At this time, if I were forced to summarize my subject matter in only five words, I might say that “Suicido is simply a tent”, although that short description would only capture the physical aspect of the business, the plain wrapping that confines all that goes within. Five words are most definitely insufficient. In any case, from the distance, one gets the impression that the black canvas that extends over the top and the sides of Suicidio is an immense structure, compared to the sad cacti and shrubs barely surviving in the surrounding area.
The available information about the size of Suicidio and thus the size of the tent that covers it is scant and very unreliable, a collection of opinions scattered within the pages of San Francisco newspapers and two short pieces in the Old Farmer´s Almanac, written five years apart from each other. One can read entries like “…miles and miles of a city under permanent darkness,” and “The canvas that covers Suicidio may thus be the largest piece of fabric in the world, and it is hopeless to reckon how many months of sewing were necessary to accomplish such a feat,” and “This black sky is sustained by hundreds of very long wood-posts well inserted in the desert soil. These posts have all their surfaces carved with blurred scenes, even on their top parts where passersby will never see such carvings. The carved scenes that can be discerned are clearly depressing, some quite disgusting. But most carvings on the first meters of the posts cannot be discerned because they are buried under a patina of fungi. Suicidio is quite humid despite its location, most likely due to the combined effect of the condensation that gathers within the huge tent and the stagnant bodies of water that seem to accumulate everywhere. Such patina of fungi, or something like fungi, mostly pink and green flat mashes with shapeless borders, spreads over all types of surfaces. There are also a high diversity of mushrooms of all sorts, sometimes in curious places; for instance, one of the carvings on a post represents a man cutting his own hand and where his eyes would have been two small but elongated mushrooms had sprouted from the wood.” This last quote is from an article written by a French reporter, Pierre Boisson, who told me that two months after arriving to San Francisco he had already frequented all the bars in the city. Every night he would visit several bars in an area and in each one he would strike a conversation with some of the patrons. Next morning he would write his daily article based on one of those conversations or an amalgam of several of them. He also told me that some mornings it was difficult to disentangle the recollections of his informants’ stories from the previous night and the fabrications of his hangovered imagination, “but if it sounded right, it was likely right, right?” A sickening approach to journalism, although one should be a little forgiving as this may be the usual modus operandi among European journalists, so he may just have been doing his job in the manner that he considers to be the most professional.
I must admit that one of my main motivations for coming to Suicidio is to be able to catalogue and analyze all those post carvings, a bulky and note-worthy doctoral thesis in itself, no doubt. Indeed, an endeavour of greater consequence that the deciphering of those silly Egyptian hieroglyphics.