By Larree Quixote
Bellisseria. Known for its beauty; known for its architecture; known for its... homeless problem?
I got into the Bellisseria scene early. Long before it expanded to the size it is today. I tried to get a house for months with no luck. And during that time, I founded the Bellisseria Homeless Union group, and had great fun giving away tents and exploring new regions as they were created. Whenever there was a new region release, I would proudly announce, "I slept there". And it was true. I would wander around exploring, and whenever the SL sky would pass to night, I would wear my wearable sleeping bag and take a few snapshots of myself sleeping. I handed them out in the group, along with the LM's so the other members could explore these places, too. I also swore to everyone in the Bellisseria Citizens group that when I got a house, I would turn it into a homeless shelter. When I finally got a home I named it the Bellisseria Homeless Union House and opened it to all.
Fast forward to the current day.
I was hanging out and working on my land when one of the senior editors here at Bellisseria LIFE sent me an IM telling me to visit this place. She was extremely excited about it but would not tell me what it was. She just insisted that I go look. She sent me a LM named horse rezzer. I was interested.
I landed in a small coral on the side of a beautiful little traditional home and spun around. All I could do was stare. I have seen some crazy things in SL, but never anything quite like this. It was a dump! A total dump! And it was beautiful! An incredible build in the middle of the suburban sameness. All boarded up and messy. An old car parked on the street with a ton of stuff piled on the roof rack. Bottles and cans everywhere; a mountain of plastic garbage bags; tents, couches and chairs, and a half-dozen wrecked cars in the back; an outhouse on the front porch. This place was amazing! And then, I saw the other house across the street! Just... amazing.
Two incredible and powerful political statements within walking distance of each other. So close, they even ran a power cord across the street.
This place made my Bellisseria Homeless Union house look more like a frat party house than a homeless encampment. Who were these people? What was their mission? I needed to find out more. A quick land search told me that I was in the Bellisseria Autonomous Zone. BAZ for short.
And the description told all:
"This land is occupied by former residents who have been pushed out of Bellisseria due to reasons such as, but not limited to, gentrification, job loss, and abuse. It is our goal to foster a sense of community among the homeless and transient population."
The creator of this wonderful property was an avatar named E Ghost. A quick profile check revealed that he is the founder of the Bellisseria Autonomous Zone group. A genius. I must meet him and talk about this. As of this time I have been hanging around BAZ and looking for E Ghost inworld. So far, no luck. I hope to track him down very soon and interview him.
The house across the street, BAZ #2, is owned by Stoop Kidd, another member of the Bellisseria Autonomous Zone group. This is getting more interesting by the minute!
Both E Ghost and Stoop Kidd are members of the Bellisseria Homeless group, founded by Virtual Kidd. Their group has been around longer than my Bellisseria Homeless Union group. But unlike my group, which I created purely in fun, they seemed to have a genuine beef with the system.
Here is their group statement:
"This group is owned by former residents who have been pushed out of Bellisseria due to reasons such as, but not limited to, gentrification, job loss, and abuse. We hope to break down barriers, and be seen as more than just outcasts and misfits. It is our goal to foster a sense of community among the homeless and transient population here in Bellisseria. We help to provide services for those who need it. God bless."
And now I am curious. I joined their group to find out more.
And the waiting paid off. I finally got the chance to talk to E Ghost, the genius behind BAZ. And he was more than willing to share his story. We had a great interview and rap, and hit it off great. Here is his story.
Back in the early days of Bellisseria, E Ghost and his friends were excited about the new continent but were not homeowners. There were many people trying to get homes, and it felt like everyone was competing to win the golden ticket in Willie Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. They had no luck though, and decided to explore the land and be homeless. They would sleep in public areas in protected zones just like I used to do in the early days. But apparently, some residents were not kind to the group, and they flaunted their privilege and exclusivity, and their perceived superiority over them. E Ghost and his friends were treated very poorly, and they never forgot.
Apparently, and this was before my time in Bellisseria, they were not treated well in the community groups. They were ridiculed and declared a nuisance by some. They found that some people in SL were carrying their real-world prejudices and bigotry into SL, and causing them a great deal of pain. After all, SL is a place where we can be free of borders; free of hate and judgment; and free of authoritarian people. And when they found out how wrong they were, it hurt. Deeply. It had to hurt when they discovered that SL was not accepting of their virtual world dreams. And the vision was born. It was the beginning of BAZ; the Bellisseria Autonomous Zone.
Imagine how great E Ghost and Stoop Kidd must have felt when they realized that they scored two properties on the very same street! The dream was becoming a reality.
I asked E Ghost about his future plans for BAZ. He said he likes where he stands right now. His intention is to keep it small for the moment, see how his neighbors react over time, and see if he gets any pushback from the authorities before trying to expand to other regions. So far, the response has been terrific and as of today the builds are still standing. And the crew is even readying the place for Halloween. Perhaps, one day, there may be Bellisseria Autonomous Zones all over the continent. And watch out, Bellisseria! E Ghost also said he would love to build some Cyberpunk homes on Bellisseria properties in the future.
Here at Bellisseria LIFE, we support the dream.
By the end of our interview we were exchanging friendship, and I promised I would come back soon just to hang out and sing some songs for them. Keep your eye out for a Larree Quixote concert at BAZ in the not too distant future.
SAD UPDATE: As I was preparing my folder to submit to the editors, I received an IM from one of my new BAZ friends. BAZ is no more. The authorities invaded BAZ and returned everything. All that amazing work. That beautiful little trash heep of a mirage in the middle of the normal homes, is gone. They still own the parcels, but now... its all the same. BAZ will live forever in our hearts.
But don't worry. They are still committed to having fun and coming up with something new. Watch for E Ghost and the crew to make some noise in the future.
If you'd like to join and support BAZ, feel free to join their group HERE
If you are interested in visiting and checking it out yourself, you just never know what you're going to see, When you take the TP, spin around...there's BAZ house 1 & 2:
TP here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Fofita/56/106/23