friends of so many friends

Crossposted from COILHOUSE, as Posted by Meredith Yayanos on March 4th, 2009:

Performer/Cyclist Hollis Hawthorne Needs Our Help

Performer/cyclist/activist Hollis Hawthorne. Photo by Alicia Sanguiliano.

There’s this awesome, beautiful gal I kinda sorta barely know through our many mutual circus friends here in the bay area; her name is Hollis Hawthorne. She’s a founding member of a cycling dance troupe called The Derailleurs, a fabulous velocipede-inspired dance team active in a bunch of bay area-based critical mass stuff. Their goal:

To educate and entertain audiences with the possibilities of alternative transportation. Our performances embrace critical inquiry that reaches beyond conventional thought and action. We promote radical self reliance and mine local talents to unearth their strength.

They’re wonderful and vibrant folks leading adventurous lives who are trying to affect some sort of positive change in their community. They smile and laugh a lot; they are very shiny people. To be honest, I rather envy them, most days. But not today:

Late last month, Hollis was traveling by motor scooter in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India when something terrible happened. Some sort of freak hit-and-run accident that wasn’t her fault left her bleeding out on the side of the road with her boyfriend Harrison frantically performing CPR for 20 minutes before a van of German tourists picked them up and drove them to a hospital. According to her best pal Eliza, Hollis was wearing her helmet and driving very slowly at the time of the accident. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it sounds very bad. Now she’s in a coma in a rural hospital with a serious brain stem injury. (You know, that part of the brain that controls, um, everything?)

According to Harrison, who has been with her from the moment it happened, “there are huge rats scurrying around on the [hospital] floor. I am sleeping on the ant-covered floor outside her room as I am not allowed in and the water they have used for many procedures is not even purified.” When Hollis’ mom flew in from Tennessee a couple of days ago with emergency support from the US consulate to see her own daughter, the orderlies were dismissive and curt. “They are not observing her brain pressure and have done nothing to alleviate the swelling in her brain. These are things that can make or break her early on in her recovery and healing process.”

Through a series of fortuitous connections, Hollis’s case has been reviewed and accepted by Stanford Medical; one of the best hospitals in the world. As a charity case, even. (Just like me and most other starving artsy fartsies I know, Hollis has no insurance.) All we need to do is get her there. The friends and family of Hollis are reaching to everyone they can to raise funds to get her on an I.C.U. plane (aka air ambulance) to fly her back to California.

This is truly a matter of life and death. They need move her quickly as possible.

Before that can happen, Friends of Hollis must raise $150,000 dollars. They’ve already raised approximately $40,000. Can you spare a dollar, or five, or ten?

Yes, I know, life is risk, and life is uncertain. Life is also precious. If we can help someone in our community to come back from the brink, in some small way, we really should. Click here to help.

because my brain does stuff like that

One of my morning neighbors, those people I pass regularly enough in the morning to recognize, is a pleasantly unremarkable young man, taller than I am, with short reddish blond hair and a black jacket, who I never would have noticed except for his astonishing, perpetual grin and permanently glued on ear phones. He is thin, caucasian, and completely bland.

Somehow, though I am rarely there at the exact same time every day, and sometimes take a different route entirely, it is more likely than not that when I line up to wait for the light at Pender and Howe, he will be there too, smiling, facing me from the other side, oblivious to the entire world, trapped instead in whatever he is listening to that makes him so happy. He does not notice the traffic or the weather or the time, and only begins to walk when the people around him step forward into the street.

All that said, he still would not have made any impression upon my memory except that one day, the day I truly noticed him, I had a terrible, strong, and wrenching idea as we were passing each other in the intersection. I fancied that what played in his ear phones every day wasn’t music, but screaming.