Thursday: 3:30 P.M. The Basement

The Church Step Dirties find refuge

As they do most afternoons, the social refugees of Webster Groves find sanctuary underground--in Gene Clifford's basement, a dim cavern that reeks of cigarettes. Here, 16-year-old Gene and his friends have created a study hall-cum-social center. Posters of Pink Floyd, The X-Files and Tori Amos line the walls. Encyclopedias, dictionaries and classics fill the bookshelves. A computer with Internet access lights up the corner. The room is a cocoon, protected from the rest of the student body, from which they feel alienated. "Here I have ready access to all of my friends," says Gene. "And it's not the Crestwood Mall, where...

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