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Hanging With: Ben Sisto

Flyers lining Harvard Avenue in Allston depict a simple headstone inscribed with the initials ``H.P." They're signaling the end of an era: the shutdown of, the online home of Boston's DIY community, where musicians and music fans alike can promote local shows, get flyers designed, or interact with more than 1,000 registered users.

``It's like being in a relationship for 3 and a half years and then being like, `I don't want to be in this relationship anymore,' " says Ben Sisto, the site's founder. Then he clarifies: `` `I don't want to be in this relationship anymore, but I still want to sleep with you from time to time.' "

Now that the project is coming to a close with its final show on Thursday, Sisto recently visited with Rebecca Gordon, his friend and director of Second Gallery. He was looking for advice on his next venture, a virtual art gallery existing in the online world of Second Life.

Simply stated, Second Life ( is like playing ``The Sims" video game with 200,000 other users around the globe. Sisto, 25, hopes to ``build" a virtual gallery (users pay for ``parcels of land" in Second Life) and host art exhibits focusing on media and technology. Then, other users can ``teleport" their avatars to the gallery to view the work.

``You guys have this whole `First Friday' thing, and that's cool," he says as the two sit down in the small gallery at the Distillery in South Boston. ``We're going to have `Second Fridays' in Second Life."

Among the volleyball-sized sculptures atop mirrored squares lining the floor, Gordon furrows her brow. She's not convinced.

Wiping the sweat from his forehead, Sisto continues, ``On a very core level, it has the same weight." Before he can go on to compare the basic elements in building a gallery in the expansive online universe to running a functional space in this one, Gordon interjects.

``You're not going to hang things, really," she says.

``There's a wall in Second Life, and my avatar will walk over to the wall . . ." he begins, before Gordon interrupts yet again.

``If you're actually telling me running a gallery in Second Life is equitable to running a gallery in real life, you're wrong," she says.

Still, Sisto is hopeful that an online gallery can be successful enough to garner grants to open up a space in the city. He questions her about her experience budgeting time and dealing with the local press. When they finally get around to examining some of the artwork scattered along the floor, Sisto notices something.

``My beard really did get huge," Sisto says as he hovers over one of the glass squares. ``I've never seen my beard from this level."

He looks like he should be a lumberjack: tall, dark, and burly with long black hair that nearly hangs in his eyes and a bushy beard. But when he opens his mouth, he has the voice of a waifish Boston scenester -- the kind you see at the Middle East Downstairs wearing women's jeans.

``This is how women see me when I'm smooching them," he adds jokingly while peering into the mirror.

After a short trip to a nearby Store 24 to pick up some drinks, Sisto asks Gordon if she'd like to go to Six Flags. Suggesting things to do seems to be second nature to him. Even while he's trying to step away from promoting, he just can't seem to fight the impulse.

Back in the gallery, Gordon turns on a small TV playing a montage of photos of bears to a loop of Kate Bush's ``Running up That Hill," and Sisto continues to play events planner.

``I have, like, 50 passes to that Harpoon Brewery thing," he offers, referring to tonight's Harpoon Brewstock event.

Gordon scrunches her face and says, ``Oh, I hate those."

``Come on, it's awesome!"

Soon the conversation drifts back to Sisto's hopes for his Second Life online gallery.

``Honeypump stops on June 8; on June 9, I'm going to become a beggar," he proclaims, before practicing his pitch. `` `Give me $30, and I'll make Allston better in a year.' "

If there's anyone who can turn around Allston, it's Sisto, and he knows it.

``Look at Great Scott," he tells Gordon. ``There was this . . . frat bar that I would walk by, and people would call me a [expletive]. Now I'm on the payroll."

As the conversation winds down, Sisto is suddenly a little awkward, yet still endearing.

``I have nothing else to talk to you about," he announces to Gordon. ``Maybe I didn't have much to talk to you about. I think I just wanted to visit you."

With that, he puts on his bag and heads for the exit. He's promoted enough in this sitting -- the Second Life gallery, the final week of Honeypump events, his work with Great Scott. Now, he can do something he hasn't had the chance to do since making his mark on the Boston scene: relax. After checking out Twisted Village, a small record shop in Harvard Square, and grabbing a drink from Au Bon Pain, Sisto takes a moment to enjoy a simple pleasure.

``Now that Honeypump is ending, I have time to do stuff like this -- sit and have an iced coffee."

Adieu, Honeypump

Thursday's final Honeypump show features performances by U.V. Protection, Glass Candy, Chromatics, and Squids. The 18-plus show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets: $8. Great Scott, 1222 Commonwealth Ave., Allston, 617-566-9014.

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