a bankrupt system

As Slingshot goes to press, we are unsure if we’ll ever publish another issue of the paper at this physical location. A few months ago, our landlord declared bankruptcy and the Long Haul building where we have our office might be sold in the next few months to pay off a $1.1 million bank debt that they ran up against the building.

The idea of losing the Long Haul building is a sad thought — there is a modest beauty to the messy, chaotic hand-built loft the Slingshot collective has inhabited here for the last 15 years. During the day, it is bathed in sun through leaky skylights, and at night it has an otherworldly quality like a poorly-lit treehouse hideout.

Sharing space with the freaky openness of the Long Haul infoshop with its constant chatter of traveling punks, mumbling homeless people and self-obsessed “regulars” can be distracting and a pain, but mostly it has helped us stay fresh, flexible and able to laugh at ourselves. Long Haul is a thriving community institution despite all of its dysfunction.

It is disorienting not knowing whether we’ll get to stay here or not. We’re doing the best we can — opening a post office box so people can reach us if we have to move and then . . . just waiting as calmly as possible to learn our fate. Should we fix the leak in the roof before the winter rains come? Nah, I guess that would be pointless if we get kicked out. No point looking for another space or spending too much time agonizing until we really know for sure . . . . Time stands strangely still — the future uncertain.

The bankruptcy is one of those typically capitalist events in our lives when we realize how easily ordinary human aspirations and lives can be crushed by the heartless numbers that faceless men make up and write down. Losing the building is outside our control and not our fault — we always paid our rent on time.

I always imagined that we’d close up the Long Haul when it got knocked down by an earthquake — it is a brick building prone to collapse. That would feel like a good way to close this chapter. But having it sold by a bank and then gutted to make way for yuppies — what a boring shame.

Like so many around us and before us, the fact that we’ve lived and breathed and loved in this building — that it has become a part of us and that we’ve become a part of it — is meaningless. What matters to the system is ownership, not use. Arbitrary experiences like this remind us why we’re struggling to change this insane system. People, communities, and ultimately the earth should matter more than land titles and banks.

To repeat, we don’t know what might happen as I write this, so I’m intentionally leaving a lot unsaid. I would like to explain the circumstances, the characters, the potential causes — it is clear that particular people made decisions that invited the bankruptcy; it was not an act of nature — but for the moment we have to wait for more information so we don’t burn bridges we might need to cross. We know there is a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, but it is too early to ask for help or react until we have a better picture of the implications for our space.

Maybe the bankruptcy court will let the landlord keep the building or maybe whoever buys the building will let us stay in all our funkyness, and with our current cheap lease. Maybe someone sympathetic to us could purchase the building. Maybe we can somehow continue with higher rent. Maybe we’ll turn it into a liberated space: a squatted radical center with flags flying from the roof, a last holdout against the gentrification of Berkeley. Another world is possible at any moment — we have this world only because we all consent to its rules and spend our lives working to keep it going.

Depending on what happens, Long Haul may seek community support, so please watch this space for updates. Until we hear some news, please send snail mail to: PO Box 3051, Berkeley, CA 94703. If you want to visit our physical office, call or email first to make sure we’re still here.