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BUCHEREST-THE PEOPLE OF THE SEWER
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Life Under The Streets: Drug Addicts And Orphans In Romania Find Homes In The City Sewers

Bucharest, the capital of Romania, is a beautiful city full of graceful architecture and rich with history. But beneath its beautiful streets is another world, buried there after the fall of Romania’s brutal communist dictatorship – a world of sewers and forgotten orphans.

This underground network of sewers is home to the city’s lost and forgotten souls, most of whom have HIV and a quarter of whom suffer from TB. The sewers, and their king Bruce Lee, were the subject of a recently released Channel 4 News film.

Bruce Lee, this underworld’s king and primary drug dealer, is a complicated figure. He keeps the underground supplied with a metallic paint called Aurelac that they inhale to get high and with other synthetic drugs. However, the fearsome orphan and former street-fighter also pays local gangs for protection and protects other young orphans who have fallen through the cracks. Social workers say that Lee protects the youngsters from sexual predators and that junkies are far less likely to die when Lee offers them a warm place to sleep.

The sewers are remnants of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s grand plan to centrally heat the city. Although this plan didn’t work out, the ruined infrastructure gave the orphans who were forgotten after the fall of his dictatorship a place to live.

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Bruce Lee enters his underground sewer kingdom underneath Bucharest

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Lee provides these sewers’ denizens with metallic paint and synthetic drugs – their only comforts

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Most of these people have HIV, and a quarter have TB

BUCHEREST-THE PEOPLE OF THE SEWER

the San Francisco Oracle

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Underground News

San Francisco Oracle

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Cover of the sixth issue, February 1967

The Oracle of the City of San Francisco, also known as the San Francisco Oracle, was an underground newspaper published in 12 issues from September 20, 1966, to February 1968 in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of that city.[1] Allen Cohen (1940–2004), the editor during the paper’s most vibrant period, and Michael Bowen, the art director, were among the founders of the publication. The Oracle was an early member of the Underground Press Syndicate.

The Oracle combined poetry, spirituality, and multicultural interests with psychedelic design, reflecting and shaping the countercultural community as it developed in the Haight-Ashbury. It was arguably the outstanding example of psychedelia within the countercultural “underground” press, noted for experimental multicolored design. Oracle contributors included many significant San Francisco–area artists of the time, including Bruce Conner and Rick Griffin. It featured such beat writers as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Michael McClure.

Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper. Psychedelic graphic from the Oracle newspaper.

Every movement creates its own primary sources, and the hippies of 1967 San Francisco had a psychedelic one: The San Francisco Oracle. Published in 12 fantastic issues from 1966 to 1968, the Oracle is a fascinating artifact of the times.

With theme issues like “Youth Quake,” “The Aquarian Age,” “Psychedelics, Flowers, and War,” and “The Politics of Ecstasy,” the newspaper spoke directly to young people’s imaginations and concerns. Whimsical, hand-drawn ads touted bookstores, concerts, health food stores, coffeehouses, shops selling hippie fashions, and music sellers. And the publication’s wild page layouts, drawings, photo-collages and other graphics became icons of hippie culture.

Hippies sold the Oracle on Bay Area streets to support themselves, and the newspaper made its way around the world by subscription. Print runs grew to nearly 125,000 by issue #7. The editors estimated their circulation topped half a million when taking into account the number of people who shared each copy.

The Oracle’s articles, interviews, letters, commentary, and poems explored hippie consciousness in a variety of ways. For example, in issue #6, Tom Law wrote a piece called “The Community of the Tribe” that obliquely referred to Fifties consumer culture, the Cold War and the war in Vietnam, contexts in which hippie attitudes had emerged:

“We are all — squares and the psychedelically enlightened alike — involved in our world of now. To take up the call, to respond to the cosmic forces, we must be the hard-working, harmonious, respectful, honest, diligent, co-operative family of man. Our words are inspired. Our feeling is deep and complete. Our devotion is strong. The precious revelations which have come through us with increasing magnitude must be fathomed until we are one with each other and can extend our awareness beyond the tribe to our entire planet.

What is the natural karmic duty of a generation whose brothers, neighbors, and childhood friends now promote hate by killing innocent human beings around the world? It is to balance their jive and immature actions with the light of intelligent goodness; fearlessly to deal with the money-mad machine in order to release its hold on our bowels — the bowels of mankind.

Practically, this means that all excess profit is turned back into the community. That means all money, material things, food, etc., which are beyond the basic necessities of a happy, healthy, human existence…”


Read this reminiscience by Oracle co-founder Allen Cohen about how he first imagined a “rainbow newspaper,” or go to Regent Press to learn more about the Oracle (both links are to pages not on PBS.org).

Many thanks to Regent Press for the use of some of the original Oracle graphics on this Web site. Others provided by Ana Christy.