did and the people we met. But propensity for imitating John Madden and sly accumulating even more on his plate. When look after his brother, and the way it would
with DMD who appeared in the documentary, a different city practically every night, says I [imagine] us getting together in 30 years remarks that keep his friends constantly on hes not leading screenings with other crew anybody whos been to a funeral for someone
playfully kicks a soccer ball, while Darius rams Logan. We got a DVD of Darius Goes West reminiscing about it and I think, Jesus, Ds not their toes. It is Charley Seckler, with his head members, he is working online to spread their own age. It shook me to action, he says.
into unsuspecting friends in his chair. One of into every middle school and high school in gonna be around for that. But his storys going of curls, who can break it down on the dance the word about DMD. I wouldnt say Im an During the final scenes of Darius Goes
them, Sam Johnsonmessy red hair blocking the country. All the people we originally met to live on; hes always going to be there floor better than most. It is Mrs. Weems, who expert; Id call myself an experimenter. Were West, Logan reconciles the past, present and
his peripheral visionshouts out, Come on, at festivals helped us spread the word. weve got hours and hours of footage. lost one son to DMD and will inevitably lose constantly trying to figure out ways to reach future of their mission. Darius is saying, Look
man! Darius laughs, relentless. John Hadden, The DGW crew consists of eleven of In spite of all the attention and acclaim, another, and Benjy and Tracy Seckler, whose more people, he says. out for my brother when Im gone, Logan
cinematographer for the film, brags, I kick Dariuss and Logans friends, most of whom Darius remains much like any 20-year-old. He child faces an uncertain future. You cant stop yourself from coming says. He knows that he is the vehicle. And
so much butt at soccer. I dont discriminate. are now in their twenties. They show their eventually did get his wheelchair customized Your life is shattered into so many to Earth, and you cant stop yourself from that doesnt make me want to cry. It makes me
Everyone feels the ragebabies, adults, kids devotion to Darius in different ways, some (though not by MTV), and is now equipped pieces, you cant even count them. And the leaving. But youre here in life to make want to fight. c
with DMD, I spare no one the abuse! Darius by sobbing during more poignant scenes at all times with an iPod, a hands-free pieces are so small, says Benjy Seckler in something of yourself, says Darius in the
just grins. He done show nobody whos boss, in the film, and others by getting a Darius cell phone, a 13.5-inch flat-screen TV, a the documentary. Your life as it was is over. documentary. Currently hes
he lyin, he murmurs. Went West tattoo inked on their bodies as a PlayStation, a stereo, a ten-inch subwoofer, Instead you have to find a way to put those focusing on a rap career, in
The documentary, in addition to shadowing permanent reminder of their journey. two amps, spinner rims and the worlds pieces together and make your life meaningful addition to reaching out to
the crews antics in a temperamental RV, Curing DMD will always be a goal in loudest wheelchair horn. He also loves again. And not only do that but also find a way fans via Skype at screenings.
offers viewers broad insight into the disease: every crew members life. Weve been a part football, rap and his mothers cooking. to cure this disease. Due to congestive heart
Theres one genetic cause; were talking of something so amazing, says Logan. We But most teenagers havent been featured There is progress. Charleys Fund has failure, an inevitable symptom
about one target, explains Benjy Seckler. see it as an opportunity and a responsibility. on the back of a Doritos bag. Most teenagers funded more than a dozen different DMD of late-stage DMD, he can
One domino tips over, and then all of the We were fortunate enough to make a movie will never star in a film or win a major prize research partners over the course of five no longer travel. Im not a
dominoes in its path begin to fall. If you can that has the power to make people both laugh for community servicein this case, the Do years. Eighteen months after starting the person that gives up, and Im
stop that one domino, these children are and be inspired. Something! award from MTV. It was this foundation, the Secklers hired a PhD with 20 not a person that accepts
either going to be cured or have remarkable Indeed, what started as an attempt to award that caught the eye of MTVs public- years in the biotech industry to help identify defeat. Theyre gonna have to
improvement in their quality of life. In 20 spread the word about DMD by using the relations director, Jeff Castaneda. Although the most promising research and work directly come get it if they wanna take
years, a generation of children with Duchenne money from pre-selling dozens of movie they had initially refused to pimp Dariuss with scientists to ensure success. Still, DMD my life because I got a reason
is lost, so the race is on, and were in the credits has morphed into something much ride, citing health risks, MTV finally decided is not nearly as publicized as they would to be living, he says. I cant
race. larger. Most recently, it led them to the to air Darius Goes West on MTVU and MTV2, wish. After all, it took two years for MTV to let the fans down. But when
After enjoying newfound famethe Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) to an astounding 80 million viewers, on recognize the DGW movement. Darius refers to finding a cure,
movie was selected for New Yorks Tribeca organization, which is devoted to publicizing Dariuss 20th birthdaya present better than But that movement is growing by the hes not talking about himself.
Film Festival, among numerous other innovative ideas in a myriad of fields. Logan any stereo system he could imagine. Wed week. Thousands of donors have become At 20 he is old by DMD
Darius looks out over the Grand Canyon.
awardsDarius and his crew decided to and Darius were recently inducted as TED basically given up on MTV, says Logan. It crew members by giving to DGW. During standards. Hes talking about

34 thecomment 2010 35 thecomment 2010

3 5678 10
12Number 9 [Teresa Gorman]

The Gorman family poses at Marys wedding.

