Those who do not know how to live must make a merit of dying. —George Bernard Shaw

The lights were out at Consolidated Works and the concrete floor was littered with hundreds of flowers and tiny tea candles. Former artistic director Corey Pearlstein sat among them with a young woman, smoking, drinking, talking. While he talked—about going to Mexico to work with a performance artist, to Palestine to do research with someone from Bread and Puppet Theater, to San Francisco to work at SFMOMA—a tall man wearing a hooded cloak and large wooden cross approached. "Mourn!" he commanded. "Never again will people sit here, and celebrate, on this floor, together."

"I don't know," Pearlstein joked. "A lot of people seem to have keys to this place."

"You joke!" the faux monk scolded. "You should mourn! Perhaps you don't have the capacity. Perhaps your ego has clouded your mind."

"Sounds like you know me," Pearlstein laughed and the monk lumbered off in search of more maudlin company. In another room, former-former (and founding, and fired) artistic director Matthew Richter recollected about hanging curtains, painting walls, installing lengths of chicken wire over fire sprinklers so that, if the ceiling insulation got wet and dissolved, it wouldn't encase the sprinklers and block the flow of water.

Outside, someone had tagged the walls in red spray paint: "und Tschüß," German slang for goodbye. Next to it, another scrawl: "[Consolidated Works symbol] iz ded."

Simultaneously, in a gravel lot in Georgetown, hundreds of fans were gathered around a burning coffin—some were dancing, a few were screaming—while the Infernal Noise Brigade, the infamous anarchist marching band, played together for the last time, blaring through the night and the fire and the smoke with drums, megaphones, and sweet, buxom brass. Off to the side, the bar was selling beer and someone's homemade "Sonoran Desert honey mead," but the crowd was passing around its own bottles of whiskey and wine. The coffin flared up, then exploded, as the flames found the fireworks. "This is it! This is it!" somebody shouted. "The INB can't die," said a boyish-looking girl in a black hoodie. "Everyone who ever played with them is the Infernal Noise Brigade." Her friend shot back: "That's how the INB died!"

The crowd was everything except maudlin. Many wore different shades of black, some were in suits and ties, white sailor outfits, a vintage party dress with black velvet polka dots. A woman drifted around in a cow costume. "Want some whiskey?" she shouted periodically, thrusting her plastic udder at the revelers. "All you have to do is bite the teat and suck!"

Everyone has a different version of how each organization perished, but the accumulated wisdom collects around two poles: The anarchist marching band exploded into a fiery frenzy because everybody wanted to take it in a different direction. The nonprofit arts organization imploded into its own dusty, hollow core because its leaders couldn't take it anywhere at all.