Smiles strain as a camera clicks. Look here! the Inevitably I posed uncomfortably, knees bent, because I could never My pile grew, and so did my stature. My humble role as Fork B4 in a
photographer shouts. find the perfect space among my family members. Even as I played the local production of Beauty and the Beast was documented, but then so
It is the afternoon of my sister Marys wedding. I am the only girl mini-mom and told my little brother David to smile with teeth, I could was the sequined, curve-hugging costume I donned as Dolly in Hello,
who hasnt yet made it to the altarthe fifth and last Gorman girl. But not wait for the sessions to end. Dolly. By high school my soloist pictures were mounting up: one for the
my brothers have some catching up to do. Not one of the five has made Indeed, the negatives often showed number nine off to the yearbook as Senior Song Bird, another singing the Christmas Mass
the leap yet. side, and how could that not be so with the cast of characters that solo at my church, and so on. It was becoming clearer that not only
Yes, the Gorman kids comprise five girls and five boys, totaling a surrounded me? The parents, Timothy Gorman and Gail Formichella, could I stand on my own, but I could also be the center of attention.
somewhat startling ten. met and married young. Moms Italian-olive-toned skin stood out in my I underscored my independence by moving to Boston for college
For the photo, all of us squeeze together with my parents in the Dads Roman-Catholic-Irish parish. Dad, a lawyer who sometimes still farther than any of my siblings had gone.
middle. The womens lip gloss shimmers in the slanting light. Ties are wears his suit while on the treadmill, finished law school while they When I started unpacking my things in my dorm room, far from that
perfectly knotted, pinstripes clean and neat. It will be a miracle if the lived in married student housing. From there, adventures ensued with table of albums and stacks of pictures (310 miles away, to be exact), a
slew of pictures results in one where 24 eyes ten children. photo I had tacked onto my bulletin board caught my eye. It was a copy
are open and 12 mouths are smiling, I think as I split the siblings into of a much larger family picture, taken before I was a star on the stage,
I smooth my bridesmaids dress and glance at two groups: the top five even before I was the go-to photo person.
everyones expressions. and the bottom five. Katie, I recalled the original, hanging above the kitchen table back at
Twenty-one years after I joined this family Emily, Edward, Mary and homeone of the few professional photographs that have captured
as number nine, the chaos of posing together Claire made up the top. all of us. If you look quickly, it almost seems life-size. The sight of it
hardly fazes me. That was not always so. Andrew, Joseph, Peter and as you open the back door into the house is alarming. The massive
Being part of a middle-class curiosity was David maintained the chaos frame surrounds a bevy of blue-clad, awkwardly placed figures. But
uncomfortable when I did not know my place as I grew up. From start to as I looked closely at the smaller copy on my board, my perspective
in the picture. Yet it was partly through photos finish we spanned 18 years. changed. The characters Id always been able to see were there,
that I eventually learned where I belonged. Our memories came from individually, but also as a collective. All of us were enhanced in the
In junior highthe height of identity crisis different decades, but all of context of our gene pool.
for girls with braces, acne or Coke-bottle us had to deal with being Years later, I brave another professional photographer, at Marys
glasses, let alone nine brothers and sistersI defined by our large family, wedding. Clenching my bouquet, I make a move from the end of the
spent a summer immersed in our family photos. whether we liked it or not. group, inserting myself into the long line of Gorman faces.
It was my job to organize the shoe boxes full Although we sometimes Look at each other! the photographer demands. A few bumbling
of decades of memories that covered our Number nine stands out with hands firmly planted on hips. shared similar experiences, seconds of confusion follow the bizarre request, and then our gazes
living-room table. Somehow the task became being number nine slowly shift from the camera lens to each other.
mine permanently. Years later, on breaks from college, I still tackle presented a unique challenge. I was not granted a title as others I stare into my sister Katies eyes. We smile, and suddenly all ten
photo-related chores that have been set aside for me. (The job does werethe oldest or the smartest, the funniest, the babybut I still siblings start to laugh.
have its perks: In a recent effort to find childhood bath-time pictures to had nine other lives to live up to. When I first became the family Now look here! the photographer yells.
display for guests to see in our bathrooms, I mysteriously did not find archivist, I was in the midst of that quandary. As I slid pictures of The pictures show us shoulder to shoulder, laughter overwhelming
any of me.) dinners (complete with a vat of macaroni and cheese) into plastic us, our best family photo since the blue one. Everyone appears ready
At the beginning, dealing with the holiday piles was especially album sleeves, I imagined that I would always be known as an oddity to move away from the picture and on to the celebration of new family.
daunting. There were Christmas and Easter towers, behind which my who happened to share a gene pool with more than your average The next day I will sit at the living-room table clicking through digital
brothers would tease me by pretending to be Godzilla. The stacks only number of people. cameras, choosing which pictures to print and which to post to our
grew as my older siblings began to move away, eventually extending Part of the photo job was organizing individual stacks for each family blog. But at that moment, I put my system aside. I am ready now
our family tree from New York City to California. Group photos became sibling. My own pile, at first, was small in comparison to my older to celebrate the addition of new members into our family, because the
all the more obligatory because we were all together so rarely. siblings stacks. Yet as time went on, that slowly began to change. more there are, the better we all are. c

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